As I reported recently, the Obama administration had plans to pull the plug on he EPA’s National Environmental Performance Track program. Well that plug has now been officially pulled.
The Environmental Performance Track was designed to encourage businesses and governmental offices to move beyond mere compliance of environmental regulation by registering participants to agree to voluntary improvements across 20 environmental category areas. By joining, signers-on hoped to improve their “environmental cred.”
“Now it is time to pause and reflect on Performance Track’s achievements and opportunities for improvements,” wrote EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a March 16 letter.
The program was one of several public-private partnerships that became the hallmark of the Bush administration’s environmental policy. This approach to regulation was touted as a move beyond the traditional “command and control” nature of administrative rulemaking to more collaborative and voluntary programs. Such programs have had mixed results.
“Performance Track was developed in a different era and may not speak to today’s challenges,” wrote Jackson.
Entry into the EPA’s Performance Track program was supposed to be reserved for companies with sterling environmental records, but has been denounced by many environmentalists as a public relations hoax, with the vast majority of members falling short of their commitments.
EPA’s decision to shutter Performance Track comes amid charges that the program wasn’t living up to its billing: spending millions on recruiting and publicity; and failing to independently confirm members’ environmental pledges.
“The program became so desperate to find new members,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “that it turned to gift shops and post offices to pad its numbers.”
The Performance Track program has 547 participating members. In many instances, each branch or location of large companies are listed individually.
Moving forward, the administration’s initial step will be to complete two major reviews of Performance Track and environmental leadership programs in general. The first review will be a multi-stakeholder subcommittee under the jurisdiction of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology
EPA will also continue an evaluation of the Performance Track program by the RAND Corporation to learn about environmental leadership programs as viable tools for protecting the environment.
Image: White House Photo/Pete Souza