Environmental Protection: Collaborative EPA-State Effort Needed to Improve New Performance Partnership System

RCED-99-171 Published: Jun 21, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1999.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the progress made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states in implementing the National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS), focusing on: (1) the status of grants and agreements made under NEPPS between EPA and participating states; (2) the progress that EPA and the states have made in developing results-oriented performance measures to be incorporated into NEPPS agreements and grants to the states; (3) how EPA oversight may or may not be changing in states that are participating in NEPPS; and (4) the extent to which the use of these performance partnership agreements and grants has achieved the benefits envisioned for the states and the public.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency The Administrator, EPA, should work with senior-level state officials to initiate a joint evaluation process that: (1) seeks agreement on the key issues impeding progress in developing a more effective NEPPS; and (2) develops mutually agreeable remedies for these issues. Among the issues such a process could focus on are: (a) developing a set of flexible guidelines, to be used as a tool by state and EPA regional NEPPS negotiators, that could help to clarify the appropriate performance expectations and other conditions that states must meet to achieve reduced oversight in carrying out their environmental programs and the type of reduced oversight (e.g., reduced frequency of reporting, greater autonomy in setting program priorities) that could be achieved; (b) identifying what additional work is needed to address the challenges in implementing the Core Performance Measures recently negotiated by EPA and the Environmental Council of the States for fiscal year 2000, including how these measures can best be reconciled with the measures adopted by EPA under the Results Act; (c) alleviating the resistance among some staff (both within EPA offices and among participating state agencies) toward implementing NEPPS, through training and other strategies; (d) determining what appropriate steps should be taken by EPA and the states to allow for greater use by states of the flexibility envisioned under the Performance Partnership Grant system to shift resources and funding among their media programs; (e) determining how effective public participation in the NEPPS process can best be ensured; and (f) developing ways to improve communication among EPA's headquarters and regional offices and participating states to ensure that states are given a clear and timely indication on whether key elements of their agreements pursuant to the system have the full buy-in of major EPA offices.
Closed – Implemented
EPA indicated that it agreed with this recommendation, and has cited (and documented) a number of actions taken--in conjunction with the states--that speak to the issues identified in our recommendation.

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