EPA Behind Schedule for Air Toxics Standards

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program to evaluate and regulate air toxics, especially in urban areas, is way behind schedule, according to an Inspector General report released last week. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA established a Integrated Urban Air Toxics Strategy in 1999, but has yet to implement much of the strategy. “For example, EPA has not established baseline risk data to measure progress in reducing air toxics risks,” according to the report.

The Clean Air Act instructs EPA to Attain a 75 percent reduction in the incidence of cancer attributable to exposure to hazardous air pollutants by large and small stationary sources nationwide,” according to the report. To do that, EPA would have to regulate emissions, but has failed to do so for some sources. Those regulations were due in 2000.

EPA was also to report to Congress on its progress by 2002. The report is still pending.

Budget constraints could be to blame, the The New York Times reported Sunday:

Some experts said the failures were persisting largely because the E.P.A.’s Office of Air and Radiation, which is responsible for regulating air pollutants, lacked the money needed to meet its deadlines.

In a written response to the report, E.P.A. officials also said budget cuts had made it difficult to meet their deadlines, noting that “air toxics support has been cut over 70 percent” since 2001. 

In its response, EPA also said it will finalize standards for remaining sources by December (under a court order) and said it plans to submit its report to Congress in the summer of 2011.

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