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Highlights

GAO evaluated the effectiveness of Department of Energy (DOE) procedures for developing regulations. GAO reviewed the development of three regulations which meet the significant regulation criteria and are fully and clearly representative of the DOE regulatory process. GAO was concerned with the adequacy of the DOE process for developing regulations rather than the adequacy of individual regulations.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Energy 1. The Secretary of Energy should ensure proper organizational responsibility by designating one individual within the Office of the Secretary responsible for oversight of regulatory reform, including monitoring the quality of regulatory analyses.
Closed - Implemented
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Energy 2. The Secretary of Energy should ensure proper organizational responsibility by designating the group within the department responsible for assuring that public participation activities are properly carried out, including providing comment on plans for obtaining public comment contained in action memoranda.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOE is adamant in its belief that the public interest and industry groups will make their opinions known on all critical rulemakings when they are published in the Federal Register. DOE also points out the greatly reduced number of rulemakings now being issued. Under these circumstances, GAO can see no reason to pursue this matter further.
Department of Energy 3. The Secretary of Energy should ensure proper organizational responsibility by designating the office which is responsible for maintaining the regulatory decision file.
Closed - Implemented
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Energy 4. The Secretary of Energy should provide guidance and direction to program managers by issuing a DOE order which will require an action memorandum which would include a discussion of: (1) the problem to be addressed, the legislative authority for the regulation, the substantive issues raised by the proposed regulation, the regulation's enforceability, and its impact on other regulations; (2) those groups most likely to be affected and in what manner with a plan for obtaining comment from these groups; (3) whether a regulatory analysis will be needed; and (4) the extent to which cost/benefit information is readily available.
Closed - Not Implemented
Although DOE disagreed with the recommendation, it took some actions consistent with the general intent of the recommendation. Because of the greatly reduced number of the DOE rulemakings and position that an action memorandum is not necessary to fulfill the objectives of the recommendation, GAO believes that further effort is unwarranted.
Department of Energy 5. The Secretary of Energy should provide guidance and direction to program managers by issuing a DOE order which will specify what information must be included in the regulatory analyses, including: (1) estimates, or ranges of estimates, of the costs and benefits of each alternative; (2) a brief discussion of how the estimates were computed; (3) the underlying assumption on which the estimates were based; (4) the reason why estimates or a particular estimate could not be determined; and (5) a discussion of how effectively the alternatives can be enforced, as well as their potential impact on the enforceability of existing regulations.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOE is now complying with OMB requirements that all regulatory impact analyses be submitted to OMB for oversight and review. While GAO would prefer that more information be required for such analyses, DOE feels strongly that OMB oversight, not required at the time of the review, ensures that adequate regulatory analyses will be made. GAO believes that further effort is not worthwhile.
Department of Energy 6. The Secretary of Energy should provide guidance and direction to program managers by issuing a DOE order which will ensure enhanced public participation by defining when to use notices of inquiry and advance notices of proposed rulemakings; for example, when subject material is new or controversial or when DOE lacks complete information on the subject.
Closed - Not Implemented
The drastic reduction in rulemakings at DOE makes it unproductive to combat DOE on this point.
Department of Energy 7. The Secretary of Energy should provide guidance and direction to program managers by issuing a DOE order which will make sure that necessary documentation is maintained for the Secretary's review.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOE argues that the Secretary of Energy is not the decisionmaker and that the recommendation would be too cumbersome to implement. While GAO still disagrees on this matter, it is not worth pursuing in view of the greatly reduced number of DOE rulemakings.
Department of Energy 8. The Secretary of Energy should provide guidance and direction to program managers by issuing a DOE order which will require the Office of the General Counsel to summarize all the public comments as soon after the close of the comment period as reasonable and disseminate them to those involved in the regulatory process.
Closed - Not Implemented
While DOE agreed with the recommendations in principle, it failed to recognize the full intent of this recommendation. In light of the large reduction in DOE rulemakings, GAO would be hard pressed to show that this recommendation is cost-effective.

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