Custom application gives officials data for making sound environmental decisions
- By Jason Miller
- Nov 06, 2001
Industrialized New Jersey and mostly rural Kentucky separately have found an objective way to better manage the conflicts between business development and the environment.
Using Tools for Environmental Management Organizations software from American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va., state officials collect, analyze and apply data to balance environmental protection and industrial growth.
State environmental regulators rely on the software to make the entire regulatory process'from issuing and renewing permits to monitoring and analyzing industry data to maintaining standards across divisions'more efficient.
'We are trying to take a holistic approach that ties all the information together,' said Irene Kropp, New Jersey Environmental Protection Department CIO. 'In the past, we had separate database systems that didn't talk. Tempo ties and coordinates everything together. Inspectors no longer have to sift through data for three days. Now it takes 15 minutes.'New Jersey gets royalties
New Jersey formed a team with AMS to design the software. AMS programmers coded Tempo using PowerBuilder from Sybase Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., C++ and Java. The state brought in inspectors, permit writers, environmental planners and industry executives to make sure the software covered all agency and industry needs.
New Jersey also shares in the royalties from all of AMS' sales of the base software.
'Tempo has reduced the amount of paperwork that kept inspectors from going out in the field and helped the permit writers focus on their issues to a better degree,' Kropp said. 'Industry also has benefited by being able to send data electronically and renew permits online.'
The Environmental Protection Department runs the application on a Sun Microsystems Alter Enterprise 4000 server running Solaris 7. The servers have four 333-MHz processors and 2G of RAM. The information is stored in an Oracle8i database.
Kropp said because the software runs on a client-server network, inspectors and permit writers in different divisions can see one another's work.
This allows for a better coordination of resources and understanding of how industry affects the environment, she added.
New Jersey officials, who spent about $20 million over the last five years on the software and upgrades, integrated geographic information systems software into Tempo.
Using ArcIMS and ArcSDE from Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. of Redlands, Calif., state technology workers plotted all facilities with either air or water emissions permits. Inspectors can click on the facility and get all the information about it.
'We are just beginning to quantify our time savings by using this software,' Kropp said. 'Really this would work in any department that uses permits such as health department or natural resources.'Kentucky signs on
While New Jersey has been a longtime user, Kentucky's Environmental Protection Department signed a three-year $2.9 million deal with AMS in September for the software and its customization.
Kentucky officials looked at Tempo in 1999 and found it lacked certain functions they desired, said Kay Harker, branch manager for planning and coordination and Tempo project manager for the department.
Instead, Environmental Protection Department employees used an assortment of in-house software and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency apps that ran on state mainframes.
However, with the upgrades to Tempo, Harker said it fit the bill this time around.
'We are trying to develop some consistency across similar programs, and Tempo promotes that,' she said. 'We want to streamline the permit process and track the total number of inspections, permits and violations.'Tempo does Windows
Like the New Jersey regulators, Kentucky officials will take advantage of Tempo's GIS interface capabilities using ESRI's ArcInfo. Additionally, the agency will capture paper documents electronically using InfoImage from Unisys Corp.
The Environmental Protection Department will run Tempo on a Compaq ProLiant DL380 server with dual 1.3-GHz processors.
Data also will be stored on Oracle8i. Most of the desktop PCs run Microsoft Windows NT.
'In the past, we have based reporting successes on the bean counting approach,' Kropp said.
'Tempo can capture all this data and by analyzing it, we can come up with real and tangible benefits. There are some definitive benefits for the state and industry by being able to gather all the data electronically and having the databases talk to each other.'