Jump to main content.

State Innovation Grants

EPA 2005-2006 State Innovation Grants Competition Pre-Proposals

Project Category:Streamlined and Enhanced Permitting Through Application of Innovative Information Technology (IT) Systems

Project Title: Environmental Justice (EJ) GIS and Permit Decision-Making System

Project Location: The project concentrates on the Four Corners area of New Mexico and Navajo Nation boundaries within the Four Corners area. The location was selected based upon the known environmental justice concerns as well as the breadth of environmental concerns, including farming, oil extraction, refineries, power plants, and solid waste sites.

Applicant State Agency

New Mexico Environment Department, Lead
PO Box 26110
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502-0110

Associate Applicant

Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (NNEPA)
Stephen B. Etsitty, Executive Director
PO Box 339
Window Rock, Navajo Nation, Arizona 86515

Project Contact

Jim Benenson, GIS Projects Coordinator
Telephone: 505-827-1701
Fax: 505-827-1647
E-Mail: jim_benenson@nmenv.state.nm.us


The project is not being executed in cooperation with or funded by another federal or EPA program, is not focused on hazardous waste management and permitting under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and does not require any type of regulatory flexibility.

Project Endorsement Statement

“I am very pleased to support this proposal for the first of what I hope becomes many environmental justice projects for the New Mexico Environment Department. As a member of the Navajo Nation and former Director of the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency, I have seen first hand the lack of sanitary water systems and the disregard with which companies pollute northwestern New Mexico. With this web-based GIS environmental justice (EJ)/ permitting decision-making system, we hope to raise awareness with respect to the environmental justice (EJ) issues facing the Four Corners area and the Navajo Nation. Through the impact of maps published on the Internet, we hope t o provide those seeking environmental permits with sufficient information to allow them to make culturally sensitive environmental decisions and to locate facilities outside of EJ impacted areas.”

-- Derrith Watchman-Moore
Deputy Cabinet Secretary, New Mexico Environment Department


Project Summary

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency propose an innovative approach to environmental permitting that incorporates environmental justice, tribal factors, environmental information, and demographics into a web-based GIS permit decision-making system. Using a business rules-based system combined with a web-based geographic information system ( GIS), the project will allow potential permit applicants to pre-screen parameters affecting permit issuance at a desired location. The system will allow users to immediately visualize the environment, environmental justice, and human factors affecting that location. The system will identify all required permits as well as the associated forms and procedures needed to obtain the local, state, and Federal permits. Through the use of a decision tree, and based upon their responses to permitting and environmental questions, users will be lead to specific information regarding relevant environmental issues in their area of concern and location; available incentive programs; and permit requirements and procedures. This twelve-month project concentrates on the Four Corners area of New Mexico and Navajo Nation boundaries within northwestern New Mexico. This location was selected based upon known environmental justice concerns and the breadth of known environmental concerns including farming, oil extraction, refineries, power plants, and solid waste sites. The Navajo Nation will be an active partner in this grant and has a long history of both employing GIS for tribal resource management and for the collection and maintenance of data pertinent to the proposed project. Please note the NMED Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Derrith Watchman-Moore, former executive director of the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency, enthusiastically supports this project.

Goal Statement

Project goals are to 1) incorporate environmental justice (EJ) and tribal concerns into the permitting process; 2) enhance the partnerships between state governments and tribes; 3) create a more culturally-sensitive environmental permitting process; 4) improve compliance with environmental regulations and permitting; and 5) assist the regulated community with the environmental permitting process through increased dissemination of environmental and EJ information.

Outcomes for Environmental Improvement

1) Improved awareness of EJ issues and tribal concerns; 2) improved permitting process and identification of EJ and environmental issues impacting permitting; 3) increased pollution prevention and environmental accountability.

Outcome Measures
  1. Improved multi-agency permitting processes that reduce processing costs and time-to-permit as compared with conventional permitting,
  2. Successful development and deployment of a web-based application, based on industry standards and concepts embodied in the National Environmental Information Exchange Network, to be made available to other local, state, Federal, and tribal permitting agencies, and
  3. User satisfaction and performance metrics.

1. Pre-screening parameters will include: environmental justice information (such as population ethnicity and diversity, and income levels), administrative districts and boundaries, field office locations, county and tribal boundaries, public water supplies, solid waste sites (dumps), liquid waste sites, ground water pollution, aquifer sensitivity, air quality, surface water concerns, transportation information, and other selectable GIS layers.

Project Schedule, Milestones and Time Frame

Project Phases and High-level Work Breakdown Structure

Start Date

End Date

Milestones and Deliverables

Inception Phase – One Month

10/ 2005

11/ 2005

  1. Survey report of permitting innovations in use throughout US

Survey national permitting tools




Develop preliminary system design




Elaboration Phase – Six Months

12/ 2005


  1. Detailed System Architectural Design (rules-based, linking data via XML)
  2. Proof of Concept System

Create and document system architecture




Identify data sources




Create detailed project plan




Create data warehouse




Complete proof of concept system




Construction Phase – Three Months

6/ 2006


  1. Populated data warehouse
  2. GIS -based “Rapid Response” tool enabling permitting applicants to acquire extensive permitting information without the direct involvement of the permitting agency(s)

Develop data exchange template




Migrate existing data into warehouse




Build and test “Rapid Response” tool




Transition Phase – Two Months

9/ 2006

10/ 2006

  1. User Satisfaction Survey/Report and Performance Metrics

Evaluate system performance




Monitor web usage statistics




Conduct user interviews




Collate responses and generate report




Project Detail by Phases

Inception Phase

Task: Create a report summarizing the state of the art in innovative permitting tools used throughout the country to insure that the proposed project builds on prior achievements, eliminates redundancy, and guarantees progress beyond existing processes; with a secondary goal of creating a more innovative EJ-sensitive culture of permitting. The surveyed information will be categorized by the general type of permitting and, for each category, will include information on the 1) degree of automation employed; 2) u se of business rules; 3) characterization of the permitting workflow; and the 4) tools and technologies used. The document will be of value to all state and tribal agencies looking to improve their permitting processes, as well as moving toward the next generation of environmental protection.

Elaboration Phase

Task: Create a robust data warehouse design . The final design will address all requirements essential for the development of the “Rapid Response” tool and an in-depth database querying tool (see Construction Phase), and will extend both the NMED Environmental GIS (EGIS) design and the NNEPA database. The Rational Unified Process (RUP), object-oriented (OO) design process, and Unified Modeling Language (UML) notation will be used throughout this and subsequent phases of the project. An iterative approach will be used to provide a detailed problem definition through successive refinements and to incrementally develop an effective solution while carefully managing system requirements (scope creep) and ensuring effective change control.

Construction Phase

Task 1: Convert or “migrate” existing data to the data warehouse. This task will be limited to a geographic area sufficient to allow the “Rapid Response” tool to address all requirements of the NMED and the NNEPA. The data conversion will identify all data sources used by the tool. Wherever possible, data sources from The Navajo Nation, NMED, and various other sources will be linked using XML.

The methodology will apply the concepts embodied by the National Environmental Information Exchange Network (Network) to facilitate the aggregation of large quantities of data related to environmental quality in northwestern New Mexico. Specific task objectives are to 1) develop a consortium of environmental data sources that include the traditional regulatory community as well as tribes, and to 2) provide technical assistance to the regulated community based on a rules-based architecture that includes all known permit requirements and incentive programs.

Task 2: Build a web-based “Rapid Response” tool that clearly demonstrates potential improvements in accessing and analyzes geographic and attribute information helpful or necessary in the permitting process. This innovative tool will model the web-based liquid waste permitting tool developed by NMED, which allows users to locate permitted sites by permit number, street address, and geographic coordinates -- including PLSS -- and to view ancillary information such as aquifer sensitivity, nearest NMED field office, permitting activity in the area, and other GIS layers. The “Rapid Response” tool will specifically:

Allow potential permitting applicants to view additional factors affecting the desired site (for example, EJ scores, ethnicity, income levels, air pollution, solid waste sites) and to quickly discover those areas that may be desirable or undesirable.

Identify potential incentive programs.

Provide applicants with detailed information about permits such as permits issued, denied, cancelled, registrations, complaints, violations, violators, and penalties assessed; NMED and tribal requirements; and other information to assist them with making a final determination to purchase or build a permitted facility in New Mexico. The maps and reports will cite specific problems that may disqualify the applicant from obtaining the necessary permit(s).

Provide permit requirements and any available incentive programs using a business rule-based methodology, based on user input about an industry of interest (using pre-defined categories) or an activity (e.g., liquid waste disposal).

The “Rapid Response” tool will address the lessons learned during the liquid waste permitting tool development and will continue the RUP iterative methodology used at that time.

Transition Phase

Task: Evaluate the success of the project by monitoring user statistics and user interviews. The system will be designed to collect metrics based upon usage and options selected. The system will undergo quality improvement based upon information collected via interviews with a stratified sample of 30 randomly selected users, feedback from the regulated community, and additional requirements of NMED and the NNEPA. The interviews will specifically solicit feedback on the user’s experience, expectations, benefits, and desired improvements.

Meeting Program Criteria Requirements

The proposed project fulfills the following grant criteria:

Strengthening EPA’s innovation partnerships with state and tribes;

Addressing Environmental Justice (EJ) issues affecting the Navajo Nation, including tribal involvement with the environmental permitting process. The incorporation of EJ into the project will be designed to be transferable to other states, tribes throughout EPA region 6, and other EPA regions. Future follow-on projects will address EJ issues of other New Mexico tribes, New Mexico border communities, and other disadvantaged groups;

Improving the environmental permitting application process by allowing an applicant to query the environmental and human factors affecting permitting in a selected area using a web-based GIS system, detailed maps, and reports;

Speeding up the permitting process by informing the applicant -- via a web-based GIS and without the direct involvement of the agency partners -- of general issues affecting the proposed facility location and of specific permitting problems, both of which could result in permit disqualification;

Reducing the delay and confusion in obtaining a permit related to evolving permit requirements by providing the applicant -- in near real time -- with the latest available information in all partner databases; and

Relieving the agency partners of the administrative burden and costs of supplying permitting information through conventional means (e.g., telephone, paper documentation).

The methods and approaches proposed in this project are based on widely-accepted industry standards and are eminently transferable to many types of permitting activities in New Mexico, Region 6, and throughout the entire US Environmental Protection Agency community. The Unified Modeling Language (UML) proposed by this project will allow the system to be easily transferred to other states’ environmental protection agencies, tribal governments, and permitting organizations while allowing them to focus on delivering business value.

Finally, the goals of the EMS cycle of planning, implementing, reviewing and improving the processes and actions -- "Plan, Do, Check, Act" -- are met by the Rational Unified Process (RUP) in that the methodology employed, and the permitting information delivered to the applicant, will go through several iterations using knowledge gained and evaluated at previous project phases and feedback from user surveys. Project performance metrics will be freely available to the EPA, states, tribes, and other regulatory agencies. The New Mexico Environment and the Navajo Nation will provide consultation and mentoring to other states and tribes wishing to adopt similar permitting methodologies.


State Contact:
Lynn Harris, Chief Information Officer
New Mexico Environment Department
PO Box 26110
Santa Fe NM 87502-0110
Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (NNEPA)

Stephen B. Etsitty, Executive Director
PO Box 339
Window Rock, Navajo Nation, Arizona 86515

Project Title: Environmental justice (EJ) GIS and Permit Decision-Making System

Expected costs by major categories:

[Removed by EPA]


State Innovation Grant Solicitation Notice
ESRI Sample Text for the EPA State Innovation Grant Program
EGIS liquid waste permitting site: http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/fod/LiquidWaste/ Exit Disclaimer
Region 6, Strategic Plan: https://www.epa.gov/earth1r6/6xa/aboutr6.htm Exit Disclaimer
Region 6 Administrator’s 300-Day Plan: https://www.epa.gov/earth1r6/6xa/300_day_plan.htm Exit Disclaimer

Pre-screening parameters will include: environmental justice information (such as population ethnicity and diversity, and income levels), administrative districts and boundaries, field office locations, county and tribal boundaries, public water supplies, solid waste sites (dumps), liquid waste sites, ground water pollution, aquifer sensitivity, air quality, surface water concerns, transportation information, and other selectable GIS layers.

Local Navigation

Jump to main content.