States streamline environmental info
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Sep 28, 2001
Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection
Although pollution knows no boundaries, state agencies have developed segregated
programs for regulating, monitoring and managing water, air, and solid and
hazardous waste. As a result, units within state environmental agencies
have operated with different information systems for inspections, permitting
and enforcement actions.
That has made environmental protection inefficient, state officials
say, because data about a particular company's actions isn't always shared
between inspectors and permit writers.
Kay Harker, a program manager with the Kentucky Department for Environmental
Protection (DEP), said each of her agency's programs "even had different
computer programs, different platforms and different hardware."
But that's changing. Harker's state recently signed a $3 million contract
with American Management Systems Inc. to integrate a comprehensive environmental
data management system called TEMPO—Tools for Environmental Management
and Protection Organizations. New Jersey, Louisiana, Mississippi and New
Mexico also use TEMPO, and AMS is in serious negotiations with two other
"The environmental business is one business that is extraordinarily
data-intensive," said Gary Labovich, vice president of AMS' Environmental
Systems Group. "These permits are complex documents. What we're trying to
do is streamline a process that could literally take months, if not years,
into substantially less time."
Not only does TEMPO streamline administrative processes and reduce paper
shuffling, but it frees up inspectors to do more environmental research
and process permits, said Irene Kropp, chief information officer for New
She said benefits also include being able to view data in real time
with all the environmental information related to a particular facility,
including reports and the status of permits or enforcement actions.
In the early 1990s, AMS began working with several state environmental
protection departments after new federal regulations for the Clean Air Act
created a "whole new set of bureaucracy, forms and processes that states
needed to interact with industry," Labovich said.
The company developed applications and systems for Ohio and Minnesota,
but it wasn't until working with New Jersey that TEMPO became fully developed.
New Jersey's financial investment—coupled with expertise from inspectors,
permit writers and other employees—helped create the system, Kropp said.
Labovich, who called New Jersey AMS' "flagship client" in this area,
said the company learned that 80 percent of the core capabilities across
an agency were the same, and therefore, the company could use the technology
in other states. A group of TEMPO users meets occasionally to discuss how
the system can be improved. Industry leaders have also embraced the system,
Labovich said, adding that they helped define requirements and assisted
in the system's design and review.
New Jersey also is using the Internet so that small businesses, such
as dry cleaners or bakeries, can apply, pay and print generalized permits
with a Web browser. "That's a process that in the past could take months
when done via the mail," Labovich said. Web-based applications are available
for registering underground tanks or filing reports on excess emissions
as well, he said.
A long-term vision is to allow the public access to environmental data
via the Internet and incorporate geographic information system tools, used
now to varying degrees across the country, Labovich said.