Audits in the News: Air quality permitting

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

In our first performance audit released in 2018, auditors examined the air quality permitting process at the Department of Environmental Quality. The team found a significant backlog among permit renewals and identified strategies the agency can use to evaluate staffing and workload, provide better guidance, and reduce the backlog and better safeguard Oregon’s air.

You can read the entire audit here.

The Oregonian/OregonLive – Audit: Oregon regulators face ‘unmanageable workload,’ potentially harming air quality

Read the story here.

“The state employees overseeing Oregon’s air quality program are overworked, understaffed and face “unmanageable workloads” that have led to substantial permit and inspection backlogs, potentially increasing the chances those businesses aren’t complying with the latest pollution laws.

Those are the key takeaways of an audit of the Department of Environmental Quality’s air pollution programs. The Secretary of State’s office audit released Wednesday notes that the agency’s budget, adjusted for inflation, shrank 8 percent since the 2001-03 biennium. Dozens of job vacancies left unfilled means the agency is effectively down 250 employees, or roughly 29 percent of its authorized workforce, during the same period.”

Statesman Journal – DEQ permit and inspection backlog endangers air quality, audit finds

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“Forty-three percent of Oregon’s largest air polluters are operating with expired permits — some as long as five years past due.

That means those businesses aren’t required to meet the most current environmental standards, the Oregon Audits Division said in a report issued Wednesday.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality told auditors it’s behind on inspecting air polluters as well, but can’t quantify the problem because it has no system for tracking inspection due dates.”

Oregon Public Broadcasting – Human Health Put At Risk In Oregon By Air Pollution Permit Backlog: Audit

Read the story here.

“A backlog of outdated air pollution permits is endangering public health and frustrating business owners, according to a newly released audit by the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.

About 40 percent of air quality permits for major industrial sources of pollution are overdue for renewal by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, according to the audit. Oregon is also behind on timely inspections for air quality permits, but it doesn’t know by how much: the agency has no system to track when facilities are due for inspection, according to the audit.”

Portland Tribune – Auditors: DEQ backlogs ‘endanger state’s air quality and health’

Read the story here.

“State auditors say that a backlog in permits and inspections at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality “endanger the state’s air quality and the health of Oregonians.”

The secretary of state’s Audits Division released the audit Wednesday, Jan. 3. The audit is available here.

DEQ is responsible for monitoring and regulating emissions from industrial sources and enforcing violations. The department also oversees land and water quality.”