The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said Thursday it will publish a draft version of new guidelines intended to expedite the drilling permit application process. DEP will accept public comments on its proposals until Oct. 1.

Gov. Tom Corbett issued an executive order calling for the changes on July 24 on the grounds that the oil and natural gas industry, nonprofit groups and local governments have complained that the current process is inefficient and unpredictable (see Shale Daily, July 26).

The DEP said it has studied its current application and permit procedures and determined that about 40% of applications are deficient or lacking key information necessary for the agency to issue a permit.

“That creates a waste of everyone’s time,” DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said. “Setting the clear expectation that every permit application should be correct and complete the first time is the key to efficiency on both sides. We need to free our staff from what amounts to a merry-go-round of reviewing deficient applications; returning them to the applicants; and, essentially, doing applicants’ work to make the applications shipshape.”

The DEP said drafts for its proposed Permit Review Process and Decision Guarantee and Permit Coordination policies were submitted for publication in the Sept. 1 issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The agency said it will host two online information sessions on the policies from 2 to 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 5, and on Monday, Sept. 10. Parties interested in reviewing the policies and registering for the online information sessions are asked to visit the DEP’s website and to click the “Permit Decision Guarantee” button.

The proposals call for the DEP to set up clear guidelines for permit application requirements, require a coordinated review of applications for projects with multiple permits, establish performance standards for staff engaged in permit reviews and consider compliance with the review deadlines a factor in any job performance evaluations. The department also would have to improve or develop, wherever possible, automated information, notification and permitting tools.

Krancer said the proposed policies would enable his staff “to do their main job of concentrating on protecting the environment and making decisions. At the same time, it gives the regulated community a more predictable and efficient permit application review and decision process. We encourage the public and all stakeholders to review the draft policies and offer feedback to us.”

Corbett’s order, also known as EO2012-11, rescinded a measure issued by former Gov. Tom Ridge in August 1995 (EO1995-5) that established the DEP’s Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program.