* United Slates
Environmental Protection
Agency
Communications, Education,
And Public Affairs
(1703)
 EPA Environmental News
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1996
REPORT ON U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE ISSUED
Luk* C. Hester 202-260-1383
The United States has been a leader in 'environmental programs
for the past 25 years and "is entering a new phase in the evolution
of:. environmental protection,, .one that emphasises the positive
relationship 'between' a' healthy' environment and a prosperous
economy,'' according to a new report by the independent^ Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which comprises the
United States and 25 other industrial nations.
"There is no evidence that the (U.S.) economy has been
adversely affected as a whole by strong environmental protection
policies," the report says. It also cites the growing
international market in environmental goods and services and the
range of new, cost-effective approaches to environmental protection
underway throughout the country, such as EPA's Common Sense
Initiative and other industry-government voluntary programs.
Certain U.S. practices and policies are cited as exemplary,
such, as i environmental impact assessment, public participation,
access to environmental information and* right-torknow/ policies,
strong compliance and -enforcement, emissions trading, sound science
as the basis for decision making and international environmental
leadership.
"The OECD reaffirms our belief that we can protect the
environment and public health in ways that make both economic and
environmental sensesaid EPA Administrator Carol M. - Browner.
"We must move forward with our common-sense, cost effective efforts
to protect the environment, and maintain our international
leadership."
The OECD, an independent Paris-based entity, has conducted
similar reviews in Germany, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Japan,
Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria and
Canada. The U.S. review, conducted throughout the country, vas
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based on'ah examination of documents as well as meetings with more
than 400 individuals from federal, state and local governmentst. .
industry, non-government organizations, labor unions and academic
institutions. The findings address environmental management in
the United States since 1970 including achievements in pollution
control, ecosystem management, integration of economic and
environmental concerns, and US involvement in North American and
global environmental affairs*
While citing the U.S. as a large generator of waste, the
report says, "The U.S. has established responsible and realistic
goals for waste management and is implementing them vigorously.n
The report also notes that natural resources such as water
and energy are underpriced and thus overused, and recommends a
review of government financial assistance for sewerage, waste
water treatment and irrigation, and grazing on public lands in
light of the polluter pays principle and the user pays principle.
Other recommendations for environmental policy cnanges in -
the United states include: The streamlining of the U.S. .
regulatory system; more performance-based programs while
simultaneously maintaining environment and health standards; an
alteration in the new-chemical notification system to include
fewer substances with testing requirements; and for EPA to more
thoroughly assess existing chemicals that are used in high
volume.
A fact sheet on the 275-page report is available by calling
202-260-1383. Limited copies of the report are available to the
media by calling 202-260-1383. Copies also are available from
the.OECD bookstore in Washington, D.C. 202-785-6323.
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FACTSHEET
OECD ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW
OF THE UNITED STATES
The environmental performance review of the United States is part of a program of
reviews launched by Environment Ministers of member countries of the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1991, and endorsed by G-7 Heads of State
at the London Economic Summit. It was carried out by an 11-member team of experts from
Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, and the OECD Secretariat The OECD report is
based on an examination of several hundred documents as well as meetings with more than 400
individuals from federal, state and local governments, industry, non-governmental organizations,
labor unions, and academic institutions in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Austin, El Paso,
Washington, DC, Annapolis, Wilmington, Chicago, SanFrancisco, Sacramento, and Portland,
Oregon. The OECD report was examined and approved by representatives of OECD countries at
a meeting in Paris in November 1995.
Excerpts from the OECD Report/all items are direct ouotesV
Integrating Environment and Economy
Hie United States is entering a new phase in the evolution of environmental protection, one that
emphasizes the positive relationship between a healthy environment and a prosperous economy, as
well as cost-effectiveness in environmental management. p37 Although significant expenditure
has been devoted to environmental protection (over $120 billion in 1992), there is no evidence
that the economy has been adversely affected as a whole by strong environmental protection
policies. p236
In most cases, the focus of US environmental policy is still on separate issues rather than on
comprehensive policies, and on remedying environmental deterioration rather than on preventing
such deterioration through actions addressing its underiying causes: urban sprawl, energy use,
consumption patterns, etc. p244
Water and Biodiversity Management
A significant proportion of rivers and. lakes remain unsuitable for swimming and fishing... the
decline in the area of wetlands has not yet been halted and the number of threatened and
endangered species is still growing. p236 Knowledge about the conditions and trends of
biodiversity in the United States is limited... The "no net loss" wetlands policy goal is a positive
example of a concrete goal in the field of biodiversity management, but there is no overall set of
national objectives for biodiversity. p60-61
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The 1972 Clean Water Act has been used veiy effectively in reducing point discharges... A
rigorous, nationwide compliance assurance system enforces permit conditions. Municipal and
industrial waste water treatment plants are mostly large, well-managed units with permit
compliance rates of over 90 per cent. Good performance can also be seen in the management of
municipal sewage sludge. p239
...average US domestic water prices are among the lowest in the OECD and the mean cost of
, complying with requirements of the [Safe Drinking Water] Act is less than 7 pa* cent of average
annual water costs, or less than $10 per person. It would be consistent with the user pays
principle if the reauthorization of the Act were to require all compliance costs to be included in
water prices. p81
US taxpayers foot the bill for significant federal subsidies for a number of water-related
services.... Furthermore, some polluter categories benefit from privileges allowing them to avoid
costs: for example, the Clean Water Act exempts return flows from irrigated agriculture and
storm water from oil, gas and mining operations from the NPDES permitting process, and hence
from waste water treatment costs. p84
Waste Management
The United States still records the largest per capita generation of municipal waste in the OECD...
present efforts in waste reduction still appear too small... p241
... Part of the difficulty appears to be the complexity of the RCRA and CERCLA processes. For
example, the definition of "waste" and "hazardous waste" has plagued RCRA since 1976.
Despite the myriad difficulties, perhaps the time has come to reopen this debate. pl04
There is no national strategy among federal agencies that have programs for regulatory
responsibility for waste management on tribal lands, nor are tribes adequately trained in waste
management and enforcement procedures. The result is a lack of infrastructure and funding: there
is little recycling; many open dumps still operate and wh
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pollution. p242 A sizeable fraction of the US population is still exposed to air of unsatisfactory
quality. p236
TheAcid Rain Program is proving to bea success..The S02 allowance trading system is an
example of the pioneering efforts in the United States oh emissions trading....These experiences
would prove instructive to many other countries. pl23 Nevertheless, the United States has today
some of the highest emission rates per capita and per unit of GDP among OECD countries for
S02 and NOx, and one of the most energy-intensive economies... p243 In comparison with
European countries or Japan, the SOx abatement effort in North America has been progressing
rather slowly. p212
Reinventing Environmental Regulation
The promulgation of federal regulations and standards, as well as the issuance of permits by state
and local authorities, have often been hampered or delayed by litigation. Recent government
initiatives such as the 33/50 Program, the Common Sense Initiative and Reinventing
Environmental Regulation are attempting to address this problem, and such efforts should be
pursued with determination. pl22
...in preparing regulations, more and more emphasis is put on the need for cost-benefit analysis
and risk assessment to avoid using costly measures to solve less important environmental
problems. Because these methodologies entail much uncertainty, they cannot replace political
decision making and can easily be misused in judicial procedures. pl53
Shifting strategies too quickly, or adopting new strategies without proper evaluation of previous
ones, may lead to a feeling that environmental policy is part of a game between politicians and
successive administrations. There is clearly a need for a more consistent, long-term approach
towards integration of environmental and sustainable development concerns in governmental
activities. pl54 Consider making the national environmental goal-setting program an interagency
responsibility... produce more policy-relevant environmental information and indicators p245
The May 1995 accord between EPA and the states on a National Environmental Performance
Partnership System and the March 1995 act concerning unfunded mandates will contribute to a
new balance between a uniform federally defined, level playing field with respect to environmental
regulations and more decentralized and varied environmental policies. p244
Transportation,. Energy and Climate
The real price of gasoline is lower now than in 1950. pl75 Between 1983 and 1990, the number
of vehicle-kilometers traveled increased by 40 per cent, offsetting much of the improvement in
individual vehicle emissions. pl73 The heavy rdiance on the car is encouraged and supported by
the very low cost of vehicle use, which does not reflect true costs, including environmental costs.
p246
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.. .the United States remains one of the most energy-intensive economies among OECD countries.
With the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the Climate Change Action Plan, it has given itself new
tools to make progress again... Some voluntary programs,, such as the Green Lights Program,
have already begun gaining in effect... In spite of the difficulty of winning public acceptance, the
United States should continue to consider introducing higher energy taxes. pl23
The United States has a very important international role to play by reducing its own emissions of
greenhouse gases, especially C02; its progress or lack of progress in this area is likely to have a
strong influence on progress in other OECD countries. Reliance on voluntary measures may not
be sufficient to significantly modify long-established production and consumption patterns, based
oin abundant and cheap energy, and to stabilize C02 emissions at the 1990 level. p250
The Chemical Industry
The Toxics Release Inventory has proved a useful tool in stimulating the abatement of chemicals
to the environment... Thanks to a variety of environmental regulations and the increased
responsibility of management for environmental issues, the chemical industry has made major
environmental progress. p247
Notification concerning new chemicals puts very little burden on industry and trade because it
does not require testing... the overall process could be improved through selective incorporation
of testing requirements. Strengthening in this way the responsibility of the industry for its
products would be in line with the Responsible Care program. pl80
International Cooperation
Overall the US performance in the area of international environmental cooperation over the past
25 years has been outstanding. p248 [in the U.S.-Mexico border area] Good progress has been
made in the area of enforcement of standards and regulations, public participation and access to
information... Nevertheless...the degradation of environmental conditions does not yet seem to
have been reversed.... maquiladoras, which are often US owned, should contribute more to water
pollution abatement and control p213
As long as US environmental policy was in the forefront in comparison with other [OECD]
Member countries, the position frequently taken by the United States in international
environmental negotiations to seek adoption of what is already accepted in domestic
environmental law promoted significant progress when other countries agreed to align their policy
with the US policy. Now, however, the environmental policies of a number of Member countries
have progressed to the point that the United States is no longer in the forefront on all international
issues. Hence the traditional US position could become an obstacle to promoting further
international cooperation if the United States were to weaken its current strong environmental
agenda. p231
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Washington 20004
202-568-0558

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