Wednesday, January 13, 2021

House Republicans Want To Mandate Private Contractor Permit Application Reviews, Eliminating DEP’s Review On Behalf Of The Public; Part Of Their 2021 Environmental Agenda

On January 12, House Republicans introduced
House Bill 139 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) that requires all state agencies to establish a program to require the review of permit applications by private contractors for applications that have been “delayed,” eliminating agency review of permit applications on behalf of the public and adding more state bureaucracy and cost on taxpayers.

The bill was referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee which leaves no doubt the agency they are targeting with this legislation.
This is part of the House Republican 2021 environmental agenda.

The bill has many fatal flaws, including no conflict of interest provisions that would prohibit a third party permit reviewer from reviewing their own permit applications.

It sets a standard 30 day window for agency review of permit applications which eliminates the ability of the public to comment on permit applications required by other state and federal laws.

The bill also lacks any deadline for a review and decision by the third party permit reviewer on applications, which is allegedly the reason for the legislation in the first place.

If legislators are worried about delayed permit reviews, at a May 2019 hearing by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, the Cumberland County Conservation District testified it took an AVERAGE of 33 business days (more than 6 calendar weeks) for a consultant to get back to the District with corrections.

A month and a half, let that sink in.

Another fundamental flaw deals with permit appeals.  Since the bill takes the review of permit applications away from DEP, there are also basic issues of what happens when a permit decision is appealed by either the applicant or the public.  

Who defends the permit review and the decision and who pays for that?

Across state agencies there are thousands of different types of permits, each with their own requirements with review times meeting hundreds of state and federal laws that can vary from one page to many pages. 

Legislators interested in solving the permit review issue could do things like invest in electronic permitting systems that help eliminate application errors going in and encourage a publicly accessible review process.  But they haven’t.

This bill is simply a political statement.  It would not work in the real world. 

This bill was introduced as House Bill 509 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) and passed by House Republicans and died in the Senate at the end of last session.

House Republican Environmental Agenda:

-- Republicans On House Committee OK Letter Urging IRRC To Disapprove Reg. Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants

-- House Republicans Reintroduce Bill To Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing

[Posted: January 13, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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