WASHINGTON, DC - A report issued today by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes the Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of the Clean Air Act air toxics program has been inadequate, with substantial opportunities to reduce emissions of cancer-causing air toxics remaining undressed by the EPA. The report, requested by Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) and 12 other Members of Congress, was intended to assess the EPA’s implementation of this key Clean Air Act program. The GAO report states that, “While EPA has made some progress in implementing its air toxics program mandated by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, most of its regulatory actions were completed late and major aspects of the program have still not been addressed... (T)he agency lacks a comprehensive strategy for completing the unmet requirements or estimates of resources necessary to do so.” According to GAO: "95 percent of all Americans face an increased likelihood of developing cancer from air toxics---pollutants such as benzene, asbestos and chlorine-- by breathing outdoor air (Page 1); “EPA faces significant challenges in implementing the air toxics program, many of which stem from its relatively low priority within the agency. Importantly the agency lacks as comprehensive strategy for managing its implementation of the remaining air toxics requirements.” (Page 5); Of 493 requirements applicable to the agency, only 12 have been met on time; 202 were met late and 89 have not been met and are past due. Another 150 requirements remain unmet, although not yet due. (Page 16); “As a result of the limited progress in implementing these requirements, EPA has not reduced human health risks from air toxics to the extent and in the time frames envisioned in the Act” (Page 15); “While EPA may have been driven by certain deadlines in the act, some state and local officials said that the agency has chosen to focus on certain large stationary sources even though the EPA’s data suggests that emission from small stationary sources and mobile sources may pose greater risks.” (Page 36). Jeffords, the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has been a champion for clean air during more than 40 years of public service. “This report confirms that EPA has abdicated its responsibility to protect our citizens from dangerous, cancer-causing pollutants,” said Jeffords. "When we passed the Clean Air Act in 1990, we gave EPA clear instructions that it needed to make toxic air pollutants a top priority. It is a shameful fact that EPA has treated air toxics as a ‘low priority.’ We need comprehensive oversight of this program and a plan for getting it back on track immediately.” Senator Boxer said, “The EPA should act immediately on the GAO’s recommendations to reduce toxic pollutants in the air. The harm done by these pollutants can be measured in human lives and human suffering, and there is no excuse for EPA’s failure to protect the American people.” “With this GAO report, there should be no doubt that reducing toxic air pollutants is not a priority at the EPA,” said Senator Olympia Snowe. “For Maine, toxic air pollution is a cruel injustice as it is our geographic location that is the primary reason for our poor air quality. Yet, if we do not act at the federal level, the impact on our nation’s public health will indeed be severe. The GAO found, for example, that 95 percent of all Americans face an increased likelihood of developing cancer from air toxics like benzene, asbestos and chlorine just by breathing the air outside. This is too serious a problem for EPA to ignore. As the federal agency responsible for the protection of our environment, the EPA must develop a plan for improving the management of its air toxics program by taking the necessary regulatory actions as required under the 1990 Clean Air Act.” Please click here to see the GAO report.