As you are preparing your environmental compliance team for a successful 2023, it is important to understand what the United States’ compliance priorities will be. Understanding where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to allocated resources and what new measures they will be taking to enforce environmental compliance can help you to determine your company’s priorities for 2023.
Below, we outline some of the funding priorities the EPA has announced for 2023, and what these signify for your compliance in the coming year and beyond.
Since the beginning of the Biden administration, the EPA has been discussing their new focus on environmental justice (EJ).
According to the EPA, EJ is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”
In 2023, the EPA plans to continue making EJ a priority, both by using their new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights and by threading EJ action through the rest of their decisions.
One way the EPA plans to focus on EJ is by providing new grants and funding to community organizations, Tribes, and local governments to address environmental issues that have been identified. Since part of EJ also includes civil rights, all funding recipients will be required to comply with federal civil rights laws.
Funding will also be allocated to continue clean up at Superfund National Priority List (NPL) sites and brownfield sites (former industrial or commercial sites affected by contamination). Many of these sites are located near communities that have been unfairly burdened with environmental hazards, so prioritizing their clean-up is an important aspect of the EPA’s EJ mission.
We also know that the EPA plans to increase inspections at facilities with EJ concerns. According to the EPA’s Draft Strategic Plan for 2022-2026, they plan to have 55% of annual inspections take place at facilities affecting communities with EJ concerns by September 2026.
If you have a facility that affects at-risk communities, it will be especially important for you to internally audit your environmental compliance in 2023. This will allow you to identify any possible issues and correct them before a regulatory agency inspection.
Like many government agencies across the globe, taking action to address the climate crisis while also stimulating the economy and creating jobs is a top priority for the EPA.
Decreasing air pollution caused by mobile transportation is one way the EPA plans to address climate change. They plan to do this through grants and by regulating vehicle emissions. The EPA will especially focus on areas near ports, which are often surrounded by lower income communities that have been unfairly burdened by poor air quality, thus tying this goal back the EPA’s aim for environmental justice.
The EPA also plans to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are even more potent to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, by 85% over the next 15 years. HFCs are used in a variety of equipment from refrigeration to circuit breakers, and the EPA hopes that by reducing the use of HFCs and handling these gases more effectively, we can reduce our negative impact on the environment. If you produce equipment that uses HFCs, now is a good time to start look at environmentally sound alternatives. More information can be found on the EPA’s HFC Phasedown site.
Chemical safety is another major priority for the EPA in 2023. New chemicals are expected to be regulated via the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). For example, in November 2022, the EPA sent a new rule regulating methylene chloride to the White House for approval, and they continue to look at possibilities for regulating of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
This focus on PFAS is especially something to keep an eye on in the coming year. For fiscal year 2023, the EPA’s budget allocated $126 million to help increase their understanding of PFAS, restrict their use, and “remediate the PFAS that have been released into the environment.”
If you are currently using PFAS or other hazardous substances in your products that will likely be restricted or regulated by the EPA, now is the time to look for substances to replace them with. We will likely only see the restrictions on these substances get tighter in the coming years, so adapting to these changes now will help you be ahead of the game.
Clean air is a priority of the EPA that ties back into their larger goals of both EJ and fighting climate change. In additional to allocating funds to Tribal, state, and local partners for air quality management systems, the EPA plans to prioritize the development of an air quality monitoring system. This system would give real-time air quality data to communities, which could be especially beneficial to those overburdened with poor air quality.
The EPA also plans to spend time reviewing the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). This could lead to revisions and to new air quality policies that could affect your business operations.
Access to clean water has been a top EJ concern in recent years. According to the EPA Budget in Brief, 10 million homes and over 400,000 schools and childcare centers have water lines that still contain lead. Improving this water infrastructure is one of the EPA’s biggest priorities when it comes to clean water.
Creating clean water for the US also calls back to the EPA’s priority of chemical safety. In additional to lead, PFAS also pose a threat to water supplies. The EPA plans to address this issue through a variety of actions, including improving infrastructure to remove lead from pipes and putting policies in place to combat the use of PFAS. This is another reason why you will want to find substitute materials if your company is still using PFAS in products.
There are also concerns about water emergencies from climate change and cybersecurity threats. Drastic rainfall and subsequent flooding could leave water infrastructure in crisis. Cybersecurity threats could put the safety of our water systems at risk. The EPA plans to allocate funds to address these concerns by improving both physical and technological infrastructure surrounding US water systems.
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The bottom line is that the EPA is increasing their oversight on hazardous substances and increasing their efforts to fight climate change. If your company is contributing to hazardous substance issues that impact communities or overburdening local communities with air or water pollution, you will need to clean up your practices as soon as possible.
Even if you are complying with current hazardous substance regulations, the EPA’s priorities show that we could see policy changes on the horizon, especially when it comes to chemicals like PFAs and HFCs. Finding replacement substances now for your chemicals that may be restricted in the future will help you keep your operations running smoothly.
If you need help meeting your environmental compliance requirements or understanding the requirements you are subject to, contact Tetra Tech’s environmental, health, and safety (EHS) experts at email@example.com. We can help you with a variety of EHS concerns, from oil containment requirements to chemicals reporting to stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) requirements and more.
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