The Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday announced it has begun revising eligibility standards for expedited review of Erosion and Sediment permit applications related to oil and gas drilling because a program audit found 60 percent of the applications submitted to the program were incomplete or had technical deficiencies.
The revisions follow an internal review of two years of permit authorizations, conducted to analyze the consistency and effectiveness of the program from when it began in February 2014 through January 2016.
The review revealed that the expedited process has limited application because of the technical deficiencies in almost 60 percent of the permit applications submitted.
“This review concluded that the expedited review process is very challenging for DEP to implement and has not resulted in higher quality applications nor consistency in environmental protections statewide,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Through this internal review, we’ve learned that this program only works when DEP receives technically sound and complete application materials at the outset, and we will revise our eligibility requirements accordingly.”
During the review period, DEP received 624 applications for standard review, and 1,054 for expedited review.
Fifty-nine percent of the expedited review applications were disqualified because they were administratively incomplete or technically deficient, and 436 permits were issued.
DEP’s internal reviewers randomly sampled 23 permits proposing earth disturbance activities of 15 acres or more, and found that only 4 met all the applicable regulatory requirements at the outset.
Of the 23 approved applications, 16 had been inspected at least once, and 6 were never constructed, and one is under construction currently and has been inspected. Inspections of the reviewed project sites reveal one E&S violation of the expedited permit issued.
As a result of the internal review, DEP staff are developing revisions for eligibility for the expedited review, including objective and clear standards for eligibility, return of applications, removal of applications from the expedited process, improved training for staff and industry applicants, and regular evaluation of the program.
The Erosion and Sediment Control General Permits (ESCGP-2) are for earth disturbance of more than 5 acres for oil and gas projects. Under the general permit, projects that meet objective criteria are eligible for a 14-day permit review.
DEP studies of erosion and encroachment permits covering outside of oil and gas found 80 percent of the applications were not complete and 30 percent had technical deficiencies.A copy of the audit is available online.
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