Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Senate Bill Would Take More Time Away From DEP Permit Reviews, Without More Funding

On Tuesday, Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) announced plans to introduce legislation requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to provide electronic notice to all permit holders 60 days before a permit’s expiration telling them how laws, regulations and fees were changed since the original permit was issued.
Nice idea, but the bill description provides no funding for DEP to accomplish this task.
DEP processes between 33,900 and 36,000 applications for new permits or renewals every year.  
Over the last 14 years the General Assembly and various Governors have cut DEP’s General Fund budget (which is mostly personnel costs) by 40 percent and as a result of this and other actions, DEP staff has been cut by nearly one-third since 2003.
As anyone can plainly see from these facts, without funding for this new mandate, DEP’s ability to actually review permit applications would be impacted significantly.
DEP already has an initiative underway to work with environmental consultants to submit complete and technically correct applications to the agency to speed up permit processing times.
Recent reports from DEP found from 60 to 80 percent of applications come to them incomplete or with deficiencies dramatically slowing processing times.
Of course, you would also post a report showing which consultants submitted complete applications that were not technical deficient (information DEP already has) and let the market decide which consultants to use for DEP permit applications.
DEP is also planning to roll out an ePermitting initiative in the coming months to begin to make key permitting processes nearly all electronic.
An existing eFACTS permit information system, available to the public and permit holders, also provides information on the status of permit applications, the results of DEP inspections of facilities and more.
The eFACTS system is also being significantly upgraded by DEP.

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