Environmental Protection

EPA Should Strengthen Its Efforts to Measure and Encourage Pollution Prevention Gao ID: GAO-01-283 February 21, 2001

Limited quantitative data exists on the extent to which American industry has sought to use pollution prevention methods to reduce pollutants discharged from its facilities. This shortcoming has inhibited the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to monitor and encourage companies' use of pollution prevention measures. Whether to undertake pollution prevention is typically a business decision that is influenced largely by a company's judgment as to whether an investment in pollution prevention will benefit it financially. One notable exception is the design of environmental regulations, some of which have had the unintended consequence of discouraging pollution prevention practices. In some cases, EPA may have no means to address them. The design of some regulations may be constrained by their governing statutes. In other cases, EPA may be better able to take the national goal of promoting pollution prevention into consideration in developing its regulatory proposals. The Pollution Prevention Act requires EPA to review its regulatory proposals to determine their effects on source reduction. However, the agency has not systematically tracked the implementation of this provision, and therefore does not know the extent to which source reduction has been considered in the promulgation of EPA regulations. Although it may be impossible to promote pollution prevention in all of the agency's regulations, a greater awareness of these practices in the agency's rulemaking process can help significantly to further this important goal.


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