Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland/Dauphin/Perry) introduced legislation they say will reduce and reform the state’s regulatory process, holding state agencies transparent and accountable. Senate would require every state agency to post all permits issued on its publicly accessible website. State agencies would also be required
to create an accessible tracking system for applicants to check the status of their applications and clearly state the legal authority that the agency relies on when rejecting a permit application.
“The status quo punishes job creators, farmers, non-profits, local governments, and Pennsylvania taxpayers,” Phillips-Hill said. “By cutting down on permitting delays and bureaucratic red tape, we can avoid significant costly subsidies footed by taxpayers, and, more importantly, we can compete for jobs and businesses once again to grow our economy and provide opportunities for the next generation.”
The tracking system must include processing time, dates of each permit, completeness review, technical review, elevated review, and an estimated time remaining for each incomplete phase of the permit approval process. In addition, a contact person will be assigned to answer any questions about the application process. The legislation would require state agencies to contract with third-party professional entities at any point a permit is subject to a decision delay.
“Businesses and individuals around the state are often forced to wait lengthy and unknown amounts of time for a permit while their projects and livelihoods suffer. This legislation would give certainty to applicants and ensure maximum transparency from government,” Rothman said.
State agencies would have to submit an annual report to the General Assembly documenting how many applications it reviewed, the average timeframe for permit decisions, number of applications reviewed by third-party reviewers and the number of employees who reviewed the permit applications in each regional office. In addition to legislation above in the PA Senate, House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Joshua D. Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) hosted a hearing titled “Obstacles to Opportunity: Pennsylvania’s Permitting Process” to hear the challenges of the Commonwealth’s permitting process and explore possible solutions, on March 22. Kail opened the hearing suggesting that permitting reform is essential to improving the economic climate in the Commonwealth. He then introduced a panel of experts.
Kevin Sunday, director of government affairs at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, noted some remedies that would lead to further investment include going beyond a “money-back guarantee” for permits (a reference to a recent Executive Order announced by Gov. Josh Shapiro); establishing timelines for the authorization of key projects; and providing agencies resources to efficiently review permits. He listed several “missed opportunities” for major manufacturing projects simply due to delays and overly burdensome permitting process issues.
“The state lost out on a major petrochemical expansion in the southeast due to a lack of infrastructure and an associated protracted permitting process,” said Sunday. “We were not in the running for a semiconductor manufacturer because of site availability. Other manufacturers that produce life-sustaining medicine and consumer goods have reported that our state’s process to permitting significantly lowers the likelihood of new investment coming to Pennsylvania as they deliberate internally.”
David Taylor, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, detailed a list of approaches needing to be taken to fix this issue. This includes involving the General Assembly regarding regulations that impose a significant economic cost to Pennsylvanians; ensuring state regulations are not stricter than those of the federal government; and requiring state regulatory agencies to be partners in compliance. Michael Ford, secretary-treasurer for the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, emphasized the workers are ready, when the work is there. He stated we are at a historic time because of bipartisan support.
“We have everything in Pennsylvania,” said Ford. “We have all the logistics we need, we have a skilled and qualified workforce, and we have energy like nobody’s business. We can really take it to the next level, but we have to work together to get that done.”