Legislation requires greater EPA transparency and accountability

A new legislative package requires greater transparency and accountability from the EPA regulatory process. The package contains four individual bills.

Sen. Johanns (R-Neb.) introduced a legislative package requiring greater transparency and accountability from the EPA regulatory process. The package contains four individual bills.

S. 320 would bring EPA guidance documents under the Congressional Review Act’s scope. Currently, only rules are subject to that Act, allowing EPA to use guidance documents to expand the agency’s regulatory reach without being subjected to Congressional oversight. EPA is attempting to use guidance to expand the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, which many believe should have gone instead through the rulemaking process.

S. 317 would require EPA’s Inspector General to report to Congress twice a year on the agency’s progress in meeting regulatory reporting requirements in current law. Section 602 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to publish, “during the months of October and April of each year … a regulatory flexibility agenda which shall contain a brief description of the subject area of any rule which the agency expects to propose.” Similarly, Executive Order 12866 requires EPA to update its regulatory agenda on a similar schedule. EPA, as well as other agencies, overlooked this requirement in 2012, publishing just one update last December.

(See related: EPA accused of violating farmer privacy rights)

S. 318 would reduce EPA’s budget by $20,000 each week until the agency meets its legal deadlines for regulatory agenda-setting. This proposal is modeled after a provision in last year’s bipartisan highway bill to encourage federal agencies to complete timely transportation projects’ evaluation. Sen. Johanns’ bill adapts this model to encourage EPA to meet deadlines already in law and reinforces the principle that if an agency isn’t doing its job, then its budget will be reduced accordingly.

S. 319 would mandate EPA to provide timely information and technical assistance to states working to comply with EPA mandates. Section 101 of the Clean Air Act states, “air pollution control at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments” and the federal government should, “provide technical and financial assistance to State and local governments in connection with the development and execution of their air pollution prevention and control programs.”

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