Oregon Department of Environmental Quality: Ongoing Strategic Planning Can Help DEQ Address Obstacles to Achieving its Goals

Report 2024-13

Oregon State Capital Building

Anti-Racism is the active process of identifying and challenging racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices, and attitudes to redistribute power in an equitable manner.

Why this audit is important

DEQ administers and enforces environmental laws pertaining to air, water, and land quality and ensures compliance with federal environmental regulations on behalf of the EPA.

Governor Kotek issued agency expectations for strategic planning and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) action planning in January 2023, with strategic plans due June 2024.

Strategic planning can help regulatory agencies like DEQ address the key principles of good regulatory governance and take steps to meet its mission.

Anti-racist strategic planning can help organizations better identify and address policies and practices that are harmful to staff and communities of color.

An audit of DEQ’s governance risks was requested by the Senate Republican Caucus in September 2022.

What we found

  1. DEQ faces some pressing challenges that could impede agency efforts to achieve its mission. The escalating effects of climate change and related impacts to environmental quality may outpace DEQ’s ability to provide a high level of service especially to some of Oregon’s more vulnerable communities. Related challenges include the agency’s broad scope of work and a growing public demand for services paired with persistent funding limitations.
  2. The agency is also dealing with internal obstacles, such as difficulties recruiting and retaining staff (particularly BIPOC staff), barriers to coordination and communication needed to carry out programs, and a work environment that presents many challenges to staff. DEQ is working to enhance staff support, and agency leadership has stated the agency goal is to become an anti-racist organization. These efforts also align with the objectives of the 2021 State of Oregon DEI Action Plan. However, due to the ongoing and iterative nature of anti-racism work, this may take several years to achieve.
  3. DEQ is in the process of developing an agencywide anti-racist strategic plan in alignment with the Governor’s expectations and requirements. The agency should use the strategic planning process to address both internal and external challenges in addition to meeting its anti-racism goals. Strategic planning best practices can provide critical context and guidance to applying strategic planning to a variety of agency needs.

What we recommend

We made two recommendations to DEQ. DEQ agreed with all of our recommendations. The response can be found at the end of the report.

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