A Reflection on the Gold King Mine Incident

By Mathy Stanislaus

Today, we are releasing a new publication, One Year After the Gold King Mine Incident: A Retrospective of EPA’s Efforts to Restore and Protect Communities. The report details our efforts — including the projects and groups we have funded — to protect the areas around the Gold King Mine (GKM) and prevent another spill like this from happening at other EPA work sites at mines across the country.

We continue to be accountable for the release, which occurred as a result of our work to investigate the mine. Since the accident, we have dedicated more than $29 million to respond to the release and to provide for continued monitoring in the area. Over the past year, we have remained committed to distilling important lessons from the incident, and are working on a more permanent solution to acid mine drainage in the Upper Animas Watershed. We have improved and tested stakeholder notification lists, instituted a headquarters review and state consultation process for all mine work plans prior to starting work at a site, provided grant assistance to foster collaboration and help support state and tribal water quality management programs,  and are developing a national report on best practices for hardrock mine remediation. We have worked with communities within the Bonita Peak Mining District area for many years on long-term solutions to address the estimated discharge of more than 5 million gallons per day of acidic mine influenced water to the Upper Animas River watershed. In April, we proposed a Superfund National Priorities Listing for the Bonita Peak Mining District (which includes Gold King Mine) and are working to finalize the listing this fall.

As Assistant Administrator for our Office of Land and Emergency Management, I can say that tackling the national environmental issue of abandoned mines is one of the toughest challenges we face. There are no overarching federal statutes or regulations for addressing the environmental contamination from abandoned hardrock mines. When requested by state or tribal partners, our Superfund program has been used to investigate and remediate abandoned mines that present a high risk to human and environmental health.  A 2015 Government Accountability Office report estimates that we spend anywhere from 7 to 52 times more at mining sites than at other types of Superfund sites.

Overall, the scale of this problem is striking. There are at least 161,000 abandoned hardrock mines in the western U.S. states and Alaska. Water draining from these types of mines and mine tailings are often highly acidic and release heavy metals such as zinc, lead, cadmium, copper and aluminum into the groundwater and surface waters the public relies on for drinking, agricultural irrigation and recreation.

The legacy of abandoned hardrock mines continues to be a source of complex challenges for our and the other federal and state agencies working to address this impact over the long-term. We thank all of our federal, tribal, state and local partners for their contributions to this first year of work following the GKM incident. We are strongly committed to working together to achieve long-term solutions to prevent future releases and protect our vital water resources. For more information, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/goldkingmine.


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A “Cool” Way to Combat Climate Change under the Montreal Protocol

By Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz

World climate leaders are meeting this week in Vienna for the next stage of international discussions about a global phase-down of climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

This meeting should lay the foundation for a 2016 amendment to the Montreal Protocol – a hugely successful global agreement that has put Earth’s fragile ozone layer on track to full restoration. A 2016 amendment would leverage the same proven mechanisms that helped fix the “ozone hole” to address another serious risk to the planet – HFCs.

When scientists discovered the “ozone hole” in the 1980s, they uncovered a tangible health risk to people and the environment. The ozone layer of our upper atmosphere is a natural sunscreen that protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays. A massive and growing “hole” in the ozone layer threatened to drive up skin cancer rates, harm marine life, ruin crops and even degrade wood, plastic and other construction materials.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol mandated that countries phase out ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and similar chemicals used widely at the time for air conditioning and refrigeration. With 197 countries signing on, it was the first UN treaty to achieve universal ratification in the United Nations.

The results have been remarkable. The peak ozone hole has shrunk dramatically by more than four million square kilometers (about the size of India), with a full recovery expected by mid-century. And despite fears of economic disruption, the private sector adjusted cost-effectively.

However, to phase out CFCs, countries needed viable alternatives. Back in the 80s and 90s, more and more sectors began moving toward hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – chemicals that performed well as refrigerants and were significantly healthier for the ozone layer. But like the chemicals they replaced, HFCs are still damaging to our climate system. In fact, they are hundreds to thousands of times more powerful in warming the planet than carbon dioxide. Rapid growth in the use of HFCs threatens to undo much of our progress in reducing other carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.

It is time to amend the Montreal Protocol and phase down the use of HFCs in air conditioning and refrigeration – an urgent priority given the explosive actual and projected growth of air conditioning and refrigeration worldwide.

If we succeed, we could avoid up to 0.5 degree centigrade of warming by the end of the century by shifting towards other, less harmful alternatives. Avoiding that half-degree is crucial for limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees centigrade and avoiding the most severe impacts of climate change.

Last November in Dubai, negotiators agreed on a path forward to phase down HFCs by amending the Montreal Protocol in 2016. The amendment would mandate countries to replace HFCs, in stages, with climate-friendly alternatives such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) and hydrocarbons.

We have the technologies and chemicals to get this done, and are confident we can produce an HFC amendment that works.

U.S. leaders will take the results of a newly-published Department of Energy report, The Future of Air Conditioning for Buildings, to Vienna. It documents air conditioning’s explosive growth worldwide, especially in developing nations, which could lead to huge increases in the use of HFCs and emissions of greenhouse gases. The report finds that air conditioning energy consumption in countries not part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) could rise 4-1/2 times 2010 levels by 2050 – emitting more HFC greenhouse gases and undercutting the Paris Agreement. Substitute chemicals are available to avoid the use of HFCs and their global warming impacts.

Here are some key findings:

  • For air conditioning equipment categories that account for 95 percent of global residential sales and 35 percent of global commercial sales, climate-friendly refrigerants on the market have demonstrated comparable or superior performance and energy efficiency.
  • Also, climate-friendly refrigerants are already being developed and commercialized in all other major air conditioning equipment categories.
  • The air conditioning industry has steadily improved the energy efficiency of air conditioning units over time, including during the transition out of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances into HFCs.
  • Given that energy costs account for the majority of lifecycle air conditioning costs, energy efficiency improvements can more than offset increases in upfront purchase costs to consumers that could result from switching to HFC alternatives.

In short, the report demonstrates that the world is making rapid progress innovating toward a world without HFCs. In the near-term we can expect a wide array of air conditioning options that are climate-friendly, energy-efficient and affordable.

And also today, California is announcing that it will contribute half a million dollars toward a nearly $6 million effort launched last June to conduct critical research regarding the safe use of mildly flammable and flammable alternatives to HFCs. The U.S. made this announcement as part of the launch of the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Advanced Cooling Challenge, in order to accelerate updated safety standards to allow widespread use of these climate-friendly refrigerants in the United States and internationally.

As a part of the Challenge, DOE is working with the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to support the acceleration of updated safety standards to allow widespread use of climate-friendly refrigerants in the United States and internationally. In support of the Advanced Cooling Challenge, the DOE is contributing $3 million in funding, AHRI is contributing $1 million, and ASHRAE is contributing $1.2 million.

It’s time for the world to come together to address HFCs. And this week’s negotiations are an important step down that path.

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Water Infrastructure is Everyone’s Business

By Joel Beauvais

Safe drinking water and effective wastewater management are basic building blocks of public health. Too often, we neglect our infrastructure until it fails. We need to invest in America’s water infrastructure – and we need to be strategic about doing it right – especially in disadvantaged communities.

We’ve known for years that our nation’s investments in water and wastewater infrastructure weren’t keeping up with the needs—which EPA estimates at $655 billion over the next 20 years. But those struggles are not the same everywhere—they are most acute in low-income and small communities.

In the wealthiest country on Earth, clean water needs to be available to everyone–no matter what part of the country you live in, no matter how much or how little money you make, and no matter the color of your skin.

To fix the problem, we’ll not only need innovative financing to leverage more investment, but we’ll also need to help these communities build capacity—so they can sustainably manage and operate their water systems, get access to those funds, and put them to good use.

We have to start by confronting the same ingrained, systemic challenges that threaten our country’s water resources – a resource that’s essential to every human being on the planet.

  • That means taking a serious look at America’s aging water infrastructure – in both urban and rural communities across the country – and asking ourselves what needs to be done to upgrade it.
  • That means finding better ways to address legacy pollutants, while striving to better understand the risks of emerging pollutants—and what they mean for water treatment technologies moving forward.
  • That means asking hard questions about how we achieve environmental justice—and how we deal with the long-term disinvestment in low income communities that contributed to situations like the terrible one we saw in Flint.

Everyone needs to bring their tools to the table—at the local, tribal and state level—along with utilities, investors, community advocates, and civil society. There’s a lot of innovative work going on out there, and we need to share and leverage each other’s ideas and expertise.

Joel Beauvais speaks from behind the conference panel table with four other presenters facing a room filled with conference attendees.

Joel Beauvais, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, speaks on a panel about best practices in water infrastructure funding coordination in Washington, DC.

For one thing, we need to make sure our current funding is working as hard as it can. Some states have been especially successful in leveraging EPA capitalization grants into more money—that can be lent to borrowers at below-market interest rates. We need to transfer these lessons to all states.

We also need new tools. EPA is getting started with one new one—our Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, authority, to provide loans for large infrastructure projects. We hope to have rules on this out by the end of this year.

Finally, we also need to attract more private capital into the infrastructure market. This is not a new idea—many communities have been doing this for years, but we need to apply lessons learned to other parts of the country.

We know that for our infrastructure to stand the test of time, we have to build sustainability and climate resilience into our designs. EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center was created a year and a half ago to provide innovative financial and technical guidance to communities.

Already, they’re helping communities across the country make better-informed decisions about financing resilient, sustainable infrastructure projects—consistent with their local needs. We’re doing it through direct outreach, tools, and strategies shared in regional water finance forums and everyday conversations. We also provide technical assistance grants to help small systems get the technical, managerial, and financial capacity they need to stay sustainable over the long term.

The WaterCare project, announced earlier this year, is also helping communities in need by offering targeted financial and technical planning and guidance.

And EPA is developing a drinking water action plan that focuses on addressing environmental justice and equity in infrastructure funding. We’ll be releasing that later this year.

We are committed to working with all of you to strengthen our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Our health—and our national security—depend on it.


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Technical Report Highlights Auto Industry’s Success Meeting Fuel Economy and GHG Standards

By Janet McCabe and Dr. Mark Rosekind, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

In 2010, the Obama Administration took a historic step to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and decrease carbon pollution by putting in place fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2012 through 2016.  A second round of standards finalized in 2012, expanded the program through Model Year 2025.  These standards – what we call the National Program – are already making a big impact: reducing carbon pollution from the atmosphere while saving consumers money at the pump.

The auto industry has responded to the program with continual innovation – showing that a common sense approach to regulation that provides lots of flexibility can help drive American ingenuity. We are seeing fuel efficiency technologies enter the market faster than nearly anyone anticipated. In fact, auto manufacturers over-complied with the standards for each of the first three years of the National Program. All of this has taken place during a period of record vehicle sales.

The National Program reaches out nearly a decade into the future – to 2025. When the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) developed the program, we agreed to do a “mid-term evaluation” to assess the standards for the 2022-2025 model years (MY).  We said back in 2012 that the mid-term evaluation would be a rigorous assessment of these standards, and would look at the best available data on emission control and fuel economy-improving technologies, costs, market developments, and other factors.

Today, we took the first step in that process. EPA, DOT, and California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) jointly put out an in-depth draft Technical Assessment Report (TAR). This comprehensive and robust report, informed by extensive stakeholder outreach and substantial technical work by the three agencies over the past several years, will inform EPA’s future determination on whether the standards are appropriate for MY 2022-2025 and NHTSA’s future rulemaking for those years. The report itself is not a rulemaking or decision document and does not change any of the existing legal requirements under the existing National Program—but it shows how much progress has already been made.

Here are some highlights:

Automakers are innovating in a time of record sales and fuel economy levels.  We are seeing technologies that reduce emissions and improve fuel economy entering the fleet at faster rates than originally expected.  These technologies include turbo charging, engine downsizing, more sophisticated transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, aerodynamics and idle stop-start, along with improved accessories and air conditioning systems.  Vehicle sales are strong (six straight years of increasing sales through 2015 for the first time since the 1920s, leading to an all-time high in 2015), and the auto firms overall are over-complying with the standards. Every single vehicle category, from subcompacts to pickup trucks, offers cleaner choices for consumers.

Manufacturers can meet the standards at similar or even a lower cost than we had anticipated in the 2012 rulemaking. Automakers have a wide range of technology pathways to choose from, but the TAR shows that manufacturers can meet the current standards for MY 2022-2025 primarily with conventional gasoline vehicles that use internal combustion engines with well-understood technologies.  This finding is consistent with what the National Academy of Sciences found in a comprehensive 2015 study.

Many manufacturers are meeting future standards with today’s vehicles. There are many vehicles – from many manufacturers – meeting future standards several years ahead of schedule.  In fact, there are over 100 car, SUV and pick-up truck versions on the market today that already meet 2020 or later standards.

The National Program is designed to enable consumers to choose the vehicle they want, from compact cars to larger trucks suitable for carrying and towing heavy loads, while helping owners enjoy improved fuel economy with a reduced environmental footprint. Rather than setting a single fuel economy target number for all vehicles, the National Program establishes separate standards for passenger cars and light trucks, with standards for trucks being generally less stringent than the standards for cars.  This approach protects consumer choice, and at the same time, it improves efficiency and emissions for all types of vehicles.  Even with lower than expected gas prices, which has resulted in a shift in consumer choice, the draft report shows that the standards mean more fuel efficient options no matter type or size vehicles consumers choose to buy.

Today’s report demonstrates that the program is working – reducing oil consumption and protecting the environment while saving consumers money. We are taking comment on the report and look forward to hearing from all interested stakeholders.

More information on the midterm evaluation, including the new report, can be found at https://www3.epa.gov/otaq/climate/mte.htm and http://www.nhtsa.gov/fuel-economy.

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Endorsing a Path to Healthier Schools

One of the most rewarding parts of my job as Assistant Administrator is visiting schools that have transformed themselves by reducing the unnecessary exposure of students, teachers, and staff to pests, allergens, and pesticides. Safer, healthier and well-maintained school environments can improve attendance rates, student learning and even school pride. Reduced pesticide use can also save money.

How have these particular schools done it? It all starts with a champion – someone to introduce and advocate for his or her school to change its approach to pest management. This person can be a school superintendent, nurse, plant manager, teacher, or even a parent. Second, the changes can be simple.  Very often it’s about tackling the source of the pest problem which can remove or reduce the need for pesticide treatments in the future. This approach is called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM.

With so many success stories popping up, the question was: how can EPA reach the thousands of school administrators, nurses, plant managers, teachers and PTAs across the country to give them information they can use to transform their schools?

Recently we took a huge first step towards meeting this challenge! Twenty national organizations came to Washington, DC to stand with EPA and sign on to help the agency in the effort to reduce the unnecessary exposure of students, teachers, and staff to pests and pesticides.

The goal is to “make IPM practices the standard in all schools over the next three years.”  And these partnering organizations agreed to use their vast membership and communication channels to help get sustainable pest management practices adopted in schools across the United States. Here’s the impressive list of organizations:

Simple preventive measures like sealing cracks and openings, installing door sweeps, fixing water leaks, and refining sanitation practices can make a school unappealing to pests. Conducting regular inspections, monitoring for pests and pest-conducive conditions, implementing an IPM policy or plan, and providing IPM education for the school community can institutionalize this smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control.

Where preventive measures are not sufficient to eliminate pests, the judicious and careful use of pesticides can complete your school’s pest control strategy.

For more information on EPA’s School IPM program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/managing-pests-schools

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EPA Continues Work with States to Improve Protection from Lead in Drinking Water

By Joel Beauvais

Taking action to address lead in drinking water is a top priority for EPA. We are continuing our robust work on implementation and compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), working closely with states, who under the Safe Drinking Water Act are the first line of oversight of drinking water systems. During the past six months, EPA has engaged with every state drinking water program to ensure they are addressing any high lead levels and fully implementing the current rule.

On February 29, 2016, EPA sent letters to all Governors, state environment and public health commissioners, and tribal leaders outlining specific steps they should take to enhance oversight of LCR implementation. Today, we are providing our response to the letters received from states and are making the state responses available on our website.

Currently, every state has confirmed – either in its initial response to the February 29 letters or in follow-up communications with EPA – that state protocols and procedures are fully consistent with the  LCR and applicable EPA guidance, including protocols and procedures for optimizing corrosion control. States have indicated that they already posted or will post state LCR sampling protocols and guidance to their public websites. In addition, many states have provided examples of how they are promoting transparency and public education.

The state responses also highlight areas where both states and EPA should focus further efforts with public water systems going forward. These include:

  • prompt public notification of lead sampling results and public education following action level exceedances,
  • increased focus on systems serving vulnerable populations including schools, systems with historical action level exceedances
  • identification of lead service line locations, and
  • additional training and information to address key issues identified in the state responses, including LCR requirements and corrosion control.

We appreciate the state responses, and will continue to follow up on the identified issue areas to confirm proper implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule and related agency guidance, as well as to offer assistance if needed. We encourage all states to learn from one another and to implement best practices that strengthen public health protections. EPA remains committed to, and is actively working on, proposed revisions to the LCR that will strengthen the public health protections of the rule.

EPA has also launched a concerted, strategic engagement with key partners and stakeholders – including state, tribal and local governments, drinking water utilities, and public health, environmental and community stakeholders – to develop and implement a national action plan to address the critical drinking water challenges and opportunities before us.

Learn more about what you can do to reduce lead in your drinking water.



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The Grand Calumet River – Fighting its Way Back to Life

The Grand Calumet River – Fighting its Way Back to Life

By Cameron Davis

Growing up, my family and I used to drive over the I-90 “Skyway” to Pennsylvania during spring breaks. As acute as my memories are of piling into the back of our yellow Chevrolet Caprice station wagon (complete with fake exterior wood paneling), I also remember my brother, sister and I holding our noses as we reached the Skyway bridge venturing into Northwest Indiana’s airspace. We drove by the sluggish Grand Calumet River, whose flow was then infamous for being comprised mostly of wastewater from nearby manufacturing plants. The river was virtually lifeless.


Four decades later, and after even more time of dogged work by legislative, civic and agency leaders, the Grand Cal is fighting to make a comeback. And there are signs it’s winning the fight for its own survival.

Four years ago, on June 11, 2012, we celebrated the completion work at one of the river’s most visible assets: Roxana Marsh.

“Roxana Marsh has become a special place for local schoolchildren, both as an outdoor laboratory and as a peaceful natural area,” said Caitie Nigrelli of IL-IN Sea Grant, who helped rally local community involvement for the site.

A combination of efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Department of Environmental Management had contributed some $52 million—including funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process—to revive the area in and around Roxana Marsh. The revival involved removing upwards of 730,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. It also involved replacing invasive, cattail-like Phragmites, with native plantings in some 25 acres of wetlands along 2 ½ miles of the Grand Cal River.

Two months ago, while driving to Kentucky for spring break, I pointed out the area to my own son and daughter. Today, a very different Roxana Marsh can be seen from the highway: budding instead of battered, alive instead of lifeless, “green,” as my kids said early this year, instead of “gross!” as my brother, sister and I uttered four decades ago.





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A Call to Action to Reduce Food Loss and Waste

By Mathy Stanislaus

Last November I co-hosted the Food Recovery Summit, bringing businesses, non-profits, governments, and community groups together in Charleston, South Carolina to reduce the problem of wasted food. There are successful efforts underway across the country that tackle wasted food – saving money, feeding the hungry, and acting on climate change.

Mathy CharlestonEPA and the US Department of Agriculture announced an ambitious national goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030. To reach our goal, we will need to harness and amplify these best practices and creative thinking. This effort is a triple win for the environment, economy, and social well-being of those who are the least fortunate among us.

Large piles of food in a field with a stack of boxes next to them.We worked with numerous stakeholders to gather some of the best thinking into a resulting summary we are releasing today: U.S. 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal: A Call to Action by Stakeholders. This Call to Action records the demonstrated practices of leaders throughout the food industry, divided into the categories of production, manufacturing, retail, consumers, recovery and regulators. As its name suggests, this summary is a call to action, calling the leaders of these sectors to take the best practices, innovative ideas, and key strategies within it and, not only put them to use locally, but to scale up their efforts nationwide.

This Call to Action contains key focus areas, opportunities, demonstrated practices and suggested actions identified by experts in the private and public sector. Just a few of the innovative practices inside A Call to Action include:

  • farmers starting ugly produce markets and offering gleaning opportunities
  • manufacturers using technology to make food storage easier and reduce spoilage
  • retailers establishing new networks to bring excess catered or unsold food to those who need it most
  • communities setting up composting programs to keep food out of landfills
  • advocacy groups and faith-based organizations creating recipe books, volunteer opportunities, tips and apps for consumers
  • universities educating students through strategies like starting tray-less dining, offering taste tests and sharing the results of their waste audits.

Everyone has a part to play to help us reach our goal, from families to the largest food producers. The Call to Action is a first step towards creating a pathway to get us there.

To check out the U.S. 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal: A Call to Action by Stakeholders, visit: http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/call-action-stakeholders-united-states-food-loss-waste-2030-reduction

For more on food recovery visit: www.epa.gov/foodrecovery

To learn how your organization can track food inventories and set food waste prevention goals, visit https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-frc

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E-Manifest: Sustaining the e-Manifest National System through User Fees

By Mathy Stanislaus

Recently, I blogged about the selection of members for our e-Manifest Advisory Board, an exciting step in the creation of an electronic system for tracking hazardous waste shipments from “cradle-to-grave.” This system, known as e-Manifest, will improve access to timely hazardous waste shipment data and will reduce burdens associated with the current paper manifest system.

How are we funding this system? In the e-Manifest Act, Congress required that EPA recover all of the costs of developing and operating the system. E-Manifest will be entirely supported by user fees charged to those who use manifests to track shipments of their hazardous wastes. Congress directed EPA to create a system for collecting user fees, which makes lots of sense. After all, the cost of handling and tracking hazardous waste ought to be borne by those who generate it, not the tax payer. After all, maybe they will generate less!

Today, I’m pleased to highlight another important step toward our goal of deploying the e-Manifest system in the spring of 2018. We have released a proposed rule that explains how we propose to establish and revise the system’s user fees. Now it’s your turn; we want your input. We are looking forward to getting informed and insightful public comment. The proposal covers:

  • Who must pay e-Manifest user fees,
  • The types of transactions that will incur fees,
  • The formula we’ll use to set fees,
  • Options for paying fees electronically,
  • A process for periodically revising user fees, and
  • Sanctions for non-payment.

Our proposal plans to levy user fees on the facilities that receive manifested waste shipments, with the fees tailored to whether paper or electronic manifests are submitted to the system. Paper is a lot more expensive to handle and process. At EPA we’re advocates of reduce, reuse, recycle. The bottom line is that we’re trying to set this system up so that paper becomes the choice of last resort. If we are successful the system will be more efficient, cost less and save more.

I encourage you to tell us what you think. Comments on this proposal will be accepted for 60 days following publication of this rule in the Federal Register. EPA is requesting commenters to use the new comment platform, which can be found at https://epa-notice.usa.gov/. Information on the new platform can be found in the Federal Register Notice for the proposed rule, as well as on the EPA e-Manifest proposed rule Web page. You may follow progress on EPA’s development of the e-Manifest system on our website. If you subscribe to the e-Manifest ListServ, you will receive project updates in real time and information about opportunities to provide feedback. EPA will also conduct an upcoming webinar to discuss the user fee proposals under consideration and encourage all interested parties to participate.

Once we’ve reviewed the public comments and feedback from the Advisory Board, EPA will finalize the user fee methodology and establish user fees for the e-Manifest system, which we expect to do in late 2017. We are excited about the strides we are making in realizing this national system, and remain dedicated to maintaining open dialogue and continuing collaboration. For more updates, visit our e-Manifest website.

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TSCA Reform: A Bipartisan Milestone to Protect Our Health from Dangerous Chemicals

By Gina McCarthy

President Obama just signed a bipartisan bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the first major update to an environmental statute in 20 years. That’s great news for the environment and for the health of all Americans.

TSCA was first passed in 1976 to help keep dangerous chemicals off the market and avoid making people sick. Back then, health experts already knew that certain chemicals could cause very serious health impacts, including cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.

While the intent of the original TSCA law was spot-on, it fell far short of giving EPA the authority we needed to get the job done.

It became clear that without major changes to the law, EPA couldn’t take the actions necessary to protect people from toxic chemicals. Diverse stakeholders, including industry, retailers, and public health and environmental experts, recognized these deficiencies and began to demand major reforms to the law.

Today, in a culmination of years of effort from both sides of the aisle, President Obama signed a bill that achieves those reforms.

The updated law gives EPA the authorities we need to protect American families from the health effects of dangerous chemicals. I welcome this bipartisan bill as a major step forward to protect Americans’ health. And at EPA, we’re excited to get to work putting it into action.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2576) was made possible by years of hard work by both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate, as well as EPA staff who have provided significant technical assistance. I applaud everyone who stepped up and made it happen. It’s historic, and it’ll make Americans’ lives better.

TSCA was intended to be one of our nation’s foundational environmental laws. In terms of its potential for positive impact, it should have ranked right alongside the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which, since the 70’s, have dramatically improved water quality and helped clean up 70 percent of our nation’s air pollution. But it hasn’t.

Forty years after TSCA was enacted, there are still tens of thousands of chemicals on the market that have never been evaluated for safety, because TSCA didn’t require it. And the original law set analytical requirements that were nearly impossible to meet, leaving EPA’s hands tied – even when the science demanded action on certain chemicals.

The dangers of inaction were never more stark than in the case of asbestos, a chemical known to cause cancer through decades of research.

During the first Bush Administration, EPA tried to ban asbestos under TSCA, but the rule was overturned in court. In the law’s 40-year history, only a handful of the tens of thousands of chemicals on the market when the law passed have ever been reviewed for health impacts, and only 5 have ever been banned.

Because EPA was not empowered to act on dangerous chemicals, American families were left vulnerable to serious health impacts. At the same time, some states tried to fill the gap to protect their citizens’ health—but state-by-state rules are no substitute for a strong national program that protects all Americans. Chemical manufacturers, consumer retailers, and others in industry agreed: reform was sorely needed.

As with any major policy reform, this one includes compromises. But the new bipartisan bill is a win for the American people—because it’s a victory for EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The new law requires EPA to evaluate existing chemicals, with clear and enforceable deadlines. Under the old law, the tens of thousands of chemicals already in existence in 1976 were considered in compliance, without any requirement or schedule for EPA to review them for safety. EPA is now required to systematically prioritize and evaluate chemicals on a specific and enforceable schedule. Within a few years, EPA’s chemicals program will have to assess at least 20 chemicals at a time, beginning another chemical review as soon as one is completed.
  • Under the new law, EPA will evaluate chemicals purely on the basis of the health risks they pose. The old law was so burdensome that it prevented EPA from taking action to protect public health and the environment–even when a chemical posed a known health threat. Now, EPA will have evaluate a chemical’s safety purely based on the health risks it poses—including to vulnerable groups like children and the elderly, and to workers who use chemicals daily as part of their jobs—and then take steps to eliminate any unreasonable risks we find.
  • The new law provides a consistent source of funding for EPA to carry out its new responsibilities. EPA will now be able to collect up to $25 million a year in user fees from chemical manufacturers and processers, supplemented by Congressional budgeting, to pay for these improvements.

Bottom line: this law is a huge win for public health, and EPA is eager to get to work.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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