Environmental Enforcement

Alternative Enforcement Organizations for EPA Gao ID: RCED-92-107 April 14, 1992

Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given top priority to enforcing environmental laws and regulations, management and organizational problems have hindered its enforcement efforts. In particular, diffuse enforcement organization has contributed to a lack of clear accountability for adhering to agency policies. This report examines the advantages and disadvantages of the existing and alternative organizational structures for enforcement responsibilities at EPA.

GAO found that: (1) while the current organizational structure promotes the integration of enforcement with other agency functions, it also requires enforcement to compete with other program goals for priority, which may result in inconsistent and unclear accountability for enforcement; (2) another advantage of the current organization is that it combines enforcement with other program responsibilities, enabling program managers to balance enforcement with other program goals; (3) EPA officials and others believe that consolidation would provide a focus for enforcement, expedite case and policy review, promote multimedia enforcement, increase consistency in enforcement policies and implementation, and help resolve conflicting views; (4) consolidation would entail reassigning nearly 400 staff at headquarters and over 3,000 staff at regional offices, disrupting existing operations and diminishing those offices' capacity to achieve their overall program goals; (5) to mitigate the weaknesses inherent in the structure of both the current and consolidated enforcement organizations, EPA could adopt remedies that would not require reorganization; (6) many factors besides organizational structure affect the success of an enforcement organization, including the quality and motivation of the staff, the extent to which organizational structure processes mesh with organizational values, and the extent to which an enforcement organization is integrated with other agency organizations; and (7) under proposed legislation to elevate EPA to a Cabinet-level department, a commission to examine agency organization and management could be created and could evaluate the organization for enforcement within the context of the entire department's organization.

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