Energy Management:

Appeals Procedures for State and Local Assistance Programs

RCED-89-127: Published: May 10, 1989. Publicly Released: May 17, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of Energy's (DOE) administrative review procedures for its state and local energy conservation grant programs.

GAO found that: (1) DOE published regulations for administrative review procedures for its energy conservation, energy extension, and weatherization assistance programs; (2) the procedures included hearings before DOE-appointed panels or operations office managers and appeal to the Secretary; (3) federal regulations provided other appeal routes with broader applicability than just energy conservation grant programs; (4) no state had used the administrative review procedures applicable to the energy conservation grant programs, since most states had not experienced problems that required formal resolution; (5) two states appealed support office decisions to the DOE Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) based on guidance from program officials about appropriate appeal routes; (6) many state and DOE officials were not aware of or familiar with the administrative review procedures; (7) state officials characterized the procedures as inadequate, citing confusing and misleading wording and possible bias, since DOE-appointed personnel heard appeals; (8) DOE allowed OHA to continue to hear grant program appeals until it completed its study of OHA authority; and (9) DOE suspended the study, which lacked written objectives and a timetable for completion, in March 1989.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The rulemaking eliminates the main procedural inconsistencies among the different programs and clarifies that appeal rights extend to disputes over individual projects.

    Recommendation: To resolve uncertainties related to the procedures states may use to appeal support office decisions, the Secretary of Energy should clarify the current types of decisions appealable under the energy conservation, energy extension, and weatherization administrative review procedures and revise the procedures to eliminate the perception of bias in review panel selection for the energy conservation and energy extension programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Actions taken in response to other recommendations obviate the need for this action, according to DOE. GAO concurs with this.

    Recommendation: To resolve uncertainties related to the procedures states may use to appeal support office decisions, the Secretary of Energy should formalize the objectives of the Under Secretary and General Counsel joint study on appeals procedures and establish a schedule for its timely completion.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The final rule clarified the appeals procedures. The states were specifically invited to comment on the DOE interim rulemaking, thereby allowing a formal process for questions or problems with the procedures to be brought to DOE attention. This rulemaking included three public hearings at which various parties commented on the appeals procedures.

    Recommendation: To resolve uncertainties related to the procedures states may use to appeal support office decisions, the Secretary of Energy should ensure that officials in the Office of State and Local Assistance Programs, support offices, and state program offices have a clear understanding of the administrative review procedures, when to use these procedures, and when to use the other routes available to states to appeal support office decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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