Budget and Spending:

EPA's Execution of Its Fiscal year 2007 New Budget Authority for the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program in the Regional Offices

GAO-08-1109R: Published: Sep 26, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 2008.

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This letter responds to a mandate in House Report No. 110-187 that directed GAO to review the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget execution, specifically to identify the factors that influence EPA's operating plan allocations to the regional offices for a selected national program and to compare and contrast these operating plan allocations with EPA's reported obligations in the regional offices. After discussing this mandate with your offices, we focused our review on EPA's enforcement and compliance assurance program in the regional offices. EPA, in partnership with state agencies, oversees compliance with 44 separate environmental programs. These programs regulate facilities--such as sewage treatment plants, petroleum refineries, and power plants--whose operations could pollute the air, water, and land, and thereby endanger public health and the environment. EPA and its regulatory partners are responsible for ensuring that these regulated facilities comply with program requirements and taking enforcement action in instances of noncompliance. EPA administers its environmental enforcement and compliance assurance responsibilities through its headquarters Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA). While OECA provides overall direction on enforcement policies, and sometimes takes direct enforcement action, EPA's 10 regional offices are responsible for carrying out much of EPA's enforcement activities. The regional offices are responsible for monitoring regulated facilities' compliance, taking direct enforcement action, and providing compliance assistance and incentives to regulated facilities. Many federal environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, direct EPA to approve or authorize qualified states to implement and enforce environmental programs consistent with federal requirements. Over the years, states have increased their inspection and enforcement activities. Today most states have responsibility for multiple EPA programs. As a result, EPA regional offices are now more actively involved in coordinating with and conducting oversight of states that have been granted enforcement authority and providing guidance, training, and technical assistance. The regions are also responsible for implementing programs in Indian country and in states that do not have enforcement authority for particular programs.

We found that EPA's fiscal year 2007 operating plan allocated to the regional offices approximately 72 percent ($184 million) of its fiscal year 2007 new budget authority associated with the four enforcement and compliance assurance program/projects that we reviewed. We found only small differences between these amounts and the amounts reported as obligated in the regional offices. Specifically, EPA reported as obligated in its regional offices about $179 million, or 2.6 percent less than the amounts allocated in the operating plan. EPA's fiscal year 2007 operating plan allocated to the regional offices about $184 million of the EPM appropriation account for the four enforcement and compliance assurance program/projects--civil enforcement, compliance assistance and centers, compliance incentives, and compliance monitoring. This represented about 72 percent of the total fiscal year 2007 new budget authority provided by the EPM appropriation account for these program/projects (see enc. I for details on the 10 regional offices). Only Small Differences Existed between the Amounts EPA Allocated to the Regional Offices in Its Fiscal Year 2007 Operating Plan and the Amounts Reported as Obligated in the Regional Offices EPA reported as obligated in its regional offices about $179 million of fiscal year 2007 new budget authority provided by its EPM appropriation for the four enforcement and compliance assurance program/projects. This was about $4.8 million, or 2.6 percent less than the amounts allocated to the regional offices in the agency's operating plan.

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