After Aggressive First Year, EPA Tackles Climate Change, Contaminants and Environmental Justice

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After Aggressive First Year, EPA Tackles Climate Change, Contaminants and Environmental Justice

As the Biden Administration marches on through its second full year, the priorities of the Environmental Protection Agency are coming into fuller focus.

The EPA released a new Strategic Plan on March 28, 2022, in coordination with the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal. Together, the Strategic Plan and budget signal the dramatic shift in the Agency’s priorities from the previous Administration, and identify several key areas where the EPA plans to focus its efforts, including climate change, health and safety, environmental justice and civil rights. 

Accomplishments To Date

Although 2021 was a year of transition from the previous Administration, the EPA has staked claim to several notable accomplishments. Under new Administrator Michael Regan, the Agency took aggressive regulatory action in several areas, establishing a pro-environmental tone for the remainder of its term.

Highlights of the EPA’s first year include:

  • Capped hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) production and consumption in the U.S. The EPA issued a final rule codifying the aggressive targets mandated under the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act in December 2020 to reduce the production and consumption of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years. The measure’s stated goal is to help slow the pace of global warming.
  • Slashed auto emissions: The EPA issued the most rigorous federal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for cars and light trucks to date. According to the Agency, these new standards will provide $190 billion in net benefits and reduce over 3 billion tons of GHG emissions.
  • Invested in water infrastructure: The EPA announced more than $8 billion in water infrastructure funding, which the Agency says will create nearly 80,000 jobs.
  • Funded Superfund cleanup: The Agency drew on $1 billion included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Law to finance the cleanup of 49 previously unfunded Superfund sites and speed up remediation at current sites.
  • Issued PFAS Strategic Roadmap: The Agency launched a comprehensive plan to address per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, as well as a national PFAS testing strategy, and moved forward on designating some of these harmful chemicals as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
  • Eliminated use of chlorpyrifos: The EPA acted to stop the use of this harmful pesticide on crops including soybeans, fruit, broccoli and cauliflower to protect children, babies and farmworkers.

What to Expect Going Forward

The President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 includes $11.9 billion earmarked for the EPA, a record amount. The request would raise the agency’s full-time employee base by 1,900, or more than 13%, to the highest staff levels in 11 years.

The budget includes $1.2 billion for cleanup and remediation of Superfund waste sites, in addition to the $3.5 billion that was already included in the bipartisan infrastructure law. With more than 1,300 Superfund sites on the EPA’s National Priorities List, it will still take years to get through the backlog even with the significant increase in funding and resources devoted to this initiative.

The Administration’s PFAS program would also receive additional funding of $126 million, a significant increase from last year’s $57 million. And the EPA is also seeking a doubling of funding and an additional 149 FTEs for its Toxic Substance Control Act program.

In the area of climate protection, the budget earmarks $100 million in grants to Tribes and states to reduce methane emissions, along with $35 million in additional funding to phase down HFCs under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act.

The budget designates over $300 million for the EPA’s environmental justice program, including the establishment of a new national office and resources to be provided at the Agency’s headquarters and all 10 regional outposts. According to the EPA’s Budget in Brief document, the goal of the environmental justice program is to reduce “the historically disproportionate health impacts of pollution in marginalized and overburdened communities.”

While the EPA’s ultimate success in addressing its ambitious environmental goals remains to be seen, there is no doubt this version of the Agency is taking a more aggressive and environmentally friendly regulatory stance than its predecessor.

It’s important to keep on top of the latest environmental rules and regulations to ensure your institution is performing all proper due diligence on your loans and collateral. To stay informed and compliant, talk to ORMS, your environmental risk management experts.

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