Statement of Priorities


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created on December 2, 1970, when Americans across the nation took up a call for cleaner air, safer water and unpolluted land. For the past four decades, EPA has confronted health and environmental challenges, fostered innovations, and cleaned up pollution in the places where people live, work, play and learn.

The EPA remains strongly committed to protecting health and the environment with a focus on:

  • taking action on climate change;

  • improving air quality;

  • assuring the safety of chemicals;

  • cleaning up our communities;

  • protecting America's waters;

  • expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice; and

  • building strong state and tribal partnerships.

    EPA and its federal, state, local, and community partners have made enormous progress in protecting the nation's health and environment. From reducing mercury and other toxic air pollution from outdated power plants to doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, the Agency is working to save tens of thousands of lives each year and protect the environment. Further, EPA has removed over a billion tons of pollution from the air, and produced hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits for the American people. For example:

  • The number of Americans receiving water that meets health standards has gone from 79 percent in 1993 to 92 percent in 2008.

  • EPA has also helped realize a 60% reduction in the dangerous air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, lead poisoning and more since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. Innovations like smokestack scrubbers and catalytic converters in automobiles have helped this process.

  • Today, new cars are 98 percent cleaner in terms of smog-forming pollutants than they were in 1970.

  • Meanwhile, American families and businesses have gone from recycling about 10 percent of trash in 1980 to more than 34 percent in 2010. Eighty-three million tons of trash are recycled annually-the equivalent of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from more than 33 million automobiles.


    EPA's forty years of protecting human health and the environment demonstrates our nation's commitment to reducing pollution that can threaten the air we breathe, the water we use and the communities we live in. Addressing climate change calls for coordinated national and global efforts to reduce emissions and develop new technologies that can be deployed. This Regulatory Plan contains information on some of our most important upcoming regulatory actions. As always, our Semiannual Regulatory Agenda contains information on a broader spectrum of EPA's upcoming regulatory actions.

    Seven Guiding Priorities

    The EPA's success depends on supporting innovation and creativity in both what we do and how we do it. To guide the agency's efforts, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has established seven guiding priorities. These priorities are enumerated in the list that follows, along with recent progress and future objectives for each.

    1. Taking Action on Climate Change

    The Agency will continue to deploy existing regulatory tools where appropriate and warranted. Using the Clean Air Act, EPA will continue to develop greenhouse gas standards for both mobile and stationary sources.

    Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for Power Plants. In April of 2012, EPA proposed emission standards for reducing greenhouse gas emissions new electric power plants. The proposed standards, if finalized, will establish an achievable limit of carbon pollution per megawatt hour for all future units, moving the nation towards a cleaner and more efficient energy future.

    Carbon Capture and Storage. EPA proposed a rule to clarify the applicability of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste regulations to certain Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) activities. The proposed rule, if finalized, will conditionally exclude CO2 streams from RCRA hazardous waste requirements when injected into a Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) well and meeting certain other conditions. Specifically, the rule will work in conjunction with the Safe Drinking Water Act's Class VI Underground Injection Control Rule, which governs the geological sequestration of CO2 streams by providing regulatory clarity for defining and managing these CO2 streams, and help facilitate the deployment of CCS.

    2. Improving Air Quality

    Since passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments in 1990, nationwide air quality has improved significantly for the six criteria air pollutants for which there are national ambient air quality standards, as well as many other hazardous air pollutants. Long-term exposure to air pollution can cause cancer and damage to the immune, neurological, reproductive, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.

    Reviewing and Implementing Air Quality Standards. Despite progress, millions of Americans still live in areas that exceed one or more of the national standards. Ground-level ozone and particle pollution still present challenges in many areas of the country. This year's regulatory plan describes efforts to review the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone.

    Tier 3 Vehicle and Fuel Standards. EPA is now developing vehicle emission and fuel standards to further reduce NOx, PM, and air toxics. These standards will also help states to achieve air quality standards.

    Cleaner Air From Improved Technology. EPA continues to address hazardous air pollution under authority of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The centerpiece of this effort is the "Maximum Achievable Control Technology" (MACT) program, which requires that all major sources of a given type use emission controls that better reflect the current state of the art.

    3. Assuring the Safety of Chemicals

    One of EPA's highest priorities is to make significant and long overdue progress in assuring the safety of chemicals. Using sound science as a compass, EPA protects individuals, families, and the environment from potential risks of pesticides and other chemicals. In its implementation of these programs, EPA uses several different statutory authorities, including the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA), as well as collaborative and voluntary activities. In 2013, the Agency will continue efforts to enhance its current chemicals management program under TSCA, address concerns with existing chemicals, including PCBs, Mercury, Lead, and Formaldehyde.

    EPA's Chemicals Management Program under TSCA. As part of EPA's ongoing efforts to enhance the Agency's existing chemicals management program, EPA continues to take actions identified on priority chemicals and to assess chemicals to determine if action is needed to address potential concerns.

    Addressing Concerns with Formaldehyde. As directed by the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010, EPA is developing regulations to address formaldehyde emissions from hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard that is sold, supplied, offered for sale, or manufactured in the United States.

    4. Cleaning Up Its Communities

    Improve Accountability and Oversight of Hazardous Secondary Materials Recycling. The Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) final rule will take final action on EPA's 2011 DSW proposal, which was developed to improve the accountability and oversight of hazardous secondary materials recycling, while allowing for important flexibilities that will promote its economic and environmental benefits. Through this rulemaking and other partnerships, EPA supports urban, suburban, and rural community goals of improving environmental, human health, and quality-of-life outcomes through partnerships that also promote economic opportunities, energy efficiency, and revitalized neighborhoods. Sustainable communities balance their economic and natural assets so that the diverse needs of local residents can be met now and in the future with limited environmental impacts. EPA accomplishes these outcomes by working with communities, other Federal agencies, States, and national experts to develop and encourage development strategies that have better outcomes for air quality, water quality, and land preservation and revitalization.

    5. Protecting America's Waters

    Despite considerable progress, America's waters continue to face complex challenges, from nutrient loadings and storm water runoff to invasive species and drinking water contaminants. These challenges demand both traditional and innovative strategies.

    Clean Water Protection. U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are developing a proposed rule for determining whether a waterway, water body, or wetland is protected by the Clean Water Act. This rule would make clear which water bodies are protected under the Clean Water Act.

    Cooling Water Intake Structures. EPA plans to finalize standards for cooling water intakes for electric power plants and for other manufacturers who use large amounts of cooling water. The goal of the final rule will be to protect aquatic organisms from being killed or injured through impingement or entrainment.

    Steam Electric Power Plants. EPA will propose national technology-based regulations, called effluent guidelines, to reduce discharges of pollutants from industries to waters of the U.S. and publicly owned treatment works. These requirements are incorporated into National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System discharge permits issued by EPA and states. The steam electric effluent guidelines apply to steam electric power plants using nuclear or fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas. Power plant discharges can have major impacts on water quality, including reduced organism abundance and species diversity, contamination of drinking water sources, and other effects. Pollutants of concern include metals (e.g., mercury, arsenic and selenium), nutrients, and total dissolved solids.

    Streamlining Drinking Water Standards. EPA plans to propose revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule in fiscal year 2013. Beginning in 2004, EPA conducted a wide-ranging review of implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) to determine if there is a national problem related to elevated lead levels. EPA's comprehensive review identified several short-term and long-term regulatory changes. EPA will consider the more recent science and the input from the SAB to prepare proposed regulatory revisions to make the rule more cost effective and more protective of public health.

    Electronic Reporting. EPA intends to propose the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule, which would require reports and data to be transmitted electronically rather than in paper form. Through this regulation, EPA will move reporting into the digital age by requiring that most NPDES data be submitted electronically and by streamlining reporting. EPA seeks to ensure that facility-specific information would be readily available, accurate, timely and nationally consistent for the facilities that are regulated by the NPDES program, with minimum burden on the affected entities.

    Responding to Oil Spills in U.S. Waters. The Clean Water Act (CWA), as amended by the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), requires that the National Contingency Plan (NCP) include a schedule identifying "dispersants, other chemicals, and other spill mitigating devices and substances, if any, that may be used in carrying out" the NCP. The EPA is considering amending the Subpart J of the NCP (the Product Schedule) for a manufacturer to have chemical, biological, or other spill mitigating substances listed on the Product Schedule; updating the listing requirements to reflect new advancements in scientific understanding and, to the extent practicable, considering and addressing concerns regarding the use of dispersants raised during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

    6. Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice.

    Environmental Justice in Rulemaking. EPA released an interim guidance document in 2011 to help Agency staff include environmental justice principles in its rulemaking process. The rulemaking guidance is an important and positive step toward meeting EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson's priority to work for environmental justice and protect the health and safety of communities who have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.

    Children's Health. EPA continues to lead efforts to protect children from environmental health risks, in accordance with Executive Order 13045. To accomplish this, EPA intends to use a variety of approaches, including regulation, enforcement, research, outreach, community-based programs, and partnerships to protect pregnant women, infants, children, and adolescents from environmental and human health hazards.

    7. Building Strong State and Tribal Partnerships

    EPA's success depends more than ever on working with increasingly capable and environmentally conscious partners. EPA is supportive of state and tribal capacity to ensure that programs are consistently delivered nationwide. This provides EPA and its intergovernmental partners with an opportunity to further strengthen their working relationship and, thereby, more effectively pursue their shared goal of protecting the nations environmental and public health.

    New Tribal Policy - Finalized in 2012, the new EPA Tribal Policy goes well beyond the requirements of the Executive Order on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes (EO 13175). The Policy establishes national guidelines and sets a broad standard for determining which activities are appropriate for tribal consultation. It also encourages flexibility to tailor consultation approaches to reflect circumstances of each consultation situation. The new EPA Tribal Policy is available at http://www.epa.gov/indian/consultation/.

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    The priorities described above will guide EPA's work in the years ahead. They are built around the challenges and opportunities inherent in our mission to protect health and the environment for all Americans. This mission is carried out by respecting EPA's core values of science, transparency and the rule of law. Within these parameters, EPA carefully considers the impacts its regulatory actions will have on society.

    Retrospective Review of Existing Regulations

    Just as today's economy is vastly different from that of 40 years before, EPA's regulatory program is evolving to recognize the progress that has already been made in environmental protection and to incorporate new technologies and approaches that allow us to accomplish our mission more efficiently and effectively.

    Pursuant to section 6 of Executive Order 13563 "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review" (Jan. 18, 2011), the following Regulatory Identifier Numbers (RINs) have been identified as associated with retrospective review and analysis in the Agency's final retrospective review of regulations plan. Some of these entries on this list may be completed actions, which do not appear in The Regulatory Plan. However, more information can be found about these completed rulemakings in past publications of the Unified Agenda on Reginfo.gov in the Completed Actions section for that agency. These rulemakings can also be found on Regulations.gov. EPA's final agency plan can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/regdarrt/retrospective/.

    Regulatory Identifier Number (RIN)

    Rulemaking Title


    New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) Review under CAA -111(b)(1)(B)


    New Source Performance Standards for Grain Elevators - Amendments


    Uniform Standards for Equipment Leaks and Ancillary Systems, Closed Vent Systems and Control Devices, Storage Vessels and Transfer Operations, and Wastewater Operations


    Electronic Reporting under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)


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


    Water Quality Standards Regulatory Clarifications


    National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Application and Program Updates Rule


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


    Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals


    Hazardous Waste Requirements for Retail Products; Clarifying and Making the Program More Effective

    Burden Reduction

    As described above, EPA continues to review its existing regulations in an effort to achieve its mission in the most efficient means possible. To this end, the Agency is committed to identifying areas in its regulatory program where significant savings or quantifiable reductions in paperwork burdens might be achieved, as outlined in Executive Order 13610, while protecting public health and our environment.

    Rules Expected to Affect Small Entities

    By better coordinating small business activities, EPA aims to improve its technical assistance and outreach efforts, minimize burdens to small businesses in its regulations, and simplify small businesses' participation in its voluntary programs. Actions that may affect small entities can be tracked on EPA's Regulatory Development and Retrospective Review Tracker (http://www.epa.gov/regdarrt/) at any time. This Plan includes a number of rules that may be of particular interest to small entities:


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


    Formaldehyde; Third-Party Certification Framework for the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products


    Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products

    International Regulatory Cooperation Activities

    EPA has considered international regulatory cooperation activities as described in Executive Order 13609 and has not identified any international activities that are anticipated to lead to significant regulations in the following year.