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Highlights

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces the nation's environmental laws and regulations through its Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA). While OECA provides overall direction on enforcement policies and occasionally takes direct enforcement action, many enforcement responsibilities are carried out by EPA's 10 regional offices. In addition, these offices oversee the enforcement programs of state agencies that have been delegated the authority to enforce federal environmental protection regulations. This testimony is based on GAO's reports on EPA's enforcement activities issued over the past several years and on observations from ongoing work that is being performed at the request of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations. GAO's previous reports examined the (1) consistency among EPA regions in carrying out enforcement activities, (2) factors that contribute to any inconsistency, and (3) EPA's actions to address these factors. Our current work examines how EPA, in consultation with regions and states, sets priorities for compliance and enforcement and how the agency and states determine respective compliance and enforcement roles and responsibilities and allocate resources for these purposes.

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