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DEP Introduces Measures to Address Permit Review Inefficiencies

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) has announced several measures to reduce the review time and backlog of pending permit applications. This week, DEP has formally opened its Regional Permit Coordination Office. This centralized office’s focus will be to assist regional DEP regional offices on the review of erosion and sediment control (Chapter 102) and water obstruction and encroachment (Chapter 105) permits for large-scale, mutli-county or multi-regional infrastructure projects, such as pipelines and highways. Prior to this reorganization, projects that spanned several DEP regions needed to apply for construction-related permits from multiple DEP regional offices. The intent underlying DEP’s move to centralize these permit reviews is to promote consistency and timely action. Shifting responsibility for reviewing permits for these large projects to DEP’s central office should also speed up the review of more routine Chapters 102 and 105 permits by DEP’s regional offices.

DEP also announced that it was rebalancing permit workloads by transferring the review of many new permit applications for work in Armstrong and Indiana counties from its Southwest Regional Office to its Northwest Regional Office.

These moves are in addition to other efforts recently implemented by DEP to increase the efficiency of its review of the more than 30,000 permit applications it receives annually. These measures include the institution of e-permitting and e-inspections for several programs, digitizing regional records, and requiring electronic submissions by permit applicants.

In addition to chronic inefficiencies at DEP, deficient permit applications missing required information or otherwise lacking in quality have been a significant impediment to getting timely reviews by DEP. Permit applicants need to work closely with their environmental consultants and engineers, and when necessary, legal counsel, to ensure that permit applications contain all required information. Of course, these efficiencies introduced by DEP, while welcome, do not guarantee that DEP will make the proper decision when acting on permits. Those impacted by and dissatisfied with DEP permit actions should consult immediately with environmental counsel at Stock and Leader to evaluate whether DEP’s action should be appealed.

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