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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track?

James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

In the two years since Barack Obama was sworn in as President, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed and promulgated numerous regulations implementing the pollution control statutes enacted by Congress. Critics have reacted strongly. Many, both within Congress and outside of it, have accused the agency of reaching beyond the authority given it by Congress and ignoring or underestimating the costs and economic impacts of proposed and promulgated rules. Republican leaders have promised vigorous oversight of the agency in the 112th Congress, and attempts to overturn specific regulations or limit the agency’s authority are widely expected. Particular attention may be paid to the Clean Air Act, under which EPA has moved forward with the first federal controls on emissions of greenhouse gases and addressed conventional pollutants from a number of industries.

Environmental groups disagree that the agency has overreached, and EPA itself maintains that its pace of regulation under the Clean Air Act is actually slower than the pace during the first years of the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations. The agency states that critics’ focus on the cost of controls obscures the benefits of new regulations, which, it estimates, far exceed the costs; and it maintains that pollution control is an important source of economic activity, exports, and American jobs.

This report provides background information on recent EPA rulemaking to help address these issues. It examines 42 major or controversial regulatory actions taken by EPA since January 2009, providing details on the regulatory action itself, presenting an estimated timeline for completion of the rule (including identification of related court or statutory deadlines), and, in general, providing EPA’s estimates of costs and benefits.

The report also provides a discussion of factors that affect the timeframe in which regulations take effect, including statutory and judicial deadlines, public comment periods, judicial review, and permitting procedures, the net results of which are that existing facilities are likely to have several years before being required to comply with most of the regulatory actions under discussion. Unable to account for such factors, which will vary from case to case, timelines that show dates for proposal and promulgation of EPA standards effectively underestimate the complexities of the regulatory process and overstate the near-term impact of many of the regulatory actions.

Date of Report: January 3, 2011
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R41561
Price: $29.95

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