Subcommittee Explores Opportunities to Modernize Environmental Regulation and Protection
WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today held a hearing on “Modernizing the Business of Environmental Regulation and Protection.” The hearing examined ways states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are modernizing and streamlining environmental programs and regulations, and explored opportunities for increased cooperation.
“The states and EPA are partners in the business of working toward cleaner air, water, and soil because the states implement a significant percentage of the environmental laws and EPA relies on the states for the implementation of its programs. In this age of declining budgets and workforce, states, EPA, the regulated community, and the public must work together to find ways to improve environmental protection while spending less resources,” said Chairman Shimkus.
Shimkus pointed to the enactment of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act as an example of success. He said, “This Act authorizes EPA to employ a system that uses electronic manifests to track shipments of hazardous waste, under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C, from its generation to ultimate disposal. This streamlines the current process, which requires paper forms, and replaces the millions of paper manifests produced each year.”
State officials testifying at the hearing described steps their states have taken to improve and streamline environmental protection by maximizing the use of technology, optimizing their operations, and increasing transparency.
Henry Darwin, Director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, described Arizona’s adoption of a “Lean” philosophy to improve productivity and efficiency. Defining the goal of “Lean,” Darwin said, “Ultimately myDEQ will result in more environmental good as customers are able to complete their transactions with the agency faster with less potential for error. They will more likely be in compliance with environmental laws and rules at inspection because the whole process, which has been thoroughly leaned, will be increasingly transparent and streamlined for value added customer benefit. Customers get exactly what they need when they need it and are ready to receive it. This is the point of Lean, made radically faster and simpler when e-technology is applied in responsible order.”
David Cash, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, explained his state’s regulatory reform initiative, which aims to improve and expedite environmental permitting. As part of this initiative, Massachusetts is developing an Energy and Environmental Information and Public Access System (EIPAS) to enhance information sharing and enable the agency to perform timely and cost-effective permitting. “EIPAS will be designed to enhance the permitting process by enabling the submittal of data electronically in an easy-to-use manner, including the online provisioning of fact sheets and permit pre-application guidelines to facilitate the permitting process for the permittee,” said Cash. “Through implementation of the new EIPAS system, MassDEP expects to provide information to regulated entities and constituents that will promote economic development by utilizing improved permitting guidelines and tools to facilitate access to data regarding all aspects of the permitting process.”
Teresa Marks, Director of Arkansas’ Department of Environmental Quality, explained ways her department has modernized reporting and expanded electronic offerings. ADEQ recently employed the use of electronic tablets by inspectors, which allow the regulated community to sign forms at the time and place of the inspection. She explained, “The inspection forms are loaded onto the tablets and the inspector is able to fill out the form on site while in the presence of the facility operator. Once the inspection is complete, the facility operator signs the inspection report and with the use of secure software the form is locked to ensure the signature can’t be copied or the form changed without the facility operator’s knowledge. The inspection report can be printed on site and given to the facility owner, who can start addressing potential issues instead of waiting for a copy of the report to arrive through traditional mail services.” Marks added, “Electronic reporting has allowed the department to be more efficient and more responsive. We hope to continue to improve and expand our offerings to meet the demands of the public in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
William Kovacs, Senior Vice President for Environment, Technology, and Regulatory Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, encouraged further modernization of environmental programs, which can reduce regulatory burdens for both businesses and regulators. “As even more of the implementation burden of an ever-growing number of federal environmental regulations has fallen on the states, the environmental review and permitting system has not kept up in terms of efficiency, modernization and innovation,” said Kovacs. “If this nation is to create more jobs and generate more revenue, it has to begin building again. For this to occur, permit streamlining efforts are imperative.”
Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) concluded, “Today’s hearing will not be the end of the story. These innovations are continually being developed and refined, and I know states will continue to exchange ideas and information so that all can benefit. And if there are any more commonsense innovations like E-manifest that need federal legislation to implement, I’d like EPA, the states, and the regulated community to point them out so we can work together to make them possible.”