Lasting reforms needed to break Pennsylvania’s environmental permitting backlog

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Pennsylvania has a long history of reforming its permitting practices to improve efficiency, but despite periods of progress and some improvements in average review times, experience shows the state still often falls short of its permit deadlines. A new Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) study released today, Breaking the Backlog: Lesson’s from Pennsylvania’s environmental permitting reforms, finds the continuous cycle of reforms indicates challenges finding lasting solutions.

Challenges facing applicants for permits in Pennsylvania include missed deadlines, inconsistent application requirements, and escalating fees.

According to study author and CEI senior fellow James Broughel, there are several solutions that could help Pennsylvania achieve lasting permitting reform. The state can build upon its past efforts through expanding automation, strengthening oversight, and improving consistency across regional offices of DEP. A piece of legislation pending in the state legislature, Senate Bill 350, would make significant improvements along these lines.

“Ultimately, Pennsylvania needs to bridge the gap between its permitting goals and realities,” said Broughel. “If Pennsylvania’s leadership wants to turn its reforms up a notch, bolder solutions are needed.”

The study is the first in a new policy paper series, called “Fast Track” and overseen by Broughel, aimed at exploring and analyzing state-level efforts to reform environmental permitting procedures.

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