Johanns introduces bills to increase transparency of EPA

Published on: Feb 13, 2013

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) introduced a package of legislation promoting greater transparency and accountability in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory process.

“Everyone from mayors to public utility providers to farmers and ranchers have expressed concern with EPA’s aggressive agenda and lack of understanding about how our economy works,” Johanns said. “It’s not simply what EPA is doing that bothers so many of our nation’s job creators, it’s how EPA is doing it. I’ve heard countless times that EPA is not transparent or responsive, but rather short-sighted and arrogant.”

Johanns’ first bill brings EPA guidance documents under the scope of the Congressional Review Act. Currently, only rules are covered under this clause. This has allowed EPA to use guidance documents to expand the agency’s regulatory reach without being subjected to Congressional oversight. Johanns’ legislation would close this loophole.

Johanns’ second piece of legislation requires EPA’s Inspector General to report to Congress twice a year on the agency’s progress in meeting regulatory reporting requirements in current law. Under current law, EPA must publish any updates to its regulatory agenda in April and October. EPA totally ignored this requirement in 2012, publishing just one update last year. This update came in December, hiding EPA’s agenda until after the election.

The third bill reduces EPA’s budget by $20,000 every week until EPA meets its legal deadlines for regulatory agenda-setting. This proposal is modeled after a provision in last year’s bipartisan highway bill to encourage federal agencies to complete evaluation of transportation projects in a timely fashion. Johanns’ legislation adapts this model to encourage EPA to meet deadlines already in law requiring they be transparent about regulations they are developing.

The final component of Johanns’ legislative package promotes transparency and cooperation with state governments by requiring EPA to provide timely information and technical assistance to states working to comply with EPA mandates. Environmental statutes firmly establish states as equal partners with EPA. Unfortunately, EPA’s actions show that it believes federal agencies should be able to dictate implementation actions, rather than allowing states to develop their own plans.