Posted by Sarah Blackman on 2017-05-12
For decades, doing more with less has been a mantra in the public sector, and everywhere else, for that matter. But with an administration in Washington that seems committed to cutting taxes and budgets, further belt-tightening is widely anticipated on the state level.
“I can’t imagine that there aren’t going to be cuts of some sort,” says Tom DeNormandie, who heads the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Underground Storage Tank (UST) Program.
In the face of such cutbacks, state environmental regulators are increasingly turning to online UST compliance reporting systems, which allow tank owners to input compliance data directly into the state DEP’s dashboard. For regulators, this eliminates unnecessary, duplicative, and time-consuming steps, improves data quality, and frees up staffers to concentrate on more pressing matters.
“We’ve had our online system since August 2015,” says DeNormandie. “We lost two staff that used to manually manage all of the paperwork—going over to the post office to pick up submittals from the P.O. box, logging submittals as received, updating facility registrations and so on. We lost those positions and were not able to back-fill them. But we’ve been able to maintain program effectiveness, and I think a big part of that is because of the online system.”
Massachusetts isn’t alone. Several other state DEP’s, including Montana and New Hampshire, are using similar systems to help meet tighter budgets. More are likely on the way.
“A number of other states have done it and a number of other states have called me and asked for a copy of our original RFP that we issued as a template for them to work from,” says DeNormandie. “Nobody’s got money to burn and everybody’s looking for a way to do more with less.”
But while the online reporting systems mean less work for regulators, they don’t do anything to make compliance easier for tank owners, who now must input the data themselves. Fortunately, automated compliance systems are now available to fulfill reporting requirements for tank owners interface directly with online dashboards, making both compliance and regulation less burdensome, so everyone involved can focus more time and energy on their core responsibilities.