Environmental Protection Issue Area Plan: Fiscal Years 1998-2000

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-06-01.

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

            United   States   General   Accounting   Office

GAO         Resources, Community, and Economic
            Development Division

June 1997
            Environmental Protection
            Issue Area Plan
            Fiscal Years 1998-2000

             As the investigative ~~J.IIof the Congress and the nation’s auditor, the
             General Accounting Office is charged with following the federal dollar
             wherever it goes. Reflecting stringent standards of objectivity and
             independence, GAO’S audits, evaluations, and investigations promote a
             more efficient and cost-effective government; expose waste, fraud, abuse,
             and mismanagement m federal programs; help the Congress target budget
             reductions; assessfinancial information management; and alert the
             Congress to developing trends that may have significant fiscal or
             budgetary consequences. In fu&lling its responsibilities, GAO performs
             original research and uses hundreds of databases or creates its own to
             compile and analyze mformation.

             To ensure that GAO’Sresources are directed toward the most important
             issues facmg the Congress, each of GAO’S 33 issue areas develops a
             strategic plan that describes its key issues and their significance, the
             objectives and focus of its work, and the planned major job starts. Each
             rssue area relies heavily on mput from congressional committees, agency
             officials, and subject-matter experts in developing its strategic plan.

             With the nation’s annual environmental compliance costs at $122 billion1
             GAO’S work in the Environmental Protection Issue Area generally focuses
             on increasing the cost-effectiveness of environmental programs- This
             emphasis recognizes the high and continuing growth in these costs, while
             unmet envrronmental needs remain. Consequently, the limited public and
             private environmental resources need to be used in ways that best protect
             human health and the environment. Tlus area covers the Environmental
             Protection Agency (EPA), the Council of Environmental Quality (GE&), and
             other agencies responsible for carrying out environmental laws, policies,
             and programs. The principal issues addressed are:

             .evaluating EPA’S management and budget to help ensure that available
             resources are used efficiently and effectively,

             l proxxling the Congress with the information needed to assist in its
             oversight and reauthorizaton of federal environmental statutes, and

             %ssessing whether the nation’s environmental resources are being
             efficiently and effectively managed and protected.

             ‘U S Departmentof Commerce,Surveyof CurrentBusmess.“Pollut2onAbatementand Control
                                   Sept 1996,p 48-67

             Page 1                                                                   GAO/TAP-97-18
       In the pages that follow, we describe our key planned work on these
       important issues durmg our S-year planmng per-rod (fiscal years 1998
       through 2000). This year’s plan contains a major restructurmg of our
       approach which reflects current congressional interest and available
       resources. Also, because unanticipated events may sr,@ificantly affect
       even the best of plans, our planning process allows for updating this plan
       durmg the year as needed to respond quickly to emerging issues. If you
       have any questions or suggestions about this plan, please call me or
       Lawrence J. Dyckman, Associate Director, at (202) 512-6111.

;, -
       Peter F. Guerrero
       Environmental Protection Issues

       Page 2

Table I: Key Issues            4 -’
Table II: Planned
Major Work

                      Page 3
        issue                                                                    Significance
        Agency management and budget Do EPA’s approaches to                      Continued progress In envrronmental protection WIII be costly
        envlronmentai protectron ensure that agency resources are                Increastngly, questlons are being rarsed about the
        optimally targeted and spent7                                            cost-effectiveness of envlronmental programs and federal
                                                                                 agency operations EPA expends a large portlon of I&
                                                                                 approximately $7 billion budget through contracts and grants to
                                                                                 implement federal laws Hrstoncally, EPA’s management of these
                                                                                 instruments has been a concern GAO has desrgnated parts of
                                                                                 the Superfund program as high-risk, for example, because of
                                                                                 long-standing problems In the agency’s management of cleanup
                                                                                 contracts Expectations are hrgh for the use of
                                                                                 performance-based     measures of progress and sound
                                                                                 manaaement tn environmental proarams
        Environmental    reauthorization issues: How are key environmental       Environmental protection has strong public support To protect
        statutes addressing the problems that they were designed to              the quality of the nation’s air, water, and land, a number of
        remedy, and what steps would improve their effectiveness?                federal statutes are implemented by EPA, the states and
                                                                                 localltres In 1994 (the most recently available InformatIon), the
                                                                                 publrc and private sectors spent about $122 billion (or almost 3
                                                                                 percent of the nation’s GDP) to comply with environmental
                                                                                 regulatrons and standards Whrle progress has been made,
                                                                                 problems remain The challenge is how to ensure the operation of
                                                                                 these laws, standards, and regulations are effectrve and efficient
                                                                                 In safeguarding public health and the environment from the
                                                                                 effects of pollution
        Environmental      management:     Is the government   efficiently and   As annual environmental compliance costs grow, debate IS
-       cost-effectively   protecting the environment?                           centering on ways to achieve more environmental protection
                                                                                 while imposing the least burden The nation’s economy recently
                                                                                 experienced Its largest srngle-year increase in real spending for
                                                                                 environmental complrance in a decade The basic approach to
                                                                                 addressing pollution problems has been for EPA to develop the
                                                                                 standards for federal environmental programs and for the states
                                                                                 to implement them with federal oversight However, the
                                                                                 effectiveness of this approach IS being questioned Greater
                                                                                 attention IS being placed on more flexible, incentive-based
                                                                                 regulatory approaches and on more effective partnerships
                                                                                 between EPA and the states

                                                          Page 4
Objective                                                               Focus of work
*Identify and recommend spending reductions to decrease the             *Potential efflclencies    and cost savrngs tn EPA’s budget
federal deftclt and opportunltles to reallocate existing resources to
higher priority work                                                    *EPA’s management         of grants and contracts

*Assess ways to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of EPA’s       mEPA’s implementation       of the Government   Performance    and
management of Its programs and operations                               Results Act

*Evaluate EPA’s implementation of malor efforts almed at improving
Its management and operations                                                                                                                 ,- ^-

*Provide the Congress with information to aid In Its reauthorization    *Major issues facing the reauthonzatlon of Superfund, the
of key environmental laws                                               Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Clean Water
l AssI.st the Congress In its oversight of EPA and the states’
implementation   of envlronmental statutes                              *The progress of federal, state, and local governments In
                                                                        implementing the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the new
                                                                        Safe Dnnklng Water Act of 1996, and InternatIonal agreements

*Evaluate how EPA and the states ensure that they consider the          *The adequacy and usefulness of cost-benefit and other
most cost-effective control measures when implementing programs         analyses that EPA uses to support its regulatory decisions            _ -
and regulations to improve the qualtty of the nation’s environment
                                                                        l Opportunltles to improve relations between EPA and the states‘ -
*Examine the effectiveness of EPA and the states In reaching            and to evaluate state and federal roles
compliance with environmental objectives
                                                                        *Effectiveness     of EPA’s regulatory reform and other reinvention       -
*Assess admlnlstrative inttlatlves and alternative approaches to        initiatives                                                             -I
manage or strengthen environmental programs
                                                                        *Alternatives     to current regulatory approaches
*Assess federal government’s    role in addressmg cllmate change
                                                                        *The impacts of the federal government’s        effort to reduce
                                                                        greenhouse gases
‘%ible II: Planned Major Work

                                          Planned   major job starts
       Management      and budget         *Review EPA’s justification for its fiscal year 1999 budget request
                                          *Review EPA’s processes for awarding and managing grants and contracts, which comprise a
 4                                        slgnlfrcant portion of the agency’s budget
                                          *Revtew the extent and effectiveness of EPA’s lmplementatlon of the Government Performance and
                                          Results Act *
       Environmental    reauthorization   *Review the effectiveness of administratively adopted changes made In the Superfund program *
d                                         *Determine the risks posed by sites awaiting a declslon about whether they wtll enter the Superfund
                                          program and what factors are delaying these decisions
                                          *Assess the effectiveness of EPA’s effort to speed up the Superfund cleanup process through its
                                          Integrated Site Assessment Initiative *
                                          *Identify the Issues that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act presents for managing
                                          remedlatlon wastes from hazardous waste cleanups
                                          *Assess the progress made by key industries in cleaning up their facilities that handle hazardous
                                          wastes *
: .:                                      *Review states’ progress In implementing the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990
                                          aReview the operations and internal controls for the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund *
       Environmental    management        OReview how benefit-cost analyses are used in developing environmental, health and safety
                                          regulations *
                                          *Evaluate enforcement strategies being pursued by the states to determine whether such strategies
                                          are achieving greater compliance with environmental laws
                                          *Explore additional opportunities to use emissions trading as an alternative approach to achieving
                                          environmental goals more cost-effectively
                                          *Identify the nature and status of EPA’s reinvention initiatives as well as alds and barriers to their
                                          successful implementation *
                                          *Examine the economic impacts associated with U S options to ameliorate global climate change
                                                          *Work on these jobs has already begun

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