Overview of the Environmental Protection Agency

Rincker Law Environmental Law, Hazardous Materials Leave a Comment

I’m currently conducting a blog series where each week I give a brief overview of the responsibilities of a government agency regulating our food and agriculture system.  I think it’s a helpful reminder for everyone on just how complex our regulatory system really is.  It’s a game of Who’s Who for government players in the U.S. food and agriculture economy.

The EPA is the principal agency regulating environmental laws.  Environmental law touches upon many aspects of the food, fiber and agriculture industry.  Organizationally, the EPA contains some of the following offices:

Office of Air and Radiation (“OAR”) – OAR administers the Clean Air Act, Atomic Energy Act, and other environmental laws affecting our air.

Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (“OCSPP”) – OCSPP implements the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”), Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”), Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), Pollution Prevention Act, and other environmental statutes regarding chemical safety and pollution.

Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) – OECA works with EPA regional offices, state governments and tribal nations to enforce environmental laws.  It too is involved in civil and criminal enforcement actions.  OECA is also involved in environmental justice issues in underserved communities.

Office of General Counsel (“OGC”) – OGC is the chief legal adviser to EPA, assisting the EPA with agency rules and decisions regarding permits and response actions. OGC works with the U.S. Department of Justice (“USDOJ” or “DOJ”) with court actions.

Office of International and Tribal Affairs (“OITA”) – OITA works with EPA regional offices, other federal government agencies, and international organizations to help identify international environmental issues (e.g., climate change, sea- level rise).

Office of Research and Development (“ORD”) – ORD supports research programs on environmental health issues.

Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (“OSWER”) – OSWER regulates brownfields, Superfund (responding to abandoned and active hazardous waste sites and accidently oil and chemical releases), reduction in GHG emissions through land and materials management, emergency management and response procedures, federal facilities cleanup programs, waste management, and underground storage tanks (“UST”).

Office of Water (“OW”) – OW administers the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), Safe Drinking Water Act, and portions of several other environmental statutes affecting the ocean and marine biology.

Furthermore, the EPA has 10 regional offices.  New York is served by EPA Region 2, headquartered in New York City.  Region 2 also serves New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Regions are able to offer decisions in certain areas that are binding in that region.  This may be especially important for certain areas, such as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (“CAFOs”).

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