EPA blames the Internet for its proposed rule

Apr 5, 2016

By Richard Karpel
NNA Public Policy

WASHINGTON—Because of the Internet.

That was the extent of the justification offered by the Environmental Protection Agency when the agency proposed a new rule late last year that would move many of its public notices from local newspapers to its own websites.

Under current rules, the EPA and its delegate agencies are required to announce most Clean Air Act permitting actions through public notices in newspapers. EPA’s proposal would eliminate that requirement in favor of what it calls “e-notices” on EPA websites. Standing alone, the new rule wouldn’t have a significant economic impact; EPA has only been spending about $40,000 per year for public notices in local newspapers.

However, the new rule sets a bad precedent for states and other federal agencies, especially because EPA appears to have felt little reason to justify its decision. In its proposal, the agency made sweeping assumptions unsupported by evidence about the ability of “e-notices” to generate more awareness and promote greater civic engagement than public notices in newspapers. This evidence-free approach is at odds with the normal agency rulemaking process. Moreover, EPA has, or should have, data demonstrating the efficacy of “e-notice” because it has already eliminated newspaper notice for some types of CAA permitting actions.

The Public Notice Resource Center filed comments opposing the new rule on behalf of the newspaper industry. The National Newspaper Association joined the comments, along with 42 other newspaper groups, including most state press associations. NNA hopes to convince members of Congress to require EPA to take another look at the proposal after evaluating data about its potential impact.