WASHINGTON -- Despite an order from Congress to shrink paperwork, the amount of time that businesses and governments spend reporting to the Environmental Protection Agency is on the rise, congressional investigators say.
And EPA officials misled the public with claims to the contrary, according to a General Accounting Office report.
As recently as last week, EPA Administrator Carol Browner told a House subcommittee the agency had eliminated more than 26 million hours of paperwork over the past four years, saving industry $800 million.
Sen. Christopher Bond, who requested the GAO study and is chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the EPA's budget, said at a hearing today, ''This whole reinvention effort is beginning to look like an effort to reinvent the facts. Only in Washington would an agency confuse a goal with an accomplishment.''
Bond, R-Mo., asked for an explanation of Browner's earlier statements about paperwork reductions as she testified before his subcommittee today.
The GAO found that despite an order by Congress to cut paperwork, the amount of time spent reporting to the EPA actually rose by 10 million hours -- or 9 percent -- between 1995 and 1998. And it's projected to grow by another 5 million hours by the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30.
Browner said EPA must aggressively set new public health and environmental standards that require polluting industries to report to the agency. She also said that making more information public is another goal.
''At the same time we are streamlining existing programs, we have been expanding other programs. That is our job,'' Browner said.
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