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Priority Open Recommendations: Environmental Protection Agency

GAO-22-105600 Published: Jul 01, 2022. Publicly Released: Jul 08, 2022.
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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 where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 12 priority open recommendations for the Environmental Protection Agency as of March 2022. For example, in November 2020, we recommended that EPA develop a plan to modernize the national ambient air quality monitoring system.

Since our previous letter in June 2021, EPA implemented 10 of our priority recommendations.

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What GAO Found

In June 2021, GAO identified 22 priority recommendations for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since then, EPA has implemented ten of those recommendations by, among other things, requiring states to report quarterly to EPA on the number of lead service lines in each public water system in the state and providing direction to staff on integrating climate change information into risk assessments at nonfederal Superfund sites. We are not adding any additional priority recommendations this year. The total number of priority recommendations remaining is 12. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • assessing and controlling toxic chemicals;
  • reducing pollution in the nation's waters;
  • ensuring cybersecurity at EPA;
  • addressing data and risk communication issues for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure;
  • managing climate change risks; and
  • protecting the nation's air quality.

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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Air qualityClimate changeCompliance oversightCybersecurityHigh-risk issuesNatural resourcesPotable waterRisk managementWastewaterWater pollutionWater systems