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Priority Open Recommendations: Environmental Protection Agency

GAO-24-107310 Published: May 21, 2024. Publicly Released: May 28, 2024.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help the federal government save money, address issues on our High Risk List, and significantly improve government operations.

This letter to the Environmental Protection Agency outlines 12 open recommendations that it should prioritize. For example, we recommended that the EPA develop and issue new regulations to help meet water quality standards in the nation's lakes, rivers, streams, and other bodies of water.

EPA implemented 4 recommendations we identified as a priority last year. We regularly update priority recommendations here.

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What GAO Found

In May 2023, GAO identified 15 priority recommendations for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since then, EPA has implemented four of those recommendations by (1) providing information on chemical assessment products and the length of time each takes to prepare; (2) completing a programmatic resource analysis that included metrics on the recruitment and retention of its chemical assessment workforce; (3) collecting data that will support the evaluation of human capital goals for the chemical assessment program; and (4) issuing an asset management framework for the national ambient air quality monitoring system.

In May 2024, GAO identified one additional priority recommendation for EPA, bringing the total number to 12. These recommendations involve the five following areas:

  • Improving the nation's water quality,
  • Addressing data and risk communication issues related to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure,
  • Managing climate risks,
  • Protecting the nation's air quality, and
  • Ensuring cybersecurity at EPA.

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 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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