03:23 GMT22 January 2021
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    Critics of the Trump administration’s decision have argued the previous Obama-era regulations created financial assurance requirements that focused on polluters most likely to have toxic or hazardous waste releases.

    The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a November 25 news release that it had finalized its "financial assurance requirements for the Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution; Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing; and Chemical Manufacturing industries." 

    The Wednesday memo noted that the EPA, following a "detailed analysis," found the financial risks regarding the cleanup of "possible hazardous substance releases" were already addressed by existing state and federal requirements. 

    Therefore, the agency declared that no additional requirements were necessary, according to the release. 

    “EPA has found that existing environmental regulations and modern industry practices are sufficient to mitigate any risks inherent in these industries,” detailed EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

    The decision refers to Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) - also known as Superfund. The associated federal program allows the EPA to establish requirements for industrial facilities to cover the financial burden of potential hazardous substance releases. 

    According to The Hill, the Wednesday decision pushed back against Obama administration rules which said that major polluters in the industry should be prepared to cover possible waste-related events. The outlet noted many of the 1,300 Superfund sites on the US cleanup list have become "orphaned" by now-bankrupt companies, meaning there are no guarantees in place that cleanup will occur. 

    "This is all so basic. It would just require that those companies have proof that if there is a release or spill of hazardous substances that there would be funds to clean it up so it’s not left on the taxpayers," Lisa Evans, an attorney with the environmental nonprofit Earthjustice, told The Hill. 

    She noted the previous rules from the Obama administration targeted “polluters that had the most likelihood of creating releases.” 

    This approach requires many companies to seek accident insurance that calls for additional facility requirements, like a containment area to ensure the potential spill would not travel far from the area in which it occurred. 

    “They will come and look at a facility and require that industry has certain safeguards in place so they won't have a spill,” Evans explained. “Industry will have to operate more safely if it has to get and maintain financial assurance — that’s just the way the world works.”


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