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Priority Open Recommendations: Environmental Protection Agency

GAO-20-287PR Published: Apr 28, 2020. Publicly Released: May 05, 2020.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to the recommendations where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 21 priority open recommendations for the Environmental Protection Agency as of April 2020.

For example, we recommended that EPA work with technical assistance providers to help water treatment utilities prepare for potential climate change effects.

Since our previous letter in April 2019, EPA implemented 3 of our priority recommendations.

Environmental Protection Agency Priority Recommendations Graphic

Environmental Protection Agency Priority Recommendations Graphic

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What GAO Found

In April 2019, GAO identified 17 priority recommendations for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since then, EPA has implemented three of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to assess established timeframes for each step in the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) process and publish current information about chemicals being assessed.

In April 2020, GAO identified seven additional priority recommendations for EPA, bringing the total number to 21. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • Assessing and controlling toxic chemicals.
  • Reducing pollution in the nation's waters.
  • Ensuring cybersecurity at EPA.
  • Addressing data, funding, and cybersecurity issues for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • Managing climate change risks.

EPA's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or

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