DEEP to stream­line ser­vices for busi­nesses

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Em­i­lie Mun­son

The head of the state’s en­vi­ron­men­tal agency has a mes­sage for busi­ness: She wants to make it faster and simpler to get per­mits and com­ply with reg­u­la­tions pro­tect­ing Connecticu­t’s air, wa­ter and soil.

Speak­ing to 220 busi­ness lead­ers, lawyers, lob­by­ists and con­sul­tants on Thurs­day, Katie Dykes, com­mis­sioner of the Depart­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Protection, pre­sented a new “20 by 20” ini­tia­tive — 20 goals her agency will ac­com­plish over the next 18 months.

Th­ese are not roll­backs of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions. Rather they are

pro­pos­als to im­prove bu­reau­cracy and make it eas­ier for com­pa­nies to com­ply with state over­sight. By mak­ing the agency more pro­duc­tive, Connecticu­t may see more en­force­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal rules, Dykes said.

“We have so much progress that we can make in im­prov­ing the pre­dictabil­ity, ef­fi­ciency and trans­parency of our reg­u­la­tory pro­cesses,” Dykes said. “That is what is driv­ing our ef­forts.”

Busi­nesses in Connecticu­t hope that means real change.

Michael Polo, pres­i­dent of Manch­ester-based aero­space man­u­fac­turer ACMT Inc., de­scribed his own dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with DEEP — one that some­times boxed him and other com­pa­nies out of op­por­tu­ni­ties, he said.

“Work­ing with them has been very slow,” Polo said. “We wouldn’t even look into doing any­thing to do with chem­i­cals here be­cause it is way too dif­fi­cult.”

Al­though it em­ploys con­sul­tants to help with en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, ACMT once de­cided not to pur­chase a new fa­cil­ity in Connecticu­t be­cause the per­mit­ting process would take years, Polo said. Mean­while, in Florida, where ACMT has part of his op­er­a­tion, per­mits are guar­an­teed a look in about two weeks un­der a fast-pass process, he said.

“It is un­be­liev­able how easy it is,” he said. “It’s more of a con­ver­sa­tion than it is a rul­ing, so it is much more col­lab­o­ra­tive.”

Tak­ing a small step in that direc­tion, Dykes laid out 16 of the Connecticu­t en­vi­ron­men­tal agency’s goals on Wed­nes­day, such as pub­lish­ing per­mit­ting time frames to the web, giv­ing com­pa­nies bet­ter tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance be­fore they ap­ply for per­mits and mov­ing more ap­pli­ca­tions on­line. She plans to put more of her agency’s en­vi­ron­men­tal data on­line and de­velop pre­dictable timeta­bles for adopt­ing new reg­u­la­tions. They will look at pos­si­bly con­sol­i­dat­ing some types of per­mits and elim­i­nat­ing some types of per­mits, too.

The agency will crowd­source from busi­nesses and the pub­lic the last four goals.

Her pre­sen­ta­tion ac­knowl­edged that DEEP may have a long way to go to be truly busi­ness-friendly: One cat­e­gory of per­mits has 1,200 pend­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, she said.

Dykes’s “strate­gic, met­ric-driven” ini­tia­tive ex­cites busi­ness lead­ers, said Eric Brown, vice pres­i­dent of man­u­fac­tur­ing pol­icy and out­reach for the Connecticu­t Busi­ness & In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion.

“So­lic­it­ing in­put from the reg­u­lated com­mu­nity is pos­i­tive,” he said.

But Connecticu­t com­pa­nies still struggle un­der bur­den­some, time­con­sum­ing per­mit pro­cesses when they want to open in a new lo­ca­tion or add a new prod­uct, he said. That can hin­der the rapid pace of in­no­va­tion. And it is un­likely to dis­ap­pear, even with a solid dose of agency stream­lin­ing, he said.

Dykes spoke to the CBIA’s En­ergy and En­vi­ron­ment con­fer­ence at the Red Lion Ho­tel in Cromwell on Thurs­day. She con­trasted her ap­proach to that of the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Protection Agency un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“When you have a fed­eral gov­ern­ment that is re­treat­ing from its en­vi­ron­men­tal obli­ga­tions, that is in de­nial about the im­pacts of climate change, what it is doing is hold­ing back in­vest­ment,” she said. “What we think builds our com­pet­i­tive eco­nomic ad­van­tage for the state of Connecticu­t is hav­ing that sound en­vi­ron­men­tal quality, that clean and healthy en­vi­ron­ment that makes peo­ple want to live here, that makes peo­ple want to grow and ex­pand jobs here.”

Dykes was nom­i­nated to lead the DEEP by Gov. Ned La­mont in Novem­ber, be­fore he took of­fice. She chaired the Connecticu­t Pub­lic Util­i­ties Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity un­der for­mer Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy.

La­mont, like Mal­loy, is press­ing to make gov­ern­ment more user-friendly by cut­ting back some reg­u­la­tions and bu­reau­cracy to help res­i­dents and, es­pe­cially, busi­nesses. That means changes at the state Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles, Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vices and now En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Protection.

La­mont cham­pi­oned leg­is­la­tion to re­duce res­i­dents trips to the DMV by ex­tend­ing the life of driv­ers li­censes — a change that was approved by the Gen­eral As­sem­bly last week.

In April, La­mont pro­posed sev­eral ideas to slash the state’s red tape. The state Depart­ment of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vices is mak­ing sev­eral pro­ce­dural changes in­clud­ing cre­at­ing a state cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for small busi­nesses copy­ing the fed­eral process and up­dat­ing state data pro­cess­ing to al­low more on­line bid­ding for state con­tracts.

Dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mal­loy also took many strides to re­duce some reg­u­la­tions with the goal of help­ing busi­nesses, saving the state money and re­duc­ing the work­load for gov­ern­ment staff, which shrunk by about 1,000 work­ers dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion. In 2014, he signed leg­is­la­tion elim­i­nat­ing nearly 1,000 pages of state reg­u­la­tions his of­fice deemed un­nec­es­sary.

Em­i­lie Mun­son / Hearst Connecticu­t Me­dia

Katie Dykes, com­mis­sioner of the Depart­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Protection, out­lined her agency’s “20 by 20” ini­tia­tive to in­crease ef­fi­ciency and trans­parency at a Connecticu­t Busi­ness & In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence in Cromwell on Thurs­day.

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