Budget and Spending:

Approaches for Environmental Regulations

RCED-96-135R: Published: Apr 25, 1996. Publicly Released: May 6, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the cost of complying with federal environmental laws and regulations. GAO found that: (1) beginning in 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was required to generate standards for predetermined water and air contaminants within a rigid schedule; (2) the predetermination of contaminants and rigid schedule limited EPA capacity to identify and regulate the contaminants that pose the greatest risk; (3) sulfur dioxide emissions allowances provide utilities flexibility in choosing how they will meet overall reduction requirements and limited emissions at specific times have reduced sulfur dioxide emissions; (4) in return for better pollution reduction than traditional cleanup approaches provide, EPA allows companies to test new, flexible pollution controls; (5) by eliminating or using shortened planning steps, EPA cleanups of federal hazardous waste sites can be finished 2 years sooner and cost $500,000 less than traditional remedial cleanups; and (6) while 1,194 federal hazardous waste sites are being evaluated or cleaned up, cleanups have been completed at only 8 sites.

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