Construction Permit Backlog Cleared in Northeast Region

HARRISBURG – At the direction of Gov. Edward G. Rendell, the Department of Environmental Protection has completed a review of 146 national pollution discharge elimination system construction permits that had accumulated, in part, because of new federal requirements and the ongoing need to address stormwater issues.

Eliminating the backlog, said DEP Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty, was important to ensuring important projects could move forward in the region.

“We’ve worked diligently to address a substantial increase in the number of NPDES permit applications received by the department,” said McGinty. “Many of these applications were associated with important economic development projects in the region, and by focusing our efforts to address the resulting backlog, we’ve been able to evaluate each application and render a decision. For many, this has resulted in an approval, but for others it has meant a denial or being returned to the applicant for further information.”

At the beginning of July 2007, the northeast region’s watershed management program had 146 NPDES construction permits for in-house review or finalization. Regional staff, as well as personnel from other areas, the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation and DEP’s central office in Harrisburg worked together on the documents.

As a result of the review, 83 permits were issued, 15 applications were returned as incomplete and 13 permits are ready to be issued once other DEP approvals are finalized. Currently, 35 applications are under review, with most awaiting additional information from the applicant.

Rendell launched an effort last year to improve the quality and timeliness of DEP’s stormwater discharge permit application reviews for construction projects. As part of that effort, which was subsequently expanded this past June, the Governor authorized six new positions within the department.

In response to the governor’s direction, DEP established procedures for utilizing engineering staff from multiple regions, bureaus and offices to process the applications. The department also established an expedited review option for NPDES permit applications for stormwater discharges associated with construction activities. By reviewing applications through the expedited process, the department assures applicants that a determination will be made within 30 days of the public comment period’s completion.

In addition, the permit application was revised to be more user-friendly and streamlined. The instructions and application form are now organized to support a logical process for planning projects and assuring consistency with local requirements.

The improvements also provide a way to ensure that private consultants fulfill professional obligations to plan, oversee construction work, and certify final projects that meet applicable engineering standards.

Applicants now have the opportunity for an approved third-party consultant to review and help complete quality applications prior to submitting it to the conservation district or department. DEP established a list of 36 qualified consultants, organized geographically according to where each has agreed to provide consulting services. A list of consultants is available here.

For further information on the expedited review process for NPDES permits, a list of qualified consultants or other information on stormwater permitting improvements, visit here, keyword: Stormwater.

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