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Frequently Asked Questions


What are XL projects?
XL projects are real world tests of innovative strategies designed to achieve cleaner and cheaper environmental results than conventional regulations, programs, policies, and procedures would achieve. The goal is to engage those parties affected by environmental regulations and policies in an unprecedented effort to find solutions that work better than those currently mandated, and to apply what is learned more broadly to improve public health and environmental protection. You may wish to see descriptions of current XL projects.

What do you mean by superior environmental performance, regulatory flexibility, and stakeholder involvement?
EPA's April, 1997 Federal Register Notice clarified EPA's definition of three key elements of Project XL: (1) superior environmental performance; (2) regulatory flexibility; and (3) stakeholder involvement. A short summary follows:

  1. Superior Environmental Performance (SEP): EPA uses a two-part method of determining whether an XL project will achieve environmental results better than what would have been achieved if the project had not been implemented:

    - Develop a quantitative baseline estimate of what would have happened to the environment absent the project; then compare that baseline estimate against the project's anticipated environmental performance.

    - Consider both quantitative and qualitative measures in determining if the anticipated environmental performance will produce a level of environmental performance superior to the baseline.

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  2. Regulatory Flexibility: Regulatory flexibility is one way for project sponsors to achieve desired operational benefits. Examples of tools used to provide flexibility from otherwise applicable regulatory requirements include site specific rules, alternative permits and waiver processes. Such tools are identified on a case-by-case basis. EPA is also offering flexibility in its policies, guidance, procedures and other approaches as long as the proposed innovation produces superior environmental results either directly or indirectly through reinvestment of cost savings.

  3. Stakeholder Involvement: Stakeholders are grouped into three categories, each with a distinct role in developing and implementing XL project development and implementation:

    - Direct participants: are involved in the day-to-day aspects of project negotiations; they influence the design and development of projects; and their views strongly influence both the details of, and EPA's ultimate decision to approve or not to approve, the project.

    - Commentors: EPA is also influenced by commentors who have an interest in the project but do not participate in day-to-day negotiations and project development; commentors express their perspective via written or oral comments.

    - The general public is involved by having clear access to information on the development and environmental results of the project. Local citizen and national interest groups are welcome to participate.

Project sponsors should provide stakeholders with any needed training on technical issues and collaborative processes. EPA will make its own expertise available, and the Agency encourages State and local agencies to do the same. EPA has also made up to $25,000 per project available for technical assistance to direct participant stakeholder groups for use when other resources are not available. To obtain more information about technical assistance funding, please call the Institute for Conservation Leadership at (301 )270-2900.

What is the difference between Project XL (XL) and Project XL for Community (XLC) projects?
XL pilot projects can be based at several levels: facilities, sectors, government agencies, and communities. Project XL covers those projects that are sponsored by facilities, sectors, and government agencies, while XLC covers projects for communities (i.e. local governments, regional area consortia or governments, neighborhood and community organizations, empowerment zones and enterprise communities, community development corporations and other local entities). Both XL and XLC projects involve testing new and better ways of protecting human health and the environment. The primary differences between XL and XLC are that XLC projects have a community project sponsor and they are held to two additional selection criteria than XL projects. Otherwise both efforts operate as a single Agency effort to identify and test innovative environmental protection strategies for the future.

Although Project XL and XLC always shared a common goal and similar operating procedures, the two programs formerly operated out of two different EPA offices. Previously, Project XLC was facilitated out of the Office of Sustainable Ecosystems and Communities (OSEC), while Project XL functioned out of the Office of Reinvention. In early 1999, Project XL and XLC merged so that lessons learned can be shared and process efficiencies can be realized. Information for both XL and XLC is located on this website.

How do I provide comments on the various XL and XLC projects?
The best way to provide comments on the various XL and XLC projects is by submitting your comments to the EPA representative associated with the project you are interested in. A section of this XL web site is devoted to each XL project. You will find a list of EPA, company, and stakeholder contacts on each project site. Feel free to contact any of the EPA personnel contacts to provide comments. Before EPA signs any project agreement, we will make a draft of the agreement available in places of public record, including this web site, and will invite the public to submit its comments on the draft.

If you have questions, or general comments that you would like to convey, you may contact EPA staff by calling (202) 566-0495.

Is this a federal, state, or local program?
While this is a federal program, most projects required the participation of other government agencies. Individual projects were jointly managed by the units of government that were best suited to address the issues raised by the project. EPA did not move forward with projects unless state and tribal regulatory agencies are full partners. Stakeholder involvement was also important to EPA in this process. As such, we viewed favorably proposals developed with local governments, environmental groups, and citizens organizations.

How does the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) Innovations Agreement relate to Project XL?
In March 1998, EPA and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) joined together to establish the ECOS Innovations Agreement. The ECOS Innovation Agreement supports EPA's and ECOS' shared goal of improving the environment and environmental management practices. This partnership agreement creates a framework within which EPA, State, and local regulatory agencies can work together to test innovative ways of protecting and improving the environment. The Innovations process is a systematic way to help States to quickly determine the appropriate program mechanism to accomplish proposed innovative projects--for some proposals, this will be Project XL. Jump to the Joint EPA/State Agreement on Innovations found on the ECOS Website. Exit EPA disclaimer

Why did the process take so long?
The first few XL projects posed many challenges. EPA had never attempted this type of experiment, and we were cautious in the early stages. We and others had concerns about how to test new approaches and yet still maintain the same level of protection that the current regulatory system provides. We had to learn as we went along.

In 1998, we worked hard with our partners to streamline the Project XL processes so negotiations would go more smoothly, quickly and predictably. Building on the practical experience of representatives from industry, non-profit organizations, States, and other interested groups , we "reengineered" the XL process to reduce the transaction costs of all parties involved. We now expect this new process to yield agreements for most projects in six months to a year, compared to 24 months or longer under the old process. For example, the Atlantic Steel project, in Atlanta, GA, has already shown results by producing a signed project agreement for phase one, just eight months after initial pre-proposal discussions.

Click here for more information on the resulted process improvements.

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What are the innovations that have happened as a result of XL?
The following chart lists the 25 innovations that have resulted from XL projects, and the 10 emerging innovations that are underway or in negotiation. These innovations are catalogued by the Agency's core functions, which are the different processes and operations that EPA must use in order to perform its mission to protect public health and to safeguard the environment.

Core Function Innovations #
Rules and Regulations
  • Participate in the Effluent Guidelines Voluntary Advanced Technology Incentives Program to secure additional time to comply with MACT standards under pulp and paper cluster rule.
  • Participate in the Clean Condensate Alternative Program as part of the Pulp and Paper Cluster Rule to eliminate specific air emission control requirements.
  • Use pollution prevention technologies in kraft pulping operations to gain additional time to comply with the Pulp and Paper Cluster Rule.
  • Test incentives in exchange for early compliance with the Miscellaneous Organic Processes NESHAP.
  • Amend the Magnetic Tape Manufacturing Operations NESHAP to allow more operational flexibility as long as there are no additional HAP emissions.
  • test RCRA options to encourage recycling

Permit Reform
  • Test the use of a Consolidated Multi-Media Operating Permit
  • Test facilitywide permit emission caps

Information Management
  • Enhance public access to information through Internet reporting
  • Enhance public access to information through expanded stakeholder input
  • Test tiered reporting
  • Test consolidated reporting

Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
  • Test State authorized self-certification programs for small businesses

Environmental Stewardship
  • Test the linkage of EMSs to standard work procedures
  • Test the use of EMSs to streamline and improve compliance
  • Test the use of pollution prevention opportunity assessments and recycling studies.
  • Test the feasibility of implementing the DoD Environmental Investment Program.

Stakeholder Involvement
  • Identify models for stakeholder involvement in experimental projects.
  • Apply "business process re-engineering" techniques to experimental project development.
  • Develop stakeholder involvement guidance for industrial project sponsors.
  • Build capacity and trustbuilding resources to improve stakeholder involvement.

Culture Change
  • Build the capacity for management support and involvement in experimental projects.
  • Build effective cross-Agency teams for multi-media experimentation
  • Develop compliance screening for voluntary project sponsors
  • Develop capabilities to conduct experiments with State and Tribal Governments

Emerging Innovations (These innovations are a part of XL Projects that have only recently completed their Final Project Agreements or the innovation has not been fully documented.)

Rules and Regulations

  • test smart growth opportunities
  • test the use of performance-based EMSs Permit Reform
  • examine reward-based compliance schema
  • test alternative handling of RCRA wastes

Enforcement and Compliance Assurance

  • investigate the redevelopment of contaminated waste sites
  • test alternative compliance monitoring

Environmental Stewardship

  • identify process modifications for pollution prevention and recycling
  • identify pollution prevention incentives
  • examine alternatives for effluent control in manufacturing
  • improve timberland "best management practices"


How do you plan to integrate changes throughout the Agency?
Through the work of the project participants, and in consultation with Agency constituencies, EPA intends to evaluate and incorporate successful innovative approaches into the current system of environmental protection. With the Project XL 1999 Comprehensive Report, EPA began to systematically describe the status of pilot projects, and analyze innovations in core functions that could lead to system change. EPA continues to develop this analysis. EPA will consult with a broad array of stakeholders to assess which innovations should be adopted and which should not and make adjustments in the Agency's rules, regulations, policies, and guidance, as appropriate.

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