Friday, January 17, 2020

Performance Based Budget Board Holds Jan. 22 Hearing On Performance-Based Budget Report For DEP

Act 48 of 2017 requires the Independent Fiscal Office to develop performance-based budget plans for all agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction once every five years. 
For the second year, the IFO reviewed the Department of Community and Economic Development, Department of Human Services (Part 1), Department of Health, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of State and the PA Emergency Management Agency.
Performance-based budget reviews submitted to the Board contain the following content for each activity or service provided by the agency:
-- A brief description of the activity, relevant goals and outcomes;
-- A breakdown of agency expenditures;
-- The number of full-time equivalent positions dedicated to the activity;
-- Select currently available metrics and descriptive statistics;
-- Any proposed metrics that the review recommends; and
-- Observations that should allow agencies to more effectively attain their stated goals and objectives.
DEP Report
The IFO report on DEP breaks down its primary responsibilities into 17 different activities--  clean water, safe drinking water, waterways and wetlands, Chesapeake Bay, water resource planning, vector management, oil and gas management, air quality, radiation protection, waste management, environmental cleanup and brownfields, mining programs and district operations, abandoned mine reclamation, mine safety, energy programs, laboratory services and administration.
The report then describes each activity in terms of dollar expenditures for the activity and full-time equivalent positions over time from FY 2014-15 to FY 2019-20.  
Performance measures, some old and some new, are identified for each activity and in some cases compared to other states.
The IFO identified several critical budget metrics lawmakers should pay special attention to:
-- Permitting/Inspection Productivity: DEP’s transition to electronic permitting and inspections has achieved significant productivity gains.
-- Water System Violations: Compared to other states, a high share of Pennsylvania residents received water from a com- munity water system with an acute health-based violation in recent years.
-- Abandoned Mine Legacy: Pennsylvania’s legacy of coal mining and oil and natural gas drilling represents a significant challenge for the department.
-- Chesapeake Bay Lagging: Pennsylvania lags behind other states in Chesapeake Bay Watershed pollution reduction
-- Air Quality Improving: Pennsylvania air quality has improved considerably and compares favorably to surrounding metro areas.
For each broad activity, the report contains information on the things like the number of applications disposed, number of inspections, average cost of authorizations (permits approvals) disposed, the cost of inspections, the number of applications processed on time, compliance information, percentages of violations resolved and other metrics.
Here are some examples with FY 2018-9 numbers--
-- Clean Water
     -- Authorizations received - 7,168
     -- Authorizations disposed - 7,354
     -- Applications processed on time -- 86 percent
     -- Facilities with no recorded violations - 99.8 percent
     -- Violations resolved - 69 percent
-- Safe Drinking Water 
     -- Authorizations received - 2,439
     -- Authorizations disposed - 2,051
     -- Applications processed on time -- 86 percent
     -- Facilities meeting drinking water standards - 86 percent
     -- Violations resolved - 53 percent
-- Waterways and Wetlands
     -- Authorizations received - 2,771
     -- Authorizations disposed - 2,688
     -- Applications processed on time -- 92 percent
     -- Facilities with no recorded violations - 99.8 percent
     -- Violations resolved - 59 percent
-- Oil and Gas Management
     -- Authorizations received - 5,904
     -- Authorizations disposed - 6,040
     -- Applications processed on time -- 97 percent
     -- Facilities with no recorded violations - 96 percent (unconventional)
-- Waste Management
     -- Authorizations received - 14,480
     -- Authorizations disposed - 14,477
     -- Applications processed on time -- 99 percent
     -- Facilities with no recorded violations - 97.3 percent
     -- Violations resolved - 80 percent
-- Mining Programs and District Operations
     -- Authorizations received - 5,184
     -- Authorizations disposed - 5,483
     -- Applications processed on time -- 88 percent
     -- Facilities with no recorded violations - 89 percent
     -- Violations resolved - 83 percent
There are other similar measures for the remainder of the 17 activities.
DEP Response
In a December 13 letter included in the report, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said his agency “will take ownership of the performance goals in this report and use them to guide its future course.  We will continue to identify areas of improvement that can make us not only more efficient from a quantitative point of view, but more effective in achieving our environmental mission.”
DEP did provide supplementation information to IFO on two issues--
-- Clearing Permit Backlog:  “Through several years of decreased funding and a corresponding reduction in staff, a sizable backlog of permit applications accumulated in the Regional Offices.  Beginning in July 2017, DEP publicly committed itself to reducing that backlog.
“The number of permits that were overdue at that time was 8,715.  As of December 9, 2019, we have reduced that number to 512.
“Within some programs, this effort involved the reorganization of staff, internal pilot projects, and even mandatory overtime.  The results of this effort can most prominently be seen in the number of permits dispose in the Clean Water and Oil and Gas programs in fiscal year 2017-18.”
-- Electronic Permitting, Inspections: “The IFO includes these initiatives in the report, but it should be further explained that they represent a new era in efficiency for DEP.  
“They make processes faster for the regulated community; increase the quality of data; and allow for higher levels of productivity from our staff, who are funded by taxpayers.
“Through the electronic inspection platform, the entries made by inspectors in the field flow directly to our central database, eliminating the need for inspectors to later sit down and type their reports.
“The Oil and Gas program has seen a 21 percent increase in staff productivity as a result.
“Through electronic permitting, applicants no longer need to send paper checks through the mail, and forms can only be submitted if they are complete.
“We are devoting considerable staff and resources to roll out this technology across the entire agency.”
The hearing will be held in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office building starting at 9:30.  The hearing will be carried by PA Cable Network and made available on the Senate Republican Appropriations Committee webpage.
For more information and available reports, visit the IFO’s Performance Budgeting webpage.
Related Articles - Budget:
[Posted: January 17, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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