American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


National Academy of Public Administration Report on Improving the Environmental Protection System (9-19-97)

The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) held a briefing on September 10 to release a congressionally mandated report on the Environmental Protection Agency: Resolving the Paradox of Environmental Protection: An Agenda for Congress, EPA, and the States. The report assesses the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) progress in improving the nation's environmental protection system and examines how EPA and Congress have responded to recommendation made in a 1995 NAPA report entitled Setting Priorities, Getting Results: A New Direction for EPA. Jonathan B. Howes, Chairman of the 1997 NAPA panel said that the challenge will come in implementing the panel's recommendations using innovative approaches instead of more traditional ones.

The recently released report is a follow-up to the 1995 report, which concluded that in order to continue down the path towards enviornmental protection, "the nation will have to develop a more rational, less costly strategy for protecting the environment." The 1995 report outlined six recommendations and the 1997 report examined if and how these recommendations were met.

The report also found that some of EPA's problems lie in too much congressional oversight, excessive bureaucratic procedures and lack of innovative approaches to environmental problems. Although, improvements have been made, most have "occurred at the margins of EPA's programs" and will remain so unless EPA and Congress make more of an effort to change their current way of thinking.

The paradox EPA faces in improving the enviornmental protection system is that it must maintain and improve consistent national environmental standards, while at the same time, trying to tailor its programs to fit a "diverse and dynamic nation." The current systems deal with a "one-size-fits-all" mentality that is unrealistic in the current state of environmental protection where problems vary from place to place. To resolve the paradox, the focus of Congress, EPA, state regulatory agencies and the public, must be on environmental results and environmental performance.

The report concluded that a more "aggressive shift to integrated multimedia management" and congressional financial support are needed to improve the environmental protection system. William Ruckelshaus, a member of the 1997 panel and former EPA Administrator, urged Congress to become "actively engaged" in the process and not just step back and let EPA do all the work and then later question the results. He went on to say that Congress should be encouraging the agency to try new approaches, realizing that there will be successes and failures but that by discontinuing the adversarial relationship between Congress and EPA, progress can be made towards improving the nation's environmental protection system.

To obtain a copy of the reports and find additional information see the National Academy of Public Administration web page.


Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Catherine Runden, AGI Government Affairs Intern.
Last updated September 12, 1997

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