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Nebraska Environmental Partnerships

The Nebraska Environmental Partnerships (NEP) program is a unique and innovative effort that helps Nebraska's small and rural governments cope with public health and environmental laws and regulations. The program was originally launched in 1994 as the Nebraska Mandates Management Initiative and was designed to help small Nebraska communities cope with the increasing number of unfunded federal mandates related to environmental regulations. In working with communities, it was discovered that although most communities were not in violation of environmental regulations, many had significant environmental health issues.

Today, the program's focus remains on environmental issues. However, increased attention is being placed on developing and strengthening partnerships to better assist small communities as they respond to an ever-increasing number of environmental health-related regulations and environmental infrastructure needs. The program uses an intergovernmental and interdisciplinary team process to: help local leaders better understand regulations; analyze the local situations and issues; prioritize the problems according to their association; and find technically and financially feasible solutions to the identified problems and risks.

The NEP Team Approach and Process

Because meeting environmental health obligations is increasingly complex, it is often impossible for one person or one organization to have all the expertise to address all of the issues that arise. That is why the NEP program employs an interdisciplinary and intergovernmental team process to work with communities. The NEP team consists of representatives from state agencies, the University of Nebraska, statewide organizations, regional organizations, and the federal government. These partnerships provide communities with a range of technical expertise that is not usually available to smaller communities that have limited resources. This approach also challenges the State to enhance regulatory flexibility without compromising the protection of public health or the environment. A majority of the funding for the Nebraska Environmental Partnerships program comes from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Regional office in Kansas City, KS.

Water Well

Community Assessment Grants

Many times the first steps of the team process are accomplished through a Community Assessment grant. The grant provides funding to the community to hire a consultant of their choice to assess the community's environmental health risks. The consultant brings both local expertise and credibility to the process because of their familiarity with the community. In many instances, the community has relied on their consultant for advice on many issues.

Community Meetings and Assistance

The next step is a meeting between the consultant, NEP team members, and the village/city board to discuss the consultant's technical summary and answer any community questions. The consultant and NEP team members offer continued assistance during the time the community implements their plans. This may include: locating additional resources for such activities as properly closing abandoned wells, establishing wellhead protection areas, identifying potential funding sources for capital projects, or setting up meetings to educate community members on the identified problem(s).

It should be noted that the services provided by the NEP team process are totally driven by each community's need.

An Issue Summary of NEP's Successes

The program has proven extremely successful in helping small communities address: a lack of fiscal and human resources dedicated to environmental issues; aging infrastructure; a significant number of regulatory requirements; the decline of federal funding; unaccommodating "one-size-fits-all" regulations; the responsibility of managing multiple programs and ever-increasing costs.

Examples of the NEP Participating Communities' Benefits:

Plugging an abandoned well

NEP Program Selected Success Stories

The following information summarizes the benefits some communities have received by participating in the NEP program:

Additional Benefits of the NEP Program

Another major thrust of the NEP is to identify new technologies and new management strategies to solve environmental health problems in small towns at a lower cost than traditional technologies and methods. The information gained through the literature searches and ongoing demonstration projects on a variety of technologies may provide low-cost options needed for these communities with similar difficulties.

Related Website

Nebraska Environmental Partnerships Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer

EPA Region 7 Contact

Kathleen L. Fenton
CARE Program Manager
(913) 551-7874
fenton.kathleen@epa.gov


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