June 11, 2012 | last updated June 11, 2012 12:24 pm

DEEP changes may include cut in fees

Macky McCleary, deputy commissioner for environmental quality, DEEP

The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection is re-evaluating the costs businesses and developers pay for environmentally permitting and compliance.

"We need to be more sophisticated," said Macky McCleary, DEEP deputy commissioner for environmental quality.

The move to change the environmental pricing is part of a larger push by DEEP to make the department more business-friendly and efficient. The process began when Dan Esty became commissioner of the department last year, and McCleary has actively worked on the initiative since joining the department in August.

McCleary said the costs businesses face for permits and paying to come into environmental compliance is problematic.

DEEP is developing coming up with more favorable pricing, but the initiative has to overcome several obstacles, because the pricing is determined jointly by DEEP and the state Attorney General's Office, said McCleary.

McCleary, Esty and several other DEEP officials talked about the effort to improve the department during the Connecticut Business & Industry Association's Environmental & Energy Conference on June 6 in Waterbury.

"We need to do things in a practical way and using common sense," Esty said.

The atmosphere at DEEP is changing away from leveling harsh penalties and focus more on environmental quality, said Nicole Lugli, DEEP director of compliance assurance.

"The goal is to get people in compliance," Lugli said.

Before 2011 legislation added the energy responsibility, the organization formerly known as the Department of Environmental Protection was notorious in the business community for the long waits for permit approvals, some of which took several years.

Shortly after assuming the commissioner's role, Esty said he was trying to implement change toward a more efficient and business-friendly department, but the task was difficult as much of the rank-and-file workers were resistant to change.

"It has been a very busy year," Esty said.

McCleary is using the lean business philosophy to modify DEEP toward greater efficiency. He developed 44 lean programs for the department and has run all 25 permitting processes through those programs to maximize the amount of time worked.

DEEP is working to be friendlier in its verbiage as well, such as renaming the Notices of Violation that go out to businesses that have only potential environmental compliance issues, McCleary said.

To increase access and efficiency, the department also is developing on online filing system; developing an expert system called iCompass that is similar to TurboTax for hazardous waste generators; and providing technical training to small business both online and in person on Connecticut's many environmental regulations.

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