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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Senate Document No. 3

    Document Title
    Improving Permitting and Compliance Processes for DEQ and Permittees in Virginia

    Department of Environmental Quality

    Enabling Authority
    Chapter 249 4. & 5. (Regular Session, 2004)

    Executive Summary
    [Report was modified on 11-02-2006 -- Supplemental information was received from the author and was posted at the end of the original document (after page 93 of the report). Senate Document No. 3 was not reprinted.]

    The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is responsible for protecting Virginia's environment. The DEQ is involved in monitoring and regulating activities related to air and water quality and waste management, and strives to reduce and prevent adverse environmental impacts. By the end of the decade, DEQ's goal is for Virginians to have cleaner waters to enjoy, cleaner air to support our communities and ecosystems, and remediation and reuse of formerly contaminated properties. DEQ's strategic plan focuses on achieving these goals by implementing more efficient programs to meet or exceed environmental standards; through informing and engaging the community about impacts to the environment; and by maximizing use of available resources.

    During the 2004 General Assembly, through passage of SB365 and HB1350, the permit fees assessed from regulated facilities were revised. Included in these bills was a requirement for DEQ to evaluate and implement measures to improve the long term effectiveness and efficiency of its programs to ensure that maximum value is being achieved from the funding provided for environmental programs. These reviews were to be led by a consulting firm with experience in conducting similar reviews. ERM was the consulting firm selected to conduct this review.

    Three stakeholder groups were formed to assist with conducting this review: one for the Virginia Water Protection Permit Program, one for the Solid Waste Permit Program, and one for the Virginia Pollution Discharge Elimination System (VPDES), Air and Hazardous Waste Programs. The stakeholder groups, called Peer Review Teams, were comprised of representatives of the regulated community experienced with the permitting process, the environmental community and DEQ program staff. In addition to working with the Peer Review Teams, ERM also interviewed several individuals. The goals of these interviews were to obtain information on past experiences with the permitting process. This information assisted ERM in focusing on areas in the permitting programs that potentially could be improved the most, either by reducing costs or increasing efficiency for the regulated community or DEQ.

    After meeting multiple times with the Peer Review Teams, a list of opportunities for improvement were identified and discussed with team members. These opportunities covered many areas, from changes in how DEQ and facilities exchange information, to changes in how DEQ conducts inspections, to changes in how DEQ structures and processes permits. Both cross-program opportunities and program-specific opportunities were identified, Cross-program opportunities are ideas for improving parts of the permit programs that can be can be applied to multiple programs. An example of a cross-program opportunity is to modify program requirements and agency technology to allow for electronic submission of routine monitoring data and reports. Electronic submission of information was identified as an area in which the exchange of information between the regulated community and DEQ could be streamlined and improved. Other examples of cross-program opportunities include improving the regulatory rule making process, improving the permit review process, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of inspection, improving public participation, and improved training of staff. Cross-program opportunities have been tailored to specific media and incorporated into the program-specific opportunities. Program-specific opportunities relate to specific program requirements and identify specific changes that have been identified to improve a specific element of a program. Program-specific opportunities are also identified in the report.

    DEQ is evaluating the opportunities identified by the teams and is developing the agency's plans to implement each one. Included in this evaluation will be any barriers that prevent the agency from implementing the changes, and additional resources that will be needed to implement the changes. For example, funding will be needed to implement an electronic document management system that will improve the efficiency of the exchange of information between the agency and the regulated community, and the public, and will minimize the amount of space the agency uses to store information.

    Some of the opportunities identified in the report will be piloted on a small scale prior to being implemented throughout the agency to collect more information on the quantified benefits to the regulated community and the agency. In total 35 program-specific opportunities and 6 cross-program opportunities were identified. Within each opportunity, specific tasks are listed that need to be addressed in order to implement the remaining opportunities. The Peer Review Teams identified a total of 251 tasks that would need to be completed prior to all of the opportunities being incorporated into the agency's programs. For each task, DEQ has indicated whether the task has been completed, if planning is underway to complete the task, or if further evaluation is needed. A task may be listed as needing further evaluation due to potential conflicts with federal requirements, the need for further stakeholder input, or the need for the development of technology infrastructure. To date, 12 of these tasks have been completed, work is underway to complete 183 of the tasks, and further evaluation is needed of 56 tasks before the opportunities can be fully implemented.

    The agency will be incorporating tasks related to implementing these improvements into the Agency's strategic planning document--Strategic Priorities 2010.The Agency's progress towards implementing the opportunities identified can be tracked through the agency's website at www.deq.virginia.gov. The attached report contains the specific recommendations developed by ERM and the Permit Peer Review Teams. Based on information examined in this project, ERM is developing a method for the agency to use in evaluating the adequacy and appropriateness of staffing levels. This information and methodology will be provided at a later date.