Environmental Protection Agency Approves Copper Alloy for Long-Lasting Efficacy Against the Novel Coronavirus

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved, for the first time, a pesticide product for long-lasting efficacy claims (also called residual efficacy) against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Unlike standard disinfectants, “residual efficacy” products are continually efficacious against viruses or other microorganisms over a period of hours (or even months) rather than just at point of use. Based on efficacy data, EPA expects the product approved last week—antimicrobial copper alloy that contains at least 95.6% copper—to eliminate 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 within two hours, on an ongoing basis. However, EPA has only approved antimicrobial copper alloy for supplemental residual efficacy claims; these are products that do not meet EPA’s standards for a disinfectant, but are intended to supplement the use of EPA’s List N disinfectants. (List N contains those products EPA has approved for limited claims of efficacy against the novel coronavirus.) Accordingly, antimicrobial copper alloy has been added to EPA’s List N Appendix, which catalogues those products approved for supplemental residual efficacy claims.


New Guidance on Self-Disclosure of Violations Under EPA’s Audit Policy

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new guidance related to its policy on Incentives for Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction and Prevention of Violations (the Audit Policy), 65 Fed. Reg. 19618 (April 11, 2000). The new guidance, titled EPA’s Audit Policy Program: Frequently Asked Questions (the 2021 FAQ), provides an update to interpretive guidance from 1997, 2007, and 2015 for self-disclosure of potential noncompliance.


Supreme Court Agrees to Take Up CERCLA Suit Against U.S. Government

On January 8, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court took up a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) dispute involving the territory of Guam and the United States. At issue in Guam v. United States is who must pay for cleanup costs associated with a landfill formerly operated by the U.S. Navy, into which the Navy deposited spent munitions, chemicals, and other waste. Although Guam asked EPA to address the landfill under CERCLA, the agency proceeded under the Clean Water Act (CWA) instead, and in 2004, Guam entered into a consent decree under the CWA under which the territory agreed to close and remediate the landfill.


D.C. Circuit Strikes Down ACE Rule

On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE), which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated in 2019 to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP had sought to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants, in part, by authorizing states to increase renewable generation. As explained in a previous post, EPA had reasoned that it had the discretion to define the best system of emission reduction (BSER) at a plant under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (Act) to include measures employed outside the facility (such as new renewable resources) that were located “beyond the fenceline.” Stayed by the Supreme Court in 2016, the CPP never went into effect. Instead, the Trump administration repealed the CPP and replaced it with ACE. In ACE, EPA reasoned that Section 111 of the Act required EPA to only find BSER to be a technology that could be applied “inside the fenceline” on the facility.


Biden Administration to Review Environmental Regulations, Policies; Revokes Some Trump Executive Orders on Energy Infrastructure

On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” The order directs executive agency heads to review hundreds of agency actions implemented during the Trump administration, including more than 120 related to energy and the environment. In addition, the order suspends or revokes, in whole or in part, nearly one dozen executive orders issued by the prior president directly tied to energy infrastructure.


EPA Publishes “Transparency in Science” Final Rule

On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) published a final rule, “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information.” EPA published the proposed rule in April 2018 and followed it with a supplemental notice in March 2020. The final rule establishes how EPA will consider the availability of dose-response data, and it is narrower in scope than both the proposed rule and the supplemental notice, as it is restricted to “those studies that describe the quantitative relationship between the dose or exposure of a pollutant, contaminant, or substance and an effect.” (more…)

EPA Draft PFAS Guidance Would Subject Range of Articles to Significant New Use Rule

On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft guidance for imported articles that may contain long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate chemical substances (LCPFAC), a subgroup of certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as part of a surface coating and that would be subject to its Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) if a manufacturer seeks to resume using them. (more…)

EPA Issues Clean Air Act Cost-Benefit Rule

On December 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Clean Air Act (CAA) cost-benefit rule. The procedural rule sets requirements for evaluating the benefits and costs of regulatory decisions, which EPA believes is necessary to ensure transparency and consistency in the rulemaking process. The main requirements are as follows: 1) EPA must prepare a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) for all significant proposed and final regulations under the CAA; 2) BCAs are developed in accordance with best practices from the economic, engineering, physical, and biological sciences; and 3) EPA must increase transparency in the presentation of the benefits and costs resulting from significant CAA regulations. (more…)

Environmental Protection Agency Issues Interim Strategy Memorandum to Address PFAS in Federally Issued Water Permits

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water has published a new interim strategy memorandum for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued by EPA. The memorandum includes recommendations generated by a cross-agency workgroup, which conducted a review of existing Clean Water Act (CWA) section 402 NPDES permitting authorities to determine where and how currently unregulated contaminants like PFAS may fit into the permitting process. Under the CWA, the NPDES permit program regulates point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Currently, there are no CWA water quality criteria or effluent guidelines for PFAS, an umbrella category of thousands of synthetic chemicals historically used in industrial manufacturing processes for their flame-resistant and nonstick properties.