Surface Mining:

Transferring Interior's Surface Mining Regulatory Function

RCED-88-161: Published: Jun 9, 1988. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the impacts and alternatives associated with transferring the Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's (OSMRE) functions to determine: (1) the cost of the transfer; (2) the time necessary to complete the transfer; (3) which agencies were most capable of carrying out and improving OSMRE functions; and (4) the source of knowledgeable and capable staff to perform OSMRE functions if they were transferred.

GAO found that: (1) the cost of transferring OSMRE functions would range between $2 million and $3.3 million, including $0.7 million to $0.9 million to transfer the employees and $1.3 million to $2.4 million for administrative costs; (2) retention of existing office space would lower moving costs; (3) past reorganizations indicate that, although the physical movement of employees and offices can be accomplished in a few weeks, transferring the regulatory function could disrupt and destabilize the program for 2 or more years; (4) although the surface mining regulatory function closely paralleled those in the Environmental Protection Agency, many industry representatives, environmental groups, and state mining officials suggested that the only other possible recipient agency was the Department of Agriculture; (5) most of the groups stated that OSMRE functions should not move from Interior, since transfer would not improve program performance; (6) most of the OSMRE career employees would transfer with the functions, since federal personnel laws require holding positions for transfer employees before hiring other employees to fill the positions; and (7) interest groups expressed dissatisfaction with management-level staff and preferred management changes.

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