EPA announces forthcoming regulations to curb methane emissions from oil and gas sources
On November 2, 2021, the EPA announced a proposed rule aimed at reducing methane emissions from oil and gas sources. The proposed rule is part of the Biden Administration’s U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, which was simultaneously unveiled by the EPA as President Biden and world leaders met at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Although the proposed rule is preliminary in nature and does not yet include proposed regulatory text, it signals a first step in the EPA’s forthcoming efforts to amend current regulations and adopt new regulations combatting methane emissions.
The proposed rule announced by the EPA on November 2, 2021 outlines three actions to be taken by the EPA pursuant to the Clean Air Act (“CAA”): (1) revisions to the NSPS for methane and VOCs emitted by oil and gas sector sources; (2) establishment of emissions guidelines (“EG”) to aid states in their development and implementation of state-level plans to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources; and (3) several related actions stemming from Congress’s June 30, 2021 joint resolution. Importantly, the proposed rule does not include proposed regulatory text. Rather, the EPA provides that it will issue a supplemental proposal to provide regulatory text in 2022, after taking public comment on the November 2 proposal, with a final rule to be issued by the end of 2022.
Court settlement impacts how EPA regulate asbestos
Last month, partners in asbestos litigation including the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, the American Public Health Association, and four other public health organizations reached settlements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in two cases that will have far-reaching impacts on the way the EPA regulates asbestos.
The two settlements will ensure that EPA’s risk evaluation of asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is comprehensive, protects public health, and is completed without further delay. EPA agreed to expand its planned “part 2” asbestos risk evaluation to address the deficiencies in “part 1” by looking at all of the six asbestos fiber types, where they had previously looked at only one. They will examine a range of cancer and non-cancer health hazards, and address “any known, intended, or reasonably foreseen conditions of use” of asbestos that were omitted from the earlier evaluations.
The second settlement requires EPA to carry out its obligation to evaluate the risks of “legacy” asbestos found in millions of buildings and in consumer products across the U.S. by December 1, 2024. The more realistic evaluations will lead to steps to address asbestos that better protect public health in the future.
EPA unveils strategy for reducing lead exposure
The EPA has announced a revised strategy for reducing lead exposure, with a focus on communities that have had a disproportionate amount.
The draft plan would focus on identifying communities with especially high levels of both lead exposure and blood lead levels. The agency would next develop national standards and guidance to address those exposures and enforce existing regulations.
The agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention is currently revisiting dust-lead clearance levels, which inspectors and risk assessors use to determine whether housing presents a risk of lead exposure. The EPA also plans to collaborate with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to revisit the EPA’s rules on lead in renovation.