Paul Matthai, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), says his agency’s regulations are complicated and often don’t “harmonize” with each other. Despite these complexities, Matthai, who presented an overview of EPA regulations Oct. 18 at IFAI’s 2016 Expo in in Charlotte, N.C., says the U.S. Congress generally strives to write environmental laws that do not hurt the economy or hinder business.
The EPA was founded in the early 1970s when the environmental movement began to be embraced by more U.S. citizens. The Clean Water Act was the first regulatory law enacted by Congress and adopted by the EPA. In subsequent years, the U.S. Congress has handed down numerous regulatory laws that the EPA in turn must enforce.
Matthai’s presentation, “Navigating the EPA Regulation Swamp,” covered the following regulations: Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule (GHG), Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (EPCRA), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
In relation to the RCRA, Matthai explains that when textile companies generate hazardous waste, it must be managed according to regulations for a specific type. The waste generators are divided into three categories, according to how much waste is generated in a month.
Large Quantity Generators produce more than 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per month. Small Quantity Generators produce greater than 100 kg of waste per month and Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators product less than 100 kg of waste per month.
Approximately 85,000 chemicals are listed on the TSCA list. The list identifies chemicals as high or low priority for EPA review. Matthai says that many “trade secret” chemicals are on the list, and more emphasis has been put on chemicals that may affect vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women.
In working with the dyes used by textile manufacturers, Matthai says the EPA tries to give the industry enough time to find safer substitute chemicals. His agency tries to give companies ideas on reducing their waste or using safer alternate manufacturing processes.
Some attendees at Matthai’s presentation expressed concerns that “reshoring”—bringing textile manufacturing back to the U.S.—will require the EPA to restructure its processes for working with business. Matthai, however, emphasized that the U.S. Congress sets the EPA regulations and works in an extremely slow manner.