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ECOS and EPA Collaborating on E-Enterprise Initiative

EPA, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), and the Environmental Information Exchange Network are working together on a new initiative called E-Enterprise which will leverage the power of the Exchange Network to facilitate a wide range of electronic reporting and data exchange.  This expanded electronic movement of data will involve states, EPA, and the regulated community.  A key feature of the plan is an electronic portal that will allow all the parties involved to conduct routine business electronically.  Beyond the desire to facilitate electronic reporting, E-Enterprise will attempt to cover broader issues such as a modernized legal framework, compliance with CROMERR, integrating advanced monitoring and real time data access, and opening two way communication between regulators and the regulated community.  Development and implementation of E-Enterprise will improve compliance, transparency, clarify the legalities surrounding electronic data, and reduce the burden on both states and regulated entities.

Those in ECOS agencies may already be hearing about E-Enterprise as the development of the initiative moves forward.  The structure of E-Enterprise is composed of four teams that will need knowledgeable state representatives.  States may nominate candidates for one of the teams:  “Governance”, which will set the policies and run the development;  “Communications”, which will develop clear concise materials to inform stakeholders; “Blueprint” which will develop the design and operating principles; or “Early Successes”, which will develop the business cases that be acted on in the 2013-2014 time frame.

What does E-Enterprise mean for state drinking water programs?  For one thing, the project leaders stressed that E-Enterprise is not meant to bypass states in the reporting process.  Even though the planned portal would allow exchange of data among any of the parties involved – states, EPA, utilities – appropriate reporting to primacy agencies would still be required.  During development, the teams will evaluate each reporting process individually and decide if creating an electronic process adds real value or not.  This may also include consideration of the need for reporting at all, or if data retention on site may be equally effective.  It does not look like drinking water reporting will be a main focus of the project’s early work.

With EPA already working toward mandatory electronic reporting under NPDES and an electronic manifest system for hazardous waste, there will likely be a focus on these areas initially.  Over the next 6–12 months, we should know more specifics about what E-Enterprise will cover, so that states can work on complementary state systems that will link to, but not duplicate, E-Enterprise.  There is a lot of potential for this to improve implementation and ease burden, which states can recognize.  Massachusetts already has its own E-Enterprise system at the state level that is a model for this initiative.  We will watch the process as it moves forward and take advantage of the tools as they roll out.