The National Center for Environmental Innovation (NCEI) developed the State Innovation Grant Program in 2002 in response to EPA’s Innovation Strategy, Innovating for Better Environmental Results: A Strategy to Guide the Next Generation of Innovation at EPA (EPA 100-R-02-002; http://www.epa.gov/innovation/strategy.htm). The Strategy was developed by the EPA Innovation Action Council (IAC) and the Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation (OPEI). There are four major elements in the innovation framework: 1) strengthen EPA’s innovation partnerships with states and tribes; 2) focus on priority environmental problems; 3) diversify environmental protection tools and approaches; 4) foster a more “innovation-friendly” culture and management systems.
The Grant Program conducted seven competitions between 2002 and its close in 2009 that were designed to help states build on previous experience and undertake strategic innovation projects to promote larger-scale models for “next generation” environmental protection with promise of better environmental results. Our goal was to provide funding to seed projects that had promise to: 1) go beyond a single facility experiment to promote change that is “systems-oriented;” 2) provide better results from a program, process, or sector-wide innovation; 3) and promote integrated (cross-media) environmental management with high potential for transfer to other states.
Additionally, we wanted to use the State Innovation Grant Program to: build more effective collaboration with states to identify areas ripe for innovation; help state agencies identify operating cost efficiencies through innovation; realize cost or time savings for regulated entities; elicit best ideas through a competitive process with states submitting a proposal in response to an EPA solicitation; and build in measurement and evaluation essential to transferability of the innovation.
Under the general theme of "innovation in permitting" we focused on three strategic topics in these competitions:
- Environmental Results Programs (ERP) link compliance assistance, compliance self-certification and statistically-based auditing and have been used by states to improve compliance and environmental business practices for small business sectors as a more effective alternative to traditional permitting;
- Environmental Management System (EMS) apply a system of continuous process improvement and a mechanism for beyond-compliance performance for facilities and communities and the grant-funded projects explored the relationship between permitting and EMSs with a goal of helping businesses and communities reduce their environmental impacts and increase operating efficiency, and;
- Performance-Based Environmental Leadership Programs provide opportunity for programs that promote beyond-compliance performance through specific incentives.