EPA Pollution Prevention Strategy

Pollution prevention, while not new to the EPA, has emerged as a priority in the 1990s. This prioritization represents a fundamental change from the historical interpretation of the agency's mission as protecting human and environmental health through pollution control. The EPA's pollution control emphasis was to eliminate the options of releasing and transferring industrial pollution in the environment and to increase the cost of the remaining options of treatment and disposal. The net effect has been to encourage industry to limit their pollution through source reduction.

The formal shift in policies and priorities for the EPA is reflected in the 1990 passage of the CAAA and the Pollution Prevention Act. The EPA issued a pollution prevention strategy in 1991 to articulate its position and objectives. This policy serves the following two purposes:

To guide and direct incorporating pollution prevention into the EPA's existing regulatory and nonregulatory program

To specify a program with stated goals and a time for their accomplishment

The EPA's goal is to incorporate pollution prevention into every facet of its operations including enforcement actions, regulations, permits, and research.

This strategy confronts the institutional barriers that exist within the EPA which is divided along single environmental medium lines. The agency has accomplished the following:

Established an Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics which coordinates the agencywide pollution prevention policy

Created a Waste Minimization Branch in the Office of Solid Waste to coordinate waste minimization and pollution prevention under the RCRA Charged the EPA Risk Reduction Engineering Laboratory with conducting research on industrial pollution prevention and waste minimization technologies Developed a Pollution Prevention Advisory Committee to ensure that pollution prevention is incorporated throughout the EPA's programs

All areas of the EPA are developing initiatives to promote a pollution prevention ethic across the agency. These initiatives are characterized by the use of a range of tools including market incentives, public education and information, technical assistance, research and technology applications, and the traditional regulatory and enforcement actions. Examples include:

Establishing cash rewards for EPA facilities and individuals who devise policies and actions to promote pollution prevention

Public commending and publicizing of industrial facility pollution prevention success stories Coordinating the development and implementation of regulatory programs to promote pollution prevention Clustering rules to evaluate the cumulative impact of standards in industry, which encourage early investment in prevention technologies and approaches

The EPA is further implementing the 33/50 program which calls for the involuntary cooperation of industry in developing pollution prevention strategies to reduce environmental releases of seventeen selected chemicals by the year 1995 (see Section 3.1).

The EPA's pollution prevention program is multifaced and expansive. The Pollution Prevention Clearing-House (PPIC) provides current news and information on recent developments in this rapidly changing arena. The PPIC Technical Support Hotline is (703) 821-4800.

Three programs of interest are the Green Lights Program, the Golden Carrot Program, and the Energy Star Computers Program. These programs are described next.

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