Air Pollution:

Improvements Needed in Detecting and Preventing Violations

RCED-90-155: Published: Sep 27, 1990. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 1990.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Richard L. Hembra
(202) 275-6111
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to: (1) detect when major stationary sources of air pollution violated air pollution control requirements; and (2) ensure that appropriate enforcement actions are taken when violations are found.

GAO found that: (1) EPA did not issue regulations implementing emission monitoring policy and did not develop criteria for determining the feasibility of using monitors; (2) air quality violations were 10 times more likely to be detected by emission monitors than by on-site inspections; (3) EPA did not assess cash penalties in more than half of the significant violator cases at major stationary sources between fiscal years 1988 and 1989; (4) the joint EPA and state implementation plans did not require state and local agencies to assess penalties to eliminate the economic benefit sources obtained by not complying with regulations; and (5) state and local programs typically assessed penalties to correct the cause of the violation.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress provided EPA with administrative penalty authority on November 15, 1990. Estimated savings per case closed ranges from $25,000 to $375,000.

    Matter: Currently proposed amendments to the Clean Air Act include provisions that provide EPA with administrative penalty authority that would enable it to take more expeditious actions to ensure that cash penalties are appropriate. Congress should include such penalty authority in final Clean Air Act legislation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has agreed to require continuous monitors at all major sources of air pollution as it develops new regulations required under the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. Also, CAA Amendments of 1990 require continuous monitors where feasible, especially for acid rain contributors.

    Recommendation: In order to more effectively implement the EPA emission-monitoring policy and achieve more widespread monitor use, the Administrator, EPA, should promulgate regulations that: (1) establish clear criteria for determining where continuous emissions monitors are feasible for major stationary sources; and (2) require continuous emissions monitor installation and use at all major sources meeting those criteria.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has agreed to include such requirements in its next round of state implementation plan revisions with state and local agencies. The EPA/OGC legal opinion, written November 21, 1991, identifies the specific circumstances under which EPA may exercise this authority.

    Recommendation: To better achieve the objective of ensuring that those who violate the act's requirements do not gain financially from their actions, the Administrator, EPA, should use the enforcement authority available now and in the future under the amended Clean Air Act to overfile to the maximum extent possible to increase inadequate state and local penalties.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 revised the penalty provisions along the lines of the GAO recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better achieve the objective of ensuring that those who violate the act's requirement do not gain financially from their actions, the Administrator, EPA, should undertake efforts to include specific standards for assessing economic benefit penalties in the next round of the state implementation plan revisions and, if necessary and desirable, seek specific legislative endorsement for such action.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Aug 15, 2016

Jul 26, 2016

Jul 21, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jul 7, 2016

Jun 14, 2016

Jun 13, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here