In a sincere and honest effort to protect human health and the environment for every U.S. citizen, the government established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December of 1970. The
regulations that evolved from its humble beginnings now cover a wide range of environmental and public health protection issues, from setting standards for clean water, to specifying cleanup levels for toxic waste sites, to controlling air pollution from industries and other sources. The President of the United States appoints the agency’s administrator, which develops and enforces regulations and implements laws enacted by Congress. The EPA is mandated to use the most current but proven scientific, technical, and legal data to make decisions that are in the best interest of all citizens.
Unfortunately, being part of the “Big Government Administration” brings with it at least two drawbacks. For one, the EPA’s budget is in the hands of the administration and it may not provide sufficient funds for the agency to carry out its intended function. For example, in 2004 it set the EPA’s budget at $8.4 billion, but by 2007 it was down to $7.3 billion – and $7.2 billion in 2008. Then, the 2009 budget was cut by another $330 million. Consequently, EPA scientific research was one of the primary cost-cutting targets, possibly hobbling it from meeting its goals.
Secondly, being part of the administration inevitably pulls politics into issues that were intended to be governed only by law and science. For instance, California lawmakers requested a waiver from following the Federal emission standards in order to impose its own stricter tailpipe emission standards. But the EPA refused to grant California the waiver, even though eighteen other states enjoined California. Now, could it be that the budget cuts, a lack of adequate scientific research, or some other political pressure is at the root of this confrontation between the EPA and the state of California?
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has not given up. She is leading the charge to reverse this decision. At the center of attention is the question of why the EPA Administrator, Stephen Johnson denied the waiver. Ironically, some of the documents discovered by Boxer suggest that Johnson’s technical and legal teams recommended granting California the waiver. But, during the January 24, 2008 Senate hearing, Johnson claimed that it was his decision to refuse California’s waiver. Is his decision based on technology or politics?
If that is not enough, the latest EPA public relations news announces the resignation of Jason Burnett, associate deputy administrator and chief advisor on climate-change issues. After staying with the agency for only one year, Burnett resigned in June of this year citing as his conclusion that no more progress in greenhouse gases reduction could be made under the present administration. Again, is the problem based on technology or politics?
Since the jury is still out on these issues, we have no choice but to wait for resolutions. And although you might not immediately find the answers to the above questions, you can learn more about existing and upcoming EPA regulations published in the Federal Register. All general and permanent regulations are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent various topics. Environmental regulations are mainly in Title 40: Protection of the Environment.
Other sources include:
• Regional regulatory information, the EPA website: “Where You Live,” www.epa.gov/lawsregs/where/idex.htm
• www.epa.gov and http://www.epa.gov/dfe/index.html
Michelle Shaland is a graduate of the Barnard College of Columbia University, and currently a student at Saint John’s University Law School, New York.
Filed Under: Green engineering