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    Results:

    Subject Term: Pollution

    6 publications with a total of 13 open recommendations including 5 priority recommendations
    Director: Beryl H. Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider the options for sustaining the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund as well as the optimal level of funding to be maintained in the Fund, in light of the expiration of the Fund's per-barrel tax funding source in 2017.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: We will continue to monitor the funding status.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that USDA has the information needed to better identify potentially contaminated sites--particularly abandoned mines--on properties it manages and, thereby, help minimize possible risks to human health and the environment, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the heads of the department's land management agencies to develop plans and procedures for completing their inventories of potentially contaminated sites.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help resolve disagreements between EPA and USDA and Interior regarding which remaining docket sites require preliminary assessments, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse to review available information on USDA and Interior sites where EPA's Superfund Enterprise Management System indicates that a preliminary assessment has not occurred to determine the accuracy of this information, and update the information, as needed.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, EPA Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office (FFRRO) generated a spreadsheet with information from EPA's Superfund Enterprise Management System showing the status of USDA and Interior sites on the docket. In January 2016 FFRRO sent letters to USDA and Interior which included information from the spreadsheet showing the status of each department's sites and requested that the departments work with EPA to determine the accuracy of the data. In addition, the departments were to--for those sites where EPA believed that a preliminary assessment was needed--provide a schedule for completion of the sites. In a June 2016 letter to EPA, USDA responded that with help from EPA regions they were able to substantially reconcile the list, complete preliminary assessments or their equivalent, and provide a status to EPA on its 251 sites. In an October 2016 letter to EPA, Interior responded that 79 sites have one or more areas of uncertainty regarding their status within the Federal Facilities Docket system. Interior stated that it had developed a work plan for obtaining additional information on the sites, which is scheduled for completion in March 2018. We will continue to monitor EPA's and Interior's progress to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help resolve disagreements between EPA and USDA and Interior regarding which remaining docket sites require preliminary assessments, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse to work with the relevant USDA and Interior offices to obtain any additional information needed to assist EPA in determining the accuracy of the agency's data on the status of preliminary assessments for these sites.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to EPA officials and documents, in response to this recommendation, EPA's Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office (FFRRO) has been meeting quarterly with USDA and Interior to discuss, among other issues, any additional information needed to assist EPA in determining the accuracy of the agency's data on the status of preliminary assessments for these sites. According to a June 2016 letter USDA sent to EPA, preliminary assessments or their equivalent have been completed for its 251 sites. Interior informed EPA in an October 2016 letter that it has developed a plan--scheduled for completion in March 2018--for obtaining additional information on the sites. After the updated list of sites is developed, Interior plans to work with EPA to determine the final steps necessary to complete a preliminary assessment for each site. We will continue to monitor EPA's and Interior's progress to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help resolve disagreements between EPA and USDA and Interior regarding which remaining docket sites require preliminary assessments, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse to, after completing this review, inform USDA and Interior whether the requirement to conduct a preliminary assessment at the identified sites has been met or if additional work is needed to meet this requirement

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to EPA officials and documents, in response to this recommendation, EPA's Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office (FFRRO) has been meeting quarterly with USDA and Interior to discuss, among other issues, whether the requirement to conduct a preliminary assessment at the identified sites has been met or if additional work is needed to meet this requirement. According to a June 2016 letter USDA sent to EPA, preliminary assessments or their equivalent have been completed for its 251 sites. Interior informed EPA in an October 2016 letter that it has developed a plan--scheduled for completion in March 2018--for obtaining additional information on the sites. After the updated list of sites is developed, Interior plans to work with EPA to determine the final steps necessary to complete a preliminary assessment for each site. We will continue to monitor EPA's and Interior's progress to address this recommendation.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    including 3 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the likelihood that TMDLs support the nation's waters' attainment of water quality standards and to strengthen water quality management, the Administrator of EPA should develop and issue new regulations requiring that TMDLs include additional elements--and consider requiring the elements that are now optional--specifically, elements reflecting key features identified by NRC as necessary for attaining water quality standards, such as comprehensive identification of impairment and plans to monitor water bodies to verify that water quality is improving.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA officials stated that they agree that broad implementation and monitoring requirements would be helpful, but disagree that they should issue regulations. Officials stated that they continue to follow the state Water Quality Management Plan requirement related to GAO's recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance the likelihood that TMDLs support the nation's waters' attainment of water quality standards and to strengthen water quality management, the Administrator of EPA should ensure more consistent application of existing TMDL elements and to provide greater assurance that TMDLs, if implemented, can achieve tangible water quality results, identify regional offices with criteria for interpreting and applying such elements in reviewing and approving state-developed TMDLs and issue guidance with more specificity, directing all regional offices to follow the same criteria, including requesting that states provide more-detailed information about pollution causes and abatement actions.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA officials said they had created a small workgroup to assess this recommendation. The group is continuing discussions about how to enhance consistent regional review. We will continue to monitor EPA's progress.
    Recommendation: To enhance the likelihood that TMDLs support the nation's waters' attainment of water quality standards and to strengthen water quality management, the Administrator of EPA should place conditions on states' annual use of nonpoint source management and water pollution control grants to ensure that the funds meet the purposes for which they are awarded and achieve greater reductions in nonpoint source pollution associated with TMDL implementation, such as by targeting funds to states and projects that incorporate factors needed for effective TMDL implementation (e.g., targeting grant funds to projects where implementation plans have been developed and where external agency assistance is available).

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA officials said that they believe the 2013 nonpoint source guidance substantially addresses this recommendation. Specifically, in April 2013, EPA issued revised guidance for awarding section 319 grants to states to implement nonpoint source management programs and projects. The guidance updates previous guidance to EPA regional offices and states in four key areas: (1) state nonpoint source management program plans, (2) funding distribution, (3) reviews of states' watershed-based plans, and (4) regional offices' annual progress determinations. While this encourages states to target nonpoint source funding to watersheds with TMDLs, it does not incentivize it with funding. EPA continues to discuss approaches to address this recommendation. GAO will continue to monitor the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance the likelihood that TMDLs support the nation's waters' attainment of water quality standards and to strengthen water quality management, the Administrator of EPA should obtain missing data that currently impede EPA's efforts to determine whether and to what extent TMDLs have been implemented or to what extent implemented TMDLs have helped impaired waters attain water quality standards by (1) directing states to use and report specific Geographic Information Systems data when implementing projects to which TMDLs apply and (2) requesting that USDA ask landowners who participate in conservation programs funded by the department in areas subject to a TMDL to disclose information on the location, type, and number of projects implemented under these programs.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA officials said that they have created the Water Quality Framework to align and integrate the variety of water quality data in different systems. The first phase focuses on improvements to ATTAINS, the TMDL tracking system, to report on the status of healthy waters and restoring and improving impaired waters. EPA officials said that they have transitioned to the use of NHDPlus catchments to report on performance measures, allowing EPA to automate the calculation of data. In addition, in June 2016, EPA requested USDA to provide data on the location, type, and number of projects implemented by USDA programs. USDA has not provided the data. We will continue to monitor EPA's progress.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address challenges the Task Force faces in producing comprehensive and useful assessments of progress and addressing factors that may limit GLRI progress, the EPA Administrator, in coordination with the Task Force, as appropriate, should establish an adaptive management plan that includes all of the key elements of adaptive management and provides details on how these elements will be implemented.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2017, EPA notified GAO that the final GLRI adaptive management report is due to be released in December 2017. We will review the report after it becomes available.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can address atmospheric deposition of NOx and SO2 impairing the nation's waters, the EPA Administrator should determine whether EPA can obtain in a timely manner the data it needs to establish secondary NAAQS adequate to protect against the effects of acid rain and, if not, identify alternative strategies to do so.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: EPA issued the final "Integrated Review Plan for the Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Oxides of Nitrogen and Oxides of Sulfur and Particulate Mater" in January 2017. According to this plan, it serves as a public information document and as a management tool for EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment and Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards in conducting the review of the secondary national ambient air quality standards for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and oxides of sulfur (SOx). This plan describes the development of the Integrated Science Assessment (ISA). According to the plan, the ISA is a comprehensive review, synthesis and evaluation of the most policy-relevant science, including key science judgments. As of January 2017, EPA estimates that the first draft ISA will be available for public review in winter 2017. GAO may be able to use the ISA to determine if EPA has implemented the recommendation.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To help protect the quality of our nation's water resources, and to strengthen EPA's implementation of its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act's section 319 nonpoint source pollution control program, the Administrator of EPA should provide specific guidance to EPA's 10 regional offices on how they are to fulfill their oversight responsibilities, such as how to review states' plans for project feasibility and criteria to ensure that funded projects have characteristics that reflect the greatest likelihood of effective implementation and tangible water quality results.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2013, EPA issued new guidance "Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories" for the nonpoint source program. The guidance includes a checklist that aligns with the intent of our recommendation to provide additional guidance to regional offices. In July 2016, we issued an update of EPA's progress on our recommendations. In it, we conclude that EPA's 2013 guidance does not provide specific instruction to the regional offices on how to review states' plans for project feasibility and criteria to ensure that funded projects have characteristics reflecting the greatest likelihood of tangible water quality results, as we recommended. In January 2017, EPA said that it looked broadly at ways to improve the program and remain committed to making technical and program changes as needed. We will continue to monitor EPA's efforts on this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help protect the quality of our nation's water resources, and to strengthen EPA's implementation of its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act's section 319 nonpoint source pollution control program, the Administrator of EPA should, in revising section 319 guidelines to states, and in addition to existing statutorily required reporting measures, emphasize measures that (1) more accurately reflect the overall health of targeted water bodies (e.g., the number, kind, and condition of living organisms) and (2) demonstrate states' focus on protecting high-quality water bodies, where appropriate.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In 2013, EPA issued final "Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories." The guidelines require EPA regions to review some watershed-based plans in each state annually, for example. The new guidelines also require that half of a state's 319 allocation be spent on implementing watershed plans, which according to EPA, emphasizes overall health of targeted waterbodies. In July 2016, we issued an update on our recommendations saying that the EPA officials said that they plan to change the program's measures of effectiveness, but have not had time or resources to do so. EPA officials said they plan to create a workgroup to focus on creating a measure for the protection of healthy water bodies in 2017. In January 2017, EPA said that it remained committed to pursue a measure for maintaining high-quality waters. Until EPA takes concrete action on this measure, we will keep this recommendation open.