Department of Ecology News Release - December 28, 2010

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Ecology customers say regulatory permits are reasonable, staff are helpful

OLYMPIA – Even in difficult economic times, more than 80 percent of regulated individuals and businesses said in a recently completed customer survey that the conditions and requirements in their environmental permits issued by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) are reasonable. More than 90 percent said Ecology staff members are helpful and professional.

That’s the bottom line of Ecology’s telephone interviews with 1,253 people across the state. It is the fifth time since 2002 that Ecology has hired the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Statistics Service to conduct the rigorous third-party survey of people and businesses that have applied for environmental permits from the agency.

Permit applicants were asked how satisfied they are with Ecology's customer service, whether the permitting process is clear and predictable, and whether the permits are reasonable. Ecology uses the survey results to target improvements in its permitting processes.

Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said, “The 2010 customer survey serves as a reminder to me that Ecology staff are dedicated to serving the public as well as protecting Washington’s environment, communities and human health. Every day, I see or hear examples of the good work our staff do in working with citizens to sustain the quality of life that makes Washington a great place to live and work. That’s what our environmental permits are about – environmental and human and economic health of our state.”

He added, “What our customers in the regulated community told us is especially uplifting in light of the difficult time that so many business are having and the staff and budget reductions that Ecology and other public agencies are experiencing.”

Agricultural Statistics Service surveyors personally interviewed a wide range of people who hold or have applied for Ecology environmental permits. The survey had a 78 percent response rate.

Examples are farmers and others who burn agricultural debris outdoors, operators of facilities requiring air quality permits, businesses and others needing water pollution discharge permits or approval of a project affecting water quality, people applying biosolids on the ground, applicants or holders of water rights, operators of Ecology-inspected dams, major manufacturing facilities, and facilities that manage or store hazardous waste.

For maximum candor, the confidentiality of individual responses is safeguarded by the Agricultural Statistics Service. Ecology managers are briefed by surveyors, but they don't learn how specific individuals or businesses responded to the questions.

Here is a sampling of customer comments noted by the surveyors:

For summary results (full report available Jan. 31, 2011)  (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/quality/survey/customersurvey.html

For information on environmental permits  (http://www.ora.wa.gov/resources/permitting.asp) 

One Front Door to Washington’s Outdoors (online information about environmental services, permits, outdoor recreation, natural resources, forestry, farming and more): (http://access.wa.gov/environment/index.aspx) 

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Contact: David Workman, Communication & Education, 360-407-7004; dwor461@ecy.wa.gov