Significant EPA Actions of 2020
As we pass the halfway point of 2020, much of the news that has involved the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has focused on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. EPA has issued important guidance relating to EPA’s exercise of enforcement discretion for compliance obligations affected by the pandemic. See Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program Memorandum. EPA has not, however, slowed its rulemaking efforts. EPA’s 2020 actions include a change in the manner in which it considers “co-benefits” in its cost benefit analyses in the context of hazardous air pollutants, and a change in its approach to the issuance and management of guidance documents. EPA has also moved closer to establishing national drinking water standards for Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). And although not initiated by EPA, the agency is expected to conform to new policy issued by the Department of Justice that discontinues the use of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in settlement agreements.
The first half of 2020 has also seen rulemaking that has been forecasted in previous years and anticipated by the regulated community. EPA has proposed its newest Multi-Sector General Permit for stormwater discharges associated with industrial activities, and has also finalized both the Navigable Waters Protection Rule and the Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule. Further, EPA has finalized a controversial proposal that will relax fuel economy and emissions standards for automobiles over the next five years. EPA has also made changes to its chemical data reporting requirement under the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA).