DEQ 2017: The Environmental Year in Review

By Alan Matheson

I’m convinced people can only be truly happy when they are progressing, reaching new heights in performance and character. Growth and improvement build confidence, increase capacity to meaningfully contribute, and give life purpose. Progress is inherently rewarding.

The same principle applies to organizations. In a time of rapid change, only those organizations that adapt—that creatively use limited resources to more effectively advance their mission—will succeed.

We at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are committed to accomplish our mission — safeguarding and improving Utah’s air, land, and water through balanced regulation — more effectively. Continuous improvement is one of our core values. To continue to protect public health and our environment as Utah’s population grows but agency budgets do not, we simply must become more efficient, providing more of our vital services without increasing costs. We are driven to improve health, well-being, and economic opportunity by cleaning our air, land, and water, all without increasing the burden on Utah’s taxpayers.  And that is exactly what we are doing.

During his previous term, Governor Herbert launched SUCCESS, an initiative that challenged state agencies to improve their efficiency by 25 percent. DEQ accomplished that goal by tracking more systems than any other state agency and increasing efficiency in those systems by nearly 40 percent. By streamlining processes, we freed up resources to invest in additional services to the public. But we’re far from done.

In 2017, I appointed Scott Baird as a Deputy Director over performance improvement. He is working closely with Renette Anderson, who was, and is, a driving force in our SUCCESS initiative. Under their great leadership, each DEQ section is evaluating how it can improve at least one of its core processes, making permitting, inspections, and data-sharing more efficient. Butcher paper and sticky notes with process maps are appearing on our office walls, along with ideas for eliminating unnecessary steps.

We are developing a management system that will help DEQ sections track progress toward their goals, communicate issues more promptly to senior management, and identify needed resources. Beyond that, this fiscal year we will implement a more robust cost-accounting system that will track our work by task and customer facility more effectively. The result will be a powerful management tool that will spur productivity and help us increase value to taxpayers and our customers.

In these efforts, we hold ourselves accountable to the public. We have developed new, more meaningful performance measures. Charts and television monitors in our office display our progress relative to these measures. We are also among the first states to share key environmental indicators on “ECOS Results,” an interactive web tool sponsored by the Environmental Council of States that communicates stories of state progress toward cleaner air, land, and water.

Our dedicated employees are putting in extra time and effort to achieve these performance improvements while still tackling their usual workload. They know that today’s investment in innovation will pay long-term dividends: better public-health, environmental, and economic outcomes; more time spent on mission-focused work; more appreciation from stakeholders; and a more rewarding career.

Progress can be difficult, but at DEQ, we recognize that it is easier and more rewarding than stagnation. We invite your ideas on how we can serve you better.

I invite you to read the 2017 State of the Environment report scheduled for release this Friday, January 5 to learn more about the many ways DEQ is improving life for all Utah residents.

Alan MathesonI am the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.