Sept. 16 --The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) unanimously endorsed an Environmental Protection Agency initiative that would 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.
Known as the E-Enterprise, the portal will allow states and the EPA to share environmental data electronically. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Sept. 16 the tool could generate savings of $75 million annually.
The EPA and ECOS signed an agreement to establish a group that will help develop the system. Bob Perciasepe, the EPA deputy administrator, will be the co-chair of the committee, McCarthy told state environmental regulators.
E-Enterprise is a “really, really excellent example of where states have taken resource challenges and turned them into an opportunity to be more efficient,” McCarthy said. “You helped us define an agenda item for us and you even went and helped us sell it” to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The EPA's fiscal year 2014 budget request included $60 million, spread across multiple programs, to support the new initiative. The agency said the initiative would reduce paperwork and regulatory reporting burdens while giving industry, the government, and the public better information on environmental issues.
“E-Enterprise builds on efforts such as e-Manifest for hazardous waste, which will allow for one-stop reporting and save industry the costs of completing thousands of pages of paper reports that cannot easily be used for tracking and managing shipments,” the White House wrote in an overview of the budget.
McCarthy said working with the states to secure the federal funding for the system “could not have been a more collaborative process and, frankly, it cannot have been a more successful one.”
She discussed E-Enterprise during a speech on the EPA's upcoming priorities (see related story in this issue).
Perciasepe said ongoing budgetary uncertainty had caused the agency to look for ways to streamline its operations and reduce inefficiencies in the regulatory process.
“We have an imperative to do this,” Perciasepe said. “The old ways of business are not going to be adequate in today's world.”
ECOS cited open data and web services that make the information easily available, ease of use for users, “seamless” integration between state and federal information, and the preservation of existing statutory authorities as important characteristics that it would like to see in the final system.
Some state officials told the meeting that managing environmental data is currently a problem for them. A representative from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection conducted a positive return-on-investment analysis, indicating the system would generate benefits that outweighed the initial cost of creating it.
Other state regulators said the system could lead to increased collection of enforcement penalties and permitting fees, better productivity through the use of mobile applications, easier access to information for the business community, and expanded information access for the public.
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