As the year comes to a close, we take a moment to look back and reflect on what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has done, and not done, over the past twelve months.
New and Amended Air Programs
The EPA had proposed to tighten the 2008 air quality standards for ground-level ozone ahead of schedule, but significant opposition from the regulated community and the White House led the Agency to withdraw the initiative.
Although this was also the first year for large emitters to report greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the EPA did delay the reporting deadline until September 30, 2011. As a complex and far-ranging new program, the reporting system for GHGs continues to develop.
New Water Rules
The Clean Water Act gives the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers authority over all “waters of the United States.” Over the past few years, a controversy has arisen over what waters and waterways are actually subject to regulation and NPDES permitting, and which are not. Several cases on this issue have reached the Supreme Court, and the last significant case (Rapanos v United States) resulted in a decision that didn’t quite explain which waters are or are not subject to regulation by the EPA. In an attempt to clear these muddied waters, the Agency and Corps published a draft in April explaining which waters they would and would not seek to regulate. There was a public comment period, but Lion Technology has heard little about this issue since, so it seems to lie dormant for now.
The EPA also completed another court-mandated rulemaking this fall. Over the past decade, several court cases have concluded that many pesticide applications would require NPDES permits under the Clean Water Act as well as pesticide permits under FIFRA. Because double-permitting what are generally routine activities is considered by some to be excessive, the EPA published a General Permit to manage the situation until Congress can amend the appropriate laws.
Another major water program the Agency worked on this year was yet another extension (until May 2013) for farms to complete their new oil spill prevention and countermeasure programs. After several years of extensions, all other facilities were finally subject to the new rules as of November 10 of this year.