April 25, 2018
The Trump administration has quietly reshaped enforcement of air pollution standards in recent months through a series of regulatory memos according to an April 18, 2018 report from The Hill.
The memos are fulfilling the top wishes of industry, which has long called for changes to how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the nation’s factories, plants and other facilities. The EPA is now allowing certain facilities to be subject to less-stringent regulations and is letting companies use friendlier math in calculating their expected emissions.
Environmentalists and public health advocates say the memos could greatly increase levels of air pollutants like mercury, benzene and nitrogen oxides. They accuse the EPA of avoiding the transparency and public input requirements that regulatory changes usually go through.
But for the EPA and its supporters, the memos simply bring the agency back to what the relevant laws and regulations are meant to be.
The first memo, issued in December 2017, states that the EPA will no longer “second guess” companies’ calculations of their expected pollution output after certain big projects under what is known as New Source Review. Under that program, the EPA reviews the changes made to a facility to decide whether they need to go through the same process as if the facility were newly built. The memo effectively means the EPA will usually not take action against a company for its calculations if they turn out to be wrong.
The second memo, issued in January, repeals a Clinton-era policy known as “once in, always in.” Under the previous policy, facilities could never be considered “minor” sources of hazardous pollution if they were already considered “major” sources, and subject to much stricter rules. Now, facilities can be regulated as “minor” if their emissions drop enough.
The third memo, issued in March, allows companies to use a procedure known as “project netting” when applying for permits for major projects under the New Source Review program. That means companies can use a more industry-friendly emissions calculation when they argue that a particular project would reduce emissions.
The fourth memo, issued in April and added by President Trump himself, formally asks the EPA to use more industry-friendly practices in enforcing the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program, a key Clean Air Act program for air quality nationwide.
What this means to you
The Trump administration has quietly reshaped enforcement of air pollution standards in recent months through a series of four regulatory memos fulfilling the top wishes of industry changes regarding how EPA oversees the nation’s factories, plants and other facilities.