Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Congress Study Suggests Ways to Fix 'Broken' EPA

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Congress Study Suggests Ways to Fix 'Broken' EPA

Article excerpt

AS the nation gets set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Earth Day, the federal agency charged with protecting the environment finds itself under siege -- with few protectors.

A year-long official investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency finds that it lacks a coherent mission, suffers from congressional micro-management, and is inflexible in drafting and enforcing regulations.

"The system is broken," concludes a congressionally ordered study of the EPA released this week by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). "EPA's recent budgets have been driven more by history, inertia, and the crises of the moment than by strategic thinking about how the agency could be most effective," it reports.

This nonpartisan group of environmental science and management experts says the EPA should assess environmental risks more realistically and give states and localities more authority to address problems.

"We must make fundamental changes to the way EPA operates," says Sen. Christopher Bond (R) of Missouri, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the agency.

The report comes at a time when the Republican-dominated Congress is trying to apply what Senate majority leader Bob Dole (R) of Kansas calls "a common-sense test" to environmental policies. In the House, measures strengthening private-property rights, requiring "cost-benefit" analysis of regulations, restricting the Endangered Species Act, and easing parts of the Clean Water Act are advancing steadily.

But the effort to unsnarl and rewrite environmental policy is not strictly partisan. The White Houses' EPA administrator, Carol Browner, in charge of nearly 19,000 employees and a $7 billion budget, has complained of "a complex and unwieldy system of laws and regulations, and increasing conflict and gridlock."

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on Senator Bond's subcommittee, says, "I hear from small businesses and local elected officials that they are confronted by a growing number of EPA mandates that just don't make sense. …

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