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Performance Audit of Sand and Gravel Air Quality
Permitting and Compliance

 

Posted: July 9, 2013

A July 2013 Legislative Performance Audit of sand and gravel permitting raised concerns about Division of Air Quality (DAQ) enforcement of in-process permits, case management of permit modification requests, and the timeliness of processing permit applications. Based on these concerns, the audit identified two broad objectives:

  • determine if the sand and gravel permitting process takes too long, and,
  • determine if sand and gravel permits are equitably enforced

Sand and Gravel Air Quality Permits

The Division regulates sand and gravel operations through rules that limit the visible emissions from disturbed areas, verifies that operators are using equipment that meets the applicable performance standards relating to air emissions, and through case-by-case permitting of new or modified sources to ensure that the Best Available Control Technologies (BACT) are implemented and that the resulting emissions will not cause or contribute to an area exceeding an ambient air quality standard.

DAQ's legislative mandate is contained in the Utah Air Conservation Act (19-2, Utah Code Annotated). The charge includes provisions to achieve and maintain levels of air quality which will protect human health and safety. DAQ programs include planning and air monitoring, permitting, and compliance that ensure that these air quality goals are achieved through the application of rules and federal regulations designed to minimize the health and welfare impacts from sources of air contaminants

The Division verifies compliance with the rules and permitting requirements through review of reporting, combined with periodic on-site inspections to verify compliance with the applicable requirements. The compliance and permitting programs have contributed to a downward trend in emissions and in ambient concentrations of fine particulate matter over the past 30 years during a time when construction and the demand for the materials associated with sand and gravel operations increased.

Audit Recommendations

Auditors recommended that the DAQ compliance branch enforce approved permits for sand and gravel operations rather than enforcing in-process permits. They also recommended that DAQ take steps to ensure that its permit engineers document and track information requests from an operator when completing the permit application approval process. Finally, auditors recommended that DAQ analyze the completion phase of the permit application process, including a determination of whether permit engineers take too long to request information, make information requests that are too general, or make unnecessary information requests.

Response and Remedies

The Division reviewed these recommendations and has taken concrete actions to ensure that any deficiencies in its permitting program are corrected.

DAQ will ensure that the compliance inspectors document all non-compliance with the applicable permit conditions and make recommendations that address the circumstances of the violation. In the future, if circumstances involving in-process permits similar to the ones referenced in the audit report are discovered, DAQ will work with permitting and the operator to ensure that the requirements are understood before making a recommendation for an appropriate enforcement response.

DAQ management has already initiated a process to ensure that tracking of requests and responses to requests for information are documented in the Division's TEMPO enterprise database. Managers will observe permitting workflows and provide reports of the status of information requests and responses.

Tools are now in place as a result of process improvements initiated since 2011 to ensure that the tracking of permits entering the system includes documentation of timelines and requests for information. DAQ will ensure that the system is evaluated monthly to confirm that the tracking objectives are being met.