GAO Says EPA Should Improve Oversight of Emissions Reporting

May 11, 2001
EPA needs to enhance its\r\noversight of states' processes for reviewing large facilities'\r\nemissions, according to a General Accounting Office report.

Although EPA has taken steps to improve its oversight of facilities'' compliance with the Clean Air Act, it needs to enhance its oversight of states'' processes for reviewing large facilities'' emissions, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report.

GAO completed the report at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform.

Waxman asked for information on the steps EPA and state regulators take to verify large sources in order to comply with their title V or state permit; the steps regulators take to verify the accuracy of emissions reports submitted by large industrial sources and the extent of errors found; and the steps EPA is taking to improve oversight of these processes.

The report says that federal and state regulators performed about 17,800 routine inspections in fiscal years 1998 and 1999 and found that about 88 to 89 percent of the facilities complied with their permit.

However, according to an EPA air enforcement official, routine inspections do not necessarily identify instances in which the facilities have made physical or operating changes that could increase emissions and require revising their permits.

GAO noted that recognizing this shortcoming, EPA has undertaken intensive investigations targeted at selected facilities in four industries: electric utilities, petroleum refining, pulp and paper mills and wood products.

These investigations found widespread noncompliance with certain air pollution control requirements.

For example, EPA found that 76 percent of wood products facilities that it investigated had made operation changes without revising their permits.

Despite the fact that EPA has taken steps to improve its oversight of facilities'' compliance with the Clean Air Act, GAO concluded that the agency needs to enhance its oversight of the states'' processes for reviewing large facilities'' emissions reports.

"EPA performs limited oversight of states'' efforts to verify large facilities'' emissions reports," stated GAO''s report. "We are recommending that the EPA administrator evaluate states'' programs to determine whether they have adequate mechanisms in place for verifying the accuracy of emissions reports. If the results of these reviews identify inadequacies, the administrator should work with the states to improve their processes."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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