EHS Management

E-Enterprise: What They’re Saying

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of trying to modernize its approach to environmental compliance and efficiency through a project called “E-Enterprise.” Yesterday we looked at the basic premises of E-Enterprise and how it will affect the regulated community. Today we will review some of the comments the EPA has received concerning E-Enterprise.

Recap. Earlier this year, the EPA put out a call for comments on an E-Enterprise portal the Agency is planning on developing and claims will improve environmental results and enhance services to the regulated community and the public by making government more efficient. The EPA calls the E-Enterprise idea a “transformative 21st-century strategy for rethinking how government agencies deliver environmental protection in the United States.”

Here’s what some folks are saying about E-Enterprise.

States generally supportive, but concerned

While state associations that commented were generally supportive of the E-Enterprise efforts, there is a wariness of costs.

According to the Environmental Council of States (ECOS), it is important that the use of the E-Enterprise portal remain voluntary. ECOS also pointed out the need for the EPA to continue to “proactively” seek funding for the states to participate in E-Enterprise. ECOS also recommended that the EPA develop an implementation schedule for major portions of the portal. Attempting to build out all portions (public, regulated community, coregulator, and local government) sections at the same time, in ECOS’s view, may make the portal cumbersome and frustrate users. Prioritization of the portal’s development phases will be key, says the Council.

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The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is a bit worried about the integrity of the data that will reside on the portal. NASDA’s comments focused primarily on the information that could be on the public portions of the E-Enterprise website. The Association is especially concerned that detailed information on sensitive agricultural production facilities could be presented in a manner that could pose significant risks associated with public health, biosecurity, bioterrorism, personal safety, and the protection of personal property. According to NASDA, it is inappropriate and potentially very dangerous for the federal government to compile sensitive information such as specific facility locations, personal phone numbers, and other sensitive facility information in a single, public resource—essentially providing a road map to these facilities. NASDA pointed specifically to the fact that there are organizations and individuals who are “ideologically motivated” to destroy concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Comments from the chief of the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection’s (NDEP) Bureau of Air Quality Planning were all about costs to the states for participation and the lack of clarity, at this point, as to what would be required of “co-regulators.” As does ECOS, the NDEP urges that participation be voluntary allowing states to choose the level of involvement “appropriate to their resources.”

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Industry wary, some opposed

Representatives from the Responsible Industry for Sound Environment (RISE), a national trade association for specialty pesticides and fertilizers, expressed concern about the overlap of information industry is required to provide to various state and federal agencies. RISE has requested that the EPA ensure any portals or electronic systems created by E-Enterprise do not inadvertently duplicate information requirements.

Another industry representative with multiple facilities expressed concerns about regulatory permitting and reporting at the state level. Some suggestions include pushing reporting dates outlined in permits to the portal calendar to ensure that reporting dates are met, developing a “status” checklist or “percent complete” access bar for permit applications, and developing a system of levels of limited/full access filters for third-party consultants.

The CEO of a small business environmental data service is flat out opposed to the E-Enterprise portal. He claims that E-Enterprise will quell innovation at the state and the private sector level. According to this CEO, the E-Enterprise vision is massive, and while this massive vision is affected, other initiatives will stall. He also claims that many other participants in EPA’s public presentations about E-Enterprise have expressed similar concerns, but the Agency has effectively quashed such discussion and is acting like a business, where it should rely on the private sector for an e-portal model.