In the three 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. Administration 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 the House has already voted to overturn specific regulations and to limit the agency’s authority. Particular attention is being 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; more specifically the EPA has taken the position for the first time that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and thus subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. This position is controversial since there are no known adverse health impacts of carbon dioxide.
Environmental groups disagree that the agency has overreached, and EPA itself argues 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 a source of economic activity, exports and American jobs.
This report provides background information on recent EPA rulemaking to help address these issues. It examines 43 major or controversial regulatory actions taken by or under development at 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, where available.
The report also discusses 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 may effectively underestimate the complexities of the regulatory process and overstate the near-term impact of many of the regulatory actions.
This summary was taken from the Congressional Research Service Report R41561 by James McCarthy and Claudia Copeland.