Environmental permits going online in N.J.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection hopes that the online option will get companies permits faster and with less hassle

New Jersey businesses will soon be able to apply and receive a general air pollution permit online.

The Department of Environmental Protection created the online permitting site to reduce the time for business to obtain the permits. It's in the pilot phase, but will be officially open for business May 1.

In the future, businesses will also be able to use the site to apply for other general permits and renew them, according to Irene Kropp, the DEP's chief information officer. General permits are issued for business that meet a specific type of requirements for pollution, equipment and other criteria.

"We see the business portal as a better way to serve the business community, to really meet their needs," Kropp said.

Businesses can access the site and read the requirements to see if they qualify for a general permit. They then can either download an application, or fill it out online and pay the $250 fee using a credit card. The permit information is then transmitted immediately into an integrated database that can be accessed by DEP employees.

The process is done within a matter of minutes, opposed to the four to six weeks the old-fashioned way, Kropp said.

Kropp said the portal helps small businesses that may not have time or manpower to permit during business hours, and it reduces time spent on nonenvironmental work. Employees who concentrated on administration and permit writing could change their focus.

The portal was created after an ad-hoc committee, with 10 industry representatives, discussed ways the DEP could help the business community using the Internet.

Kropp said the department is also working with other states, hoping to share technology: "If another state doesn't have to go through the process from ground zero, maybe they'll build something we can use," she said.

The site was built in conjunction with American Management Systems Inc., with which the department has worked for five years and built the integrated database.