Progress Made by Federal Agencies in Implementing the Noise Control Act of 1972

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-11-07.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                            DOC18BUI   RItUPR
04012 -   B31114373]
[Progress lade by Federal Agencies in Isplementiag the loise
Control Act of 1972 ].-_fZ_78-; 8-166506. Nowveobe 7, 1977.
Released November 9, 1S77. 2 pp. + enclosure 46 pp.).
Report to Rep. FLed. B. Roone%, Chairsan, House Cosmittee on
Interstate and Foreign Conmexcs Trw.asportation and CGirjce
subcomnittee; by Robert P. Keller Acting Coaptzroll   General.
Issue Area: Bnvironmental Protection Prograas: Iffectivenoss of
    Regulatory S+rat+.gies (2208).
Contact: Coosuaity -ud Economic Develcpmenat Div-
Budget Function: Natural Revources Isnviroanent, ar4         ergIs
    Pollution Control  and Abatesent  (3   4V..
Organization Concerned: D*partment of ITr?      gottations
    Environesatal P.otec ion Agency; Pefral Aviation
Congressional Relevancest ouse cosaittee oaw xstestteWA
    Foreign Commerce: Transportationa aa Caoen "         u-cou ettee
Authority: (oise Control Act of 1972 (42 U.S.C. *0I01
          There has been progqess in tBh .rcal, o1Veo fntfs
noiae abatemcnt program since Aisil 1977. be mst Aispotant
actioa caken since then wea the isea*e by                             saa
Protection  Agency    (EPA)  of  a   strategy   docsenwt   for  t A;'

,oise cuntrol progrqa.      ThiJ document is a first - Lgt4 the
development of   a  unified,    national effort to reece Aisce
pollution. The   comments    on  the stzategy teceived ftoa othe
Govrnment agencies,      State   and local governsents, private
indLetry, and  the   public     Oere                    t- ,
                                      generally in agesea         itk the
issues  discussed  in   the  strategy.      Iin  ingi/Coiclamiolmt
Although nuasrous regulatory measures are available tc control
noise, zany of then have not been utilised to their full
potential, ircluding technical assistance to State and local
governments, coordination of the numerces fedeoal progr'-
concerning noise control, and the labeling of anoisy j.odut&.
The progress made in the coordination of Federal research and in
development of labelina regulations has been significant. a
major reorganl-ation plan announced by the Secretary of
Transportatioii vill, when isplns~A-V-           eliminate the Office of
Noise Abateseat within the Office          of t'e   SeEretazr and transfer
noise  control  aclvities     to   the  various   operating
administrations. It is too soon to detastiae what effect this
reorganization will have on noise abasteent activities in the
overall transportation area. There are still significant
differences beteen EPA and the Federal Aviation Adkiaistration
with regard to aviation noise control shich wiAi continue vutil
Congress clarifies its intent nder the Noise Control Act. (SC)
 V-1Gb   54t;
                                             OV   7

                       by   ;:   i. WAN   O.C.                 Va

 The Honoroblc Fred IB.Rooney
 ChaIragn, 5ubcommi. tee on
   Trnnarportbti~cn :4nd Comrerce
 Conmmittee on Inters.ate and
   foreiqn Com,,tt'rce
 Housa of nleprotentatives
 Dear Mr,       Chairnant
       Yo-j requentta in your April 28, 1377,
 continue to monit-r t;e p:ogress              letter that we
                                    made by thi? Federal agencies
in iwtme'ntcIng9 t,.e
                   ,  oit e Control Act oL 1972, and provide
you wfth quarterly reports.    You also requested the two
aajor aqgenJeu tnvolve 4-- the Department
                                          of Trenbportation
and tV.i Lnvironmkntal Protecticn Ao-r.cy--to
quartftly ripLots on their progre*s.          provide you with

       Tho Envi r:ntnmerntal PkteLcqion Agercy
r¢p'irt to you on July 8, 197/. The             (EPA) sent its first
(DOwT! snt tt. ruvrrt on September 16,    Department  of TransportatLon
byt your office, our report was delayed      1977. As requested
report5 could he nnalyzed by us.             until the agencies'

        tn gnoeraJ, there has been progress
 Governmtnt-'s roite %batement program         in the Federal
 your Subhemmittee in April 1977. That    since   the hearings before
 that the proqra.il 1i yet run ing effectively. not mean, however,
 previoun prcoblem have been elleviated,             Some of the
of a notlue .tra'eqy, while others,          such   as the issuance
between EPA and DOT on aircraft noise  like the disagreement
                                           continues. A new problen
concernini railioad noine has emerged
  aourt .nrtlon and future problemns could as a result of recent
ab-.lftihon itm c:ntral noise abatement be in the worts as DOT
funding cuta In itn noise progiLd.         office and EPA faces
                                        Details on these matters
are copntrined In the enclosure to this
       We mot with DOT and EPA officials and
c'%me.itt to the extent appropriate              have- recognized their
                                       in finalizing our repcrt.

      As arranged with your office, we will make this reoort
avsilabl-e to the Department of Transportation and the Environ-entel
Protection Agency two days after the issue'ate

                                 sincerely yours,

                      Al TI:;N   Comptrolle, Geneal
                                 of the United StAte';

ENCLOSURL                                           ENCLOSURE

                    FI:RT PROGRESS REPORT
                     ON IMPLEMENT.TION Cr
               THE NOISE CONTROL ACT OF 1976

     The object!ver of the Noise Control Act of 1972 (42
U.S.C. 4901)--the first comprehensive noise control
legislation passed ty Congress--are to "promote an environment
for.all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their
health or . ifare" and "to establish a means for effective
coordination of Federal research and activities in noise
control." The act directs the Administrator of the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) to coordinate all Federal programs ol.
noise research and control, Identify and promulgate standards
for.major sources of noise, submit regulatory proposals to the
-Oderal Aviation Aoministcation (FAA) for control of aircraft/
airport noise, label noisy products, conduct and finance research
on the effects of noise, and propose regulations limiting the
ioise generated from interstate rail and motor carriers.

      In our report to the Congress dated March 7, 1977,
 (CED-77-42) titleSd Noise Pollu'tion--Federal Program to
 Control It Has Been Slow and Ineffective," we stated that
 although some progres&-has been made in fulfilling the require-
:ments of the Noise Act, implementation of .a.ay of the provisions
 has been slow and, i.1 some cases, ineffective. Scme of the
 problemr discussed in our report and in testirmony before the
 House Interstate and Foreign Commerce's Subcommittee on
Transpjortation and Commerce on April 19, 1977, as well as
 the 'souse Government Oneration'3 Subcommittee on Environment,
 Energy, and Natural Resources on April 4, 1977, were as followst

     --Onlyv four noise emission standards had been issued and
       these were from one to two years late.

     --EPA had submitted 11 proposals to the FAA vo- control
       of aircraft/airport noise, but little procrels had
       been made in issuing these regulations.

     --While EPA recognized early in 1974 that a strategy for a
       comprehensive nuyse prouram was needed, a fi;al version
       of s,,ch a strategy had not been pub2ished.

     --Little progress had been achieved in labeling noisy

     --The total noise research program of the Government had
       decreased since the act was passed.

     --EPA had failed to effectively coordinate Federal nolse
       research activities.
ENCLOSURE                                            ENCLTOSURE

     --EPA had not adequately assessed the status of Federal
       noise research as required by the act.

      As a result nf tho hearings held by the House Interstate
ana  Foreign Commerce's Subcommittee on Transoortation and
Commnerce, the Subcoumvittee Chairman requested ur to :ontinue
nronito;:ng the progress made by EPA and the other Federal
agencies resoonsible for implementing the Federal Govern:ie.t's
noine program.


     There has been progiess in the Fedetal Government's noi-e
abatement program since April 1977.   Much of the prcgress has
been previously reported  to the Subcommittee by the Department
of Transportation (nOT)  and EPA in thtir status reports.
Rather than discuss or reiterate the information provided
in the two agencies' first reports, we wil. address only the
most significant actions or areas which .,e feel need impFrove-
ment or would be of concern to the Subco-.tittee.

       In our opi:nion, the most. it.-,rtant action taken since
Apr il  '- /7, was the idsuarnce' by '-A. of a strategy document
for the Fe<,eral noise control profgam. This is essential
if the intent of the Congre-ss under tne Noise Control Act
is to be c... ;ieteil.  The strategy document, approved by
the EPA A:-.:i.istrator cn May 26, 1977, is a good first     step
in the devioprment of a unified, national       effort to redce
roise pollution. The comments on the strategy received from
other government agenties, State and local governments,
priv-'.e industry, a-id the public vete generally in agreement
with the issues discussed in the strategy.

      As -rated in the strategy document prepared by EPA,
numerou= regulatory measures are available to control noise,
but many of them have not yet been utilized to their fuli
potential.     %reas not previously utilized but which are given
priority in the strategy document are technical assistance
to State and local qoverinm-nts, coordination of the nume'cus
Federal oroatars concerning noise control, and the labeling
o:. nois:, prc(ducts.

      Tne progress made in trw of the major areas--coordination
.of Federal research and development of labeling regulations--
 has been significant.

      --The four research panels establish:ei by EPA to coordinate
        Feaeral research efforts, which were previously inactive

 kNCLOSURE                                             ENCLOSURE

       for almost two years, have been meeting on      .   regular
       basis and one of their major pro'ects is to assess taje
       noire research done ro date by the Fceral Government.

       This assessment cf the effectiveness of the Federal
       Government's noi.e research efforts was required by
       the act. The EPA assesrment report submitted to
       Congress in June 1975 was not adequate. ~In our
       March 1977 report we concluded that the assessment
       of research is necessary to make sure tne accomplish-
       ments and areas needing improvement in the Federal
       effort are known. EPA officials told us the research
       panels will meet in November and December of this vear
       to firalize plans for the publication of a revised
       assessment of the Federal noise research effort.
     --On June 22. 1977, ZPA proposed its first labeling
       :tgulation-in the Federal Register. This proposal
       covered hearing protectors. Also, the general
       provisions for product lab'eiing were published on
       the saine date. Public meetings were held on these
       general provisions in three cities: Washington, D.C.;
       Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Szn Francisco, California.
       According to an EPA official the general feeling of
       the p-blic and State and local governments towards
       the labeling program was favorable. No additional
       proposed regu.ations have been published, however,
       EPA plans to propose labeling regulations for other
       products in 1978.


      On July 20, 1977, the QOT Secretary announced a major
reorganization plan which when implemented will eliminate the
Office of Noise Abatement within the Office of the Secretary,
D&c.   *The missions and functions of this office will be
transferred to the varipus operating Administrations within
DOT (e.g. airc'aft noise activities of the Sec retary's
Office of Noise Abatement will be transferred to the FAA).
The DOT Stcretary stated that the various operating administra
tions have develope9 the capability to administer the noise
control activities of their respective areas of expertise.
It is too soon to determine what effect, if any, this reorqaniza-
tion will have on noise abatement activities in the overall
t: :nsportation area.


   , In cur report to the Congress 9n March 7, 1977, we
recommended that the Noise Control Act of 1972 be amended tol


SNC!rOSUAE                                             ENCLOSURE

       "CLange the penalty for violating the interstate
       motor carrier regulation from a criminal to a civil

       Require FAA to publish a notice in the Federal Register,
       within a specified time, as to whether the ioise
       atatement proposals sutmitted by EPA will be accepted,
        odi lied, or rpjected. If the proporaln   e to be
       modified or rejected, the reasons for iu   actions
       should also be stated."

     To date, neither of these two legislative recommendiations
have been introduced as amendments.


     In the EPA response to our report to the Congress EPA

       "...it would be appropriate for the Congress to explore
       the basic philosophict' approaches of the two agencies
       (FA.. and EPA) and to contrast the performance in the
       aviation area to the performance in other noise control
       areas set forth by the Act.     In EPA'S view the FAA's
       .egulations uncder Section 7 of the Act require- only
       'current practice,' while the EFA's regulations under
       Section 6 require ;best available technology.'       Since
       the specitic criteria   for  establishing  standards  differ
       in the  twe Sections of  the  Act, perhaps  the outcomes
       should also be different, but fundamental policy
       questiols divide the two agencies and they will continue
       to delay progress in the aviation noise area until
       Congress clarifies its intent."

     Based on our analysis of developments since that time,
it ippe~,rs to us that Lh"re are still significant differences
Detween EVA and FAA and that the diffe.erce will continue
until Congress clarifies its intent ur;der the Noise Control
Act of 1972.

     As stated in our March 1977 report to the Congress, the
Association of American Railroads had filed suit in the U.S.
Court of ApDeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting
a judicial review of the interstate railroad regulation
promulgated by EPA.   The Association's petition requested the
review because it did  not feel the regulation adequately
provided for national uniform treatment of the railroad industry.

      On Aucust 2j, 1977, the Court ruled that EPA Hmisinter-
 preted the clear statutory mandate (Section 17 of the Noise

ENe.LOSURE'                                         E£NCLOSURE

Act) to regulate the equipment and facilities of interstate
rail carriers" and ordered EPA to revise tU·e regulation by
August 23, 1978.

      Although tl.o Court ruled that the present regulation
Wilt remain in effect, the new regulation which is to be
derelo.e.d must contain a broader definition of railroad
equipment and facili.t.es.   The Court believes the definition
of equipment and facilities used by EPA in the existing
regulation was too narrow and therefore failed to meet the
intent of Section 17 of -he act. The Court also stated
that three Federal agencies with expertise in the railroad
area--Depart-mnts of Commerce, Transportation, and the
Interstate Commerce Commission--alsc disagreed with EPA's
decision not to regulate all equipment and facilities.


     Although the coordination aspects of the act appear
to be improving with the continuing activity of the inter-
agency research panels, a recent incident indicates that
problems may still exist.   Since DOT and the National
Aeronautics and Space Administrati~,: (NASA) had performed
various tests on the Concordc sitpersonic aircraft,
several Congressmen, on Auqust 4, 1977, requested UOT
and NASA to assist in the development of a iow-frequency
vibration index for the Concorde.    The Congressmen asked
GAO to monitor these efforts.

     Since DOT and NASA are members with EPA on two of the
interagency research panels, it would appear appropriate
for them tQ have contacted EPA for their opinicn, since
EPA had previously taken the position that additional low-
frequency efforts were needed.  However, EPA was not mnade
aware of this activity until notified by GAO.  Subsequently,
EPA was included in this effort. This appears to be another
indication of communication problems between the Federal
agencies involved in noise control.


     We understand that the EPA noise control program reso.c(
may be reduced substantially in fiscal year 1979. The agency
budget request, which wis developed under a zero-bas.d
budgeting process, was recently subn;itted to the Office of
Management and Budget. -Althougn EPA officials would not
confirm the extent of any expected cuts, tdis reduction has
been widely reported in various noise trade journals.

     Since the nPA program is relzitirely small, any cutbacks
could hamper its effectiveness, ari since progress is currently
be-ng made, it arpears to us that a cutback at this
would De detrimental to the Federal noise control     time