EPA Identifies 2019 and Beyond Rulemaking Priorities


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EPA Identifies 2019 and Beyond Rulemaking Priorities

By: George Colvin, CPG, CHMM

Twice a year, federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), publish a web-based listing of ongoing and planned regulatory activity through what is now known as the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, or simply the Unified Agenda. The fall version (released between October and December each year) of the Unified Agenda includes a summary of priorities (termed the Regulatory Plan), which is not included in the spring version of the Unified Agenda. The Regulatory Plan presents agency statements of regulatory priorities and additional information about the most significant regulatory/deregulatory activities planned for the coming year. The Regulatory Plan is a subset of the broader universe of regulatory activities identified in the Unified Agenda. Beyond the Regulatory Plan, the Unified Agenda is essentially two interactive lists of planned rulemakings, one near-term, and one long-term. The near-term activities included in the Unified Agenda are those currently planned to have either an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), or a Final Rule issued within the next 12 months.   The long-term actions list includes actions for which no regulatory activity is expected for at least 12 months after publication of the Unified Agenda.

The Fall 2018 Regulatory Plan is eight pages long and includes several sentences of discussion on each of the administration’s most important regulatory and deregulatory actions. From the titles alone, it is not possible to tell if the action is regulatory or deregulatory in nature. In several cases, the titles appear purposefully misleading. The 19 actions identified in the 2018 Regulatory Plan are:

  • Improve Air Quality
  • Electric Utility Sector Greenhouse Gas Rules
  • Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Rule
  • New Source Review and Title V Permitting Programs Reform
  • Oil and Gas
  • Provide for Clean and Safe Water
  • Waters of the U.S.
  • Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category
  • National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Perchlorate
  • Peak Flows Management
  • Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Regulatory Revision
  • Revitalize Land and Prevent Contamination
  • Reconsideration of the Accidental Release Prevention Regulations under Clean Air Act
  • Disposal of Coal Combustion Residues from Electric Utilities – Remand Rules
  • Designation of Per-and Polyfluoroakyl Substances as Hazardous Substances
  • Implementing TSCA Amendments to Enhance Public Health and Chemical Safety
  • Review of Lead Dust Hazard Standards under TSCA
  • Reconsideration of Pesticide Safety Requirements

EPA’s Fall 2018 Unified Agenda of near-term actions includes 148 active actions. For each of the actions, additional information is available through links, including a summary of the action, priority, legal authority, and stage or rulemaking. Sixty-two percent of the 148 near-term actions will be through EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR), compared to 15 percent through the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), 12 percent through the Office of Water (OW), and 8 percent through the Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM). According to the associated EPA press release, 45 of the actions are deregulatory in nature and 34 actions appear for the first time.

The current long-term actions list includes 48 planned actions. More than a few of the 48 actions were only recently moved from the near-term to the long-term list, suggesting a reprioritization or simply a realization of the time required to make significant changes. One such move of note is the much touted “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule, now delegated to the long-term action list, with a final rule target date of 2020.

Published in Cox-Colvin’s November 2018 Focus on the Environment newsletter.


George H. Colvin is a hydrogeologist with over 30 years of consulting experience. Much of his experience has focused on RCRA Corrective Action, RCRA closure, and groundwater investigation, monitoring, and cleanup. He holds a BS in Geology from Ohio University and MS in geology and hydrology from Vanderbilt University. He is a Certified Professional Geologist with the American Institute of Professional Geologists, a registered geologist in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, and a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager.