Nebraska uses online permitting system to speed Yahoo data center expansion project

Gov. Pete Ricketts believes the state's online construction permit helped the tech company spur a 0 million project in Nebraska.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is trumpeting the state’s online system for processing construction permits as a key factor in Yahoo’s new $20 million expansion of a data center in the state.

Ricketts held a press briefing at the Yahoo facility to highlight the online permitting process on Wednesday, championing the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and its director, Jim Macy, for embracing the new system to expedite the project.

“Making state government more customer-friendly has been one of my administration’s top priorities to help grow our state,” Ricketts said in a release. “Under the leadership of Director Macy, our environmental quality agency has been able to dramatically accelerate their delivery of permits, helping businesses like Yahoo expand and bring the jobs we need to keep Nebraska the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.”

The department launched the new online permit portal last November, focusing on storm water and air quality permit applications from businesses looking to build facilities in the state. Ricketts said that launch made Nebraska one of four states in the country to offer construction permits online.


[Read more: Nebraska CIO poised to save $5.3 million over 10 years with IT consolidations]

Since then, the department has expanded the online system to include air quality permits for four construction categories: asphalt plants, concrete plants, aggregate processing and crushing facilities, and emergency engines.

Yahoo became the first company to earn an emergency engine construction permit by going through the online system as part of the overhaul effort at its data center in La Vista, Nebraska.

Ricketts said the process was successful because the online portal so drastically cut the time it took the department to review the company’s application. While the department used to take weeks or months to process air quality applications, the governor said that regulators are now averaging review times of just one day.

“These types of applications are significant at this time of year, as spring construction projects begin operations,” Macy said in the release. “The time savings for online applications are substantial, both for the applicant and for [the department]. This process streamlines the application and review process for less complex categories of construction applications, which gives [department] staff more time to focus on larger, more complex permit applications.”


Macy added that he’s heard from other state environmental regulators who are interested in developing similar systems, and Nebraska could serve as a model for those agencies.

Looking ahead, the governor’s office said the department plans to launch an online application for incinerator construction permits in the coming months.

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