The construction industry plays a major role in driving economic growth for the State of Arizona. A subset of this industry includes the portable rock product industry – crushing and screening, hot mix asphalt, and concrete production. These industrial processes, if not operated in accordance with state and federal regulations, have the potential to produce dust and other emissions that could potentially impact public health and the environment. Air quality permits incorporate applicable regulations to protect the public and environment.
Historically, permitting practices required businesses to follow inefficient and complex permit application procedures. The process to obtain a simple general permit took two months on average. The permit application was more than 10 pages long and required applicants to perform emission calculations and, in some cases, provide superfluous and unnecessary additional information to draft a permit. In seeking the voice of the customer, dissatisfaction with the duration and complexity of these processes and associated negative business impacts became clear. In addition, three counties have local jurisdiction to enforce their own rules and regulations but are not informed when these operations move into their jurisdiction since the statewide portable facilities obtain their permits from Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. When facilities failed to submit a move notice or other compliance reports, enforcement became a challenge when their location of operation was unknown.
The agency looked into ways to issue permits faster and increase compliance rates while reducing the burden to the business community. Several Lean initiatives were implemented which reduced processing time from months to weeks or days by eliminating waste in the process. While these efforts achieved a timelier process than in past years, a multitude of permitting and compliance transactions in paper format still remained.
Therefore, the agency proposed to provide an online web service that would allow businesses to transact electronically versus in paper format. Incorporation of technology to make the process more efficient was analyzed. The result was an online self-service tool for the business. The application was designed with a TurboTax®-like question-and -answer wizard that radically simplified and reduced errors in the application process. It eliminated the need for complex calculations by automating them into the system and also seamlessly integrated compliance reporting. The system was made available 24/7, and a permit could be obtained within minutes, radically simplifying compliance with environmental obligations. The system also included timely alerts for submitting compliance reports that increased compliance rates by more than 70 percent. In addition, the online system allows for instantaneous collaboration with three county air quality agencies by automatically notifying them when facilities move into their jurisdiction.
Results to Date:
Permitting through the web portal occurs seamlessly, serves the rock product industry’s needs effectively, and allows it to obtain permits at the speed of business. Using this straightforward portal, the agency is seeing a positive impact on compliance. As a collateral benefit, automation through the portal has freed up precious staff capacity needed to conduct complex tasks to support the agency’s mission work.