By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On March 2, 2021, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published its latest High Risk List, which includes 36 areas across the federal government vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or needing broad-based transformation. According to GAO, five areas have regressed since 2019, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) process for assessing and controlling toxic chemicals. GAO’s report, High-Risk Series: Dedicated Leadership Needed to Address Limited Progress in Most High-Risk Areas, states that this high-risk area declined in the monitoring criterion from a partially met rating in 2019 to a not met rating in 2021; three criteria in each of the two segments declined to a not met rating in 2021. GAO notes that the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program did not issue a completed chemical assessment between August 2018 and December 2020, and EPA (1) did not indicate how it was monitoring its assessment nomination process to ensure it was generating quality information about chemical assessment needs; and (2) lacked implementation steps and resource information in its strategic plan and metrics to define progress in the IRIS Program. Additionally, according to GAO, EPA’s programs supporting the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (1) did not complete workforce or workload planning to ensure the agency can meet TSCA deadlines; and (2) did not meet initial statutory deadlines for releasing its first ten chemical risk evaluations.