State enviro agency launches online permit tracking system

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Press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, shared on March 22:

RALEIGH– The Department of Environmental and Natural Resources on March 22 introduced its Environmental Permit Application Tracking system as a next step in efforts to improve its customer service and permitting process.

The Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach (DEAO), through its Environmental Assistance Center, launched the first phase of the permit application tracking system this week; the system can be accessed online through the department’s home page, www.ncdenr.gov, or at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/deao/permit-tracker. The tracking system will allow applicants and the public to check the status of pending environmental permit applications and/or plan approvals. The system is designed to allow interested parties to search for pending applications by location, permit type, facility name, permit number and in other ways, to track the review process and view application milestones from the date the application is received until a final decision is made.

The first phase of this online system includes information from 25 separate permits, including Air Quality permits (Small, Synthetic minor and Title V major permits); Water Quality permits (NPDES Wastewater, State Stormwater, Collection Systems and Gravity Sewer Extensions); and Water Resources capacity use permits.

“The goal of this online system is to provide easily accessible, near real-time information on environmental permits and other requirements,” said DEAO Director Edythe McKinney. “Our focus on the first phase of this system is on permits that generate a high level of public interest, including water and air quality permits. We hope our customers see this as a positive step in improved and expedited service, and look forward to receiving feedback on this initiative as we work to expand and improve the system in the future.”

The permit application tracker system is an outgrowth of the department’s permits improvement efforts, spurred through a long-standing goal of the department’s strategic plan to improve the regulatory process and deliver better customer service. An internal workgroup and DENR customers have cited technological improvements as a necessary step to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the permitting process, and recommendations from a series of customer listening sessions last fall reinforced the need for technological improvements and better communication with customers. The permit tracking system is designed to provide quicker, more accessible information on the permit processing times.

The permit tracking application is one of several initiatives put together by the Environmental Assistance Center, which was formed last year to focus on the needs of those customers who are frequently affected by environmental rules but lack the expertise and money needed to hire someone to guide them through the regulatory, permitting and compliance process.

Staff with the Environmental Assistance Center also launched two surveys last fall to gather feedback from staff and customers about ways to improve services and processes, in addition to conducting listening sessions across the state to gather feedback on the ways to improve customer service. A report summarizing results from the survey and listening sessions can be found on the DEAO website, www.ncenvironmentalassistance.org, and clicking on the “Listening Sessions” tab near the center of the page. The feedback contained within the report will form the basis of an agenda for improvement actions, including future opportunities for customer and staff feedback. Next fall, DENR will release an update on the improvements that have been undertaken and completed in response to the report’s recommendations.

For more information on the permit tracking system and customer service report, please contact Edythe McKinney at 919-707-8111 or Edythe.mckinney@ncdenr.gov.

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About the Author

Angie Newsome

Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 279-0949 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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