Department of Environmental Conservation Announces Measures to Further Enhance Program Performance
The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC) announced a series of measures aimed at improving compliance with the State’s environmental laws and rules that permit and monitor development, to protect the health of Vermonters and Vermont’s natural resources.
The announcement accompanies the release of a new performance audit of environmental compliance and enforcement conducted by the Office of State Auditor across four program areas; wastewater systems, wetlands, solid waste and underground storage tanks. The VTDEC is pleased to note the high levels of achievement noted by the Auditor. For example, 99% of planned inspections of underground storage tank facilities were completed in a timely manner, as were 93% of wastewater treatment facility inspections.
“Vermont invests not only in issuing permits to protect clean air, clean water and ensure healthy and safe communities, but also in the important work of supporting businesses, developers and individuals in achieving and maintaining compliance,” said Emily Boedecker, Commissioner of the Department. “Our most effective strategy is to ensure compliance before enforcement action is needed. The Auditor has identified strategic opportunities for my Department to improve our performance, and to assist regulated entities with compliance in a cost-effective manner.”
The Department of Environmental Conservation, in the Agency of Natural Resources, is responsible for most of the environmental permitting programs in the State of Vermont. The divisions of air quality, watershed management, drinking and groundwater, and waste management and prevention collectively issue more than 12,000 permit decisions a year from over two dozen permitting programs designed to safeguard Vermont’s environment. Examples of compliance and enforcement activities include inspecting facilities (such as a solid waste transfer facility, air pollution control, or wastewater treatment plant), responding to complaints (e.g., filling of wetlands, or discharges of contaminants to aquifers), and using appropriate compliance or enforcement approaches to remedy every violation identified.
In its response to the recommendations in the audit, the Department has committed to the following improvements:
- Continue to make progress toward the goal of timely completion of 100% of inspections. [The audit report documented that while 99% of underground storage tank facilities inspections were timely, nine tanks were not inspected according to schedule. All inspections have now been completed. Also, the audit report indicated that 7% of planned inspections of wastewater treatment facilities had been missed, and this will be corrected by the end of 2017.]
- Improve the consistency with which violations of the Vermont Wetland Rules are identified, tracked, and addressed. The audit report identified the opportunities to improve the process used by the Department to address wetlands violations.
- Create consistency in enforcement and compliance activities by updating the Department’s 2001 procedures. An internal VTDEC Enforcement working group has prioritized the review and revision of the Departments procedure in the next 12 months.
The Department’s annual reporting on compliance with environmental laws and rules will incorporate information from all programs. The audit report brought to the Department’s attention the need to include activities within each program in the annual report on annual environmental compliance activities, and not just activities conducted by the Environmental Compliance Division.
According to Kim Greenwood, who since 2016 has been the Director of the Environmental Compliance Division, “Our division is committed to ensuring that our environmental regulations are adequately protective of Vermont’s environment and that Vermonters clearly understand what’s required. The Auditors findings help us to identify where we can focus on improving our efforts.”
The full text of the audit may be found here: http://auditor.vermont.gov/reports/performance-audits.