Report Explores Environmental Permitting Reform in Virginia

Photo Credit: Getty

Today the Competitive Enterprise Institute released a report on environmental permitting in the state of Virginia, part of a series examining how states are reforming broken systems and identifying aspects of permitting in most need of reform.

“Virginia’s biggest success in reforming environmental permitting has so far been its useful online portal, which gives everyone, including the public, access to information about the nature and status of permit requests,” said James Broughel, CEI senior fellow and author of the report.

The Virginia Permit Transparency portal began as a pilot program at the state Department of Environmental Quality. Initially called PEEP—the Permitting Enhancement and Evaluation Platform—the online portal launched in 2022. As of early 2024, it includes data from three state agencies.

“State agencies are supposed to use permitting as a way to balance economic interests, such as energy extraction and commercial development, with environmental protection, but too often the process gets stalled in needless bureaucracy,” Broughel explained.

The report describes Virginia’s real-time permit case management system and explains how it could serve as a model for other states seeking increased transparency. By setting target timelines, automating workflow functions, and providing performance data, the portal initiative aims to enhance accountability, minimize delays, and identify sticking points in need of streamlining.

Virginia should next make further improvements, the report argues. Specifically:

  • Automate project approval – For routine requests, it would be better to have standardized approval rather than subjective judgments made by individual regulators that can make the process more unpredictable and costly;
  • Ramp up enforcement on agencies – Impose penalties on agencies that miss permit review deadlines, like Pennsylvania’s money-back guarantee for missed deadlines;
  • Consolidate duplicative permits – Redundant multi-agency reviews add to the red tape morass. In 2023, Virginia passed legislation to streamline permitting activities in nontidal waters. Such reforms should be expanded to other areas.
  • Utilize portal-generated diagnostics – Data from the VPT portal can be used to identify stages of the permitting process that are leading to the most delays.

View the CEI report on Virginia environmental permitting by James Broughel