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Public Involvement Network News

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

State, Local Governments Get More Say in Federal Environmental Decision-Making

Answering the call of state and local governments to give them more involvement in the development of federal environmental rules, on November 19, 2008, EPA issued a new policy to broaden its consulting efforts with intergovernmental partners when new regulations and policies cost more than $25 million each. This is a significant lowering of the previous consultation threshold of $100 million.

"State and local officials often serve as the ‘front line’ managers of federally mandated environmental regulations,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock. "If we want good rules, early consultation with these partners is crucial.”

EPA’s new policy updates an existing policy that was put in place to carry out Executive Order 13132, Federalism. The order requires all federal departments and agencies to consider the key principles of federalism (e.g. the distribution of power and responsibilities among Federal, state and local governments) and stresses cooperation with state and local government officials, requiring agencies to consult “to the extent practicable.”  In addition, the order requires the federal government to consult with elected state and local government officials before proposing regulations or actions that have substantial direct effects below the national level, either by virtue of their implementation costs or their preemption of state or local authority.  

When the order was first issued in 1999, EPA and other federal agencies adopted an interpretation of “substantial direct effects” consistent with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), a 1995 law that set the state and local consultation threshold at $100 million per rule.  Based on its experience in conducting rulemakings over the last several years, EPA has determined a need for state and local input on a wider range of regulations and is lowering the consultation threshold to $25 million.

EPA’s action comes at a time when state and local officials are calling for a stronger working relationship with their federal partners in solving many of today’s major environmental challenges. The National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the International City/County Management Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently issued a joint statement urging the incoming Administration to “adopt a policy of constructive engagement” and to “cooperate and consult with state and local leaders.” These seven associations, along with three others (National Association of Towns and Townships, County Executives of America, and Environmental Council of the States), constitute the group of 10 organizations with whom EPA will consult under its new Federalism policy.

For more information on how EPA develops regulations, click here. 

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