- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency is closing a program that drew complaints from environmentalists for cutting back on company inspections and regulations as a reward for voluntary controls on pollution.

The National Environmental Performance Track Program, established in 2000 but administered mainly during the Bush presidency, enrolled hundreds of corporations in its “green club” if they agreed to undertake initiatives to save energy and reduce pollution. However, investigations of the program questioned its effectiveness.

The agency said in a statement Monday that it would evaluate and refine the program’s concepts “in order to develop a stronger system to protect human health and the environment.”

In a report issued in 2007, the EPA’s inspector general found that underperforming facilities in Performance Track reduced its integrity and value. The program itself lacked clear plans that connected activities with goals and did not show whether it achieved anticipated results, the report said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported on the EPA’s plan to halt the program. An Inquirer investigation published in December found that Performance Track lauded companies with suspect environmental records, spent millions on recruiting and publicity, failed to confirm members’ environmental pledges independently, and padded its numbers to build membership.

Performance Track had 548 members ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to trailer parks, the Inquirer reported, and some of those recruited by the EPA had mixed if not poor environmental records.

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