Statewide, OR—Today, Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson released a performance audit of Oregon's programs for controlling air pollution from factories and other businesses. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality welcomes the audit, and agrees with the audit findings and recommendations. DEQ's specific responses to the audit are available here: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/FilterDocs/aqpermitsaudi...
The audit identifies a significant backlog in DEQ's work to renew air quality permits and carry out inspections as a result of limited resources, increased demands and needed process improvements. Another external review of DEQ's water quality permitting program—completed a year ago—found similar issues.
With direction from the Secretary of State's Audit Division—as well as an independent consultant's report on the Water Quality program—DEQ is implementing a strategic approach to rebuild its core programs. Governor Brown, the Environmental Quality Commission, and the legislature support this effort and are confident we will restore Oregon's place as a national leader in environmental quality.
Director Richard Whitman is implementing the following steps as part of a comprehensive effort to restore clarity of leadership and accountability in the agency.
• First, DEQ is returning to a structure with clear agency leads for Water, Air and Land Quality. These three administrators will set annual performance expectations for each of the programs.
• Second, DEQ's Implementation Administrator will track performance in each of the three regions that the agency works in, and adjust resources and priorities as necessary for core permitting and compliance work to stay on track.
• Third, DEQ's clean water permitting program (which has suffered from a backlog of overdue permit renewals similar to that found in the air quality program) is launching a major initiative based on significant process improvements, eight dedicated permit writers working under central supervision, and a commitment to issuing at least 40 updated permits in 2018. View the Water Quality permit issuance plan here: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/FilterPermitsDocs/wqstat...
• Fourth, DEQ has agreed to work with EPA Region 10 and other states to improve our procedures for both air permitting and inspections – keeping permits up to date and assuring the public that we are meeting our targets for inspections.
• Fifth, one cause of the backlog in air quality work identified by the Secretary of State is the time spent responding to public concerns about air toxics that may be associated with particular companies. Completing the work to develop and implement the Cleaner Air Oregon program will allow staff to return to their regular duties.
• Finally, DEQ is working with its partners to explore further changes to how we update water and air permits. It should be in everyone's interest that permits are up-to-date. Making that happen likely will require action by the Oregon legislature in 2019.
Director Richard Whitman said, “These changes will put us in the best possible position to protect Oregonians and their environment. While, ultimately, we will need Oregon's legislature to decide what funding is appropriate for clean air and clean water, we understand that we must first demonstrate that we have done everything possible with existing resources.”
Nationwide recruitments for new water quality and air quality administrators opened on November 17, 2017. DEQ is also hiring a new Implementation Administrator. More details about these positions are available here: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/FilterDocs/DEQpositions....
Jennifer Flynt, DEQ, 503-730-5924, firstname.lastname@example.org