Statement of Priorities


For more than 40 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked to protect people's health and the environment. By taking advantage of the best thinking, the newest technologies and the most cost-effective, sustainable solutions, EPA has fostered innovation and cleaned up pollution in the places where people live, work, play and learn.

With a renewed focus on the challenges ahead, science, law and transparency continue to guide EPA decisions. EPA will leverage resources with grant- and incentive-based programs, sound scientific advice, technical and compliance assistance and tools that support states, tribes, cities, towns, rural communities and the private sector in their efforts to address our shared challenges, including:

  • making a visible difference in communities across the country;

  • addressing climate change and improving air quality;

  • taking action on toxics and chemical safety;

  • protecting water: a precious, limited resource;

  • launching a new era of state, tribal and local partnership; and

  • working toward a sustainable future.

    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 to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, the Agency is working to save lives and protect the environment. In addition, while removing a billion tons of pollution from the air, the Agency has produced hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits for the American people.


    EPA's more than 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. 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.

    Six 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, the Agency has established several guiding priorities. These priorities are enumerated in the list that follows, along with recent progress and future objectives for each.

    1. Making a Visible Difference in Communities Across the Country

    Safe Disposal and Management of Coal Combustion Residuals. Coal combustion residuals (CCRs), often referred to as coal ash, are currently considered Bevill exempt wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). They are residues from the combustion of coal in power plants and are captured by pollution control technologies, like scrubbers. Potential environmental concerns from coal ash management include groundwater contamination from leaking surface impoundments and landfills and structural failures of surface impoundments. The need for national criteria was emphasized by the December 2008 spill of coal ash from a surface impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority's plant in Kingston, TN. The tragic spill flooded more than 300 acres of land with coal ash, which flowed into the Emory and Clinch rivers. On June 21, 2010, the EPA proposed to regulate for the first time coal ash to address the risks from the management of these wastes that are generated by electric utilities and independent power producers. The Agency received over 450,000 comments on the proposal. Under a consent decree, a final rule must be signed by the Administrator no later than December 19, 2014.

    Environmental Justice in Rulemaking. The year 2014 represents the 20th anniversary of President Clinton's issuance of the Executive order directing all Federal agencies to engage in a Governmentwide effort and issue strategies to address environmental justice issues.

    EPA has made significant progress in areas critical to advancing environmental justice and making a visible difference in communities, including rulemaking, permitting, compliance and enforcement, community-based programs and our work with other federal agencies. We have developed the critical legal, science, and screening tools to help support our efforts in working with and in communities.

    2. Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality

    The Agency will continue to deploy existing regulatory tools where appropriate and warranted. Addressing climate change calls for coordinated national and global efforts to reduce emissions and develop new technologies that can be deployed. 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. As part of the President's Climate Action Plan, in September 2013, the EPA proposed standards to limit carbon pollution from new power plants yet to be built. This past June, we proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, the Clean Power Plan. We plan to finalize standards for both new and existing plants in 2015. When finalized, these standards and guidelines will establish achievable limits of carbon pollution from future plants. By 2030 carbon emissions from existing plants are estimated to be reduced by 30% from 2005 levels.

    Heavy-Duty Vehicles GHG Emission Standards. In 2011, in cooperation with the Department of Transportation (DOT), EPA issued the first-ever Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles for model years 2014-2018. In 2015, EPA and DOT will propose a second set of standards to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption from a wide range of on-road vehicles from semi-trucks to the largest pickup trucks and vans and all types and sizes of work trucks and buses. This action is another important component of the President's Climate Action Plan.

    Reviewing and Implementing Air Quality Standards. Despite progress, millions of Americans still live in areas that exceed one or more of the national air pollution standards. This year's regulatory plan describes efforts to review the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and lead, as well as a rule to guide States in implementing the ozone, particulate matter, and other 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. In May of 2015, EPA expects to complete a review of existing MACT standards for Petroleum Refineries to reduce residual risk and assure that the standards reflect current technology.

    3. Taking Action on Toxics and Chemical Safety

    One of EPA's highest priorities is to make significant 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 FY 2014, the Agency will continue to satisfy its overall directives under these authorities and highlights the following actions in this Regulatory Plan:

    EPA's Existing Chemicals Management Program Under TSCA. As part of EPA's ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of chemicals, EPA plans to take a range of identified regulatory actions for certain chemicals and assess other chemicals to determine if risk reduction action is needed to address potential concerns.

    Addressing Formaldehyde Used in Composite Wood Products. As directed by the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010, EPA is developing final 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.

    Lead in Public and Commercial Buildings. As directed by TSCA section 402(c)(3), EPA is developing a proposed rule to address renovation or remodeling activities that create lead-based paint hazards in pre-1978 public buildings and commercial buildings. EPA previously issued a final rule to address lead-based paint hazards created by these activities in target housing and child-occupied facilities.

    Reassessment of PCB Use Authorizations. When enacted in 1978, TSCA banned the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, and use of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), except when uses would pose no unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. EPA is reassessing certain ongoing, authorized uses of PCBs that were established by regulation in 1979, including the use, distribution in commerce, marking and storage for reuse of liquid PCBs in electric equipment, to determine whether those authorized uses still meet TSCA's "no unreasonable risk" standard. EPA plans to propose the revocation or revision of any PCBs use authorizations included in this reassessment that no longer meet the TSCA standard.

    Enhancing Agricultural Worker Protection. Based on years of extensive stakeholder engagement and public meetings, EPA is acting to enhance the pesticide worker safety program. EPA plans to issue final amendments to the agricultural worker protection regulation that strengthens protections for agricultural farm workers and pesticide handlers. The rule is expected improve pesticide safety training and agricultural workers' ability to protect themselves and their families from potential secondary exposure to pesticides and pesticide residues. The proposed revisions will address key environmental justice concerns for a population that may be disproportionately affected by pesticide exposure. Other changes under development are intended to bring hazard communication requirements more in line with Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements and seek to clarify current requirements to facilitate program implementation and enforcement.

    Strengthening Pesticide Applicator Safety. As part of EPA's effort to enhance the pesticide worker safety program, the Agency is also developing a proposal to revise the existing regulation concerning the certification of applicators of restricted-use pesticides to ensure that the federal certification program standards adequately protect applicators, the public and the environment from potential risks associated with use of restricted use pesticides. The proposed changes are intended to improve the competency of certified applicators of restricted use pesticides, increase protection for noncertified applicators of restricted use pesticides operating under the direct supervision of a certified applicator through enhanced pesticide safety training and standards for supervision of noncertified applicators, and establish a minimum age requirement for such noncertified applicators. Also, in keeping with EPA's commitment to work more closely with tribal governments to strengthen environmental protection in Indian Country, certain changes are intended to provide more practical options for establishing certification programs in Indian Country.

    Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security. Executive Order 13650 on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security directs federal agencies to work with stakeholders to improve chemical safety and security through agency programs, private sector initiatives, federal guidance, standards, and regulations. During the course of implementing this Executive order, EPA, along with the Department of Homeland Security (including the National Protection and Programs Directorate, the Transportation Security Agency and the United States Coast Guard); the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the United States Department of Agriculture; and the United States Department of Transportation, will assess whether its regulations should be modified or new regulations developed to improve upon chemical safety and security. EPA issued in July 2014 a request for information on how to strengthen its Risk Management Plan program. EPA plans to develop a proposed rule to modernize the Risk Management Plan.

    4. Protecting Water: A Precious, Limited Resource

    Despite considerable progress, America's waters remain imperiled. Water quality protection programs face complex challenges, from nutrient loadings and stormwater runoff to invasive species and drinking water contaminants. These challenges demand both traditional and innovative strategies.

    Improving Water Quality. EPA plans to address challenging water quality issues in several rulemakings during FY 2015.

    Definition of "Waters of the United States" Under the Clean Water Act. After U.S. Supreme Court decisions in SWANCC and Rapanos, the scope of "waters of the US" protected under Clean Water Act (CWA) programs has been an issue of considerable debate and uncertainty. The Act does not distinguish among programs as to what constitutes "waters of the United States." As a result, these decisions affect the geographic scope of all CWA programs. SWANCC and Rapanos did not invalidate the current regulatory definition of "waters of the United States." However, the decisions established important considerations for how those regulations should be interpreted. Experience implementing the regulations following the two court cases has identified several areas that could benefit from additional clarification through rulemaking.

    Steam Electric Power Plants. Steam electric power plants contribute over half of all toxic pollutants discharged to surface waters by all industrial categories currently regulated in the United States under the Clean Water Act. Discharges of these toxic pollutants are linked to cancer and neurological damage in humans and ecological damage. EPA will establish national technology-based regulations called effluent guidelines to reduce discharges of these pollutants from industries to waters of the U.S. and publicly owned treatment works. These guidelines would set the first Federal limits on the levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants, based on technology improvements in the industry over the last three decades. The steam electric effluent guidelines apply to steam electric power plants using nuclear or fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas.

    Water Quality Standards Regulatory Revisions. EPA will finalize updates to the Water Quality Standards regulation, which provides a strong foundation for water quality-based controls, including water quality assessments, impaired waters lists, total maximum daily loads, and water quality-based effluent limits (WQBELs) in NPDES discharge permits. These updates aim to clarify and resolve a number of policy and technical issues that have recurred over the past 30 years. They will assure greater public transparency, better stakeholder information, and more effective implementation of the Water Quality Standards program.

    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. EPA is considering amending 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.

    5. Launching a New Era of State, Tribal and Local Partnership

    EPA's success depends more than ever on working with increasingly capable and environmentally conscious partners. States have demonstrated leadership on managing environmental challenges, and EPA wants to build on and complement their work. EPA supports 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 national environmental and public health protection. The history and future of environmental protection will be built on this type of collaboration.

    In July 2014, EPA's Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the Environmental Justice Policy for Working with Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, reinforcing the agency's commitment to work with tribes on a government-to-government basis when issues of environmental justice arise. This policy allows EPA to reinforce its commitment to tribal communities, especially in addressing issues of environmental justice. The policy integrates 17 environmental justice and civil rights principles and identifies existing informational and resource tools to support EPA in addressing environmental justice concerns raised by Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples throughout the United States.

    In addition, 2014 marks 30 years of EPA's 1984 Indian Policy. EPA was the first to formally adopt such a Policy, reiterating the importance of EPA's tribal programs and our unique government-to-government relationship with tribes.

    6. Working Toward a Sustainable Future

    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 provide for an environmentally sustainable future more efficiently and effectively.

    Establishing User Fees for the Use of RCRA Manifests. The e-Manifest Final rule of February 7, 2014 codified certain provisions of the "Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act" (or the Act), which directed EPA to adopt a regulation that authorized the use of electronic manifests to track hazardous waste shipments nationwide. The Act also instructed EPA to develop a user-fee-funded e-Manifest system. Since the Act grants broad discretion to EPA to determine the fees and gives the Agency authority to collect such fees for both electronic manifests and any paper manifests that continue in use, EPA plans to issue rulemaking to establish the appropriate electronic and paper manifest fees. The initial fees established in the final rule are expected to cover the operation and maintenance costs for the system, as well as the costs associated with the development of the system. EPA plans to also announce in the final rule the date on which the system will be implemented and available to users.

    Once the national e-Manifest system becomes available, hazardous waste handlers will be able to complete, sign, transmit, and store electronic manifests through the national IT system, or they can elect to continue tracking the hazardous waste under the paper manifest system. Further, waste handlers that currently submit manifests to the States will no longer be required to do so, unless required by the State, as EPA will collect both the remaining paper manifest copies and electronic manifests in the national system and will disseminate the manifest data to those States that want it.

    Strengthening the Underground Storage Tanks Program. EPA plans to revise the 1988 federal underground storage tank (UST) regulations by increasing emphasis on properly operating and maintaining UST equipment. These revisions will help improve prevention and detection of UST releases, which are one of the leading sources of groundwater contamination. The revisions will also help ensure all USTs in the United States, including those in Indian country, meet the same minimum standards.

    Retrospective Review of Existing Regulations

    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


    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


    Lead; Lead-based Paint Program; Amendment to Jurisdiction-Specific Certification and Accreditation Requirements and Renovator Refresher Training Requirements

    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 the following rules that may be of particular interest to small entities:

    Regulatory Identifier Number (RIN)

    Rulemaking Title


    Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products


    Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles - Phase 2

    International Regulatory Cooperation Activities

    EPA has considered international regulatory cooperation activities as described in Executive Order 13609 and has identified two international activities that are anticipated to lead to significant regulations in the following year:

    Regulatory Identifier Number (RIN)

    Rulemaking Title


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


    Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products

    Streamlining the Export/Import Process for America's Businesses

    EPA has considered import and export streamlining activities as described in Executive Order 13659 and identified the following rulemaking activity:

    Regulatory Identifier Number (RIN)

    Rulemaking Title


    Hazardous Waste Export-Import Revisions Rule