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data collection is extremely expensive, difficult, and time consuming. It is estimated that the USEPA spends in excess of $500 million a year on data collection, most of which is for enforcement and compliance data. Other federal agencies, as well as states, local governments, the regulated community, and environmentally focused NGOs, also spend significant dollars on environmental information collection.

ONGOING ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ASSESSMENT

As discussed earlier in the introduction, the CEQ has the responsibility for reporting to the President on the quality of the nation's environment each year. The CEQ publication Environmental Quality relies heavily on information to be input from several federal agencies covering a large variety of environmental areas and issues. Aside from this publication, there is no official U.S. publication (Note: except the U.S. national report for UNCED) that provides comprehensive information on the state of the U.S. environment. National environmental statistics are not collected in a centralized manner and there is no single source that one can use to assess the state and quality of the environment. The U.S. is one of a few countries in the world that does not have a centralized statistical system for collecting and analyzing environmental information and statistics. No single agency has the responsibility to provide information on the overall quality of the environment. Different federal and state organizations have focused responsibilities and produce a number or statistical summaries that can provide a limited picture of environmental quality, trends, and conditions.

The federal agencies that collect, publish, and disseminate environmental statistics are discussed below. For each agency a brief overview of the kind of information available is provided along with some examples of statistical summaries and graphics.

ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE U.S. EXECUTIVE BRANCH

The executive branch of the U.S. government is responsible for developing environmental policy and implementing and enforcing federal environmental statutes. This responsibility is vested in the various executive offices, departments, independent agencies, and associated organizations (see Appendix B for more detail):

  • Council on Environmental Quality—Formulates and recommends to the President national policies to promote the improvement of the quality of the environment and carries out other responsibilities as provided by NEPA.

  • Department of Agriculture—Lead agency for natural resources and the environment, which includes the Forest Service and Soil Conservation Service.



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