Air Pollution:

EPA's Ozone Policy Is a Positive Step but Needs More Legal Authority

RCED-89-28: Published: Nov 23, 1988. Publicly Released: Dec 28, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the legality of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed ozone policy, focusing on: (1) legal and other problems EPA might encounter in implementing the policy; and (2) whether the policy would correct problems associated with past ozone programs.

GAO found that, under the proposed policy, EPA would: (1) extend from 3 to 5 years the deadlines for meeting the ozone standards; (2) recommend that the Department of Transportation withdraw highway funds from states and localities that fail to submit a revised plan for meeting ozone standards; (3) enlarge the boundaries of ozone nonattainment areas to include areas that meet ozone standards; (4) require a minimum 3-percent annual reduction in hydrocarbon emissions; and (5) impose economic sanctions on state or local governments for failure to develop or implement the required plans. GAO also found that state and local government officials expressed concern regarding the: (1) costs and financial burden of the new policy on states and localities; and (2) ability of areas to reduce emissions by 3 percent annually. GAO believes that EPA: (1) has no authority to waive nonattainment sanctions; (2) has no authority to withdraw highway funds for post-1982 nonattainments; (3) cannot make grants to any nonattainment states; (4) should require states to revise their implementation plans to reduce nonattainment; and (5) has no authority to categorize areas as nonattaining when they met ozone standards.

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