*. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency	12-P-0249

I"	\ Office of Inspector General	February 2,2012
s v\|/v S
At a Glance
Why We Did This Review
In an Office of Inspector
General report issued on
November 21, 2011, we
addressed a congressional
request on Clean Water Act
(CWA) Section 404 permit
applications. While reviewing
files in U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA)
Regions 3, 4, and 5, we
encountered recordkeeping
issues that warranted this
The U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers issues permits for
surface coal mining under
CWA Section 404 and is the
official agency of record. EPA
reviews permit notifications for
water quality and provides the
Corps with comment letters on
some permit notifications. EPA
also attends meetings and site
visits with Corps project
managers and applicants. The
Federal Records Act states that
"records" include all
documentary materials in
connection with the transaction
of public business.
For further information, contact
our Office of Congressional and
Public Affairs at (202) 566-2391.
The full report is at:
EPA Should Strengthen Records Management
on Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit
Notification Reviews for Surface Coal Mining
What We Found
EPA staff in Regions 3, 4, and 5 should better document their records of review
activities on CWA Section 404 surface mining permit notifications. EPA regional
staff believe that Agency comment letters are the only official records that they
should maintain related to notification reviews. Because of the limited
documentation, information we needed to complete our congressional review was
not available, and we could not discern whether EPA had reviewed some
notifications. Without knowledge of permit status and the resolution of
comments, EPA may not be able to determine whether its reviews have desired
environmental impacts. Also, without properly maintaining evidence of CWA
Section 404 permit notification reviews, EPA risks being out of compliance with
the Federal Records Act.
EPA has recently taken actions that should improve documentation of the
Agency's CWA Section 404 activities nationwide—not just those related to
surface mining activities in Regions 3, 4, and 5. EPA's Office of Water
developed the Data on Aquatic Resources Tracking for Effective Regulation
(DARTER) system to alert staff of permit notifications and to track information
on the Agency's CWA Section 404 regulatory activities. However, EPA currently
limits DARTER implementation to standard permits only, and the use of
DARTER is not mandatory. In addition, Region 5 developed the Coal Tracker
system to keep track of mining permit notifications and to help complete its
What We Recommend
We recommend that the Office of Water coordinate with headquarters and
regions to identify DARTER as an official recordkeeping system and develop a
full implementation plan, identify as official records certain basic information
entered in DARTER, and indicate when DARTER will incorporate additional
permit actions. We also recommend that the Office of Water reconcile any data
duplication between DARTER and Region 5's Coal Tracker system. Lastly, we
recommend that the Office of Water clarify the requirements of certain EPA
records schedules. The Office of Water concurred with our recommendations and
described planned actions to address our recommendations. Our
recommendations remain unresolved pending the Office of Water's corrective
action plan with milestone dates.