Senator Jim Inhofe
Environment and Public Works Committee
Hearing on Enforcement Issues
Tuesday June 10, 1997

Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today's hearing on the relationship between the Federal and State governments in the enforcement of environmental laws. This is a very important area and I am glad we are having this hearing today.

As the chairman of the Clean Air and Wetlands Subcommittee, I will be looking at the enforcement of these programs very carefully in the months to come. I am particularly concerned about the enforcement of several of the Clean Air regulations particularly the new "Credible Evidence Rule," the planned enforcement activities for the "enhanced monitoring rule," and the manner in which the EPA has been threatening to cut-off highway funds to the States. But these are issues I prefer to address in separate Clean Air hearings or in the ISTEA reauthorization process.

Today, I think it is important to address the overall enforcement program of the Federal government. I have two main concerns that reach across all environmental laws.

1) The States are in the best position to enforce the environmental laws and regulations.

The EPA should be limited to an oversight role for consistency only and for providing advice to the States. They should not be in the business of second guessing States or playing the big bully on the block. I realize that the majority of enforcement actions are taken by States, but we are now twenty-five years into our nation's environmental programs and the States should take an even greater role. It is time for us to acknowledge that the states can and should take a greater role in environmental programs, and enforcement issues are an excellent example. The States can often accomplish activities in a more efficient manner.

I would like to highlight one example. While this is not an enforcement case, it is a Superfund cleanup case that I mentioned at our last Superfund hearing. It shows that the States are better equipped to clean up sites faster and more efficiently than the Federal government, which in turn provides for a cleaner environment.

The example was two refinery waste sites in Oklahoma, Sand Springs and Vinita. Both are owned by the same company. The clean up at Vinita was directed by the State of Oklahoma, it cost almost one third as much as the Federal site per cubic yard of waste ($92 verses $262 per cubic yard) and only took three years verses eleven years at the Federal site in Sand Springs.

After I used this example, the EPA responded with a letter to members of the Committee explaining how I was wrong. I would like to offer the EPA letter as well as a response by the company into the record. As you can see by these letters, the EPA missed my point. Comparing the cost of cubic yard to cubic yard for the same waste, the State site was faster and cheaper. My point then, as it is today, is that there are some activities the States do more efficiently which should be left to the States.

2) We should get away from enforcement action bean-counting.

I would like to hear some suggestions today on how to get away from enforcement bean counting. Imposing large fines on someone for failure to file a form properly does not help anyone including the environment, except as another notch on the belt of the inspector. We need to change the climate on enforcement-bean counting. I'm sure some of you will say it is changing or it has changed; but I disagree. The well-publicized news reports last fall about the Department of Justice complaining that the EPA had not referred enough cases in 1996 is proof that it is the quantity of cases that counts, not the quality. While this may very well be a result of Congressional budget influences, we need to get away from this.

If the Agency works out a program for the States to provide assistance to the regulated community to ensure compliance with the environmental laws, and quits measuring success by the number of cases filed, fines collected, or people jailed; then our environment will be protected and I will be the first to defend the Agency here in Congress.

I am glad to see Mark Coleman from Oklahoma here today, I welcome his testimony and that of the other witnesses.