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The Environmental Forum

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Throughout 1984, and particularly in the past six or seven months, it has become increasingly clear that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been accelerating its research and regulatory efforts in the area of hazardous air pollutants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. The flurry of agency activity has included statements before congressional committees and several regulatory actions. This work is quickly approaching a regulatory crisis. Congress, moreover, undoubtedly will address Section 112 issues as part of any reauthorization of the Air Act. As evidence of Congress's continuing concern, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mi.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced a bill in the closing week of the last Congress to amend Section 112 by providing EPA with increased regulary flexibility.

The intense regulatory efforts and legislative interests are symptoms of an underlying crisis faced by EPA due to the current language in Section 112. The section requires the Administrator to list as hazardous those pollutants which, in his judgment, cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness. The listing of a pollutant triggers the Administrator's responsibility to develop emission standards that will protect public health with an amply margin of safety.

The crisis faced by the agency is being produced by a forced confluence of two regulatory policies developed in isolation from each other and designed separately in such a way that they do not produce reasonable results when they are merely joined together. These regulatory policies derive from the air dispersion modeling efforts in the air program and the hazard evaluation techniques for cancer in the water and pesticide regulatory areas.



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