SOCMA safeguarding shifts in key environmental, workplace regulations

By Jared Rothstein, Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs

Pandemic recovery, protecting the environment, and stimulating the economy are key objectives of the Biden Administration, which is utilizing a comprehensive suite of executive orders to rescind and review environmental policies and regulations from the previous administration. 

Understanding these objectives and their potential impact on SOCMA members and the specialty chemical industry, SOCMA is working with new EPA Administrator Michael Regan and other key players within the Biden Administration 

Pandemic recovery, protecting the environment, and stimulating the economy are key objectives of the Biden Administration, which is utilizing a comprehensive suite of executive orders to rescind and review environmental policies and regulations from the previous administration. 

to safeguard favorable outcomes and the work that was accomplished over the last four years. SOCMA particularly is stressing that revising these rules, yet again, will lead to regulatory uncertainty, which is counter-productive for both industry and the Administration.

Through a robust dialogue with EPA, SOCMA is also raising the flag about how these environmental objectives could supersede economic recovery and negatively impact operations of specialty chemical manufacturers, whose products are of critical need during the ongoing pandemic and for recovery efforts. 

Many of the Executive Orders took effect immediately, but others require more involved action from the agencies to determine what administrative actions, such as formal rulemaking, will be needed in addressing them. Several rules currently under review are of particular relevance to SOCMA members and the specialty chemical industry. 

These include: 

• Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act 

• Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation Under the Amended Toxic Substances Control Act 

• Regulation of Five Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBT) Chemical Substances Under TSCA Section 6(h) 

• Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information 

• Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process 

• Reclassification of Major Sources as Area Sources Under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act 

• Methylene Chloride (MC); Final TSCA Risk Evaluation • Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Revisions to the 

Refrigerant Management Program’s Extension to Substitutes 

SOCMA is collaborating with EPA to ensure the voice of specialty chemical manufacturers is heard and deliver pertinent updates to members on policy developments on these and other key environmental issues impacting the industry. 

Bolstering COVID-19 workplace health and safety rules 

President Biden is directing the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to strengthen its approach to enforcing workplace health and safety standards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety” signals a more assertive role for OSHA under the new administration, which previously took a largely hands-off approach during the initial phases of the pandemic. 

While the E.O. does not impose any immediate new regulatory obligations, it does direct OSHA to revisit its overall COVID-19 strategy and issue updated federal guidance, consider the issuance of emergency workplace safety standards, and increase enforcement of COVID-19- related labor violations. 

  • The E.O. specifically calls for OSHA to take the following actions: 
  • Within two weeks of the order’s January 21 publication, issue revised guidance on COVID-19 workplace safety in consultation with any other appropriate federal executive departments. 
  • Consider whether COVID-19 emergency temporary workplace safety standards are necessary, including with respect to masks in the workplace, and if so, issue them by March 15. 
  • Review OSHA’s ongoing COVID-19 enforcement efforts and identify any necessary changes to better protect workers over the near and long term. 
  • Implement a national COVID-19 enforcement program to focus OSHA’s enforcement resources on the most significant COVID-19 related violations and anti-retaliation protection. 

While the E.O. does not require OSHA to issue emergency temporary standards (ETS), the agency is generally expected to proceed with publishing one, and it has already engaged in outreach to various industry sectors to collect information on common COVID-19 health and safety practices in the workplace. The E.O. also instructs OSHA to coordinate with states that have federal OSHA-approved plans to work to ensure such plans are adequately protective and consistent with any revised guidance and newly issued ETS. 

An OSHA ETS would go into effect immediately, with no formal rulemaking steps such as a comment period and be valid for six months. It would also serve as a proposed permanent standard in the Federal Register, subject to the common rulemaking procedures before publication of a final rule. 

OSHA has already issued a COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP), which is intended to protect employees in high-hazard industries by requiring that they maintain a high level of COVID-19 inspections and focusing on employers that retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions. 

These workplace safety actions taken by the administration will likely have a significant effect on SOCMA member facility operations. SOCMA is tracking regulatory developments at OSHA closely and will advise members on any changes made to the agency’s existing COVID-19 guidance, as well as any progress OSHA makes toward issuing a federal COVID-19 ETS. 

For more information on these and other environmental and workplace regulations, contact Jared Rothstein at, or call (571) 348-5122. 

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