Where's the Beef?
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.