Cutting waste at the EPA

  • 22 August 2017
  • NormanL
Cutting waste at the EPA

Among environmentalists, the Trump administration's efforts to bring accountability and fiscal prudence to the Environmental Protection Agency are grave sins. But what if we could slash the EPA's budget with no harm done to the environment? That's exactly what our friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute asked. What they found was rather astounding:

For years, the EPA has warded off congressional oversight of agency policy making by submitting a budget that fails to identify:

1) Who at the EPA is spending the appropriation;
2) How they’re spending it; and
3) Pursuant to what statutory authority they’re spending it.

The result is that Congress has no idea how the EPA spends taxpayer money. In particular, lawmakers cannot discern how much the agency spends on nondiscretionary duties, which are assigned by Congress, versus how much it spends on discretionary activities of its own choosing. In submitting its annual budget justification, the EPA should use the same rational format employed by other agencies, which clearly identifies the spender, how much they spend, and the legal basis for the spending. Only when Congress can follow the money can it exercise its power of the purse to effectively oversee agency policy making.

In addition, many of the EPA’s functions could be abolished, pared back, or transferred to other agencies without any negative effects on the nation’s environmental quality. mean there's waste inside the EPA? Oh yes, there is. And CEI makes several recommendations for ways to cut the fat, including:

Abolish the EPA’s 10 regional offices and transfer their emergency response capabilities into the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The EPA’s 10 regional offices duplicate much of the work of the agency’s headquarters and of state environmental protection agencies. The core essential function of emergency response to environmental threats and disasters can be consolidated with similar capabilities at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Eliminate the Integrated Risk Information System program and fold its functions into the Toxic Substances Control Act program. The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program has long proven controversial because of its failure to follow sound scientific principles, garnering wide criticism including from the National Academy of Sciences. In 2016, Congress passed a reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act that includes widely accepted scientific standards for chemical evaluations that would improve EPA risk assessments.3 Moving IRIS functions to the Toxic Substances Control Act program would apply those standards and improve the chemical risk assessments now performed under IRIS.

Eliminate all Healthy Communities and Smart Growth Programs and related grant programs: Deciding what is smart growth or what is a healthy community and how to pursue them are a state and local matter. The federal government should not be involved in these decisions.

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