The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not enforce clean air and water laws consistently and is crippled by sloppy record keeping, the investigative arm of Congress told a Senate panel on Wednesday.
And, while the EPA has taken steps to correct these problems, real reform is still years off, the Government Accountability Office reported to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
The EPA’s regional offices disagree on which environmental regulations to enforce and what penalties to use against polluters, the GAO found after reviewing various reports and studies from the past six years.
The 10 regions vary on the size of fines they assess and also on the number of inspections they make at facilities discharging pollutants. While some offices issue fines, others offer workshops or activities to mend damage.
The GAO called the EPA’s data on violations and enforcement “incomplete and inaccurate,” again blaming regions for inconsistently reporting to federal headquarters. This scramble made it hard to measure environmental changes over time or plan for the agency’s future, the GAO added.
In 2001, the GAO recommended that the EPA create a management plan to organize its employees better. It also suggested the agency develop a budget that accurately reflected where funds were needed.
However, in the past five years, the agency has made only marginal changes that have had “minor impact,” the GAO said.
© 2006 Reuters