PaDEP Permitting Legislation Advances in House

June 2012Articles In the Zone

On May 23, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Permit Review and Issuance Act was voted out of the House Energy & Environmental Resources Committee with bi-partisan support. HB1659, introduced by Rep. Jeffrey Pyle (R-Armstrong), awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Pyle’s legislation, as amended, seeks to accomplish a number of goals relative to enhancing the timeliness and effectiveness of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PaDEP) permitting process. It would pertain to those permits, approvals and decisions related to new, renewed and modified permits issued by PaDEP. Included in that list are those federal permits where the PaDEP has obtained delegated status over the program, such as NPDES permits.

The bill would mandate pre-application meetings to determine the scope and requirements of submission.

Upon the applicant’s formal permit application submission, PaDEP would be required to supply a review schedule that indicates when a final decision will be determined. PaDEP shall use the following timetable:

  • Completeness and technical reviews occur within 30 days
  • Reviews of an applicant’s response to identified technical deficiencies occur within 90 days
  • Final review and determination following a resubmitted application within 60 days

Failure by PaDEP to respond to a submission (or re-submission) within the stated review schedule results in an application approval. Alternate review schedules can be crafted through the mutual agreement of both the applicant and PaDEP.

HB1659 would also expressly grant the Environmental Hearing Board jurisdiction to hear appeals from persons aggrieved by PaDEP’s final decision.

If enacted, the legislation would further direct PaDEP to establish a plan that would use qualified, non-departmental employees to undertake permit application reviews where appropriate. The plan would also encourage full usage of general permits in lieu of individual permits and demonstrate that plans sealed by professional engineers may not require the same level of scrutiny as those submissions without.

Finally, HB1659 would enable PaDEP to establish an electronic permit submission, review and approval system.