Hazardous Waste:

Adequacy of EPA Attorney Resource Levels

RCED-86-81FS: Published: Jan 31, 1986. Publicly Released: Mar 3, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an adequate supply of regional attorney resources to: (1) enforce Superfund and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requirements; and (2) defend EPA against lawsuits under these acts.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA received 680 full-time personnel positions, which included attorneys and support staff, to perform legal and compliance activities under all of its environmental statutes, including Superfund and RCRA; (2) regional counsels are understaffed in the Superfund and RCRA areas because of an imbalance between the level of RCRA and Superfund program activities and legal staffing; and (3) attorney shortages are extensive for RCRA activities, because regional counsels have not kept pace with increased work loads resulting from new statutory requirements. GAO found that: (1) four regional counsels have eliminated or reduced their involvement in certain legal activities associated with Superfund and RCRA enforcement; (2) attorneys lacked time to review work plans for the Superfund site investigation and feasibility study; (3) five regional counsels experienced delays in processing administrative orders; and (4) at least five regional counsels had attorneys working substantial amounts of overtime. GAO also found that: (1) enforcement cases are expected to increase 27 percent in fiscal year 1986; (2) some EPA regional offices tried to compensate for attorney shortages by allocating positions from program units to the regional counsels; and (3) three of the eight regional counsels have made an effort to quantify the extent of their attorney resource needs by using work-load projections and pricing factors to estimate the time required to perform each activity.

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