Statement of Sen. James Inhofe
Environmental Audit Laws
October 30, 1997

Mr. Chairman, Thank you for holding this important hearing today. Voluntary environmental audits are fast becoming one of the best tools to identify and eliminate violation of our environmental laws. By enacting laws that promote businesses to engage in voluntary audits, we encourage them to become partners in the effort to control pollution. Rather than the EPA and industry assuming adversarial roles, they will be striving for the same goal. Unfortunately, I have a couple of concerns about the EPA that lead me to believe they are not willing to reach out and make the effort to work with supporters of this measure to make environmental audits a meaningful pollution control tool.

I understand that the EPA does have a policy regarding environmental audits. However, I do not think it adequately addresses the concerns of most businesses. For a voluntary environmental law to be truly effective, participants must have assurances that full and honest disclosure will not result in massive fines and years of litigation due to lawsuits from the federal government and outside organizations. My first concern revolves around the core mission of the EPA. I believe that the EPA should, above all else, work to ensure that environmental laws are being complied with. Instead, the EPA would rather focus their money and efforts on enforcement and the issuance of penalties.

My second concern involves the treatment of states that have passed voluntary environmental laws. As you may be aware, twenty-four states have passed voluntary environmental laws of some sort. When the EPA disagrees with the law that a state passes, they threaten to withhold or revoke delegation of federal authority under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other federal environmental statutes. By ignoring the desires of the states and blackmailing them into submission, the EPA demonstrates the prevailing attitude that they are elitists in an ivory tower.

Finally, the EPA needs to respect and honor the decisions of states to pass laws that are best for their communities. As a former mayor and state official, I know that the state legislatures have a better pulse on policy that will be most effective in their state. Additionally, states have the resources and expertise to carry out environmental policy in the most productive manner and we need to encourage and allow them to continue on this course.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for holding this important hearing and I thank all of our witnesses for being here this morning. I look forward to hearing from all of you.