Electricity Daily

A Publication of The Electricity Journal

Volume 8, Number 58  Thursday, March 27, 1997

(Go to Front Page)

EPA Swamped by Air Rule Comments

The Environmental Protection Agency's twin proposals for new ozone and particulate standards have generated an avalanche of comments. In the past, 500 or so comments would be typical for a hotly contested proposal. But in this case, an estimated 25,000 documents have poured in, plus thousands of e-mail messages and phone calls, threatening to paralyze the agency's rule-making process. By law all comments must be carefully considered before a final rule can be issued.

Workers who process the comments at EPA estimate it could take a month just to index all of the submissions, much less have the appropriate people read them. But under the Administrative Procedures Act all significant comments must be read and considered by the agency, then summarized and responded to in the preamble to the final rule.

Why the deluge of comments? The proposals threaten to impose measures directly on individuals and businesses, not just industry, so groups like the National Association of Neighborhoods and the National Black Chamber of Commerce, not normally heard from in EPA rulemakings, have weighed in. Also, the proposed rule and supporting documents have been available on the Internet, and telecommunications technology has dramatically cut the cost and time needed to involve new people in the rulemaking.