In a paper published June 12, 2017, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) calls for a “recalibration” of state and federal roles in order to achieve more effective environmental management at lower cost. ECOS’ proposal, which it calls “Cooperative Federalism 2.0,” encourages states and federal regulators to collaborate more closely to “build on the foundations of national statutes, learn from the innovations and successes of state programs, and confidently meet the challenge of providing 21st century environmental protection.”
ECOS identifies several key roles that the states and the U.S. EPA respectively should assume in working toward development, implementation, and improvement of environmental regulations. On the state side of the line, ECOS urges states to:
- partner actively with federal regulators to develop standards as well as shared services, implementation toolkits, and other key resources to facilitate efficient permitting and reporting functions;
- serve as the primary implementing and enforcement authority for programs delegated to the states;
- implement national programs in a way that achieves federal standards while accounting for the specific geophysical, ecological, social, and economic circumstances of their states;
- collaborate with local governments, regulated entities, tribes, and the broader public to identify and address community and equity concerns related to program implementation;
- ensure transparency and information sharing with federal regulators and the public; and
- pursue innovative solutions for environmental issues at the state level, including through implementation of state standards more stringent or broader in scope than federal requirements.
On the federal side, ECOS calls on the EPA to:
- continue to take the lead on establishing national minimum standards intended to protect public health and the environment, and to ensure states are involved early and frequently in the development of those standards;
- recognize states as primarily responsible for implementation of federal environmental regulations, but be prepared to lead implementation of those programs where states either decline to do so or fail to implement such programs appropriately;
- ensure appropriate consultation with Native American tribes in implementing federal environmental policies;
- audit state implementation programs routinely to ensure adequate achievement of federal standards;
- facilitate multi-state solutions to pollutant-related interstate issues; and
- continue to engage in robust scientific research to inform development of national standards based on sound science, responses to complex and emerging environmental pollution challenges.
In carrying out these responsibilities, ECOS urges state and federal regulators to focus on continual review, improvement and reformation of the EPA and states’ working relationship, and highlights ensuring adequate capital and operating resources as a key priority. In a press release accompanying the paper, ECOS expresses its hope that the paper will lead to improvement of environmental and public health protection efforts and outcomes, efficient allocation and deployment of resources, and fewer disputes over decision-making authority, among other things.