By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory and legal issues, ARTBA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is busy announcing new rules or proposed regulatory changes in the closing weeks of the Trump administration. ARTBA members should be aware of these three recent developments:

Particulate Matter

The agency Dec. 7 said it will not tighten federal standards for particulate matter, a decision that ensures U.S. counties currently in compliance with the Clean Air Act are not at risk of losing federal highway funding.

EPA is required to review particulate standards every five years. The last time it chose to retain, rather than tighten, the standards was 2006. In June comments and public testimony, ARTBA pointed to EPA’s own data stating these emissions have fallen “significantly” since 1990 as evidence that the current standard is working.

Cost Benefit Analysis 

On Dec. 9, EPA unveiled a new rule allowing the agency to consider both the costs and the benefits of proposed regulations under the Clean Air Act. Currently, costs are either understated or not considered at all. The new rule would ensure that the costs of regulatory actions are properly considered.

ARTBA supported the proposal at a July 1 hearing and Aug. 3 comments.

Groundwater discharge

EPA Dec. 10 issued draft guidance addressing Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction over groundwater discharge. This comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, which directed EPA to discern when discharges into groundwater can be regulated under the CWA.

The issue is important to transportation construction because an overly broad interpretation of groundwater jurisdiction would lead to project delays. ARTBA is reviewing the guidance and will be provide comments before EPA’s Jan. 8, 2021, deadline.

While there has been no indication about how the incoming Biden administration will respond to this week’s developments at EPA, ARTBA will continue to monitor these issues and advocate on behalf of its members’ interests.