Solving Environmental Problems Through Collaboration
                                                                                        A Case Study
                              For EPA personnel and partners who wish to implement collaborative problem solving projects effectively.
Sustainable Environment  for
Quality  of  Life  (SEQL)
Successful Multi-Party Organization Works to Resolve
Environmental Concerns from Explosive Growth in the

Elected officials from across the
Charlotte, NC - Rock Hill, SC region,
along with the states of North Carolina
and South Carolina, EPA, and others,
have developed an initiative called
Sustainable Environment for Quality of
Life (SEQL). Conceived in 2000, the
initiative is designed to promote a
healthy environment, a strong economy,
and a high quality of life for the citizens
of the 15-county Charlotte, NC - Rock
Hill, SC region.

Sprawl, air quality and water quality
problems, and increases in vehicle
miles traveled are just a few of the
concerns that face the greater Char-
lotte/Gastonia/Rock Hill region. Be-
cause the region is a highly desirable
place to live—with a growing population
of 2.1 million people—SEQL's ap-
proach is to address the region's
challenges, including the following:

• Offering local governments the
  opportunity to work with each other to
  garner cooperation and collabora-
  tion—setting a standard for the nation.
• Providing implementation
  assistance to local governments on
  environmental "commitment action
  items"; and
• Analyzing ozone air quality issues
  while also addressing transportation,
  water, land use, energy use, and
  economic development.
This project is designed to support the
region's efforts to develop integrated,
long-range plans to ensure economic
development and a positive quality of life
for its future.  The project is a coopera-
tive undertaking of local elected officials
and is managed by the Centralina and
Catawba Council of Governments
(COGs). The region has demonstrated
that planning, developed through an
EPA grant, can provide an integrated
strategy that other local governments
across the country could use to address
similar quality of life and environmental

What made SEQL

The Charlotte metropolitan region has
seen the impacts of unbridled growth in
the neighboring metropolitan area of
Atlanta. Charlotte's experience demon-
strates that rapid growth is a powerful
catalyst for cooperation to address
economic development and environ-
mental impacts.

SEQL was started in the spring of 2001
as the EPA Sustainability Project with a
$100K grant from EPA to bring together
the region's elected officials to learn
about air quality, water resources and
land use issues.  The  group developed
and recommended an initial list of 25
"tool box actions" relating to air, water
and land use measures for implementa-
tion across the region.
                                                   SEQL: A Two-State,
                                                   Approach to
                                                   Sustainable Environmental
                                                   Quality Of Life
SEQL pulls together diverse groups into
facilitated discussions aimed at
regional problem-solving and policy
formulation. By involving these groups
early, to enable regional consensus on
policies, SEQL facilitates decision-
making by governmental boards and
reduces cross-jurisdictional conflict.

SEQL participants have identified the
following factors as contributing to its

• Focus on regional and multi-
  jurisdictional impacts.
• Showcase local and regional
  successes that benefit many
  diversified business sectors.
• Include non-traditional stakeholders.
• Strong, supportive political
• Strong, steady institutional support
  and leadership from the COGs.
• Reliable funding from EPA, COGs
  and elsewhere.
• Provide menu of options from which
  local governments can choose
  actions to improve environment and
  quality of life.
 The SEQL process has enabled us to
 share what we are doing to create a
 more environmentally sustainable
 community and has also helped us to
 learn from others in the region.

     - Scott Padgett, Mayor, Concord, NC

 What Makes SEQL

 SEQL represents a model of regional
 cooperation where over 60 local
 governments across an area the size of
 Connecticut have joined to work
 together on a common set of concerns.
 SEQL is bi-state where the Centralina
 and Catawba COGs serve counties in
 North and South Carolina respectively.
 Further, SEQL focuses on ways to fully
 integrate air quality issues into transpor-
 tation, land use and economic develop-
 ment efforts. The Charlotte region is
 one of the first regions in the country to
 work with EPA in this manner.

 Lessons  Learned

 SEQL participants have identified the
 following lessons learned:

 • Get buy-in from local elected officials
   and find ways to continually keep
   them engaged.
 • Work through an organization that is
   respected across the region (like
   COGs in Charlotte).
 • Encourage both small and large
   jurisdictions to participate.
 • Get local groups involved from
   different sectors.
 • Local elected officials will take
   course of action generally favorable
   for the environment if they have:
   education/information; public and
   peer support; and a clear sense of
   multiple benefits.
 • Focus on "interest' rather than

 EPA has identified the following  lessons

 • Inform all participants - let people
   decide what they want to do.
 • Communicate reasonable
   expectations for project results.
• Demonstrate long-term EPA
• Ensure adequate project resources.
• Follow the adage, "Defining success
  depends on where you sit."
• Identify local key driver for project.


SEQL is implementing measures to
address the environmental impact of the
rapid growth that the Charlotte region is
experiencing and continues to experi-
ence. These measures provide local
leaders with options to promote air
quality, clean water and sustainable
growth. To evaluate future growth
scenarios, SEQL is utilizing EPA's state-
of-the-art program called "ReVA"
(Regional Vulnerability Assessment).
The scenarios will incorporate the
various environmental and quality of life
issues of concern to the region.

SEQL's progress includes the following:

• Over 700 actions implemented by
  over 80 jurisdictions.
• Four new county-level air quality
  stakeholders groups formed.
• Three counties are sponsoring
  "integrated planning roundtables."
• Clean School Bus funding in two
• Teacher training programs (Air and
  Waste ManagementAssociation
  curriculum) held in two counties to
  date, with over 70 teachers trained.

Keys  to  Collaboration

Six keys for collaborative problem
solving are demonstrated through
SEQL. Because the Charlotte region is
a highly desirable area to live, the
impacts of unbridled growth represent
the shared problem that leaders within
the region wished to avoid as they
improved quality of life.

To address the problem, Charlotte
Mayor Patrick McCrory, and
Mecklenburg County Commission
Chair Parks Helms, were the conven-
ers of stature for SEQL, and they
kicked off the collaboration with a
$100K grant for bringing together the
region's elected officials. The commit-
ted leaders in this cooperative under-
taking were the Centralina and Catawba
Regional Councils of Government.  In
addition to the Councils of Government,
the representatives of substance
included the states of North Carolina
and South  Carolina, EPA, and other

With  input from all of these individual
organizations, SEQL's clearly-defined
purpose was based  on promoting a
healthy environment, a strong economy,
and a high  quality of life for the citizens
of the 15-county Charlotte, NC-Rock
Hill, SC region. SEQL advances the
objective of a common information
base through integrated long-range
plans, integrated planning roundtables,
and a regional CIS Framework.

For More Information

Office of Air Quality Planning and
United States
Environmental Protection
      Office of Policy,
      Economics and Innovation
                         June 2006