*> Lsi3~~~ United States General Accounting Office GAO Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division June 1997 Environmental Protection Issue Area Plan Fiscal Years 1998-2000 “‘Foreword 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 Expenditures,1972-1994,” Sept 1996,p 48-67 Page 1 GAO/TAP-97-18 i 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 Director Environmental Protection Issues Page 2 Contents 1 Foreword Table I: Key Issues 4 -’ 6 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 Act 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 Page 6 GAO/UP-97-18 I; ’ 8 , . -I’, ,l’ ;
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)