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Semiannual Regulatory Agenda

EPA publishes the semiannual regulatory agenda online to update the public about: regulations and major policies currently under development; reviews of existing regulations and major policies; and rules and major policy makings completed or canceled since the publication of the last agenda.  The “Fall 2012” agenda was just released, although it is later than usual, as was the spring 2012 version.  There are a number of drinking water and related rules of interest on the agenda this time around.  Highlights are listed below.  You can access the full agenda and EPA’s companion Regulatory Plan on line at www.regulations.gov using EPA-HQ-OA-2012-0987 in the search box.

Significant drinking water related actions in the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda and Regulatory Plan:

Proposed Rules

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Lead and Copper: Regulatory Revisions

In developing the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) short-term revisions, EPA identified several regulatory changes to be considered as part of identifying more comprehensive changes to the rule. These considerations are longer-term in nature as they require additional data collection, research, analysis, and stakeholder involvement to support decisions. This action addresses the remaining regulatory revisions to be completed in the 2013/2014 time frame.  Changes will be made to make the rule more cost effective and more protective of public health.

Timetable:  Proposed Rule 09/2013; Final Rule 05/2014

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Group Regulation of Carcinogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

EPA announced in February 2011 that it plans to develop one national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR) covering up to 16 carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). EPA will propose a regulation to address carcinogenic VOC contaminants as a group rather than individually in order to provide public health protections more quickly and also allow utilities to more effectively and efficiently plan for improvements. PCE and TCE, which the Agency determined were candidates for regulatory revision under the second six year review of the existing NPDWRs, will be included in the VOC drinking water standard. Besides PCE and TCE, the group may include up to six additional regulated VOCs; and up to eight unregulated VOCs from the EPA’s Contaminant Candidate List 3.

Timetable:  Proposed Rule 10/2013; Final Rule 06/2015

Clean Water Protection Rule

After U.S. Supreme Court decisions in SWANCC and Rapanos, the scope of “waters of the US” protected under all CWA programs has been an issue of considerable debate and uncertainty. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are developing a proposed rule for determining whether a water is protected by the Clean Water Act. This rule would clarify which water bodies are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Timetable:  No projected dates offered

Final Rules

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Revisions to the Total Coliform Rule

Although listed in the Agenda as still under development, because the final rule is not actually published, the RTCR was signed by the EPA administrator on December 20, 2012.

Long-term Actions

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Regulation of Perchlorate

EPA announced in February 2011 that it is beginning development of a national drinking water regulation for perchlorate in drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) describes EPA’s requirements for regulating contaminants. In accordance with these requirements, the Agency will evaluate the health effects of perchlorate, the feasibility of treatment, the affordability of treatment for small systems, the costs and the benefits of a regulation, and how a standard would be implemented (e.g., monitoring requirements).

Timetable:  Proposed Rule 12/2013 (SDWA requires Proposed Rule not later than 24 months after determination to regulate which would be 02/11/2013, so EPA would be missing that deadline); Final Rule 08/2014 (SDWA requires Final Action within 18 months of Proposed Rule; may be extended up to 9 months, so EPA would be back on the original schedule if it makes this date.)

Effluent Guidelines and Standards for Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction Including Coalbed Methane and Shale Gas Extraction

In recent years, there has been substantial growth in extraction and production of oil and gas resources including coalbed methane and shale gas using unconventional technologies. Part of this growth can be attributed to advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The current state of regulations for discharges associated with these unconventional activities varies. This action will collect information, review existing technologies, and develop regulatory options to control discharges of pollutants from these sources.

Timetable: Proposed Rule 10/2014; Final Rule 02/2016

Completed Actions

Revisions to the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (UCMR 3) for Public Water Systems

The SDWA, as amended in 1996, requires EPA to establish criteria for a program to monitor not more than 30 unregulated contaminants every five years.  The final regulation will meet the SDWA requirement for identifying new priority contaminants to be monitored during the third UCMR cycle (i.e., UCMR 3) of 2012-2015.  The Final Rule was effective on 06/01/2012.

EPA’s Regulatory Plan

EPA’s Regulatory Plan (which accompanies the Regulatory Agenda) contains much of the same detailed information on pending rules as the Agenda but also highlights the broader agency priorities that drive the rule process.  Three of EPA’s seven Guiding Priorities are of interest including Taking Action on Climate Change, Protecting America’s Waters (especially streamlining drinking water standards) and Building Strong State and Tribal Partnerships.  The LCR revisions and Carcinogenic VOC rules are specifically listed as part of the review of existing regulations.  In addition to the Agenda and the Plan, EPA also offers regular updates on their regulatory activities through their Action Initiation List (AIL).  The latest report there is from October 2012.