Maine Department of Environmental Protection Announces Functional Reorganization

December 7, 2011

CONTACT:
Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson/Director of Communications & Education samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov/ (207) 592-0427

-The department’s existing three bureaus will be restructured in 2012 to manage resource protection, environmental assessment and resource administration-

AUGUSTA – A restructuring underway within the Maine Department of Environmental Protection will enhance the agency’s effectiveness in providing protections for the state’s air, land and water while enacting efficiencies to improve service and operations.

DEP Commissioner Pattie Aho announced today in a keynote address at the Maine State Chamber’s Environmental Issues Symposium in South Portland a plan to reorganize the agency around its functions starting in early 2012.

The DEP plans to retain three bureaus –currently Air Quality, Land & Water Quality and Remediation and Waste Management– but instead of being structured around environmental media, they’ll be organized via the functions of resource protection, environmental assessment and resource administration.

No immediate layoffs are expected as a result of the restructuring, which proactively positions the agency for zero-based budgeting.

Already under Aho’s leadership, DEP staff within the existing bureaus who have done policy development or outreach and education have been centralized within the Unit of Policy Development & Implementation and the Unit of Communications & Education.

The restructuring of the 400-person DEP with its annual budget of $60 million – of which just 10 percent comes from the general fund– will improve both internal and external communication and promote a coordinated, cross-media approach to the agency’s work.

Some examples of where consistencies will be created by a functional structure include inspection frequency, permitting processes, billing and collections, initiation of enforcement and compliance correspondence. Procedures for those services are currently specific to each bureau but under the new structure would apply across the agency, creating predictability for the regulated community.

“In many respects, we’ve been functioning as three agencies with three separate lines of services,” Aho explained. “The new structure takes a practical approach that is both more efficient for the regulated community and for our own internal operations by having one full-service team to handle each function, whether it be permitting, inspections, enforcement, monitoring or billing. Now instead of three different departments, there will be one unified Maine DEP.”

Maine’s environment will be the immediate beneficiary of the proposed changes, Commissioner Aho stressed in her announcement Wednesday. For example, environmental data that has been historically monitored by different bureaus would be received and reviewed by one section of staff who will be able to better protect Maine’s air, land and water with their more comprehensive analysis.

The regulated community can also expect more inclusive service. Currently, a Mainer can call one bureau’s media-specific licensing unit to seek a license to open or expand a facility and may never be notified that they need additional environmental licenses from other divisions within the same department. That’s just one example of why staff who do the same work –like licensing– should be grouped together no matter their media, Aho explained.

The restructuring will also allow the agency to be more agile as it deploys its resources to core programs and priorities, including improving predictability and timeliness of permit processing; consistent, decisive enforcement; the closure of long-term remediation sites so they are ready for redevelopment; reasonable, science-based rulemaking; and the establishment of department-wide assistance protocols that strengthen a culture of cooperation.

“Our commitment to providing environmental protections is stronger than ever,” added Aho. “But with diminishing financial resources and expanding expectations, it is time for our department to be modernized to most effectively and efficiently meet our mission after 40 years of largely serving in silos. It’s an important job we do here at DEP, and this structure will best support our work and the talented team of DEP employees who carry it out with great commitment each day.”

For more information about the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, visit http://www.maine.gov/dep/

-END-