‘Fast Track’ series looks at states’ permit progress: First up, Pennsylvania

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The Competitive Enterprise Institute is pleased to announce the release of a new policy paper series called “Fast Track.” The series, overseen by CEI senior fellow James Broughel, aims to explore and analyze state-level efforts to reform environmental permitting procedures, with the goal of identifying best practices and offering recommendations for further improvements.

The first paper in the series, titled “Breaking the Backlog: Lessons from Pennsylvania’s environmental permitting reforms,” examines Pennsylvania’s long history of reforms, including initiatives such as the Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program from the 1990s, the Permit Decision Guarantee from the 2010s, and most recently Gov. Josh Shapiro’s PAyback initiative.

Despite Pennsylvania’s efforts to reduce backlogs and improve average review times, the paper reveals that the state still faces persistent challenges in meeting its permit deadlines. The paper offers several recommendations for meaningful reform, including automating more permitting processes, creating general permits or permits by rule, reducing the overall number of permits, improving consistency among regional offices within the state Department of Environmental Protection, and establishing a permanent, statutory Office of Transformation and Opportunity to serve as a third-party ombudsman and auditor of permit-issuing agencies.

The paper concludes that while Pennsylvania has made important strides in permitting reform, bolder solutions are needed to bridge the gap between the state’s permitting goals and realities. It emphasizes the importance of finding creative new ideas to expedite the permitting process and create a more business-friendly environment.

The release of this policy paper marks the beginning of an exciting project shedding light on the critical issue of environmental permitting reform at the state level. The Fast Track series will continue to explore this topic, with the next paper focusing on the Virginia Permit Transparency effort under Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

As states across the nation grapple with the challenges of balancing environmental protection with economic growth and development, the insights and recommendations offered in The Fast Track series will hopefully provide valuable guidance for policymakers, businesses, and stakeholders alike. Stay tuned for more analyses on this important issue.

The Fast Track series benefits from the support of the Hoover Institution’s State and Local Governance Initiative’s Small Business Regulation Program. Dr. Broughel is a Visiting Fellow with the Hoover Institution throughout 2024. Read the full policy paper, “Breaking the Backlog: Lessons from Pennsylvania’s environmental permitting reforms.”