Air Pollution:

Status of Implementation and Issues of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990

RCED-00-72: Published: Apr 17, 2000. Publicly Released: May 17, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, focusing on: (1) the status of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) implementation of the requirements established by the 1990 amendments; and (2) views from state governments, local programs, industries that are regulated under the act, and environmental advocacy groups (collectively referred to as stakeholders) on the issues that have either helped or hindered the implementation of the 1990 amendments.

GAO noted that: (1) as of February 2000, EPA had identified 538 requirements under the 1990 amendments' first six titles, of which 409 have been met; (2) of the requirements that have been met, 162 had no statutory deadlines, and the remaining 247 had statutory deadlines before the end of February 2000; (3) EPA missed the statutory deadline for 198 of these 247 requirements with a deadline; (4) of the 129 requirements that the agency has not met, 6 had a statutory due date prior to February 2000, 108 have a statutory due date after February 2000, and 15 do not have a statutory date; (5) EPA will likely miss 62 of the 108 future statutory requirements, which are related to establishing new standards for hazardous air pollutants; (6) EPA officials attributed the agency's missing of statutory deadlines to several reasons, including: (a) an increased emphasis on stakeholders' review and involvement during the development of regulations, which added to the time needed to issue regulations; (b) the setting of priorities to manage the workload resulting from the 1990 amendments, which created a tremendous number of new responsibilities for EPA; and (c) complications associated with the startup and effective implementation of new programs, including technical, policy, or legal issues that were not fully anticipated in 1990; (7) stakeholders provided a variety of views on the issues that have helped or hindered the implementation of the six titles; (8) a number of stakeholders expressed the view that flexibility in the act has helped implementation; (9) one of the challenges facing Congress in considering the reauthorization of the Clean Air Act is determining the appropriate balance between traditional command and control approaches and more flexible approaches that allow states and local air pollution control agencies and other stakeholders to implement the most cost-effective strategies, while meeting national air quality goals; (10) stakeholders cited the specificity in the act's title dealing with stratospheric ozone depletion, which listed the affected chemicals and the dates for their eventual phase-out, as contributing to the successful implementation of that title; and (11) stakeholders cited inadequate resources as an example of where the implementation of the 1990 amendments has been hindered.

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