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Clean Air Act

Developing Clean Air Programs Through Dialogue

Consulting with stakeholders, as well as government partners, is an important part of EPA's efforts to implement the Act.

Working with Stakeholders to Design and Implement Clean Air Programs

Image of EPA air officials holding round table discussion with stakeholders in February 2011EPA has learned from experience that working closely with stakeholders and government partners can lead to better programs that are more effective and efficient, and win broader support. Dialogue and partnerships are an important part of EPA's efforts to reduce pollution under the Clean Air Act through regulatory programs and voluntary partnership programs.

For regulatory programs, EPA often has discussions early in the rulemaking process with government partners (federal, state, local and tribal) and with interested parties such as affected industries, environmental groups, and communities. After a rule is complete, EPA works with government partners and stakeholders to achieve effective implementation.

Over the years, EPA has used both formal and informal processes for engaging stakeholders. For example, soon after the 1990 amendments, formal regulatory negotiations produced agreements on proposed rules to prevent toxic emissions from equipment leaks, set requirements for cleaner “reformulated” and “oxygenated” gasolines, and cut toxic emissions from steel industry coke ovens. Informal talks and consultation with advisory committees produced agreement on rules that controls acid rain and phase out chlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the stratospheric ozone layer.

Image of citizens speaking to EPA air officials during a March 2011 public listening sessionToday, EPA continues to use informal engagement processes to develop proposals that reflect the expertise and concerns of affected industries, citizen groups, and government partners, as well as to achieve effective program implementation.

EPA also works closely with partners in government, industry and the public through voluntary partnership programs under the Clean Air Act. Through these programs, EPA helps businesses, the public and governments take actions that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and conventional air pollutants, and protect people from exposure to pollution-caused harm. Many of these programs have additional benefits such as improving energy efficiency, reducing oil imports, and saving consumers money.

Examples of EPA Dialogue with Stakeholders

Light-Duty Greenhouse Gas Standards for Model Years 2012-2025

Extensive stakeholder outreach was key to the successful effort by EPA and the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop the first National Program of harmonized standards to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve fuel economy from cars and light trucks. These standards, broadly supported by stakeholders, will result in significant GHG and oil savings and save consumers money at the gas pump.

The first phase of the program, for model year 2012-2016, was issued in April 2010. The second phase, for model years 2017-2025, was issued in August 2012. This combined program represents the most significant federal action ever taken to reduce GHG emissions and improve fuel economy.

As EPA typically does for major air rules, in developing the GHG proposals, EPA met extensively with a wide range of stakeholders. They included automakers, automotive suppliers, labor unions, consumer groups, environmental interest groups, state and local governments, and national security experts and veterans. As requested in a May 2010 Presidential Memorandum, EPA and NHTSA coordinated extensively with California Air Resources Board (CARB) in developing the 2017-2025 standards to ensure a harmonized national program. The input from stakeholders was invaluable in ensuring that EPA had the most comprehensive set of data and other information possible to inform the proposals. For the 2017-2025 standards, the proposed rulemaking was preceded by several other opportunities for formal public comment, including the release of an Interim Joint Technical Support Document, and three Notices of Intent describing our preliminary technical analyses and plans for the proposed program.

EPA received extensive public comments after the GHG proposals were issued. For example, for the 2017-2025 rulemaking, the agency heard testimony from nearly 400 people during three public hearings held across the country, and received nearly 300,000 written public comments. The final standards took into consideration this significant public input.

<Learn more about the standards>

Voluntary Partnerships to Reduce Agricultural Methane Emissions

In the AgSTAR voluntary partnership program, EPA collaborates with the nation's agriculture industry and others to reduce methane emissions through the use of biogas recovery systems to manage animal waste. The program encourages adoption of anaerobic digestion technology across the U.S. through education, technical support and stakeholder outreach efforts. About 200 anaerobic digesters are operating today, reducing over 1 million metric tons of CO2e every year. That provides the same benefits as reducing gasoline consumption by almost 168 million gallons.  

AgSTAR's success in promoting anaerobic digestion is due largely to EPA's close collaboration with stakeholders.  For example, EPA distributes information gathered from stakeholders on ways to make these systems more profitable, such as successful business models and additional revenue streams from system co-products. Collaboration often involves brainstorming solutions to barriers facing the industry. AgSTAR then works to facilitate these solutions, either by undertaking activities or convening key groups who can. Examples include publishing data on biogas recovery system performance, or bringing together states to examine examples of more streamlined state permitting processes.

To share their insights, individual industry members schedule office visits or side meetings at conferences. Additionally, the program works closely with industry associations such as the American Biogas Council and the Innovation Center for US Dairy, where AgSTAR also serves as a member of the Sustainability Council. Finally, AgSTAR offers state-level agencies, educational institutions, and other non-profit organizations in this sector the opportunity to become official AgSTAR State Partners, who come together to discuss ideas and share best practices for promoting biogas recovery at livestock operations. By building relationships across these stakeholder groups, AgSTAR lays the groundwork for successful public-private sector collaboration.

Stakeholder Dialogue on Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

EPA’s extensive discussions with diverse stakeholder groups and state partners influenced the design of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants. These standards limit toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired electric power plants.

Before the close of the public comment period for the rulemaking, EPA met individually with various groups to seek their input, including:

  • The power industry, including companies and trade associations
  • Vendors of air pollution control and monitoring technology and their trade association
  • Environmental and public health groups
  • State agencies through their national organizations
  • Tribes
  • Labor unions
  • Engineering firms
  • Regional transmission operators that distribute electric power

Some of the MATS provisions that reflect these discussions include:

  • Compliance time: Some of the stakeholders raised concerns about adequate time for compliance and potential harm to electricity reliability if plants had to shut down because they were not ready to comply on time. The Clean Air Act allows sources up to three years to come into compliance, but also allows the permitting agency (usually the state environmental agency) to provide an additional year for compliance if it is needed for “installation of controls.” In response to timing concerns, EPA encouraged states to make a fourth year for compliance “widely available,” where needed to ensure electricity reliability is maintained. In addition, the agency provided a clear pathway for units that are shown to be critical for electricity reliability to obtain a schedule with up to an additional year to achieve compliance under an administrative order. This pathway is described in a separate enforcement policy.
  • Alternative SO2 standard: Some of the stakeholders told EPA that it would be burdensome and unnecessary for plants to monitor for acid gases if they were already monitoring for SO2. This is because controls for SO2 also remove acid gases from the flue gas. In response, EPA set alternative standards for SO2 so that a plant with an SO2 monitor could avoid the expense of HCL monitoring to show compliance with acid gas standards.
  • Other provisions: Other provisions of the rule that reflect dialogue with stakeholders include:
    • An appropriate standard for mercury in boilers designed to burn very low rank coal.
    • The option for existing sources, and the requirement for new sources, to comply with output-based standards, an approach that some stakeholders suggested to encourage energy efficiency at the plant.

GHG Reporting Program Outreach Efforts

EPA actively sought input from stakeholders during the development and implementation of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule through holding technical meetings. Outreach efforts targeted variety of stakeholders including states, NGOs, industry trade associations and the regulated community. To date, the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) has held nearly 500 outreach meetings, webinars, and public hearings.

Partly in response to stakeholder input, the GHGRP developed a wide range of outreach tools to communicate with the regulated community. These include extensive website postings for every action taken and efforts to highlight public comment periods for rules, information collection requests, and other Federal Register notices. The GHGRP provides electronic communication to reporters about the reporting system and maintains a “help desk” to answer questions on how to report GHG data.

EPA made the electronic GHG reporting system (known as “e-GGRT”) available to the reporting community prior to finalizing and launching the software. Over a thousand stakeholders tested the software and provided feedback.

EPA program staff facilitated formation of a group composed of states with voluntary or mandatory reporting programs to discuss GHG data collection and exchange issues, including harmonization of states’ GHG reporting requirements with EPA’s requirements.

To assist the public with using the GHG data, the publication tool focused on user-friendly tools that enable searches, for example, on specific industries, greenhouse gases, amount of emissions, facility identification number, and geographic location. EPA encouraged feedback from the public on ways to improve the publication tool during user testing. In response to requests from the academic and research communities that are interested in detailed data, EPA will begin publishing all non-confidential business information through the Agency’s ENVIROFACTS portal.

Stakeholder input during development and implementation of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule has improved the collection of GHG data and helped make it more accessible to the public.

<Learn more about the program>

Listening to Citizens

The Clean Air Act and Administrative Procedures Act guarantee that every citizen has opportunities to provide comments on any air pollution rule proposed by EPA.

EPA publishes every proposed rule in the Federal Register. Any citizen can provide written comments on any proposed rule, and these comments are placed in an electronic docket. EPA must respond in writing to each substantive comment and must place its responses in the docket, the official rulemaking record.

EPA also must offer the opportunity for public hearings on proposed rules. For important rules, two or more public hearings may be held at different locations in the country to give the opportunity for citizens to express their views to agency officials.

The statements of citizens who submit comments to the docket are given the same weight as those of citizens who are able to attend the hearings.

Visit the docket: Regulations.gov

Seeking Guidance from Diverse Stakeholders and Experts

EPA regularly seeks advice from a Clean Air Act Advisory Committee composed of diverse stakeholders and experts. This standing advisory committee includes members from industry, environmental and community groups, state, local and tribal governments, and academia. The committee, established in 1990, advises the Agency on clean air policy, economic, and enforcement issues. EPA continues to meet regularly with the committee to obtain advice on clean air issues facing the agency.

Clean Air Act Advisory Committee web page

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