Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Corbett Issues Order Requiring DEP To Implement Permit Decision Guarantee Program

Gov. Corbett Tuesday issued Executive Order 2012-11, which requires the Department of Environmental Protection to immediately begin assessing how best to make timely permitting decisions.
The order establishes a Permit Guarantee Program, in which DEP will strive to make permitting decisions within established processing times for complete and technically adequate applications.
“One of the biggest complaints I have received over and over again is the time it takes for businesses, non-profit organizations and local governments to work through the permitting process,” Corbett said. “I promised to correct this, and today we are setting the wheels in motion to deliver on that promise. At the same time, DEP will continue its longstanding mission to protect our environment.
“While DEP will be working hard to become even more efficient, the new program also must make clear our expectations from those seeking permits. Full and complete applications are necessary for DEP to be able to make a timely decision without sacrificing their duty and commitment to protect the environment,” Corbett said. “Complete applications mean DEP can make a sound decision quickly.”
The order also requires DEP to coordinate the review of applications for projects with multiple permits; establish performance standards for staff engaged in permit reviews; and where possible, develop and improve electronic permitting tools.
Gov. Corbett’s Executive Order builds on Executive Order 1995-5 issued by Gov. Tom Ridge creating the Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program which put obligations on both permit applicants and DEP during the review process.
Under the 1995 Order, if DEP failed to make a decision on a permit during the required review period applicants were given their permit application fees back.  During the operation of the program, there were 22 fee refunds out of 125,000 permit actions taken through mid-2002.

Robert D. Behen, director of The Governors Center at Duke University, lauded the Money-Back Program in a 1997 article in “Governing Magazine” as evidence that a public agency can dramatically improve efficiency with the dedicate work of committed managers and staff.
Executive Order 1995-5 has been in force since 1995, although there was significantly less emphasis on the program during the Rendell Administration.
The last version of the Money-Back Guarantee Policy Guidance is available online.

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