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Public Statements

Letter to Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General Nikki L. Tinsley

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

July 24, 2003

The Honorable Nikki L. Tinsley Inspector General Environmental Protection Agency 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20460-0001

Dear Inspector General Tinsley:

We are writing to request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Inspector General investigate management, funding and staffing needs of the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA). We are extremely troubled by recent news accounts asserting that the EPA inflated and misrepresented its enforcement staffing and record. We are equally concerned that the enforcement office has insufficient personnel and resources to enforce our nation's environmental laws.

Because enforcement of these laws is a basic component of EPA's mission, necessary to ensure public health and safety, we request your assistance in assessing: 1) whether OECA has sufficient agents and resources to achieve its criminal and civil enforcement objectives; 2) EPA's additional duties due to increased homeland security; 3) whether enforcement resources are being utilized appropriately and effectively; 4) the effectiveness of OECA's management approach and structure; and 5) the accuracy of EPA's representations of its enforcement efforts.

Please evaluate the following issues and provide the requested information:

1. Recent press accounts have suggested that EPA's OECA may require supplementary resources in order to fulfill its core mission and its recently assigned homeland security duties. EPA disputes these claims. Please identify and describe changes to EPA's criminal and civil enforcement duties and workload due to homeland security requirements since September 11, 2001. In your assessment, please include federal legislative and regulatory requirements, counter-terrorism activities, emergency response activities, assisting local law enforcement, and shifts in other agencies priorities, and budget and personnel (FTE-Full Time Equivalents) data for the last three complete fiscal years as well as for FY 2003 thus far.

2. Provide specific numbers concerning EPA's enforcement budget and FTE by program and region within OECA between FY 2000 and FY 2003 as compared with the requested FY 2004 budget.

a. Please identify OECA's criminal and civil enforcement needs, requests and appropriations between FY 2000 and FY 2003 and prospectively for FY 2004. In doing so, please report and compare field needs assessments and requests, EPA's budget recommendations, the administration's budget requests, FY and supplemental appropriations, and operating plans. Please provide data by division within OECA as well as for OECA as a whole. We are additionally interested in finding out how many FTE's are engaged solely in ensuring compliance with and enforcing New Source Review and Superfund requirements during the above mentioned time frame.

b. Please provide us with a breakdown of contracting expenses allocated by OECA division between FY 2000 and FY 2003.

c. Using the data obtained in (a) above, please evaluate whether OECA has sufficient budget and FTE by division to adequately manage its enforcement program and enforce the nation's environmental statutes.

3. Recent news reports indicate that EPA has a backlog of 1,500 criminal cases due to inadequate resources. Please identify the extent, and provide a description, of any EPA criminal case backlog. Has EPA failed to prosecute or pursue any civil or criminal cases due, in any part, to insufficient resources?

4. Recent news accounts have asserted that EPA has inflated its numbers of Criminal Investigation Division (CID) agents by loosely defining "agent," which EPA disputes. Please assess EPA's requirements for qualification as an "agent," delineating different grades of agents and their responsibilities. Please provide the number of staff in each grade and compare these levels for each of the last three complete fiscal years and FY 2003 thus far.

5. Recent news reports suggest that CID is using a loose definition of "case" and "investigation," and is including anti-terrorism and drug prevention activities in its enforcement figures. Within this division:

a. Please identify and describe how CID categorizes, records, logs and tracks cases and investigations and whether these categorizations have changed since FY 2000. Please provide a summary of the categories and number of cases and investigations CID initiated, completed, and opened in FY 2000, 2001, 2002, and, if possible, in FY 2003, and the amount of any backlog.

b. Please provide a summary and description of CID's enforcement results for each of the last three complete fiscal years and FY 2003 thus far, i.e. how many notices of violation have been issued, pollution reductions, fines and penalties, and prison sentences, by case type, i.e. counter-terrorism, drug enforcement, air, water, solid waste pollution reduction, etc. In the case of final actions that will reduce future air emissions, please describe the amount of annual emissions avoided and the year in which such reductions will commence.

6. Please describe the management, reporting and accountability structure at CID. Identify any perceived gaps, shortcomings or strengths in meeting performance goals and fulfilling the division's mission.

7. Describe the effectiveness of EPA's enforcement policies in terms of: prioritization of repeat/significant offenders, prioritization of violations with significant impacts, and effectiveness of deterrence.

8. Provide an analysis of the effectiveness of the Permit Compliance System (PCS) data system used by the water enforcement division and the adequacy of EPA's support of efforts to upgrade the system. Further identify why both the EPA's and the States' formal enforcement actions have declined so significantly since FY 1999, with the EPA's declining further than that of the States'. Evaluate the legitimacy of the EPA's claim that this reduction is due to a diversion of resources to wet weather discharge enforcement actions. Quantify any diversion in terms of FTEs.

We ask that the IG expedite this request, as the information called for is critical as Congress prepares to finalize EPA's budget for FY 2004. Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

James M. Jeffords, I-VT
Barbara Boxer, D-CA
Joseph I. Lieberman, D-CT
Patrick J. Leahy, D-VT
John F. Kerry, D-MA
Ron Wyden, D-OR
Barbara A. Mikulski; D-MD
John D. Dingell, D-MI
James L. Oberstar, D-MN
Hilda L. Solis; D-CA
Rick Boucher, D-VA.

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