EPA Reinvention Rapped
he effort to reinvent the Environmental Protection Agency is "failing to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our environmental regulations," according to Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Government Reform and Oversight committees.
In an assessment of EPA's reinvention released in September, the committee criticized the very EPA efforts lauded in Vice President Gore's new reinvention report, "The Best Kept Secrets in Government." The committees' assessment ridicules EPA's claim that it has reduced the regulatory burden, calling EPA's rule cutbacks "trivial." As an example, the report cites EPA's deletion of Superfund liability rules already struck down by a federal court.
The Republicans argue that overall the number of EPA regulations has increased and new rules are receiving less scrutiny since President Clinton took office. The report also faults EPA for having fallen 5 percent short of its claimed 10 percent paperwork reduction.
The report raps EPA's attempt to replace its "command and control" regulatory scheme with performance-based standards focused more on environmental outcomes than how they are achieved. For example, the report says, the Common Sense Initiative-an attempt to replace separate air, water and solid waste regulations with "multimedia" industrywide rule-making-has faltered because the agency's absolute veto power renders stakeholders incapable of reaching consensus on "cleaner, cheaper, smarter rules." EPA's Project XL, a pilot effort to allow facilities to substitute alternative strategies for current rules if the alternatives would reap greater environmental benefits, has foundered on EPA's unwillingness to relinquish control over how companies meet environmental standards, the report says.
EPA responded to the report with a list of its reinvention achievements. The agency said it has reduced paperwork by 15 million hours and 8 million more hours will be cut by the end of the year. The first of several pilot projects under Project XL-involving the Jack M. Berry Corp., a citrus juice manufacturer in Florida-is operational, EPA officials say. They also say "steady progress is being made on the Common Sense Initiative."