Air Pollution:

Implementation of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990

T-RCED-00-183: Published: May 17, 2000. Publicly Released: May 17, 2000.

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GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) implementation of the Clean Air Act Amendments and on sources regulated by multiple provisions of the act, focusing on: (1) the status of EPA's implementation of requirements established by the 1990 amendments; (2) the views from the stakeholders--state governments, local programs, industries that are regulated under the act, and environmental advocacy groups--on the issues that either helped or hindered the implementation of the 1990 amendments; (3) examples of emission sources subject to regulation under more than one Clean Air Act program; and (4) the status of EPA's efforts to facilitate compliance for such sources.

GAO noted that: (1) as of February 2000, EPA had completed the majority of the 538 required actions it identified under the 1990 amendments' first six titles, but not all the requirements were met within the statutory deadlines; (2) EPA missed the statutory deadlines for 198 of the 247 requirements with deadlines by February 2000, and will likely miss 62 of the 108 future statutory requirements with deadlines; (3) EPA officials attributed the agency's inability to meet its statutory deadlines to: (a) its increased emphasis on obtaining stakeholders' review and involvement during the development of regulations, which added to the time needed to issue regulations; and (b) technical, policy, or legal issues that were not fully anticipated in 1990; (4) a number of stakeholders expressed the view that flexibility in the amendments has helped their implementation; (5) stakeholders cited the specificity of goals and requirements as helpful; (6) stakeholders cited inadequate resources at the state and local levels to effectively implement and enforce the amendements as a factor that has hindered implementation; (7) the large industrial complexes operated by the petrochemical and refinery, chemical manufacturing, and electric power industries are prime examples of sources regulated under multiple Clean Air Act programs; (8) EPA has embarked on a number of initiatives to reduce the regulatory workload and facilitate compliance for such facilities, including both industry-specific efforts and other generic approaches, to introduce more flexibility in the overall regulatory rule making and permitting processes; (9) the Consolidated Air Regulation is intended to incorporate all federal air regulations that affect the synthetic organic chemical manufacturing industry into a single set of regulations; (10) this proposed regulation, currently pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget, would reduce the regulatory burden and enhance enforceability by having one set of emissions controls and monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements; (11) the Clean Air Power Initiative is an effort to develop new regulatory approaches for controlling nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide from electric power plants; and (12) according to EPA and industry officials, efforts on this initiative have been suspended because of disagreement within the industry as well as within EPA over the appropriate level for proposed sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide reductions.

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