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Highlights

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several states reviewed by GAO have established financial assistance programs to encourage the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of brownfields. The programs run by EPA and the states differ in certain aspects, however. Namely, there are differences in the forms of assistance provided, the eligibility criteria, and overall strategies. From fiscal years 1995 through 2000, EPA provided $246.9 million for brownfields assistance while the five states reviewed by GAO provided a combined total of $136 million. GAO found that EPA and the states have difficulty in determining whether their programs are achieving their overall goals. Although EPA maintains a database to track the progress of its program, the data it collects are limited because recipients of EPA's assistance are not required to report on the status of their cleanup projects. The states also have limited information, primarily because they do not track the economic benefits of the assistance they provide or they use forecasted results, rather than actual results, to measure progress.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency In order to produce better information on the impact of the brownfields assistance program, the Administrator, EPA, should continue to review data reported by recipients before EPA's new guidelines for results were put in place and make any corrections needed to ensure that the data are consistent with the current guidelines.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has implemented the recommendation. Specific actions the agency has taken include: (1) having regional grant managers review grant recipients' data submissions; (2) training regional managers in data quality issues; and (3) meeting with grant recipients to resolve data reporting issues. Therefore, GAO is closing this recommendation.
Environmental Protection Agency In order to produce better information on the impact of the brownfields assistance program, the Administrator, EPA should monitor the extent to which EPA regions succeed in improving recipients' reporting of data on key results measures and, if warranted, consider additional action to encourage reporting, such as making it clear to recipients that follow-on awards depend on reported results.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has implemented the recommendation. Specific actions the agency has taken include: (1) tracking the extent to which grant recipients report on performance measures; and (2) linking the receipt of follow-on awards to results reporting. Because of this progress, GAO is closing the recommendation.

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