The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) will soon begin issuing guidelines clarifying the term “environmental harm” in a rule finalized last week.
The rule was finalized after months of public comment from the American Chemistry Council and other organizations that argue the EPA is not defining the term adequately and should clarify the definition of what constitutes a “damage” to the environment.
The EPA also needs to clarify whether its definition of “damage to the environmental quality” will include human health, the agency said in a statement.
The new guidelines are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday.
The agency said it would also be publishing additional guidelines “to clarify whether the EPA will apply the definition to a proposed new regulation that would require EPA to use a higher standard for estimating the number of climate-related emissions of chemicals and chemicals-related pollutants than it does currently.”
The new guidelines will clarify the meaning of the term in the final rule, which is expected to be released in late 2019, and to guide the EPA in how it will interpret the EPA’s Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Amendments Act of 1990 defines “environment” as the atmosphere, land, water, and all other “endowed with life.”
The EPA will be relying on this definition, the EPA said, to define “environment damage.”
“The new definition will be useful in interpreting existing and future regulations and guidance on the term, which will help to ensure that the agency’s guidance is consistent with this Act and the guidance of other agencies,” the agency wrote.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which represents environmental groups, has been pushing for the EPA to clarify the term for years.
“The EPA’s definition of the word ‘environment’ in the Clean Air Regulations is a very vague one,” the EDF said in the press release.
“EPA has a responsibility to protect the public from harm from any and all forms of pollution.”
The new EPA guidelines will likely come at a time when the agency is facing a major push to clean up air pollution across the country.
The White House announced last month that President Donald Trump is considering a major overhaul of the federal air and water pollution rules.
The administration will also be overhauling the federal environmental quality rules.
The EPA, which regulates more than 300 million tons of chemicals annually, has said it will work with stakeholders to develop a new definition of environmental damage that will be more in line with the science of environmental impact, and a new rule to improve the EPA rules’ accuracy and transparency.
The rules have been under scrutiny since a group of independent scientists issued a scathing report on them last year.