About Performance Partnerships
EPA and states share responsibility for environmental and human health protection. Working together, EPA and states have made enormous progress in protecting air, water, and land resources. To ensure continued success in addressing the nation's remaining environmental challenges, EPA and state leaders initiated development of the National Environmental Performance Partnership System (performance partnerships, or NEPPS) in 1995.
The principles of performance partnerships are set out in the Joint Commitment to Reform Oversight and Create a National Environmental Performance Partnership System (PDF) (12 pp, 72K, About PDF) (also known as the "May 17 Agreement"). EPA and states are building a results-based environmental management system in which goals, priorities, and strategies are based on information about environmental conditions, and progress is evaluated based on the results that are actually achieved in the environment. Developing and using better performance measures is an essential element of implementing performance partnerships.
Two key tools are available to help implement performance partnerships on the ground. Many states develop Performance Partnership Agreements (PPAs) with EPA Regions. In this process, EPA and state officials:
- Discuss environmental conditions and program needs,
- Agree on goals and priorities,
- Devise strategies for addressing priority needs,
- Determine roles and responsibilities of each partner, and
- Decide how they will measure progress.
States can choose to combine some or all of their environmental program grants in Performance Partnership Grants (PPGs). PPGs have streamlined administrative requirements and give states greater flexibility to direct resources to their most pressing environmental problems. PPGs also make it easier to fund efforts that involve multiple programs, such as geographic initiatives or data management projects.
State participation in performance partnerships is voluntary, and the pace and scope of implementation varies across the country. FY2012 Program Implementation Summary (PDF) (24 pp, 345K, About PDF) data show that three-quarters of the states now use one or both of the key tools for implementing performance partnerships. There are many variations in the scope and coverage of PPAs and in how they are funded by PPGs and other grant funds.
Nearly all states are working with EPA on various projects to improve joint planning and priority setting, develop better performance measures and environmental indicators, and increase public understanding of progress in protection human health and the environment.
Participants report benefits such as increased communications between EPA and states, better mutual understanding of issues and priorities, more clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and more open relationships, and effective work-sharing arrangements. Performance partnership grants have helped fund improvements in data management, cross-media training for permit writers, and targeted geographic and industry-specific compliance initiatives.