Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Report and Fiscal Year 2001 Performance Plan

RCED-00-203R: Published: Jun 30, 2000. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) fiscal year (FY) 1999 performance report and FY 2001 performance plans.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA reported making significant progress toward achieving its key outcome of safe and healthy air; (2) however, EPA recognizes that, while it has achieved cost-effective pollution reduction, the most difficult increments in pollution reduction lie ahead; (3) EPA plans to work toward the remaining obstacles by minimizing the burden on the regulated community, while maximizing pollution prevention across all titles of the Clean Air Act, ensuring that research addresses areas most likely to pose risks to public health and the environment, and working with Tribal governments to develop their capacity for implementing the Clean Air Act; (4) concerning its key outcome of making sure that water is safe for drinking and recreation, EPA's long-term objective is to: (a) ensure that 95 percent of people served by community water systems will receive water that meets EPA's 1994 health-based drinking water standards; and (b) reduce the consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish and exposure to microbials and other forms of contamination in waters used for recreation; (5) EPA's FY 1999 performance report indicates progress in meeting its drinking water safety goals, and its FY 2001 performance plan shows continued emphasis on working with states and communities to increase the number of people benefiting from safe drinking and recreational water; (6) however, EPA acknowledges that data quality problems make it difficult to measure performance and the actual public health impacts of its activities; (7) EPA is implementing strategies to improve the quality of data; (8) EPA reports significant progress in cleaning up hazardous waste sites and protecting public health and the environment; (9) more than 90 percent of the most hazardous waste sites are either undergoing cleanup construction or are completed; (10) EPA's key outcome to ensure that food is safe from pesticide residues stems from its responsibility to evaluate the safety of all new and existing pesticides and restrict pesticide use to those applications that do not pose unacceptable human health or ecological risks; (11) EPA's performance goals for FY 1999 were output-oriented and were associated with various aspects of assessing and registering pesticides to ensure their safety; and (12) while EPA was not fully successful in achieving its 1999 performance goals, the agency asserts that if it maintains the level of progress it has achieved to date, it should be able to complete its pesticide assessments within the 10-year deadline mandated by the Food Quality and Protection Act.

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