Description of Initiative:
In 2013, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources launched an effort to renew its focus on customer service, outreach, and environmental stewardship. The concept was to integrate comprehensive non-regulatory assistance for companies and individuals interested in sustainable practices. The effort did not involve development of additional governmental programs but combined existing programs within a single customer service-oriented division to achieve a higher level of synergism. The effort included renaming the department’s outreach division the Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (DEACS) and the addition of a work unit focused on energy efficiency in public buildings. This unique division now provides assistance services that reinforce the department’s commitment to exemplary environmental stewardship and customer service excellence. Businesses, industries, institutions, and governmental agencies now have a singular place to turn for help in reducing their environmental footprint, including a toll-free hotline. Four programs included in this initiative are highlighted below:
- Permit and Regulatory Process Assistance: DEACS staff provides confidential personalized assistance to customers seeking timely, cost-effective, and efficient approaches to regulatory approvals. Staff works with clients throughout the permitting process by facilitating scoping meetings, tailored permitting assistance, onsite assessments, meetings with interested or concerned citizens, and project timeline planning.
- Waste Reduction Partners and the Utility Savings Initiatives: Waste Reduction Partners utilizes a team of 67 retired engineers and scientists to provide statewide technical assistance on waste reduction and efficient use of water and energy. In 2013, the level and scope of services were greatly improved by combining this program with the Utility Savings Initiative and its public buildings energy-efficiency program from the former State Energy Office, which had a “lead by example” approach.
- State Recycling Program: This program works to facilitate the diversion of materials from solid waste disposal to the state’s recycling economy. It combines technical assistance, grants, and training to assist clients ranging from local government recycling programs and recycling companies to commercial and industrial waste generators. DEACS technical assistance and grant programs have helped increase curbside recycling tonnage by 100,000 tons in the past five years, feeding valuable recovered commodities to North Carolina manufacturers.
- Environmental Stewardship Initiative: This initiative is designed to help organizations reduce their environmental impacts beyond regulatory requirements, and to recognize those that achieve and maintain that commitment. It focuses on training and technical assistance to help participants reap the financial benefits of waste minimization, reductions in emissions or discharges, improved solid and hazardous waste disposal, and utility efficiencies. Participants can elevate their status in the program with improved performance, and DEACS facilitates peer-to-peer exchanges to encourage the adoption of best practices.
DEACS has made great strides to promote customer service excellence through innovative non-regulatory assistance at low or no cost to users. The division works to ensure its services are integrated to provide an efficient single point of contact for customers. When staff provides service or assistance in one program area, they are also prepared to address issues or make staff referrals for assistance in any of the other categories. These combined efforts are allowing the state to address issues that not only help the environment, but also make good economic sense.
Results to Date:
|Permitting & Regulatory Assistance: Statewide assistance for the past year included nearly 18,000 e-mails, phone calls, and site visits by staff in seven regional offices, in addition to more than 5,800 environmental inquiries on the toll-free hotline
|State Recycling Program: The recycling economy directly employs more than 17,000 North Carolinians, an increase of 12 % since 2010, and has an estimated annual payroll of $442 million
|Waste Reduction Partners/Utility Savings Initiative: 2,500 clients assisted. Reported client savings (2003-2013): $732 million in avoided utility costs, 9.28 trillion BTU energy reduced, 237,000 tons solid waste diverted from landfills
|Environmental Stewardship Initiative: 139 member sites consisting of 20 Stewards, 14 Rising Stewards, and 105 Partners. Reported savings (2004-2012) of more than 42 million MMBtus of energy; more than 3.5 billion gallons of water use; more than 3 million tons of solid and hazardous waste; and cost savings of more than $55 million
Ted L. Bush, Jr.
Director, Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service
North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources