e-Texas e-Texassmaller smarter faster governmentDecember, 2000
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

Chapter 10: Environment and Natural Resources

Create an Internet Portal

for Environmental and

Natural Resources Agencies


Most Texas state agencies now have Web sites, yet these individual sites have not necessarily made it easier to obtain information on government programs and services. One way to accomplish this goal is through the use of a portal, a single Internet location providing access to services from multiple agencies. Texas’ ongoing portal project, TexasOnline, ultimately will serve as a virtual “front counter” for all state government services. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, a participant in the TexasOnline project, and other natural resources agencies should work with the Department of Information Resources to create an environmental and natural resource portal within TexasOnline.


Providing information and services are core functions of government, and state agencies have put vast quantities of information such as public reports and program goals on the Internet. This material is useful, but the public expects more.

In recent years, the “one-stop shopping” idea has permeated the public and private sector, as more organizations recognize the Internet’s potential for supplying easy access to information and services. For example, the Texas Coastal Coordination Council site provides companies that want to build in the Gulf Coast area with information detailing all the necessary permits that must be obtained and the agencies with jurisdiction over the project.[1] Another one-stop site, GovWorks.com, allows citizens across the nation to obtain various permits, look for government jobs, bid at surplus property auctions, or obtain community information from federal and local governments.

These one-stop Internet sites, or “portals,” are quick, easy gateways to information and services from multiple agencies or other sources. Portals employ a host of underlying technologies including databases, analytical processing software, query and reporting tools, search engines, Web browsers, and publishing delivery mechanisms.

Texas’ Portal Project

Texas introduced its “TexasOnline” portal, administered by the Department of Information Resources, a project created by state government and a private-sector partner, in July 2000. TexasOnline is intended to streamline the electronic delivery of services and information throughout Texas’ state and local governments.

TexasOnline is a product of the Electronic Government Task Force, created by the 1999 Legislature to assess the feasibility of conducting state and local government transactions through the Internet. The portal allows its users to renew certain licenses and certifications, file certain sales tax returns, and search for corporate status information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, only a few agencies are participating, including the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state’s lead natural resource and environmental protection agency. Ultimately, the portal is intended to become a comprehensive one-stop location for obtaining information or doing business with Texas government, regardless of the level of government or agency involved or the nature of the business.

TexasOnline’s private-sector partner, KPMG Consulting, LLC, anticipates that agencies participating in the portal will gain efficiencies from offering online transactions to their customers as an alternative to walk-in or mail-in transactions. In addition, the portal eventually is expected to allow citizens interacting with multiple agencies to enter their identifying information only once, and to allow other participating agencies to reuse the information as appropriate.[2]. (Internet document.)

The TexasOnline portal features authentication services ranging from passwords to mechanisms for the eventual acceptance of digital signatures; scalable architecture, for rapid expansion and application changes; around-the-clock access; the ability to trace transactions; acceptance of credit cards and other electronic funds transfers; web application development services; call-center services; shared revenue from convenience or premium service fees; and electronic interfaces to the state’s accounting systems and agencies’ other systems. Moreover, TexasOnline offers services in both Spanish and English.

Organizing Agencies’ e-Efforts

The Legislature has long recognized the value of coordinated usage of technology for cost-effectiveness. The 1989 act that created the state’s Department of Information Resources, for instance, warned that

....the danger exists that state agencies could independently acquire uncoordinated and duplicative information resources technologies that are more appropriately acquired as part of a coordinated effort for maximum cost-effectiveness and use.[3]

The act also stated that:

It is the policy of this state to coordinate and direct the use of information resources technologies by state agencies and to provide as soon as possible the most cost-effective and useful retrieval and exchange of information without and among the various agencies and branches of state government and from the agencies and branches of state government to the residents of this state and their elected representatives.[4]

Thus far, however, such clear expressions of legislative intent have not been put into practice. For instance, TNRCC and 16 other agencies charged with protecting the environment and managing natural resources offer huge amounts of information on the Internet, including environmental data, regulations, and public outreach information.[5] But citizens and businesses still find it difficult to determine which agency is responsible for specific functions, issues, or information, and the existing agency Web sites offer little help.

Many agencies are redesigning their sites to make online information more readily available, and some are developing systems to provide electronic permitting services. The Texas Railroad Commission is developing an electronic compliance and approval program for its drilling permit applications.[6]http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/ecap/togt.pdfhttp://www.rrc.state.tx.us/ecap/).

Without more active coordination of such efforts, however, Texas citizens and businesses will not fully benefit from the convenience and ease of use provided by the Internet.

Another recommendation in this report would establish a Program Management Office within the Department of Information Resources to coordinate a variety of cross-agency electronic government projects.


Texas’ environmental and natural resource agencies should coordinate their efforts with the proposed Program Management Office (PMO), as recommended elsewhere in the report to create an environmental and natural resource portal within the existing TexasOnline portal (http://www.texasonline.com). The new portal should link the state’s environmental and natural resource information, services, and regulatory requirements.

Since most environmental and natural resource agencies already have established Internet sites (only the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board and the five Texas River Compact Commissions have not), this recommendation would require coordination by the proposed PMO and cooperation among agencies. In the event the PMO is not created and funded by the Legislature, these agencies should work with DIR to coordinate the effort.

The Electronic Government Task Force contracted with KPMG Consulting, LLC, to design the e-government framework for TexasOnline. The contract stipulated that Texas e-government transaction fees would pay for the development and operation of the framework. Therefore, any agency that uses this framework could do so without an up-front investment.

Fiscal Impact

These recommendations would have no fiscal impact on the state.

[1] Texas Coastal Coordination Council, “Coastal Permitting Assistance for Individual and Small Businesses” (Austin, Texas, 2000) (www.glo.state.tx.us/coastalpermits/assistpamph.html)

[2] Beth Bacheldor, “Portals Make Business Sense: Central Access Points Improve Customer Service and Let Companies Communicate with Employees,” Information Week (October 18, 1999) (http://www.informationweek.com/757/portals.htm). (Internet document.)

[3] V.C.T.A.,Government Code, § 2054.001(a)(4) (http://www.dir.state.tx.us/DIR/irmact.html#202054.001). (Internet document.)

[4] V.C.T.A., Government Code, § 2054.001(b) (http://www.dir.state.tx.us/DIR/irmact.html#202054.001). (Internet document.)

[5] Texas’ other agencies with environmental and natural resource responsibilities include the Comptroller’s State Energy Conservation Office, the General Land Office, Public Utility Commission, Railroad Commission, Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Health, Texas Energy Coordination Council, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas River Compact Commissions (for the Canadian, Sabine, Red, Rio Grande, and Pecos Rivers), Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board, and the Texas Water Development Board.

[6] Gene Montgomery, “Reducing Paper—Will It Ever Happen?” Texas Oil & Gas Today (Winter 1999), p. 10 (); see also Railroad Commission of Texas, “Electronic Compliance and Approval Process (ECAP)” ( (Internet documents.)

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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