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Millions for Tech in New State EPA Secretary Office Budget

Funding for a geographic information officer is part of the millions in IT and innovation monies the Office of the Secretary for Environmental Protection received in its portion of the annual state budget. The office heads up the California Environmental Protection Agency.

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Projects with an IT focus and several million dollars behind them are a significant focus of the 2023-2024 fiscal year state budget for the Secretary for Environmental Protection.

The Office of the Secretary for Environmental Protection, the Cabinet-level agency charged with coordinating California’s environmental regulatory programs and overseeing enforcement of environmental law, saw its enacted FY 2023-24 budget shrink more than 21 percent, from nearly $58 million in FY 2022-23 to $45.5 million in FY 2023-24. (All numbers are rounded.) The Office of the Secretary heads up the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), per its website, overseeing the work of an office, two boards and three departments; and its number of approved positions rose slightly this fiscal year, from 101 in FY 2022-23 to 108 in FY 2023-24. Appointed in August 2022 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Yana Garcia is the California secretary for Environmental Protection. The office’s major areas of IT spend this fiscal year include:

  • $4.3 million for the California Environmental Reporting System Project. In a budget change proposal (BCP) dating to September 2022, CalEPA sought $4.3 million from the state’s Unified Program Account this fiscal year to “implement a technology refresh on the California Environmental Reporting System.” The system is a web-based application deployed in 2011 in response to legislation, to collect and report regulatory data from Certified Unified Program Agencies (CUPAs) that collect fees from regulated businesses to support local and state programs. Regulated businesses and CUPAs regularly use the system to submit data electronically; in 2020, the system took in more than 500,000 regulatory submissions and did more than 1 million electronic transfers between the system and CUPA data systems. The project is aimed at updating the technical platform, improving data quality and the processes around it; addressing inefficient input and interactions; and making enhancements.
  • $1.3 million and two positions for the Project Management Office and IT governance positions. In a BCP in January, CalEPA asked for $1 million in permanent funding from the CalEPA Reimbursements account plus two “permanent civil service positions, resources, technology services, and software licenses” to manage planning and delivery of the agency’s growing tech project portfolio; develop and promote process and tech standardization; drive the delivery and use of technology toward ongoing improvements; and provide project oversight. CalEPA also sought $300,000 to buy project portfolio management (PPM) software tools during this fiscal year. Since 2020, the number of project requests per year in the California Department of Technology’s (CDT) Project Approval Lifecycle has risen steadily; it’s now 600 percent higher than it was before 2020. CDT has delegated oversight of six open projects to CalEPA.
  • $605,000 for Information Technology Security Posture. In a December BCP, CalEPA and its affiliates sought $605,000 from the state’s General Fund in FY 2023-24, and $555,000 from the General Fund in FY 2024-25 and ongoing, to monitor and protect the agency’s IT network, computer systems, and system components from cyber threats and attacks. CDT has pushed for stricter security compliance standards for security programs, incident response and security safeguards in these and other areas following a rise in cyber crime and data breaches, the BCP notes, indicating the agency has taken an enterprise approach to improving its IT security posture and is working with its entities to enhance their overall defense strategy through sharing knowledge, tools and solutions that may help short-circuit bad actors. The agency is also standardizing and leveraging shared IT procurements.
  • $268,000 and one position for a CalEPA geographic information officer. In a BCP from September 2022, the agency asked for $268,000 in permanent funding from the CalEPA Reimbursements account and one new permanent civil service position to “administer CalEPA’s Geographic Information Systems environment and develop strategies, policies, and common GIS frameworks” for agency boards, divisions and offices. The request includes roughly $40,000 in permanent annual funding for licensing agency GIS software tools and services. CalEPA faces significant challenges in integrating GIS data into existing applications and using it to build applications and analyses for future policies, it said, indicating the new position will mitigate these challenges.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.