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EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track?

EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track?

Full Title: EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track?
Author(s): James E. McCarthy & Claudia Copeland
Publisher(s): Congressional Research Service
Publication Date: December 1, 2016
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

Since Barack Obama was sworn in as President in 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed and promulgated numerous regulations to implement the pollution control statutes enacted by Congress. Critics have reacted strongly. Some, both within Congress and outside of it, have accused the agency of reaching beyond the authority given it by Congress and ignoring or underestimating the costs and economic impacts and overestimating the benefits of proposed and promulgated rules. The House conducted vigorous oversight of the agency in the 112th and 113th Congresses, and approved several bills that would overturn specific regulations or limit the agency’s authority. Particular attention was paid to the Clean Air Act, but there also was congressional scrutiny of other environmental statutes and regulations implemented by EPA. With Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, the 114th Congress accelerated oversight of the Administration’s initiatives and renewed efforts to limit EPA’s regulatory activities.

Environmental groups and other supporters of the agency disagree that EPA has overreached. Many of them believe that the agency has, in fact, moved in the right direction, including taking action on significant issues that had been long delayed or ignored in the past. In several cases, environment and public health advocates would have liked the regulatory actions to be stronger.

EPA has stated that critics’ focus on the cost of controls obscured the benefits of new regulations, which, it estimates, far exceed the costs. It maintains that pollution control is an important source of economic activity, exports, and American jobs. Further, the agency and its supporters have said that EPA is carrying out the mandates detailed by Congress in the federal environmental statutes.

This report provides background information on EPA regulatory activity during the Obama Administration to help address these issues. It examines major or controversial regulatory actions taken by or under development at EPA from January 2009 to late 2016, providing details on the regulatory action itself, presenting an estimated timeline for completion of rules not yet promulgated (including identification of related court or statutory deadlines), and, in general, providing EPA’s estimates of costs and benefits, where available.

The report also discusses factors that affect the time frame in which regulations take effect, including statutory and judicial deadlines, public comment periods, judicial review, and permitting procedures, the net results of which are that existing facilities are likely to have several years before being required to comply with most of the regulatory actions under discussion. Unable to account for such factors, which will vary from case to case, timelines that show dates for proposal and promulgation of EPA regulations effectively underestimate the complexities of the regulatory process and overstate the near-term impact of many of the regulatory actions.

All statements and/or propositions in discussion prompts are meant exclusively to stimulate discussion and do not represent the views of, its Partners, Topic Directors or Experts, nor of any individual or organization. Comments by and opinions of Expert participants are their own.

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