EHS Executive Order Highlights from Week 1 of Biden Admin

January 27, 2020

The Biden Administration has raced out of the gate with a flurry of executive actions since the January 20 inauguration. President Biden’s Executive Orders (EOs) are significant and wide-ranging, which will impact a multitude of industry sectors including Specialty & Fine Chemicals.

SOCMA has identified two EOs that will intersect with the work and activities of its Environmental, Health and Safety committee. Alongside our members, we are prepared to further our advocacy efforts through each agency’s review and decision process.

For questions about any of these EOs or other actions announced by the new administration, please email us at

Executive Order 13990: “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis”

This order instructs all federal agencies to review every rule and guidance document issued by the Trump Administration and, “consider suspending, revising, or rescinding” them as necessary and consistent with applicable law. The order notes that it will be the Administration’s policy “to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals.”

The list of federal agency rules that will be revaluated for rescindment or modification has been published though additional rules may be added in the future. The list includes a number of rules of significant importance to SOCMA members that we will be working heavily to defend, including:

  • Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act
  • Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation Under the Amended Toxic Substances Control Act
  • Reclassification of Major Sources as Area Sources Under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act
  • Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Revisions to the Refrigerant Management Program’s Extension to Substitutes
  • Financial Responsibility Requirements Under CERCLA Section 108(b)

Executive Order 13999: “Protecting Worker Health and Safety”

This order instructs OSHA to revise its approach to enforcing workplace health and safety standards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The E.O. specifically orders OSHA to take the following actions:

  • Within two weeks of the order’s publication by February 4, 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; 
  • 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), we expect the agency to proceed with publishing one, and OSHA has already engaged in outreach to various industry groups including SOCMA to evaluate common COVID-19 mitigation practices in the workplace.

Based on OSHA Standards Development procedures, if implemented by the March 15 deadline, an ETS would go into effect immediately and be valid for six months. It would also serve as a proposed permanent standard in the Federal Register, subject to rulemaking procedures before a final ruling on a permanent standard from the Agency.

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