EPA encouraging data sharing

National Environmental Information Exchange Grant Program

The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a new state and tribal grant program and is seeking proposals for a system to facilitate electronic data sharing.

EPA received $25 million for fiscal 2002 -- with $2.5 million set aside for tribes -- for the National Environmental Information Exchange Network Grant Program.

The money will go toward data modernization and integration efforts in support of the National Environmental Information Exchange Network, a developing Internet-based system that links states and the federal government.

Each participant will maintain a single point of entry, or node, on the network and will follow an agreed-upon standardized exchange format.

"I really see this as a continuing commitment to advance the exchange of information between states and to help create e-commerce," said Lyn Burger, program manager for the grant program.

EPA and state officials envision a number of benefits including lower-cost, higher-quality data, improved information management and better environmental policy.

The agency began soliciting proposals Feb. 11. They are due by April 1.

Applicants must show a commitment to burden reduction, data integration and public access.

In the beginning, the network will be limited to information already being shared. So far, it houses facility, air and permit data, Burger said.

"It will expand to other participants as their interest and the capacity of the network allow. The ultimate vision is a broad and diverse web of quality information, but the design begins small," says a blueprint for the network, updated last year.

The Bush administration's budget request for fiscal 2003 includes another $25 million for the grant program, according to Burger.

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