EPA and states examine ways to enhance data exchange

EPA and states examine ways to enhance data exchange

The Environmental Protection Agency and its state partners are engaged in several pilots to explore the use of Extensible Markup Language, electronic data interchange and a public-key infrastructure to improve the way EPA and states exchange information.

About 10 pilots test technologies as steps toward building EPA's Central Data Exchange, officials said.

EPA envisions CDX as the single point-of-entry electronic portal for all environmental data submitted to the agency. It plans to gradually deploy CDX to various components over the next two years.

The acquisition process began this fall; a final procurement will not be made for at least six to nine months, said Connie Dwyer, branch chief of central receiving.

Dwyer manages the development of CDX within the Office of Environmental Information. EPA plans to complete the project by next October.

EPA is developing the Central Data Exchange system, which would become a single electronic point of entry for environmental data submitted by states and industry.
Development costs will total $5 million for the next fiscal year, Dwyer said.

EPA plans to integrate registration, security, archiving, translation and distribution.

Representatives from environmental program offices and OEI work with state representatives to match business requirements with the appropriate technology.

For example, EPA's Office of Air and Radiation and OEI are working with Pennsylvania on a pilot to automate the air emissions data states provide to EPA's National Emission Trends database.

The pilot will determine the viability of CDX to accept complex data sets from states using EDI for the new NET input format, a new version of Air and Radiation's current data collection application that was released in September.

EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance will test XML programs for exchanging water permit compliance data with states.

Another pilot examines an interface to EPA's Automated Toxics Release Inventory system to facilitate electronic exchange of information using Web forms and explore the use of EDI for other submissions. The pilot's first phase, which began in late spring and recently ended, included about 100 facilities in Illinois, officials said.

EPA will test its ability to register users, issue certificates and authenticate electronic Toxic Substances Control Act forms.

EPA will participate in the General Services Administration's Access Certificates for Electronic Services digital certificate program, officials said.

OEI also plans to test 'active data retrieval,' a term coined within EPA, referring to the process of tapping environmental data from remote servers across the Internet via secure Web pages.

Tool of knowledge

EPA built a prototype using ecKnowledge, an integration tool from Casahl Technology Inc. of San Ramon, Calif.

Logistics Management Institute of McLean, Va., is the chief technical development contractor, supported by various subcontractors, according to EPA.

CDX is a key component of EPA's strategy to improve its information network with state partners, which provide the agency with 80 percent of its information.

In 1995, Administrator Carol M. Browner signed an agreement with the Environmental Council of States, a national nonprofit association of state and territorial environmental commissioners, to establish a new operational relationship.

EPA and ECOS set up the National Environmental Performance Partnership System to move toward a more performance-based environmental management system, EPA officials said.


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