States streamline environmental info

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

states.

"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

Jersey's DEP.

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.

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