Thursday, May 30, 2019

Senate Environmental Committee Holds June 5 Hearing On Third Party Review Of DEP Permits

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on June 5 to discuss third party view of DEP’s Chapter 102 (Erosion and Sedimentation) and Chapter 105 (Dam Safety and Encroachment) permits.
On May 2, Sen. Yaw announced he will introduce legislation seeking to expedite the review of Chapter 102 and 105 permit applications through the use of third party consultants chosen by DEP to do technical reviews.
“Under the proposal, the expedited review procedure for these programs would be entirely voluntary, and only those applicants specifically requesting the expedited procedure would be subject to the program. By requesting such expedited procedure, the applicant will be required to pay a separate application review fee directly to the consultant,” said Sen. Yaw.
No bill language was available for this new proposal.
Previous third party permitting proposals had serious, fundamental flaws.
In 2017 the Senate passed third party permitting legislation as part of a deal to enact a natural gas severance tax that was supported by Gov. Wolf.  Ultimately the proposal was not passed because House Republicans objected to the severance tax.
House Republicans last week passed House Bill 509 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) that would require all state agencies to establish a third party permit review program which delegates permit decision-making authority to persons other than the public agency with the legal authority to make those decisions.
All these previous proposals had fatal flaws, including lack of even basic conflict of interest requirements that prevented consultants from reviewing even their own applications, no provisions for public participation, no deadlines for permit reviews by third parties and outlined no real qualifications to become a third party reviewers other than being a licensed engineer, landscape architect, land surveyor or geologist and no provision for the third party to backup their work in case a permit decision is appealed.
In an August 2017 hearing before the Senate Transportation Committee, DEP was very clear on concerns it had with third party permitting proposals.
At a May 1 hearing of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, the Cumberland County Conservation District told the Committee over half the erosion and sedimentation [Chapter 102] plans submitted to the Districts by consultants (mostly engineers) were incomplete.
They also said it takes an AVERAGE of 33 business days (more than 6 calendar weeks) for consultants (engineers) to get back to the District on technical deficiencies.
DEP is nearly finished with an online e-Permitting system it hopes to launch this Fall that will deal with many of these completeness issues and many technical deficiency issues.
The District also noted budget cuts at DEP and the lack of adequate funding for conservation districts have made their job much more difficult.
The Senate Environmental Committee hearing will be held in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.  Click Here to watch the hearing online.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3280 or sending email to:   Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7105 or sending email to:
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