Officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation did not prepare and submit permit efficiency reports for landowners the way they were supposed to, per a legislative directive.
This, according to a Tennessee Comptroller’s Audit released this week.
According to TDEC’s website, in 2012, members of the Tennessee General Assembly asked department officials to prepare two reports each year, in February and August, detailing the progress and efficiency of the environmental permit application process.
Each report, the website went on to say, is composed of three topics, including land, air, and water permitting information, along with a summary.
But members of TDEC’s management did not submit certain reports on time to the governor, members of the Tennessee General Assembly or to the public, as required, according to the audit.
Since 2012, TDEC officials said they have had to produce more general reports that do not include detailed reasons for permit delays or individual processing times.
Members of the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office say they studied those reports thoroughly.
“Based on our review of the reports prepared during our audit period, the approximately 30-page reports consisted of mostly narrative information, along with a summary of numerical data,” auditors wrote.
“The summary data did not include permits by type and rule, but instead provided a total of permits by division. Furthermore, the reports did not contain information required in statute.”
Specifically, those reports were supposed to have information about why department officials did not meet a permit application timeframe, the audit said.
Those reports also didn’t specify the number of days from when an applicant initially applies to when TDEC reviews the permit application and deems it complete and ready for approval or denial, the audit said.
In a written response to auditors, TDEC management said they concur with the findings and do strive to comply with state law — but they say it’s not easy.
“Due to the volume of permitting actions taken by the department (roughly 34,000 per year), if the department reported the data as currently prescribed by the statute (for each permitting action), the reports would be very large and take significant staff resources to produce in addition to making the information more difficult to review,” TDEC officials wrote.
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