From the community

Assistance Hotline Calls Triple As Mainers Turn To DEP As Resource

Posted April 11, 2013, at 1:34 p.m.

AUGUSTA – Calls to a Maine Department of Environmental Protection hotline that provides assistance and advocacy to those navigating State environmental regulations and permitting requirements have more than tripled since 2010.

Use of the hotline, which is answered by DEP Small Business Ombudsman Julie Churchill, has surged since the LePage Administration took office as individuals and businesses have felt more comfortable calling the state’s leading environmental agency at (800) 789-9802 and asking for help.

Starting in the spring of 2011, DEP has increasingly highlighted the hotline in its communications, from Commissioner Patricia W. Aho’s speaking engagements around the state to the homepage of DEP’s website to outreach letters to regulated entities.

Increased collaboration between State agencies committed to customer service has also led to more referrals to the hotline, especially from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

All that promotion has paid off. In 2012, the hotline received 442 calls, up from 392 in 2011 and 127 in 2010. So far in 2013, the hotline has received 170 calls.

“When I became Governor, I made a promise that DEP would become known for its culture of cooperation,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “I am impressed with the progress being made toward that under Commissioner Aho’s leadership. The improved assistance DEP provides through this hotline sends a message that Maine is open for business, while still ensuring our important natural resources are protected.”

In an effort to further strengthen its assistance offerings, the department’s general information email service is now also being answered by the Small Business Ombudsman. So far this year, there have been 133 inquiries submitted to infodep@maine.gov.

The most common inquiry received via calls and emails is for help with land permitting for new or expanding developments, including determining what permits may be needed and step-by-step assistance filling out forms. Guidance on petroleum storage, especially as it relates to property transfers, is also a common call.

“Since its inception 40 years ago, DEP has been guided by a vision for a Maine where people understand that a healthy environment and a strong economy support one another. Through our hotline we live that vision, supporting those strengthening Maine’s economy and its competitiveness while also ensuring natural resources stewardship. The number of calls shows that more and more Mainers trust that DEP is an ally of responsible development, not an adversary, and that they are getting results from our assistance services,” said Commissioner Aho.

DEP is not alone in expanding its accessibility and assistance to job creators.

Earlier this week, DECD announced use of its Business Answers online assistance portal had more than doubled in the past two years. In addition to the Business Answers service, DECD has a hotline for businesses to call to get assistance in state licensing, permitting & regulatory issues. The number for that Red Tape Hotline is (207)624-7486.

For more information about Maine DEP’s Assistance offerings, contact the hotline at (800) 789-9802 or write to infodep@maine.gov.

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