Environmental Protection Agency: Major Management Challenges

This GAO Report (GAO-09-434) dated March 2009) to the Subcommittee on Interior,
Environment, and Related Agencies,Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives titled Environmental Protection Agency: Major Management Challenges found that the EPA faces the following challenges that hinder its ability to implement its programs effectively:
• Improving agencywide management. EPA has launched various initiatives to address crosscutting general management issues, including environmental enforcement and compliance, human capital management, and the development and use of environmental information. However, these initiatives have generally fallen considerably short of their intended results.
• Transforming EPA’s processes for assessing and controlling toxic chemicals. EPA has failed to develop sufficient chemical assessment information to limit public exposure to many chemicals that may pose substantial health risks. In January 2009, GAO added a new issue—the need to transform EPA’s process for assessing and controlling toxic chemicals—to its list of high-risk areas warranting increased attention by Congress and the executive branch.
• Improving implementation of the Clean Air Act. EPA faces many important challenges related to implementation of the Clean Air Act, including those highlighted by GAO regarding its coordination with other federal agencies, analyses of health impacts from air pollution, and delays in regulating mercury and other air toxics. EPA also faces challenges relating to numerous regulatory proposals that have been overturned or remanded by the courts.
• Reducing pollution in the nation’s waters. EPA partners with federal, state, and local agencies and others to reduce pollution in the nation’s waters. Among the most daunting water pollution control problems, the nation’s water utilities face billions of dollars in upgrades to aging and
deteriorating infrastructures that left unaddressed can affect the quality of our water. EPA will receive $6 billion in additional water infrastructure funding from the recently passed stimulus bill.
• Speeding the pace of cleanup at Superfund and other hazardous waste sites. Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, better known as Superfund, in 1980, giving the federal government the authority to ensure the cleanup of
hazardous waste sites both on private and public lands. Nonetheless, several key management problems have not been resolved since that time. For example, citing competing priorities and lack of funds, EPA has not implemented a 1980 statutory mandate under Superfund to require
businesses handling hazardous substances to provide financial assurances to pay for potential environmental cleanups.
• Addressing emerging climate change issues. In GAO’s view, the federal government’s approach to climate change has been ad hoc and is not well coordinated across government agencies. For example, the federal government lacks a comprehensive approach for targeting federal
research dollars toward the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies.

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