Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has issued an executive order requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to set established timelines for processing permit applications. The DEP is responsible for issuing permits on industrial activity that may impact the environment. The department’s resources have been stretched by the recent shale gas drilling boom. In a press release issued Tuesday, Corbett says he’s responding to complaints about how long DEP takes to issue permits.
“One of the biggest complaints I have received over and over again is the time it takes for businesses, non-profit organizations and local governments to work through the permitting process,” Corbett said. “I promised to correct this, and today we are setting the wheels in motion to deliver on that promise. At the same time, DEP will continue its longstanding mission to protect our environment.”
The executive order also instructs DEP to coordinate the multiple permits often required by large or complicated projects.
Josh McNeil, executive director of the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, says the order could jeopardize environmental protection.
“[Corbett] has already cut $20 million from DEP’s budget and now they’re asking them to do things faster,” says McNeil. “The Department is less than half the size it was a few years ago, that strikes me as egregious.”
The executive order also makes timely permitting process a factor in employee evaluation.
“This is a department put under tremendous pressure to approve permits as quickly as possible and now its going to be a factor of job evaluation,” says McNeil. “The incentive is not to make sure these projects are safe, their incentive is now to make sure these projects get done quickly.”
Corbett’s executive order does not outline specific timelines for permit review, but leaves it up to DEP to make that decision.