Audit: Louisiana Needs to Improve Emissions Enforcement
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A new state audit says the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality needs to do a better job of identifying industrial polluters that don’t properly report air emission violations and enforce those violations more aggressively.
The report from Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office was released Monday.
Since 2008, the report notes we’ve seen a 75% decline in poor air quality days a year for sensitive groups, down to just 3.6 days every year. DEQ spokesperson Greg Langley says the state has also met other benchmarks.
“Louisiana’s passes all of the EPA’s criteria pollutants except SO2 and it’s only in two parishes, small parts of two parishes,” said Langley.
Since 2008 Louisiana has seen a 21% increase in good quality air days.
The report raises concerns with how long it takes DEQ to process self-monitoring reports from state polluters and staying on top of industries to submit those reports. Langley says…
“We need to make some improvements in those areas and we’re working on it but we don’t think it has any profound impact on any pollution risks.”
Another complaint in the report: the amount of time it takes to issue enforcement actions against air quality violators has more than doubled since 2008, and DEQ doesn’t keep up with whether pollution fines are being paid once issued. Langley says he disagreed with many of those conclusions.
“Sometimes if we issue a fine and a company goes bankrupt or it goes out of business it has to be turned over to a collection arm.”
The report concludes that a large part of the department’s problem is due to low staffing, including a 15% decline in air quality monitoring positions since 2008, high workloads, and frequent staff turnover.
The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reports that Environmental Quality Secretary Chuck Carr Brown says his department is developing its own software to allow the staff to better track violations.