EPA’s Recent Regulatory Actions Now Face a Slightly Uncertain Future Schedule

Three recent regulatory actions from EPA (Final Lead and Copper Rule Revisions [LCRR], proposed Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule [UCMR5] and final regulatory determinations for PFOA, PFOS, and other Fourth Contaminant Candidate List [CCL4] contaminants) are now all in flux. Based on the new Executive Order “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review”, all three of these regulatory actions will be reviewed and assessed, and what that really means as far as effective dates, timing, and potential revisions are all up in the air.

The final LCRR falls under paragraph #3 of this Executive Order. As far as the path forward for the final LCRR, EPA has been directed in this Executive Order to consider moving the effective date 60 days and to consider opening up a 30-day public comment period. Another possibility would be a more thorough review (such a review would likely require additional extensions to the effective date), comparable to the review of the arsenic rule in 2001 and all that can be said at this point is that a similar set of panels for the LCRR is a possibility, as well as some revisions to the final LCRR through a Supplemental Proposed Rule (not sure what new data has become available to make this a likely option) and/or some unforeseen regulatory path all being possibilities.

The proposed UCMR5 and the final regulatory determinations fall under paragraph #2 (that also goes back to paragraph #1) of this Executive Order, in that both notices were signed by the former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler but not published in the Federal Register. Recent Biden-Harris Administration appointees to EPA will have to review and approve these two regulatory actions before publication. Linking approval to Federal Register publication also opens the door for potential revisions to these two regulatory actions. Going back to Greek philosophy, Heraclitus made the assertion that “Life is Flux”, and the water sector will certainly be seeing lots of changes for the balance of 2021 and beyond.