Local Governments and the EPA Forge Working Partnerships
Johnson, Randy, Nation's Cities Weekly
New initiatives that change the local-federal environmental management relationship are under way, as local governments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency become active partners in formulating national strategies for environmental action.
Local governments have long played a key role in improving environmental quality and have shouldered most of the public expenditures for environmental management. According to the EPA, local governments will be making 87 percent of this nation's public expenditures for environmental management by the year 2000.
Traditionally, however, local governments have had little say in federal environmental policy-making. The EPA has viewed local government as yet another entity to be regulated and has set environmental standards that often failed to address community priorities. As a result, local governments have felt overwhelmed by the complexity and cost of environmental regulations.
The EPA is reaching out to local governments to attain its environmental objectives. EPA Administrator Carol Browner has pledged to more actively involve local governments as partners in prioritizing issues and developing environmental regulations and programs.
As an initial step in this direction, the EPA formed a Local Dialogue Group. Local officials in this group expressed a desire for regulations flexible enough to reflect local conditions, and based on environmental risk and sound analysis of scientific and cost benefits. They also encouraged the EPA to assist with financing for environmental programs.
In October 1993, the EPA and the National Association of Counties cosponsored an environmental partnership conference to explore avenues for clarifying federal and local government roles and responsibilities, improving dissemination of information to local governments, and developing procedures to support local government involvement in the regulatory and legislative processes.
The Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) and the Small Town Task Force Advisory Committee (STTFAC) convened for the first time in March 1994. The LGAC decided to address five major issues: environmental outcomes versus process; better state and local access to the EPA rulemaking process; improved local-federal communication and interaction; a role for state and local governments in EPA strategic plan development; and the need for a survey and customer service standards. The STTFAC met to discuss issues of particular importance to small towns, including those of compliance, technical assistance, and funding of programs.
Better Environmental Management
Public Technology, Inc. is the non-profit technology research, development, and commercialization arm of the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, and International City/County Management Association. Chief among PTT's priorities is the maintenance of balance between technological advancement, a healthy environment, and a strong economy. Since 1988, PTI, through the formation of the Urban Consortium Environmental Task Force (UCEnvTF), has worked closely with the EPA toward this goal.
The UCEnvTF identifies and tests innovative approaches to environmental management, fosters the exchange of information and technology between local and federal governments, and promotes the use of environmental assets to generate revenues and improve efficiency in public operations. …