Thursday, January 21, 2021

Senate Republicans Want To Mandate Private Contractor Permit Reviews, Eliminating DEP’s Review On Behalf Of The Public

On January 20, Senate Republicans introduced
Senate Bill 28 (Phillips-Hill-R-York)  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.

This is part of the Senate Republican 2021 environmental and energy 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 Senate Bill 252 last session by the same sponsor and died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

House Republicans passed a similar bill last session-- House Bill 509 (Rothman-R- Cumberland) and it died in the Senate at the end of last session.  Rep. Rothman has reintroduced his bill again this year-- House Bill 139 (Rothman-R-Cumberland).

Senate Republican 2021 Environmental & Energy Agenda:

-- Senate Republicans Add Bills To Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing, Shield Violators From Enforcement To Environmental Agenda

-- PA Senate Republican Caucus Files Lawsuit Against Delaware River Basin Commission Over Shale Gas Drilling Moratorium 

[Posted: January 21, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner