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Developing Tools to Support and Evaluate Results-Based Environmental Permitting Programs

Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection

Project Contact
Lee Colten
14 Reilly Rd.
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: (502) 564-2225 x408
Fax: (502) 564-0111

Affirmation of Commissioner
Commissioner Robert Logan, of the Department for Environmental Protection, has been directing and fully engaged in a major information technology project; he has been briefed on this particular aspect of the project and is in full support.

Budget Summary

Total Project Cost: [REDACTED BY EPA]

Amount Funded by State: [REDACTED BY EPA]

Amount Requested from EPA: [REDACTED BY EPA]

Project Description

Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (DEP) is requesting a State Innovation Grant to develop information technology to support results-based permitting programs. Specifically, DEP is seeking funding to integrate its environmental permitting system with its ambient monitoring data system through a GIS interface. This integration will improve DEP's ability to conduct results-based permitting programs, vs. traditional "silo"-programmatic approaches and end-of-pipe compliance, by providing permit writers with better access to information about aquatic life and water quality in the watersheds of permitted facilities, improving their ability to target areas most in need of environmental improvement, evaluate the effectiveness of permits prepared from total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), and evaluate the impact of watershed-based permitting and other such incentives.

A key challenge in implementing results-based permitting programs is providing permit writers with the tools and information needed to identify and rank environmental concerns across media, develop cross-program permitting approaches that target the greatest environmental concerns, and evaluate the impact of these approaches over time. Three tools are required to provide these capabilities: a cross-media repository of environmental monitoring data for assessing past and present environmental health, a cross-program repository of current and historical environmental facility and permitting data for tracking the regulatory actions taken by DEP, and tools to integrate the monitoring, facility, and permitting information for judging the impact of regulatory activities on the environment.

DEP has undertaken a three-year information technology initiative that will address two of these three needs. This summer, DEP will begin using a cross-program, cross-media environmental monitoring data system. DEP will use its monitoring system to store ambient and compliance monitoring data from across the state, providing a single access point to information about the health of the air, water (surface and ground water), soil, and biota within the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

DEP is also in the process of implementing an integrated regulatory system to consolidate facility, permitting, compliance, and enforcement data across regulatory programs and media. This system will be the primary mechanism for writing, granting, and tracking environmental permits within the state and will provide a repository of pending, effective, and historical environmental permits. To further streamline permitting activities, DEP has had exploratory meetings with EPA and three leading metropolitan permittees to explore the possibility of implementing consolidated watershed permits. Watershed permits are seen as incentives to states and permittees since it holds the promise of streamlining the administrative burdens on the whole permitting process. Since Kentucky already has its permits synchronized around the rotating watershed schedule and has numerous TMDLs completed in these parts of the state, Kentucky is seen by EPA as a good candidate for watershed-based permitting.

Another element that makes Kentucky a good candidate for the project is the Source Water Assessment and Protection Program (SWAPP). Kentucky was the first state in the nation to have its SWAP Plan approved by EPA. Given that statewide contaminant source inventories and susceptibility analyses of all water supplies are due to be completed and published in the consumer confidence reports in the spring of 2003, source water quality will be of concern for all public water systems. There is a need to view spatial relationships of raw water quality to public water supplies and intakes, since good raw water quality can reduce the cost of water infrastructure by delaying the need for plant expansions, as well as reduce routine treatment costs.

DEP is requesting a State Innovation Grant to provide the third tool required for results-based permitting: a tool to integrate data from its monitoring system with current and historical permitting data from its regulatory system. This tool will provide DEP permit writers with improved ability to assess the impact of traditional permitting approaches on the environment, test alternative permitting approaches such as watershed permits, and evaluate drinking water supplies and potential monitoring waivers at public water systems.

Project Scope
DEP's integrated regulatory system includes a GIS interface that allows permit writers to superimpose information about regulated facilities on maps of environmental features (such as streams and lakes), environmental management areas (such as sub-basins, watersheds, and wildlife protection areas), political areas (such as county and city boundaries), and infrastructure (such as highways and roads). This GIS interface allows permit writers to more readily assess the potential environmental impacts of releases by displaying the spatial relationships between regulated facilities and their surrounding environments in an easy-to-understand, map-based format.

Using a State Innovation Grant, DEP wants to expand the capabilities of this GIS interface even further to allow permit writers, engineers, and other DEP staff using the interface to query environmental monitoring data from DEP's monitoring system. This would provide staff with immediate access to information about the actual state of the environment surrounding facilities, or other permitted entities, as they write traditional or watershed permits, or implement TMDL plans. Furthermore, it would allow engineers to review raw water data in relation to proposed drinking water plant construction or expansion, in order to better plan or optimize construction. Integrating DEP's regulatory and monitoring data through the GIS interface would also provide managers with a tool for evaluating the effectiveness of these decisions.

The integration would provide several advantages to DEP:

Project Goals and Objectives
DEP sees the integration project as a major step in adapting a results-based permitting approach. The ultimate goals of this endeavor include:

In the short term, DEP will measure success by the number of permit writers or TMDL plan developers using the integrated tool, number of TMDL implementation plans developed using the tool, the formal inclusion of queries that use the integrated tool in the permit-writing and plan development processes, and the use of data from the integrated tool in determining how to allocate compliance, enforcement, and ambient monitoring resources.

In the longer term, DEP will measure success by whether DEP uses data from the integrated tool to evaluate regulatory approaches and justify to managers which are most effective. All staff will also be surveyed as to whether or not the tool adds value to their job, in terms of access to information. Finally, effectiveness will be determined by the number of waterways, for which TMDLs have been developed and implemented, and are removed for the 303(d) list of impaired waters

Proposed Schedule:
The following table summarizes the activities, products, outcomes, and target completion dates for the integration project. DEP anticipates beginning work on February 1, 2003. The project will last approximately six months.

Activity Description Products/ Outcomes Target Dates
Design system integration and enhanced search capabilities During the design phase of this project, DEP will document the details of how the GIS interface to its regulatory system will be integrated with its monitoring system. This documentation will be provided permit writers and watershed planners, who will have the opportunity to comment on the design.

As part of the integration, DEP anticipates needing to add several monitoring data-centric searches to those already available within the GIS interface. DEP will identify and develop specifications for these searches during the design phase.

Detailed Design Documentation for the integrated system and new searches 2/1/03 - 2/28/03
Develop and test the integrated tool The development phase will consist of integrating the GIS interface and monitoring system according to the details specified in the design. The enhanced search capabilities will also be developed at this time.

After the development phase, DEP will test the integration and enhanced search capabilities using test scripts developed from real business scenarios. The goal of testing is to identify and correct defects prior to the production release of the tool.

Integrated tool 3/1/03 - 8/15/03
Revise permit-writing & watershed planning SOPs to use the integrated tool During the time that the integrated tool is being developed, DEP will prepare for its implementation by revising the permit-writing SOPs and procedures to formally include using the integrated tool as a step in the permitting and planning process. Use of the tool will also be included as a step in reviewing raw water data for drinking water plant designs. Revised SOPs 3/1/03 - 8/15/03
Train system users DEP will spend up to three weeks training its permit writers to use the integrated tool. Training will focus not only on the tool itself, but also on the new SOPs and procedures. Trained users 8/16/03 - 8/31/03
Implement integrated system in a production environment Once testing and training are complete, DEP will roll the tool out to permit writers, engineers, and other DEP users. Production use of tool 9/1/03
Use data from the tool to determine resource allocations Once the integrated tool has been implemented, DEP managers will begin using data from the tool as one factor in determining how to allocation compliance, enforcement, and ambient monitoring resources. Justification for resource allocations 9/1/03 onward
Use the integrated tool to compare and evaluate regulatory approaches Once the integrated solution has been implemented, DEP managers will begin using data from the integrated tool to compare the effectiveness of different regulatory approaches, such as traditional permitting programs and permitting alternatives. Comparison of different regulatory approaches 9/1/03 onward

Program Criteria

The following paragraphs describe how the integration project meets the criteria described in the grant solicitation:

Targeting Priority Environmental Areas - The integration project addresses the following priority environmental area: improving water quality and aquatic life.

The integrated tool would assist DEP in improving water quality and aquatic life by providing DEP with information about which regulatory approaches are most effective at achieving these goals. DEP's monitoring system stores extensive surface and ground water quality, habitat, and biological data (as well as all other media), while DEP's regulatory system stores information about environmental permits and other regulatory activities for water. Combining this information in an integrated tool would provide DEP with a detailed picture of the state of the environment prior to regulatory activities (e.g., the extent of water pollution, air deposition, and biological integrity), the regulatory activities that were undertaken (e.g., permitting, TMDL development, trading, or various watershed implementation plans), and the state of the environment after the regulatory activities. DEP could then determine which approaches were most effective at meeting each of these goals and could implement those approaches more broadly.

Use of Incentives as a Tool - The integrated tool provides DEP with greatly improved ability to test and evaluate watershed permits as an incentive, due to the promise of reduced administrative burden. Using the tool, DEP can amass information about which types of watershed permits or plans are effective in reducing pollution and which situations the approaches are most effective in. Additionally, this information will assist DEP in evaluating raw water data for the purposes of monitoring waivers or plant construction for public water treatment systems.

Transferring Innovation - This project will support DEP in considering and adopting a more flexible approach to permitting. EPA has offered states greater flexibility and encouraged adopting watershed permits. Since a watershed permit may roll together permits of many different types (i.e. stormwater, industrial, agricultural, municipal, etc.), there becomes a greater emphasis placed on being able to evaluate the environmental performance, vs. the traditional "end-of-pipe" performance. This tool will provide a better means for evaluating more situations where this approach may be applied. If success is realized in one part of the state, because of the promise of administrative efficiency (e.g. fewer public meetings, fewer permit documents to prepare, fewer public comment and response periods) offered by watershed permits, it will more likely be applied in other parts of the state. Given the dialogue already initiated with Louisville-Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District, Sanitation District #1 of Northern Kentucky, and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, demonstration watershed permits will likely occur in one of these areas; if this approach works in these heavily urban areas, it has a high chance of success in other parts of the state. Also, since the tool will immediately be a available to at least six other states and, soon, the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, this technology can be transferred and watershed permitting encouraged in other states and agencies. Finally, if watershed permitting is successful, it will be easier to broaden this approach to include all other media.

Likewise, in the drinking water programs, source water assessments will be greatly facilitated because of the ready access to environmental data relative to protection areas and permitted intakes. Since there is no state or federal requirement to "protect" drinking water sources, education will be tantamount to success. Use of the integrated tool to illustrate the spatial relationships between permitted facilities and monitoring data in drinking water protection areas will be powerful, both for DEP staff and for transferring this awareness to the local level where protection must occur.

Guaranteeing Measures and Accountability - The goals and objectives of the integration project are described in the Project Goals and Objectives section of this proposal. In addition, that section presents several short term and long term success measures. The following table provides more information about these success measures:

Success Measure Timeframe Detailed Description Plan to Evaluate
Number of staff using the integrated tool. Short Term (1-3 years) 100% of DEP permit writers, watershed planners, and drinking water engineers will have access to the integrated tool. DEP will evaluate the number of applicable staff with access to and using the tool six months after the tool is made available.
SOPs that include the integrated tool Short Term (1-3 years) The procedures and SOPs for permit writing and watershed planning will include use of the integrated tool as a step. DEP will survey permit writers and planners six months after the tool is made available to determine whether the integrated tool is being used as part of the permitting and watershed planning process.
Use of the integrated tool in resource allocation Short Term (1-3 years) DEP managers will consider data from the integrated tool when making resource allocation decisions. DEP will survey managers 2 years after the tool is made available to determine whether data from the integrated tool is used in resource decisions.
Use of tool to evaluate source water protection and incentives Long Term (2 years +) The number of drinking water monitoring waivers, based on use of the integrated tool, will be determined DEP will determine the number of monitoring waivers and parameters waived in 2 years.
Use of the integrated tool to evaluate regulatory approaches, number and effectiveness of watersheds permits Long Term (2 years +) DEP managers will use data from the integrated tool to compare watershed approaches to traditional permitting programs and continue those with the greatest positive effect on the environment. DEP will survey managers 2 years after the tool is made available to determine whether data from the integrated tool is used to evaluate regulatory approaches. Also, after 2 years, number and effectiveness of watershed permits will be determined.

Detailed Budget Information: [REDACTED BY EPA]

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