States get more sway in environmental rulemaking

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a rule designed to give state and local governments more influence over the implementation of federal environmental policy mandates that could prove burdensome or costly.

The agency announced on Wednesday that it has lowered the threshold for consultation with state and local officials. The EPA now must give states and municipalities a say in any rule that will cost more than $25 million. The previous cutoff was $100 million.

"State and local officials often serve as the front-line managers of federally managed environmental regulations," said EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock during an afternoon conference call with reporters. "And if we want good rules, early consultation with our partners is crucial."

The EPA's new rule comes more than nine years after President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 13132, requiring the federal government to consult with elected state and local government officials before proposing regulations or actions that will have a "substantial direct effect" on their operations. Such consultation is typically triggered by a rule's implementation costs or its pre-emption of state and local authority.

In 2001, EPA and several other agencies adopted a definition of "substantial direct effect" that was consistent with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, a 1995 law that requires federal agencies to assess the costs and benefits of a final rule that will result in expenditures by state, local and tribal governments of $100 million or more. But the threshold only has been triggered twice for environmental rules since Executive Order 13132 was passed in 1999, both times for major water quality regulations.

"Our actions come at a time when state and local officials are asking for stronger working relationships with their federal partners in solving many of today's major environmental challenges," Peacock said. "This new implementation guidance is a significant step in increasing our collaborative efforts with our state and local partners."

The National Governors Association, which lobbied for the lower threshold, said even rules that require relatively small state expenditures can pose administrative burdens and divert resources from other, more critical, activities.

For example, the EPA requires states to track Clean Water Act permits and compliance monitoring using a new database, NGA stated. The system forces state officials to complete more data forms and fields than in the past.

"Consequently, this federal mandate adds additional requirements on states without additional federal funding and diverts scarce state resources for a federal purpose," the governors group wrote in an April letter to the EPA.

The guidelines do not address how the EPA and state and local governments should settle disputes about determining the actual costs of implementing a rule, Peacock said. The EPA, he said, has the final say in such disputes.

The rule went into effect on Nov. 12. Peacock would not speculate on which upcoming EPA regulations might be subject to the new guidance.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.