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Highlights

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues regulations that states, localities, and private companies must comply with under the existing federal approach to environmental protection. This approach has been widely criticized for being costly, inflexible, and ineffective in addressing some of the nation's most pressing environmental problems. The states have used several methods to obtain EPA approval for innovative approaches to environmental protection. Among the primary approaches cited by the state environmental officials GAO interviewed are EPA's Project XL and the Joint EPA/State Agreement to Pursue Regulatory Innovation. Officials in most states told GAO that they faced significant challenges in submitting proposals to EPA, including resistance from within the state environmental agency and a lack of adequate resources to pursue innovative approaches. EPA recognizes that it needs to do more to encourage innovative environmental approaches by states and other entities. As a result, EPA has (1) issued a broad-based draft strategy entitled "Innovating for Better Environmental Results" and (2) adopted the recommendations of an internal task force, which advocated the consideration of innovative alternatives as new regulations are developed.

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