By Anthony Adragna
April 21 -- Senior state and Environmental Protection Agency officials have held four meetings since December as they work through the early stages of implementing a new data-sharing system that proponents say could transform how environmental regulators in the country operate.
Tom Burack, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and co-chairman of the E-Enterprise Leadership Council tasked with implementing the system, told Bloomberg BNA April 21 the E-Enterprise system was still in the “very, very early” stages of developments but enjoys broad support across various constituencies.
“We all recognize we all gain--the states, the regulated communities, the environment on the whole--if we can more effectively work together to deliver environmental protection,” Burack said. “People are genuinely enthusiastic about it.”
EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe is the other co-chairman of the E-Enterprise Leadership Council and has participated in all meetings, the EPA told Bloomberg BNA. Burack and the agency said they have begun a joint solicitation for proposed streamlining and modernization of programs and projects.
Certain projects selected after a business case analysis and potential return on investment could move forward in late spring or early summer, Burack said.
State environmental regulators in September unanimously endorsed the EPA's initiative that will ultimately create a web-based portal to allow regulated entities to apply for permits, check their compliance status, report air emissions and learn about new regulations .
The EPA and state regulators ratified a conceptual blueprint for the E-Enterprise system in January.
Burack said there had been an unfortunate perception that the E-Enterprise system was just about upgrading technology for the operation of environmental programs.
The project is actually a much broader attempt to develop new ways of structuring environmental protection to make them operate more efficiently and effectively, incorporating the use of advanced monitoring technologies into environmental programs and then using new technology to enable more transparency within environmental programs, according to Burack.
“The biggest challenge we have at this point is getting the word out and helping people understand what the vision is,” Burack said. “How can we do our job better in the 21st century?”
Outreach to the regulated community has been minimal so far but the group hopes to expand on initial discussions with industry groups as a “key next step” for the rest of the year and into 2015, according to Burack.
The agency, in its fiscal year 2015 budget request, named accelerating the implementation and adoption of the E-Enterprise system a priority goal.
“The EPA will accelerate the process of enhancing its data systems to integrate with E-Enterprise and to support electronic interaction with regulated facilities, providing more comprehensive, accessible data to the public and improving integration of environmental information with health data and other pertinent data sources from other federal agencies and private entities,” the agency said in describing its fiscal year 2015 goals.
Under that proposal, the agency said by Sept. 30, 2015, it would aim to reduce reporting burdens to the EPA by 1 million hours through streamlined regulations, provide real-time environmental data to a minimum of two communities and establish a new web portal for the regulated community and public.
Burack said there had been widespread, bipartisan support for the development of the system across states in all corners of the country and said there had been “very significant engagement from the states across the country” in the early stages of the project.
“Probably what's most important to understand is [E-Enterprise] is based on a different approach to environmental governance,” Burack said. “There is now recognition from the really very positive experience that a joint governance approach really can work and can get us to a better place.”
Transforming the ways in which environmental data gets shared and communicated will take time and Burack stressed the conversion would not occur overnight. Nevertheless, he said the joint working group had laid the foundations for the successful integration of E-Enterprise principles.
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The conceptual blueprint for the E-Enterprise system is available at http://www.exchangenetwork.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/EEnterpriseConceptualBlueprint-013114-FINAL.pdf.
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