Audit Faults Nevada Environmental Agency Practices

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Nevada's environmental protection agency failed to collect nearly $131,000 in revenues and allowed a refund of $78,000 without verifying the accuracy of the claim, a legislative audit says.

Improvements at the state Division of Environmental Protection are needed in agency practices to guard against the risk "of losing thousands of dollars in revenue" and to comply with state laws and rules, according to the report released Thursday.

Auditors made eight recommendations to correct the problems identified in the report, all of which were accepted by the agency's administrator, Allen Biaggi.

While accepting the recommendations, Biaggi did note that the nearly $78,000 refund mentioned by auditors was made only after reviewing the concerns raised by auditors.

The refund went to US Ecology, which operates a hazardous waste landfill near Beatty, and was returned because of math errors in quarterly reports submitted by the Beatty facility.

Auditors found other reporting errors from the waste site, which resulted in additional fee collections of $43,000. The errors occurred because reports of hazardous waste shipments to the site were incomplete or omitted. The reports weren't checked for accuracy by the agency.

Further inquiries led to the reporting of an additional 154 shipments of waste and the payment of the additional $43,000 in fees.

Auditors also found the agency didn't collect $87,500 in fees for environmental cleanup at contaminated sites. The agency lacks procedures to ensure all appropriate costs are recovered, the report said.

Biaggi said policies are being developed to ensure all costs are reimbursed on time, and the uncollected amounts identified in the audit are being sought from the responsible parties.

Fees, taxes and reimbursements to the agency totaled $22.4 million in fiscal 2001-2002, or nearly 48 percent of the total budget.