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The EPA announced on Wednesday a new policy to broaden its consulting efforts with intergovernmental partners when new regulations and policies cost more than $25 million each. The previous consultation threshold was $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."
The outgoing action of the Bush Administration expands upon one of the last major changes to executive bureaucracy of the Clinton Administration, by updated Executive Order 13132, Federalism, which directed the federal government to respect the rights of states. Specifically, 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, the EPA said it determined a need for state and local input on a wider range of regulations and is lowering the consultation threshold to $25 million.
According to agency officials, EPA's action comes at a time when state and local officials are calling for a stronger working relationship with their federal partners in 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 President-elect Obama 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 the EPA will consult under its new Federalism policy.