Environmental Protection Issues in the 1980's

CED-81-38: Published: Dec 30, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 30, 1980.

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Congress has enacted comprehensive legislation which has enlarged and strengthened the regulatory and subsidy parts of Federal environmental policy. Questions have been raised as to whether environmental goals are too costly to achieve, and whether the right balance has been struck between environmental objectives and energy, economic, and social goals.

GAO has identified 14 current and emerging issues relating to Federal involvement in the environmental protection area which represent the perspective used in organizing GAO audit efforts. The primary criterion for identifying these issues was the level of existing and anticipated congressional interest. Due to their status as critical national issues as well as being areas where GAO can make the most significant contribution to the Nation's efforts to resolve environmental issues, seven areas have been designated for priority attention. These priority issues are: (1) whether environmental protection regulatory strategies are effective and what alternative approaches exist; (2) whether anything is being done to reduce the social and economic impact of environmental protection programs on the public and private sectors; (3) whether institutional arrangements are effective for implementing environmental laws and considering trade-offs with other national priorities; (4) whether the public is adequately protected from the harmful effects of dangerous pesticides and chemicals; (5) whether Federal and State efforts are adequate to protect human health and the environment from air pollution; (6) whether the Nation's water quality goals are achievable with present programs and resources; and (7) whether Federal and State solid and hazardous waste programs are effectively protecting public health and the environment.

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