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Highlights

A recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final rule changing the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) program--a key means to protect public health and enhance air quality--has been under scrutiny by the Congress, industry, environmental groups, state and local air quality agencies, and the courts. GAO was asked to determine the basis of EPA's conclusions that (1) the rule's economic impacts would not be significant enough to merit a detailed analysis and (2) the NSR program, prior to the rule, discouraged some energy efficiency projects. GAO, among other things, reviewed EPA's analysis of the rule and its impacts, as well as guidance from EPA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on analyzing such impacts. GAO also met with industry and environmental stakeholders.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency Because of the lack of data and uncertainties about the NSR final rule's impacts, the EPA Administrator should determine what data are available that the agency could use to monitor the emissions impacts of the rule.
Closed - Implemented
EPA agreed with the recommendation and has assessed the availability of data, including the results of a 2006 National Academy of Sciences report, to monitor the emissions impact of the rule.
Environmental Protection Agency Because of the lack of data and uncertainties about the NSR final rule's impacts, the EPA Administrator should work with state and local air quality agencies to identify any additional data needs and possible ways to fill them.
Closed - Not Implemented
EPA agreed with the recommendation, but very few state and local agencies have implemented the rule and many of its key components were vacated in various court decisions. Thus it has not been necessary for EPA to work with state and local agencies to assess additional date needs.
Environmental Protection Agency Because of the lack of data and uncertainties about the NSR final rule's impacts, the EPA Administrator should use the monitoring results to determine whether the rule has created adverse effects that the agency needs to address.
Closed - Implemented
Based on the available data, including the 2006 National Academy of Sciences report on the New Source Review Program, EPA has not identified adverse environmental effects that the agency needs to address.

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