Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Good Idea? Automatic OK Of DEP Erosion Control Permits, Even Though 30% Have Technical Deficiencies

Rep. David Zimmerman (R-Lancaster) believes he has a solution for a problem created by the General Assembly and Governors when they cut DEP’s staff by more than 22 percent-- 705 positions--over the last 13 years-- automatic approval of the basic erosion and sedimentation control permits.
He introduced House Bill 2387 Monday that requires any erosion and sedimentation permit application (not subject to NPDES requirements) submitted by a licensed engineer “shall be approved” by DEP or a county conservation district within 20 days of receipt.  There is no provision in it that says the application must actually meet environmental protection standards in DEP’s Chapter 102 regulations.
If a permit application is submitted by someone else, it would require DEP and county conservation districts to act within 45 days.
Rep. Zimmerman said in proposing the legislation, “We have all heard concerns regarding the timeliness of permit reviews for these projects.  Likewise, we have all heard concerns about DEP staffing and funding.  
“Accordingly, in the near future, I will introduce legislation that requires DEP to complete its permitting approval or disapproval within a reasonable 45 days so that our industries have a predictable timeframe to use for their planning purposes.
“In addition, this legislation requires that any permit application submitted by a licensed engineer, licensed under the Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law (Act 367 of 1945) shall be approved within 20 days of receipt.  These folks are putting forth their license and reputation when submitting permit applications and therefore their applications should require less review.  This would then allow more staff time for other projects.”
The same language in House Bill 2387 is also in an amendment to House Bill 1391 (Everett-R-Lycoming) dealing with oil and gas royalties.  Amendment A09798 was posted by Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Allegheny).
A sponsor summary is available.
30% Of Applications Have Technical Deficiencies
During this year’s budget hearings, DEP told the Senate Appropriations Committee a random survey of 2,600 Chapter 102 and 105 permit applications by DEP professional staff found 30 percent had technical (not administrative) deficiencies that slowed down DEP’s permit review process.
Only a handful of the 47 firms (most licensed engineers) preparing those applications got passing grades from DEP in Chapter 102 & 105 application preparation-- 1 consultant got an A, 5 consultants got a B, 7 got a C, 8 a D and 26 an F.
The fact is DEP meets its deadlines for reviewing complete permit applications 89 percent of the time under the Permit Review Guarantee Program and even 80 percent of the time when applications aren’t complete.
So is automatic approval of permit applications to DEP a good idea?  You decide.
Related Story:
Analysis: Stage Set To Roll Back Decades-Old Environmental Protection Measures

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