EPA network takes shape

Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to have about 20 states integrated into the National Environmental Information Exchange Network by the end of the year.

"I think it's making some pretty good progress, especially with some of the vendors who are coming through on it," said Pat Garvey, EPA staff director for the network steering board. "We're seeing a real synergy developing right now, as states are learning from each other and from the EPA."

The new network is meant to be a one-stop service that national, state and tribal agencies can use to exchange information. Through the network, the EPA and state agencies can exchange information regarding safe drinking water analysis, air emissions, beach monitoring and notifications and hazardous waste permits and cleanup.

Under the current plan, participating states and tribes can develop nodes for entering their information into the network.

The EPA has 69 grants planned this year solely for network nodes. The EPA has a budget of $20 million for the grant program.

Rick Cloutier, vice president of marketing at Xaware Inc., a major technology provider to states for the network node, said he thinks that the EPA is taking the right approach to building the exchange network.

"They have a strategy that they've provided to the states, and they've also provided funding," Cloutier said. "I would expect over the next year to 18 months, [the] EPA will be able to get 80 to 90 percent of the states online."

XAware has conducted pilot programs in Delaware, Nebraska and New Hampshire, proving that the exchange system can work. Garvey cites the contributions of vendors such as XAware, Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp. as a major boost to the network's development.

The EPA has made the network's development a major priority and hopes to have a prototype main portal operational by the end of 2004.

"This really affects the mission of the agency," Garvey said. "Data very much drives many of our actions for our mission of environmental protection."

Garvey feels that the EPA's missions align the agency with other federal organizations such as the Departments of Interior, Agriculture and Energy. Citing a natural connection to those agencies, Garvey also expects Karen Evans, the new Office of Management and Budget E-Gov administrator, to have a positive influence on information sharing between agencies and states.

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