What Does the EPA Do?

About a week ago as I was doing my early morning look through of the Federal Register Table of Contents, I wondered if the average person actually knows what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does.  I decided to take an informal poll of my Facebook friends to see what kind of response I would get.  I wasn’t sure anyone would even care.  I received eleven public comments and two private comments. As I suspected, most people have no idea of the depth of the EPA’s bureaucracy or the waste within the agency.  It will take several blogs to even scratch the surface. 

This week the EPA conveniently publicized a new website they have created to inform the public what EPA does. The announcement is titled EPA Launches Website to Increase Transparency of Regulatory Activity”The link included takes you to a page entitled “Total Federal Register Activity”.  Any regulation that is even thought of by the EPA is published in the Federal Register along with regulations from all the other government agencies.  A look at the daily Table of Contents will make your stomach churn.  In the six years that I have been checking the daily Table of Contents, the EPA has only missed two weekdays publishing something.

EPA publishes approximately 1,700 to 2,000 documents in the Federal Register (FR) each calendar year. The majority of the publications are “Notices” which provide general information of public interest.  If you have trouble falling asleep, this is your cure.  Only about eight percent were “Direct Final Rules” which are published after the public comment period on the “Proposed Rule” has ended. Anyone can make a comment on any “Proposed Rule” that the EPA publishes.  Most comments are made by leaders of industries affected by the “Proposed Rule”.  EPA takes all these comments into consideration before they decide to publish a “Final Rule”.

After a “Final Rule” is published it is often amended, which means it really wasn’t a “Final Rule” at all.  Also, “Final Rules” are often not implemented until a year after they are published.  This gives everyone concerned time to figure out what the Rule actually means.  Corporate attorneys become heavily involved at this point. Sometimes parts of “Final Rules” are rescinded if a covered industry can prove that the Rule will place a heavy burden on them, which usually means it will cost them a lot of money.  This provides a delicate balance between protecting the environment and keeping businesses profitable.  The general Facebook public seems to be aware of this as demonstrated by the following comments.

“Great concept if it wasn’t ruled by who had the most money or power.” M.G.

“But in our world it saddens me to say that most govt agencies have deep pockets and usually do the bidding of who is pushing/lobbying/bullying them.”  A.T.

“I don’t know how much they actually accomplish.”  I.H.

The EPA has a great public relations department (paid for by taxpayer money, of course).  Last week EPA celebrated its 40th anniversary. Stay tuned for a their list of their accomplishments over the last 40 years.