environmental protection agency

The Environmental Protection Agency Lists Priorities for 2024 and Beyond

Jane Marsh - November 27, 2023

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces specific priorities every four years — areas the agency intends to address and allocate resources toward resolving. Recently, the EPA announced six initiatives for 2024 to 2027. This time, polluters will be held more accountable for cleaning up their act. 

The initiatives are urgent — some focus on clean water, reducing emissions, and tackling climate change. Others concentrate on reducing hazardous leakages and risk management. The issues are dire and widespread, affecting millions nationwide and our economy. 

What is the Environmental Protection Agency Responsible For?

Look at the EPA’s mission statement and you might notice “human health” precedes the “environment.” Of course, you’ll see why when you read the objectives. The agency’s mission statement includes the following:

  • Providing clean air, water, and land for Americans
  • Implement and enforce laws to protect human health and the environment
  • Practice stewardship of natural resources for human health, the economy, agriculture, trade, etc.
  • Take a nationwide approach to reducing ecological risks
  • Review chemicals to meet safety standards
  • Mitigate, clean and restore contaminated sites
  • Ensure the public has access to accurate, transparent information regarding health and environmental risks

The EPA has had several successes and failures since its establishment in 1970. In 2019, only 57% of Americans trusted the EPA, which the agency has noted is of grave concern. By the end of the Trump administration, the EPA had rolled back 112 environmental regulations, including rulings safeguarding drinking water and limiting power plant emissions.

Under the Biden administration, the agency has been determined to win back public confidence in its mission and efforts. 

Top 6 EPA Initiatives for 2024–2027

January 1, 2024, will mark a fresh start as EPA officials gear their efforts to more important matters. Although all environmental problems deserve attention, these six initiatives will primarily be on everybody’s mind for the next four years.

1. Reducing PFAS Exposure

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — “forever chemicals” — are a large subset of synthetic chemicals from fast-food box linings, nonstick cookware, fire-extinguishing foams, and other applications. 

Research indicates that PFAS could be carcinogenic. Yet, 45% of U.S. tap water is contaminated with one or more PFAS, while 97% of Americans have forever chemicals in their bloodstream. 

The Environmental Protection Agency will follow its new PFAS Strategic Roadmap to hold parties responsible for polluting the environment. The agency will also expand its list of regulated PFAS chemicals, control contamination, and release and issue more stringent compliance measures. 

2. Tackling Climate Change

Climate change is a global issue, but the EPA is doing its best to combat the United States’ role in global warming. In the coming years, the agency will seek mitigation of three major players in the climate crisis: methane gas from the oil and gas industry, landfill methane emissions, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) emissions. 

Oil and gas emissions amounted to 5.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2022. Meanwhile, landfill solid waste was the third-largest methane contributor in 2021, accounting for 14.3%.

HFCs — found in refrigerators, air conditioners, and foams, among other things — also exacerbate global warming, extreme weather, and subsequent health, economic, and environmental damage.

3. Enhancing Drinking Water Compliance Standards

The EPA regulates 50,000 drinking water systems, called Community Water Systems (CWSs). A 2018 study found that 40% of CWSs nationwide violated a minimum of one drinking water standard. There were also 30% and 7% of monitoring/reporting and health-based compliance violations, respectively.

Starting in 2024, the EPA will take steps to enforce water compliance, offer compliance assistance to industries and become more present in the field. It’ll also take further measures to address public health risks and concerns related to contaminated drinking water.

4. Reducing Air Toxicity in Vulnerable Communities

Findings from an August 2023 report showed children residing within one mile of a fracking site were five to seven times more likely to have lymphoma. Pregnant women in fracking zones were also more likely to give birth to underweight infants.

Air pollution is a significant concern to the EPA, especially in underserved and minority communities where people are more exposed to polluting industries. Many of these pollutants — benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylene oxide — can lead to cancer, neurological issues, fertility problems, and respiratory effects. 

Studies show people of color are more susceptible to higher levels of particulate matter (PM2.5). For perspective, 85,000 to 200,000 deaths occur in the U.S. annually due to PM2.5. The EPA plans to investigate noncompliance with clean air regulations to protect people in these communities. 

5. Reducing Catastrophic Chemical Risks

Per the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, 30 recorded chemical incidents requiring emergency response occurred during the first seven weeks of 2023 — that’s in the U.S. alone. The coalition noted 470 U.S. chemical spills since April 2020.

Accidental chemical leaks occur from industrial plant spills, ruptured pipelines, big truck roadway crashes, and train derailments. Earlier in the year, following the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, residents experienced rashes, bloody noses, vomiting, and respiratory issues. Researchers determined that the chemical irritant acrolein was six times higher at the disaster site, as well as flammable vinyl chloride. 

The EPA wants to address catastrophic chemical risks in its 2024–2027 efforts. After discovering significant noncompliance, the agency will come down harder on companies without risk management protocols in place. Its goals are safeguarding communities, ensuring parties follow the Clean Air Act guidelines, and delivering adequate communication between state and local emergency management and citizens.

6. Cleaning Up Coal Ash Contamination

For the first time, the EPA proposed new legislation requiring owners of inactive landfills, coal ash ponds, and power plants to measure and clean up groundwater contamination. 

The proposal will affect 127 coal ash disposal sites at 59 facilities, 124 landfills at 82 facilities, and 19 regulated landfills with waste-groundwater contamination. Cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and chromium are commonly found in coal ash — all linked to cancer.

The EPA’s initiative puts human health and safety at the forefront and is another step forward in protecting our air and drinking water resources. 

Creating a Safer Environment for Every American

The Environmental Protection Agency changes its part of its stance with every administration. However, despite fluctuating public confidence, the agency strives to protect all Americans by creating a safer environment. The coming years should be eye-opening — and while the EPA has a mess to clean up, it also has a sound strategy to succeed.

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.