House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster, R-Pa., and House Government Reform Chairman William Clinger, R-Pa., Tuesday released a report saying the EPA has accomplished little in its effort to reinvent itself and achieve EPA Administrator Carol Browner's goal of "faster, better, cheaper" environmental regulation.
In a letter accompanying the report, Shuster and Clinger contended, "The administration's initiatives are failing to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our environmental regulations."
While the chairmen said their report is "both fair and well- documented," several EPA officials in interviews with National Journal's CongressDaily contended the report amounts to a "shell-game" and is not a sincere effort to be constructive and help improve environmental regulation.
In addition, the EPA aides said the report is an attempt to pre-empt the White House release Thursday of a report on the third anniversary of the Clinton administration's "reinventing government" initiative.
The Shuster-Clinger report contended EPA initiatives have failed in six areas: reducing regulations; reducing paperwork; the "common-sense initiative to tailor regulations to specific businesses"; effluent trading; public performance-based permitting; and risk assessment.
The report said many of the regulations the EPA claims it has eliminated were rendered obsolete by congressional legislation. Reducing pages in the Code of Federal Regulations is commendable, the report said, but does not cure "regulatory overkill."
The EPA officials countered that reducing regulations is an ongoing effort and that the agency has eliminated many obsolete regulations to reduce confusion.
The report also said the number of EPA regulations has increased, "suggesting that the regulatory review process is having little effect at limiting unnecessary regulation."
In response, the EPA officials said that recent statutes, such as the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, have required large volumes of new implementing regulations.
Furthermore, the report said the administration's review of regulations is faltering, with a declining number of EPA regulations reviewed by the OMB every year since 1993. The report said the EPA has reduced the paperwork burden of complying with regulations by only 5 percent, despite EPA claims of a 10 percent reduction.
For their part, the EPA officials said the House committees misread a GAO report on EPA paperwork.
The so-called common-sense initiative "has yet to produce a single change in EPA regulations," the report said, contending several states and companies have abandoned efforts to work with the EPA in tailoring new regulations to individual companies or industries. However, the EPA officials said that in the year since the project was launched, the agency has worked out new regulations with a company in Florida, and that state is considering adopting the program as a model.
In addition, the report said EPA regulations still largely require companies to install specified technologies to reduce pollution, rather than setting a performance level and allowing companies to devise their own strategies or compliance.
The EPA officials said the agency has done more under Browner to reform the regulatory process than under any previous administrator.