Environmental Protection Agency

Recommendations and Actions

EPA11: Reorganize EPA's Office of Enforcement


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement program is responsible for bringing parties who are violating the nation's environmental laws into compliance, preparing and litigating cases against these parties, and helping to forge effective responses to harmful environmental conditions. Reorganization of EPA's enforcement operation represents an excellent opportunity to achieve efficiencies in government.

In the early 1980's, EPA reassigned and separated its enforcement responsibilities. EPA placed the environmental compliance engineering and inspections staff, which provides the technical expertise necessary to ascertain whether a source is in violation, into the individual media-specific program offices (Air, Water, Solid Waste, and Toxics). In addition, EPA placed the legal enforcement staff into a separate Office of Enforcement (OE). The regional enforcement divisions were abolished. This decentralized and limited the coordination and management of environmental enforcement within the agency.

The organizational structure created in 1981 continues to define the shape of EPA enforcement today. Presently, there is no centralized authority vested in any one Assistant Administrator for targeting, priority setting, and development and management of enforcement resources. In fact, enforcement priority setting is currently shared by five assistant administrators and 10 regional administrators.

As a result, enforcement has not been a sufficiently high priority for any of the program offices at EPA headquarters, which have conflicting priorities such as permitting and regulation development. In addition, persons at all levels of the agency must be tied into protracted and frequently repetitious consultations over enforcement priorities and implementation plans. For example, the development of a single enforcement initiative typically involves extensive discussion with six different EPA program offices. This situation is not only frustrating to personnel within EPA, but recently caused the Department of Justice's Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources to ask for a single point of contact at EPA for enforcement issues.

In addition, the present system adversely affects EPA's ability to address multi-media environmental problems (those affecting more than just one medium, such as air, water, or land). Specifically, it is difficult to develop comprehensive enforcement responses to facilities that are in violation of more than one federal statute. The current enforcement structure has thwarted EPA's ability to implement multi-media enforcement, a top priority of the Clinton Administration.

The current structure also results in parallel and often duplicative processes. For example, each case and policy matter typically undergoes parallel review and analysis up through the office director level in both OE and in related program offices. In the event of disagreement, ultimately only the Administrator and the Deputy Administrator are empowered to resolve these enforcement disputes. Recently, it took more than nine months and the personal involvement of the Administrator to resolve a disagreement among the Assistant Administrator for Water, a Regional Administrator, and the Assistant Administrator for Enforcement concerning the proper enforcement response to a violation of the wetlands regulations.

In addition to being inherently inefficient, this system promotes "forum-shopping"-- choosing a media-specific program office that will give the desired result. By going directly to a program office to discuss an enforcement issue, outside parties (including regulated sources) can effectively try to play one EPA office against another.

Simply stated, there is no single enforcement voice in the agency. This results in a de-emphasis on enforcement, high transaction costs, duplication of effort, and an inability to effectively pursue multi- media enforcement. This problem needs to be rectified.

On July 22, 1993, in connection with the National Performance Review effort, Administrator Browner announced that she intends to consolidate and reorganize EPA's enforcement resources at headquarters. To implement this, she has created a task force, which is developing a plan for implementation by October 1993. A consolidated structure will eliminate duplicative review chains, force issues to final resolution much lower in the management chain, and eliminate forum-shopping. Reorganizing headquarters enforcement will improve EPA's effectiveness.


EPA should implement the Administrator's headquarters enforcement reorganization proposal.

This would bring the various EPA enforcement operations together under the Office of the Assistant Administrator for Enforcement. Within one year, it is anticipated that a reorganized OE should:

eliminate duplication of effort, thereby maximizing the government's environmental enforcement efforts;

restore accountability to a presently fractured system;

provide a single voice on national environmental enforcement priorities, thereby eliminating mixed and conflicting signals between headquarters, the regional offices, and the states;

position the agency to respond to cutting-edge issues and vulnerabilities, such as environmental justice, multi-media enforcement capacity, penalty practice, measuring program success, and enforcement data integration; and

enhance agency efficiency and promote cost effectiveness.


In a time of flat or declining resources and a nearly unmanageable case docket, EPA can no longer afford the inefficiencies of the current organizational framework for enforcement. Reorganization would enable EPA's OE to more effectively identify and respond to national environmental problems, including targeting companies that consistently violate the law, addressing sources that are responsible for ecosystem destruction, and addressing pollution problems that affect minority and low-income populations. A reorganization will demonstrate the administration's commitment to eliminate duplication and waste in the federal government and will leave EPA's enforcement apparatus stronger and more responsive to the priorities of this administration.

Fiscal Impact

This issue will require no new expenditures. Reorganization will produce a net savings by streamlining enforcement operations, and result in a total savings of 138 workyears over the period of FY 1997 through FY 1999. It is assumed that dollar savings will be reprogrammed to increase compliance monitoring, inspection, legal enforcement, and other activities in EPA.

Budget Authority (BA) and Outlays (Dollars in Millions)

 Fiscal Year   1994    1995    1996    1997    1998    1999    Total
 BA             0.0     0.0     0.0    -3.5    -3.5    -3.5     -10.
 Outlays        0.0     0.0     0.0    -3.3    -3.5    -3.5     -10.3
 Change          0       0       0     -46     -46     -46      -138
 in FTEs

Return To Report Index

Who We Are |||Latest Additions |||Initiatives |||Customer Service |||News Room |||Accomplishments |||Awards |||"How To" Tools |||Library |||Web Links

Reinvention Comments
Technical Comments