The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced Friday that it has finalized new guidelines intended to expedite the drilling permit application process.

The DEP said the final versions of its Permit Review Process and Decision Guarantee and Permit Coordination policies were submitted for publication in the Nov. 3 issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, but because of emergency response work related to Hurricane Sandy, the policies will not take effect until Nov. 14.

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).

“These policies deliver on Gov. Corbett’s promise to reform how state government works,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “We are making clear to those who seek permits that we need to see quality applications. That is key. Then, we will do our part to deliver efficient and complete reviews in a predictable time frame.”

After investigating its own application and permit procedures, the DEP found that about 40% of applications were deficient or lacked key information necessary for the agency to issue a permit (see Shale Daily, Sept. 5). Under the new process, the DEP may deny an application if it lacks necessary information. Completed permit applications that are technically deficient could also be denied by the agency. DEP staff members will also point out specific statutes or regulations when citing deficiencies in applications.

The DEP added that the final versions of the policies also strongly encourage pre-application conferences between agency staff and applicants to discuss expectations and obligations. DEP managers are also given guidance over how to prioritize the workload for the review of permits.

“This is not about rushing permits through,” Krancer said. “It is about efficiently using our time and our applicants’ time and resources, and it is about predictable time frames. Every complete and technically adequate application we receive will be reviewed thoroughly, [and we] will issue permits that meet all legal requirements that are in place which protect the environment and public health and safety.”

The DEP said the policy changes elicited hundreds of comments during a public comment period from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1.

Corbett’s order for the new policy changes, also known as EO2012-11, rescinded a measure issued by former Gov.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.