What is Mother Earth made of? Perhaps her composition comes from the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. These four elements seem to reflect recent EPA initiatives as well — the agency’s efforts to conserve our planet. Introduced just this past year through congress have been several accomplishments created under both the EPA’s Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. With new regulatory rules though, come a greater need for environmental compliance. Particularly major powerhouses, like power plants and hydraulic fracturing companies, need to be aware of these changes. Let’s take a look at the four elements of environmental sustainability and environmental compliance of 2016: air, water, management and risk reduction.
The EPA’s Clean Air Act regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and welfare, and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. Every year major movements are made under the act, and 2016 saw (and will continue to see) some big ones.
The Clean Power Plan
- Aims to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels.
- The proposal will also cut pollution that leads to soot and smog by over 25 percent by 2030.
- The Clean Power Plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion by 2030.
- States can implement emission goals through two types of plans: emission standards or state measures.
- An emission standards plan would be any plan that covers affected Electric Generating Units (EGU) or other specific types of activities identified by EPA as being eligible to receive credit (e.g. renewables, energy efficiency, nuclear).
- A state measures plan would demonstrate equivalent reductions via programs outside of affected EGUs (e.g. carbon tax, renewable portfolio standards or economy-wide cap-and-trade programs).
- If a state chooses to implement a statewide plan, all affected EGUs in the state will be in compliance if they meet a specific emission rate.
- If an EGU has an emission rate higher than the EPA performance goal, it can lower the rate by either investing in on-site technologies to reduce emissions or procuring emission rate credits.
- The plan became a finalized rule in August 2015; however, Supreme Court froze the rule. Now it awaits trial at the Court of Appeals in September 2016.
Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016
- The legislation would delay the requirement for states to submit ozone pollution reduction plans until 2026.
- The bill would extend the review cycle for certain pollutants from 5 to 10 years and would allow the EPA to consider technological feasibility when setting standards for safe levels of those pollutants.
- The NAAQS (that the bill aims to delay), published in the Federal Register on October 26, 2015, requires states to determine whether different geographical areas in the states are in compliance with federal limits on ozone pollution.
- States would also have to submit plans to reduce ozone emissions to EPA starting in 2020.
- The bill would delay the implementation of the final EPA rule in 2015 related to NAAQS for ozone emissions as stated above.
The EPA’s Clean Water Act establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. As with the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act also saw several big regulatory movements in 2016.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Update
EPA is proposing several key fixes, including:
- Clarifying NPDES definitions and application requirements
- Improving permit decision documentation in fact sheets
- Allowing permitting authorities to issue public notice of certain permit actions online rather than in a newspaper
- Ensuring issuance of environmentally significant permits in a timely manner
- A person may not discharge pollutants from a point source into surface waters except when authorized under an NPDES permit.
- Specific treatment requirements and effluent limitations for each discharge must be established.
States that don’t comply, like Massachusetts, will receive EPA-issued permits.
- The comment period for the proposed rule has been extended from July 18, 2016 to August 2, 2016. Submit your comments on the NPDES Application and Updates rule to Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2016-0145.
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Lead and Copper
- Limits the concentration of lead and copper allowed in public drinking water at the consumer’s tap
- Limits the permissible amount of pipe corrosion occurring due to the water itself
- EPA provides guidance documents to help states and public water systems implement the Lead and Copper Rule. These materials can assist in complying with requirements of the rule.
- EPA currently expects to issue a proposed rule in late 2016.
How do you manage the EPA’s ever-evolving environmental rules and regulations? Integrating a functional environmental compliance software system makes managing new rules a breeze. Whether your organization aims to improve product stewardship, overall sustainability, or simply reduce risks, a management plan must exist — a fundamental component in compliance.
At Gensuite, we know that compliance management can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Which is why, we believe every company deserves a great system to manage environmental operations. Our Management Systems Software and Environmental Compliance Software provide just that.
- Streamline management of key environmental aspects, with a focus on air, water and waste regulatory compliance program requirements
- Establish a framework for managing business risk through standard programs/processes
- Engage stakeholders to own and integrate the management system
With a functional EHS software system in place, management becomes easy. And without trying, risk reduction comes naturally. The above programs reduce environmental and business-related risks in several ways.
- Utilize pre-built reports to meet local, state and federal reporting formats
Implement the Gensuite Compliance Calendar, AirLog, ODS Sentinel, Permit Manager, Water
- Watch and Waste Tracker applications
- Meet permitting requirements with a variety of data input methods (desktop, mobile, xls, integrated solutions, etc.)
- Allows sites to audit their programs against company standards to reduce or make audit failures non-existent
- Compile ongoing operational performance metrics for reporting and goal-setting for ongoing improvement
- Customized reporting and dashboards to compare performance on varying levels and subject areas
Perhaps Mother Earth isn’t made of earth, air, fire and water. In order to sustain these elements, we must first adhere to EPA environmental regulations that aim to preserve them. EHS professionals (like you) and their businesses must remember the importance of the four fundamental elements of environmental sustainability and compliance to continually adhere to air and water regulations, while improving management and reducing risks. After all, isn’t that what Mother Earth is made of?