A Positive EPA Platform for Presidential Hopefuls

by William Yeatman on November 10, 2015

in Blog

Below, I’ve posted three planks of a presidential platform for EPA policy. I’ve even taken the time to formulate catchy slogans that capture the essence of my positive policy proposals.

Slogan #1: DO YOUR JOB!

In creating the EPA, Congress subjected the agency to thousands of deadlines, across virtually every regulatory regime it administers. As I explained in this 2013 article, statutory date-certain deadlines were a novel legislative feature in the early 1970s, when Congress endowed EPA with virtually of all of its current authority by passing various enabling statutes. These deadlines represent the Congress’s express directive for the agency to perform certain jobs.

The agency, however, has done a pitiful job achieving these congressional commands. Consider the Clean Air Act, which is undoubtedly the most important of the agency’s sources of power. From 1994 to 2013, the agency was subject to 200 deadlines for three core Clean Air Act programs (NAAQS, NSPS, and HAP Residual Risk Review). The agency missed 98% of these date certain duties, by an average of 5.5 years.

There are consequences to the agency’s failure to do its job. For starters, it creates the phenomenon known as “sue and settle,” whereby unelected environmental special interests seize the agency’s priority-making process.

Worse, EPA’s failure to do its job leaves States twisting in the wind. Under the Clean Air Act, States submit air quality improvement plans to EPA for approval. And pursuant to the Clean Air Act, EPA has set periods by which it must review these state submissions. But as with virtually all of its statutory deadlines, the agency fails to review these state plans in accordance with Congress’s directives. This creates a huge headache for States because the agency often will change its review criteria during the years-long (illegal) delay. As a result, States get the bait and switch: They submit plans in accordance with one guideline, only to have the plan judged by a different guideline.

EPA’s woeful performance on deadlines, in blatant contravention of the Congress’s intent, long has been a problem, across presidencies. That buck should stop with America’s next President, who should ensure that the agency does its job.

Slogan #2: BE THE MOST TRANSPARENT EPA EVER (for real this time)

President Obama promised his administration would be unprecedentedly transparent. Of course he didn’t mean it, but the next president should try for real.

EPA, in particular, is in serious need of sanitizing sunlight. Consider that the agency’s most recent ex-administrator established an email alias to circumvent the rigors of federal transparency laws. This is the agency, moreover, that recently maintained a separate and unequal FOIA response process depending on the political ideology of the information seeker.

The next President has the opportunity to institute the most transparent EPA ever (for real this time). To this end, there are many available policies. For starters, the next President should outlaw alias email accounts, off government servers, and all other obvious transparency shenanigans. And the next President should demand that all agencies treat all information seekers the same, regardless their political leanings. But the most important EPA transparency policy for the next President is to require that the agency no longer use (or, at the very least, no longer abuse) the b5 FOIA exemption for “deliberative process.” As we’ve explained time and time again, the b5 exemption is the censor’s best friend. There is simply no place for deliberative process exemptions (a relic from the time of a King’s court) in modern environmental policymaking.


Nothing divides like guns, amirite? Despite the evident bond of animosity that links gun lovers and haters, I bet there’s one other thing they share: The common agreement that EPA shouldn’t be spending millions of taxpayer dollars on an arsenal, including $1.4 million for “guns up to 300mm,” $380,000 on “ammunition,” and $208,000 on “radar and night vision equipment.” The next President should implement gun control we can all support, by nixing the agency’s combat budget.

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