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Implementation of the Noise Control Act

In 1981, Congress agreed to the Administration's proposal to cease funding for the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Congress, however, did not repeal the Noise Control Act when it eliminated ONAC's funding.

Before the elimination of ONAC, EPA engaged in a wide variety of activities to abate noise pollution under authority of the Noise Control Act and, after 1978, the Quiet Communities Act. These included identifying sources of noise for regulation, promulgating noise emission standards, coordinating federal noise research and noise abatement, working with industry and international, state and local regulators to develop consensus standards, disseminating information and educational materials, and sponsoring research concerning the effects of noise and the methods by which it can be abated. The Quiet Communities Act authorized EPA to provide grants to state and local governments for noise abatement.

EPA ceased most noise abatement activities after ONAC's funding was eliminated. Since that time the following circumstances have developed. Existing federal noise emission and labeling standards have not been subjected to critical evaluation for a decade, despite the evolution of relevant science and technology and a better understanding of the effects of noise on the population. EPA has been unable to provide technical assistance to state and local governments or to participate in private standard-setting efforts. State and local governments have been preempted from adopting their own noise emission and labeling standards that differ from EPA standards for sources or products that EPA has regulated. Noise abatement programs run by states and localities have declined significantly, and some private rights to bring tort actions under common law may be affected by possibly outmoded EPA emission and labeling standards. In addition, the reduction in the level of coordination between the United States and foreign government agencies concerning noise abatement standards and regulations has a potential impact on U.S. international trade. Finally, it appears that the problem of environmental noise is just as great, or possibly greater, than it was a decade ago.

42.U.S.C. ßß4901-4918 (1988)
42 U.S.C. ß4913 (1988)

* EPA does, however, use minimal resources for the purpose of engaging in limited enforcement of existing noise regulations, disseminating information created during ONAC's existence, and commenting on environmental impact statements issued by the Federal Aviation Administration concerning airport noise. Responsibility for the enforcement of EPA's railroad and motor carrier emission standards is located in the Department of Transportation, which has funding for this purpose. The Department, however, does not have authority to promulgate new or amended emission standards different from those adopted by EPA.


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