Friday, January 11, 2019

DEP Changes Regional Boundaries, Shifts Workload, Provides Update On e-Permitting, e-Inspections To Improve Permit Review Times, Reduce Costs

On January 10, the Department of Environmental Protection announced a change in its regional office boundaries, the opening of a new office to handle multi-county projects and provided an update of ongoing e-permitting and e-inspection initiatives designed to improve permit review times and reduce costs.
“The department receives more than 30,000 permit applications a year, and each of these permits is important to a project somewhere in the Commonwealth,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Over the past four years DEP has focused its efforts on increased responsiveness, improved customer service, and working smarter and more efficiently to improve operations.
Effective January 10, any new permit application, reporting and compliance issues related to sites regulated by DEP in Armstrong and Indiana counties will be handled from DEP’s Northwest Regional Office in Meadville, Crawford County.
Any permits under review in these counties as of January 9, will still be handled by DEP’s Southwest Regional Office.
Mining and radiation protection programs are not affected by this regional office change.
This is the first time DEP's Regional Office boundaries have been changed in decades.
Other changes in the way the Southwest Regional Office reviews permits have resulted in reducing it permit backlog by 75 percent and shortened its review time for erosion and sediment control general permits by more than 220 days.
This week, DEP formally opened the Regional Permit Coordination Office, a centralized permitting office to assist with construction permitting and coordination related to erosion and sediment control (Chapter 102) and water obstruction and encroachment (Chapter 105).
Specifically, the RPCO will assist with construction permitting for large-scale, multi-county or multi-regional infrastructure projects, such as pipelines and highways.
In addition to assisting with construction permitting for large-scale, multi-county or multi-regional infrastructure projects, such as pipelines and highways, the RPCO will work with existing DEP bureaus to provide statewide technical support to regions and add additional emphasis on project coordination and consistency.
The new Office can be contacted by calling Karrie Goudy at 717-772-5987 or sending email to:
DEP will also be transferring some of its permitting functions from the regions to streamline project development and permit processing, reduce redundant operations, and provide effective service and project delivery.
DEP also provided an update on ongoing e-permitting, e-inspection and other initiatives to improve efficiency and effectiveness--
-- e-Permitting: DEP now offers e-permitting for well drilling and erosion and sedimentation control at oil and gas sites (ESCGP), surface coal mining, air emissions from certain natural gas activities (GP-5 and GP-5A), Chapter 105 water obstruction and encroachment general permits, storage tank renewals, radiation protection x-ray registration renewals, and other regulated activities.
-- e-Inspections: DEP now performs e-inspection for oil and gas sites, erosion and sedimentation, waterways encroachment, waste management, spill cleanup, and emergency response. In the Oil & Gas program specifically, e-inspections have increased inspector efficiency by 20 percent.
-- Digitize Regional Files: DEP is embarking on an effort to digitize regional files while also requesting electronic submissions. Electronic files and databases housed on DEP’s website and other operational changes are designed to improve the Right to Know Law and informal file review processes, reinforcing DEP’s commitment to transparency.
-- Clearer Communication With Applicants/Consultants: DEP has significantly improved permitting efficiency by meeting with and clearly communicating permitting and regulatory requirements to the regulated community and consultants.
“As we move to more data-driven tools and resources, we’re also able to evaluate current and anticipated staffing needs,” said McDonnell. “While we strive to increase efficiency, we’re also making sure our professional staff have the resources and training necessary to carry out regulatory oversight.”
With these changes, McDonnell said he would like to continue working with the regulated community to determine their needs, and address opportunities to improve consistency in applications.
For more information on environmental programs in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s website, Click Here to sign up for DEP’s monthly newsletter, sign up for DEP Connects events, sign up for DEP’s eNotice, visit DEP’s Blog,  Like DEP on Facebook, Follow DEP on Twitter and visit DEP’s YouTube Channel.

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