EPA faults TDEC’s enforcement of pollution laws

In a recent audit, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found fault with the Department of Environment’s enforcement of anti-pollution laws, reports The Tennessean. The auditors say TDEC neglected to penalize permit holders despite months of documented pollution, failed to assess appropriate fines and didn’t report sewage overflows from major facilities, among other findings small and large.

In one instance, an unnamed facility received five warning letters in seven months for significant violations, but never received a formal penalty, according to the EPA. Another exceeded its limits for polluting into a state waterway during a 10-month period, but the state didn’t take any enforcement action.

“TDEC is relying on carrots but no sticks,” said Scott Banbury, conservation program coordinator of the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club. “They have adopted this philosophy that working with the company and voluntary compliance is better.”

…Officials from TDEC declined to be interviewed for this story but issued a statement saying they “appreciate” the EPA’s oversight as “an opportunity to receive constructive feedback on our programs.”

The statement continued: “But we don’t always agree on all of its findings. TDEC’s enforcement efforts continue to make positive, profound and lasting impacts on clean water and clean air in Tennessee.”

…In their written responses to the EPA findings, state officials said they were already working on enforcement orders for some of the facilities, but they just hadn’t finalized the orders at the time of the federal review.

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