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Natural Resources and Environment (201 - 250 of 3,480 items)
Helium Program: Urgent Issues Facing BLM's Storage and Sale of Helium Reserves
GAO-13-351T: Published: Feb 14, 2013. Publicly Released: Feb 14, 2013.
Since GAO's reports in the early 1990s, the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 has caused considerable changes to the helium program and addressed or altered GAO's prior concerns. In 1992, GAO reported on various aspects of the federal helium program including the helium debt, pricing, and alternatives for meeting federal helium needs.Helium debt. In 1992, GAO recommended that Congress cancel the he...
High-Risk Series: An Update
GAO-13-283: Published: Feb 14, 2013. Publicly Released: Feb 14, 2013.
In February 2011, GAO detailed 30 high-risk areas. Sufficient progress has been made to remove the high-risk designation from two areas.Management of Interagency Contracting. Improvements include (1) continued progress made by agencies in addressing identified deficiencies, (2) establishment of additional management controls, (3) creation of a policy framework for establishing new interagency cont...
Hanford Waste Treatment Plant: DOE Needs to Take Action to Resolve Technical and Management Challenges
GAO-13-38: Published: Dec 19, 2012. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 2013.
The Department of Energy (DOE) faces significant technical challenges in successfully constructing and operating the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) project that is to treat millions of gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste resulting from the production of nuclear weapons. DOE and Bechtel National, Inc. identified hundreds of technical challenges that vary in significance and p...
Environmental Protection: EPA Should Develop a Strategic Plan for Its New Compliance Initiative
GAO-13-115: Published: Dec 10, 2012. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 2013.
Since introducing its Next Generation Compliance initiative in fiscal year 2012, EPA has taken four primary steps to increase transparency and accountability in enforcement and compliance. According to EPA documents and officials, these actions will provide greater access to data under EPA-regulated programs and make regulated entities more accountable to the public. In this regard, EPAformed an e...
Regional Alaska Native Corporations: Status 40 Years after Establishment, and Future Considerations
GAO-13-121: Published: Dec 13, 2012. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 2013.
Incorporated under Alaska state law, regional Alaska Native corporations share fundamental characteristics, although they have chosen a variety of governance practices. Like other Alaska corporations, the regional corporations are subject to the state's corporate laws (with limited exceptions) and are run by an elected board of directors. Nevertheless, each regional corporation has chosen its own...
Mineral Resources: Mineral Volume, Value, and Revenue
GAO-13-45R: Published: Nov 15, 2012. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 2012.
In summary, there were nearly 70 different types of leasable minerals extracted from federal lands and waters in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, but their volume cannot be aggregated because they use different units of measure. For example, the volumes of the four most valuable of these minerals--oil, gas, natural gas liquids, and coal--are measured in barrels, million cubic feet (mcf), gallons, and t...
Electricity: Significant Changes Are Expected in Coal-Fueled Generation, but Coal is Likely to Remain a Key Fuel Source
GAO-13-72: Published: Oct 29, 2012. Publicly Released: Nov 28, 2012.
Retirements of older units, retrofits of existing units with pollution controls, and the construction of some new coal-fueled units are expected to significantly change the coal-fueled electricity generating fleet, making it capable of emitting lower levels of pollutants than the current fleet but reducing its future electricity generating capacity. Two broad trends are affecting power companies'...
Manufactured Housing Standards: Testing and Performance Evaluation Could Better Ensure Safe Indoor Air Quality
GAO-13-52: Published: Oct 24, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 24, 2012.
Key standards for manufactured homes provide a lower margin of safety against a carbon monoxide exposure incident than those for site-built homes, which are constructed at their permanent locations. For instance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Code requires a minimum 3-foot separation between air intakes and exhaust vents, while industry standards for site-built homes have r...
Rural Water Infrastructure: Additional Coordination Can Help Avoid Potentially Duplicative Application Requirements
GAO-13-111: Published: Oct 16, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 2012.
Funding for rural water and wastewater infrastructure is fragmented across the three federal programs GAO reviewed, leading to program overlap and possible duplication of effort when communities apply for funding from these programs. The three federal water and wastewater infrastructure programs--the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF)...
Energy-Water Nexus: Coordinated Federal Approach Needed to Better Manage Energy and Water Tradeoffs
GAO-12-880: Published: Sep 13, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2012.
As GAOs past work has shown, and other studies and specialists have confirmed, there are a number of key energy-water nexus issues that Congress and federal agencies need to consider when developing and implementing national policies for energy and water resources. Specifically:Location greatly influences the extent to which energy and water affect one another. For example, as GAO reported i...
Recovery Act: Most DOE Cleanup Projects Are Complete, but Project Management Guidance Could Be Strengthened
GAO-13-23: Published: Oct 15, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2012.
From October 2009 through March 2012, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) and working on Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) cleanup projects peaked at about 11,000 FTEs in the quarter ending September 2010, according to data on the federal government's Recovery Act website....
Water Pollution: EPA Has Improved Its Review of Effluent Guidelines but Could Benefit from More Information on Treatment Technologies
GAO-12-845: Published: Sep 10, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 10, 2012.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses a two-phase process to identify industrial categories potentially needing new or revised effluent guidelines to help reduce their pollutant discharges. EPAs 2002 draft Strategy for National Clean Water Industrial Regulations was the foundation for EPAs process. In the first, or screening, phase, EPA uses data from two EPA datab...
Oil and Gas: Information on Shale Resources, Development, and Environmental and Public Health Risks
GAO-12-732: Published: Sep 5, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 9, 2012.
Estimates of the size of shale oil and gas resources in the United States by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Potential Gas Committee--three organizations that estimate the size of these resources--have increased over the last 5 years, which could mean an increase in the nation's energy portfolio. For example, in 2012, EIA estimated that the amoun...
Unconventional Oil and Gas Development: Key Environmental and Public Health Requirements
GAO-12-874: Published: Sep 5, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 9, 2012.
As with conventional oil and gas development, requirements from eight federal environmental and public health laws apply to unconventional oil and gas development. For example, the Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates discharges of pollutants into surface waters. Among other things, CWA requires oil and gas well site operators to obtain permits for discharges of produced waterwhich includes fluid...
Human Capital: The Department of Health and Human Service's and Environmental Protection Agency's Use of Special Pay Rates for Consultants and Scientists
GAO-12-1035T: Published: Sep 14, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 2012.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) use of special hiring authorities under 42 U.S.C. §§ 209(f) and (g) has increased in recent years, from 5,361 positions in 2006 to 6,697 positions in 2010, an increase of around 25 percent. Nearly all HHS Title 42 employees work in one of three HHS operating divisions: the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administratio...
Oil and Gas Management: Interior's Reorganization Complete, but Challenges Remain in Implementing New Requirements
GAO-12-423: Published: Jul 30, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 29, 2012.
On October 1, 2011, the Department of the Interior (Interior) officially established two new bureaus, separating offshore resource management oversight activities, such as reviewing oil and gas exploration and development plans, from safety and environmental oversight activities, such as reviewing drilling permits and inspecting drilling rigs. Because the responsibilities of these bureaus are clos...
Information Security: Environmental Protection Agency Needs to Resolve Weaknesses
GAO-12-696: Published: Jul 19, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 20, 2012.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken steps to safeguard the information and systems that support its mission, security control weaknesses pervaded its systems and networks, thereby jeopardizing the agencys ability to sufficiently protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its information and systems. The agency did not fully implement access controls,...
EPA Regulations and Electricity: Better Monitoring by Agencies Could Strengthen Efforts to Address Potential Challenges
GAO-12-635: Published: Jul 17, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 16, 2012.
It is uncertain how power companies may respond to four key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, but available information suggests companies may retrofit most coal-fueled generating units with controls to reduce pollution, and that 2 to 12 percent of coal-fueled capacity may be retired. Some regions may see more significant levels of retirements. For example, one study examined 11 s...
Air Pollution: EPA Needs Better Information on New Source Review Permits
GAO-12-590: Published: Jun 22, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 2012.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not maintain complete information on New Source Review (NSR) permits issued to fossil fuel electricity generating units. State and local permitting agencies track the NSR permits they issue, but EPA does not maintain complete or centralized information on permits, despite a 2006 recommendation by the National Research Council that it do so. EPA mainta...
Payment to Counties: More Clarity Could Help Ensure County Expenditures Are Consistent with Key Parts of the Secure Rural Schools Act
GAO-12-775: Published: Jul 16, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 2012.
Both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have provided limited oversight of county spending under Title III of the Secure Rural Schools Act. Neither agency has issued regulations, and guidance available from these agencies is limited and sometimes unclear about which types of expenditures are allowable under the act. In addition, their guidance appears to be inconsistent wit...
Conflict Minerals Disclosure Rule: SEC's Actions and Stakeholder-Developed Initiatives
GAO-12-763: Published: Jul 16, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 2012.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken some steps toward developing a conflict minerals disclosure rule, but it has not issued a final rule. For example, SEC published a proposed rule in December 2010 and has gathered and reviewed extensive input from external stakeholders through comment letters and meetings. SEC has also announced, on several occasions, new target dates for the p...
Nonpoint Source Water Pollution: Greater Oversight and Additional Data Needed for Key EPA Water Program
GAO-12-335: Published: May 31, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 2, 2012.
Under section 319 of the Clean Water Act, state-selected projects to reduce nonpoint source pollution have helped restore more than 350 impaired water bodies since 2000, but other projects have encountered significant challenges. According to GAO survey results, 28 percent of projects did not achieve all objectives originally identified in the project proposal (e.g., implementing the desired numbe...
Nonpoint Source Water Pollution: Greater Oversight and Additional Data Needed for Key EPA Water Program, Survey of Section 319 Project Managers (GAO-12-377SP, May 2012), an E-supplement to GAO-12-335
GAO-12-377SP: Published: May 31, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 2, 2012.
This e-supplement is a companion to our report titled, "Nonpoint Source Water Pollution: Greater Oversight and Additional Data Needed for Key EPA Water Program, GAO-12-335." The purpose of this e-supplement is to provide information from a web-based survey of section 319 project managers...
Oil Dispersants: Additional Research Needed, Particularly on Subsurface and Arctic Applications
GAO-12-585: Published: May 30, 2012. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 2012.
According to experts, agency officials, and specialists, much is known about the use of chemical dispersants on the surface of the water, but gaps remain in several research areas. For example, experts generally agreed that there is a basic understanding of the processes that influence where and how oil travels through the water, but that more research was needed to quantify the actual rate at whi...
Phosphate Mining: Oversight Has Strengthened, but Financial Assurances and Coordination Still Need Improvement
GAO-12-505: Published: May 4, 2012. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 2012.
Since 1996, federal agencies have taken several actions to strengthen their oversight of phosphate mining on federal land. For example, BLM now conducts more detailed environmental analysis when evaluating new mine plans; requires phosphate mine operators to provide more comprehensive plans for reclaiming mine sites (restoring the land to a stable condition that can support other uses); and requir...
Air Emissions and Electricity Generation at U.S. Power Plants
GAO-12-545R: Published: Apr 18, 2012. Publicly Released: May 18, 2012.
Older electricity generating unitsthose that began operating in or before 1978provided 45 percent of electricity from fossil fuel units in 2010 but produced a disproportionate share of emissions, both in aggregate and per unit of electricity generated. Overall, in 2010 older units contributed 75 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 64 percent of nitrogen oxides emissions, and 54 percen...
Unconventional Oil and Gas Production: Opportunities and Challenges of Oil Shale Development
GAO-12-740T: Published: May 10, 2012. Publicly Released: May 10, 2012.
In its October 2010 report, GAO noted that oil shale development presents the following opportunities for the United States:Increasing domestic oil production. Tapping the vast amounts of oil locked within U.S. oil shale formations could go a long way toward satisfying the nations future oil demands. Oil shale deposits in the Green River Formation are estimated to contain up to 3 trillion ba...
Federal Land Management: Availability and Potential Reliability of Selected Data Elements at Five Agencies
GAO-12-691T: Published: May 3, 2012. Publicly Released: May 3, 2012.
The five agencies varied in the extent to which they collected the over 100 land and resources, revenue, and federal land use designation data elements that GAO asked them about. Specifically, all five agencies collected data on four basic data elements, which related to total surface acres managed, total acres managed within each state, the number of special use permits generated for filming acti...
Defense Infrastructure: DOD Can Improve Its Response to Environmental Exposures on Military Installations
GAO-12-412: Published: May 1, 2012. Publicly Released: May 2, 2012.
DOD relies on four types of policies to identify and respond to many but not all aspects of environmental exposures: (1) environmental restoration policies address hazardous releases at military Installations; (2) occupational and environmental health policies address workplace exposures; (3) deployment health policies address the collection of occupational and environmental health data for deploy...
Energy Conservation and Climate Change: Factors to Consider in the Design of the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit
GAO-12-318: Published: Apr 2, 2012. Publicly Released: May 2, 2012.
Under criteria for evaluating a tax credit design, both the performance-based and cost-based credits have advantages and disadvantages with neither design being unambiguously the better option based on current information. Both a cost-based and a performance-based credit are designed to reduce energy use and CO2 emissions by providing incentives for energy conservation investment. However, they di...
Army Corps of Engineers: Peer Review Process for Civil Works Project Studies Can Be Improved
GAO-12-352: Published: Mar 8, 2012. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 2012.
Since enactment of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, 49 project studies have undergone peer review but it is unclear how many were performed in response to section 2034 requirements because the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) does not make specific determinations or track if a peer review is being conducted under section 2034. In February 2011, in response to section 2034, the Corps sub...
Renewable Energy Project Financing: Improved Guidance and Information Sharing Needed for DOD Project-Level Officials
GAO-12-401: Published: Apr 4, 2012. Publicly Released: Apr 4, 2012.
To finance renewable energy projects, the military services use up-front appropriations, such as operation and maintenance funds, and alternative-financing approaches that generally rely on private capital, such as arranging financing and implementing a project with a private developer or utility. The military services have funded about 85 percent of nearly 600 projects that were in design, under...
Oil and Gas: Interior Has Strengthened Its Oversight of Subsea Well Containment, but Should Improve Its Documentation
GAO-12-244: Published: Feb 29, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 2012.
Since the Deepwater Horizon incident, the oil and gas industry has improved its capabilities to respond to a subsea well blowoutthe uncontrolled release of oil or gas from a well on the ocean floorin the Gulf of Mexico. In particular, operators have formed two new not-for-profit organizations that can quickly make available well containment equipment, services, and expertise. Among the...
Electronic Waste: Actions Needed to Provide Assurance That Used Federal Electronics Are Disposed of in an Environmentally Responsible Manner
GAO-12-74: Published: Feb 17, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 2012.
Over the past decade, the executive branch has taken steps to improve the management of used federal electronics. Notably, in 2003, EPA helped to pilot the Federal Electronics Challenge (FEC)a voluntary partnership program that encourages federal facilities and agencies to purchase environmentally friendly electronic products, reduce the impacts of these products during their use, and manage...
Endangered Sea Turtles: Better Coordination, Data Collection, and Planning Could Improve Federal Protection and Recovery Efforts
GAO-12-242: Published: Jan 31, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2012.
The services have coordinated some sea turtle protection efforts, including jointly developing recovery plans, and they established a memorandum of understanding in 1977 to define their roles in joint administration of their efforts. Nevertheless, neither the memorandum nor the services have clearly defined how and when the services are to coordinate; also, the services do not consistently share i...
Superfund: Status of EPA's Efforts to Improve Its Management and Oversight of Special Accounts
GAO-12-109: Published: Jan 18, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 2012.
From fiscal year 1990 through October 2010, the Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) 10 regions collected from potentially responsible parties almost $4 billion in funds that were placed in special accounts. Nearly half of these funds are still available to be obligated for future Superfund cleanup; the remaining funds have already been obligated, but not all of these obligated funds have...
Safety Effects of Less Prescriptive Requirements for Low-Stress Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines Are Uncertain
GAO-12-389R: Published: Feb 16, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 16, 2012.
Applying PHMSAs new distribution integrity management requirements to low-stress transmission pipelines would result in less prescriptive safety requirements for these pipelines. Overall, requirements for distribution pipelines are less prescriptive than requirements for transmission pipelines in part because the former operate at lower pressure and pose lower risks in general than the latte...
Energy-Water Nexus: Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced during Oil and Gas Production
GAO-12-156: Published: Jan 9, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 8, 2012.
A significant amount of water is produced daily as a byproduct from drilling of oil and gas. A 2009 Argonne National Laboratory study estimated that 56 million barrels of water are produced onshore every day, but this study may underestimate the current total volume because it is based on limited, and in some cases, incomplete data generated by the states. In general, the volume of produced water...
Diesel Pollution: Fragmented Federal Programs That Reduce Mobile Source Emissions Could Be Improved
GAO-12-261: Published: Feb 7, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 7, 2012.
Federal grant and loan funding for activities that reduce mobile source diesel emissions is fragmented across 14 programs at the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From fiscal years 2007 through 2011, the programs obligated at least $1.4 billion for activities that have the effect of reducing mobile source diesel emiss...
Chemical Assessments: Challenges Remain with EPA's Integrated Risk Information System Program
GAO-12-42: Published: Dec 9, 2011. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 2012.
EPA's May 2009 revisions to the IRIS process have restored EPA's control of the process, increased its transparency, and established a new 23-month time frame for its less challenging assessments. Notably, EPA has addressed concerns GAO raised in its March 2008 report and now makes the determination of when to move an assessment to external peer review and issuance--decisions that were made by the...
Hardrock Mining: BLM Needs to Revise Its Systems for Assessing the Adequacy of Financial Assurances
GAO-12-189R: Published: Dec 12, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 2011.
: Based on data reviewed from BLM's Bond Review Report, mine operators had provided financial assurances valued at approximately $1.5 billion to guarantee reclamation costs for 1,365 hardrock operations on federal land managed by BLM. We determined that 57 hardrock operations had inadequate financial assurances--amounting to about $24 million less than needed to fully cover estimated reclamation c...
International Climate Change Assessments: Federal Agencies Should Improve Reporting and Oversight of U.S. Funding
GAO-12-43: Published: Nov 17, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 2011.
The United States provided a total of $31.1 million (in constant 2010 dollars) to IPCC for fiscal years 2001 through 2010, with average annual funding of about $3.1 million. State provided $19 million for administrative and other expenses. USGCRP agencies provided $12.1 million through NSF for a technical support unit that helps develop IPCC reports. GAO identified two key challenges with assembli...
Station Fire: Forest Service's Response Offers Potential Lessons for Future Wildland Fire Management
GAO-12-155: Published: Dec 16, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 16, 2011.
The Station Fire started on the afternoon of August 26, 2009, in steep terrain covered with highly flammable vegetation during very dry conditions. After escaping initial containment efforts, the Station Fire underwent periods of rapid growth and extreme fire behavior over the following several days, ultimately threatening thousands of homes in nearby communities. In response, the Forest Service a...
Mississippi River: Actions Are Needed to Help Resolve Environmental and Flooding Concerns about the Use of River Training Structures
GAO-12-41: Published: Dec 9, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 9, 2011.
For more than 130 years the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has used dikes to "train" the Mississippi River channel and maintain adequate depth for navigation. The Corps relies heavily on these structures--including some with more recent designs--in the Middle Mississippi, between the confluences of the Missouri and Ohio Rivers. Over the past few decades, some researchers have raised concerns...
Green Building: Federal Initiatives for the Nonfederal Sector Could Benefit from More Interagency Collaboration
GAO-12-79: Published: Nov 2, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 2, 2011.
Economic, environmental, and health concerns have spurred interest in "green building"--construction and maintenance practices designed to make efficient use of resources, reduce environmental problems, and provide long-term financial and health benefits. Federal laws and executive orders direct agencies to meet green building standards in federal buildings and to foster green building in the nonf...
Arizona Border Region: Federal Agencies Could Better Utilize Law Enforcement Resources in Support of Wildland Fire Management Activities
GAO-12-73: Published: Nov 8, 2011. Publicly Released: Nov 22, 2011.
Wildland fires can result from both natural and human causes. Human-caused wildland fires are of particular concern in Arizona--especially within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border because this is a primary area of entry for illegal border crossers and GAO has previously reported that illegal border crossers have been suspected of igniting wildland fires. Over half of the land in the Arizona bord...
Environmental Protection Agency: Actions Needed to Improve Planning, Coordination, and Leadership of EPA Laboratories
GAO-12-236T: Published: Nov 17, 2011. Publicly Released: Nov 17, 2011.
This testimony discusses the research and development activities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the findings of our recent report on the agency's laboratory enterprise. EPA was established in 1970 to consolidate a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement activities into one agency for ensuring the joint protection of environmental quality and hum...
Climate Change Adaptation: Federal Efforts to Provide Information Could Help Government Decision Making
GAO-12-238T: Published: Nov 16, 2011. Publicly Released: Nov 16, 2011.
Climate change is a complex, crosscutting issue that poses risks to many existing environmental and economic systems, including agriculture, infrastructure, ecosystems, and human health. A 2009 assessment by the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) found that climate-related changes--such as rising temperature and sea level--will combine with pollution, population growth, urbaniza...
Environmental Justice: EPA Needs to Take Additional Actions to Help Ensure Effective Implementation
GAO-12-77: Published: Oct 6, 2011. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 2011.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for promoting environmental justice--that is, the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in developing, implementing, and enforcing environmental laws, regulations, and policies. In January 2010, the EPA Administrator cited environmental justice as a top priority for the agency. GAO was asked to examine (1) how EPA is implem...
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Actions Needed to Reduce Evolving but Uncertain Federal Financial Risks
GAO-12-86: Published: Oct 24, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 24, 2011.
On April 20, 2010, an explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig leased by BP America Production Company (BP) resulted in a significant oil spill. GAO was requested to (1) identify the financial risks to the federal government resulting from oil spills, particularly Deepwater Horizon, (2) assess the Coast Guard's internal controls for ensuring that processes and payments for spill-related cost rei...