The year 2013 has been another relatively quiet one for most environmental health and safety (EH&S) compliance personnel. Continuing differences in Congress have stymied would-be initiatives on both sides of the partisan aisles, so there were no meaningful legislative changes.
Administrative actions have tended to be limited and less controversial too, although President Obama has begun to do what many Presidents do when they cannot push legislative agendas —he has directed his agency officials to push their authority through regulatory initiatives, and has signed Executive Orders doing the same. For example, in July he issued a Climate Action Plan directing federal agencies to accelerate and coordinate their activities.
What Else Happened in 2013?
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA has been a political lightning-rod throughout President Obama’s first term. It started by reversing a number of the Bush Administration’s major revisions to environmental laws— particularly those involving climate change and air quality. Since then it has pressed slowly forward on a variety of issues.
- In March, EPA tightened national ambient air quality standards for particulates (PM2.5 and PM10).
- In September, re-proposed rules to require new coal- and gas-fired power plants to restrict CO2 emissions to levels that will require significant additional controls beyond those presently available for commercial application.
- In February, EPA adopted a Revised Total Coliform Rule updating Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.
- In September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals became the latest court to rule that application of pesticides on or near water is not a “discharge” (Ecological Rights Foundation v. PG&E).
- Hazardous Waste Management:
- In July, EPA issued management standards for chemical-soiled wipes to allow exemptions from hazardous waste management requirements.
- Civil Penalties:
- In November (effective December 6), EPA issued its quadrennial inflation adjustment to maximum civil penalties for violations of requirements in administers.
Department of Transportation
- In August, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration adopted major revisions to its hazardous materials regulation and permitting requirements, to be effective in October 2015.
- In October, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued its quadrennial inflation adjustment to maximum civil penalties for violations of requirements in administers.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration