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US EPA nixes financial requirements on coal, petroleum products sector

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed not imposing financial responsibility requirements for facilities in the petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry under a section of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA.

The relevant section of the law requires certain facility classes to establish and maintain evidence of financial responsibility in line with the risks associated with production and other processes involving hazardous substances. Based on the examination of "modern management practices and modern environmental regulations," the EPA said it determined that petroleum and coal products manufacturers do not present a level of risk of taxpayer-funded response actions that warrant the financial responsibility requirements.

Comments on the proposal must be received by Feb. 21, 2020.

According to the EPA's review of U.S. Census data from 2016, there were 2,167 establishments in the U.S. classified as petroleum and coal products manufacturing facilities. Sites can be contaminated by a wide range of materials such as toxic organics like benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls, phenol and volatile organic hydrocarbons; and heavy metals such as barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, selenium and zinc.

"Examination of market structures for the petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry further indicates comparatively low likelihood of default on environmental obligations at the expense of taxpayers and the government by companies in this industry. This economic performance, combined with the low impact to the [Hazardous Substance Superfund] by facilities with releases that happened under the modern regulatory framework, suggests that the degree of risk to the fund by this industry does not rise to a level that warrants imposing CERCLA Section 108(b) financial responsibility requirements," the EPA concluded.