Acid Rain:

Delays and Management Changes in the Federal Research Program

RCED-87-89: Published: Apr 29, 1987. Publicly Released: May 27, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed recent management changes and program delays in the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP).

Through fiscal year 1985, NAPAP spent $6.7 million developing its research results for the general public; however, it delayed its first assessment report because management underestimated the time and staff needed to review and approve the document. GAO found that centralized management made the research program stronger; however, management changes contributed to communication problems between NAPAP task groups and hampered program effectiveness. GAO also found that: (1) NAPAP reduced its efforts to evaluate the economic effects of acid rain since 1985 and included only minimal economic effects information in its first assessment; (2) disagreements among participating agencies on major issues and the large number of agency reviews contributed to delays in issuing key assessments; and (3) NAPAP annual reports were issued late and did not include policy recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, JCC stated that NAPAP will assess the economic impacts of acidic deposition and develop estimates of the costs of control technologies. In a letter to the Chairman, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, the Chairman, JCC, stated that he asked the Director of Research to set up an interagency economic work group.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Congress is provided with the best information available concerning the economic effects of acidic deposition, the Chairman of the NAPAP Joint Chairs Council (JCC) should identify economic information needed to assess the acidic deposition issue and ensure that the associated analyses be undertaken. This effort should include: (1) the review and coordination of the economic effects assessment work currently conducted by federal agencies and organizations outside of NAPAP; and (2) the identification of gaps that remain to be addressed to meet NAPAP goals in such work.

    Agency Affected: National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program Joint Chairs Council

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: JCC agreed to improve on the delivery date of the annual report and committed to releasing annual reports for the preceding year by April 1, 1988. To ensure the final assessment is released in 1990, JCC has asked the Director of Research to develop a plan for the 1990 assessment so that the effort can be adequately staffed and completed on schedule.

    Recommendation: To ensure that key NAPAP documents are issued on a timely basis in the future, the Joint Chairs Council should: (1) direct the Director of Research and NAPAP task group officials to give high priority to the development of assessment documents, annual reports, and operating research plans; and (2) examine the staffing situation in the Office of the Director of Research and determine where delays occur and take steps to eliminate the bottlenecks.

    Agency Affected: National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program Joint Chairs Council

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: JCC determined that: (1) it was not appropriate to establish an external scientific committee; (2) the time required for such reviews was prohibitive; and (3) outside peer review was already being performed on all major NAPAP products.

    Recommendation: The Joint Chairs Council should determine whether the establishment of an external scientific committee would benefit NAPAP and, if such a committee would be beneficial, direct the Director of Research to establish it.

    Agency Affected: National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program Joint Chairs Council


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