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PA Environment Gets the Axe – Environmental Permitting To Be Streamlined

Governor’s proposed budget would cut environmental protections and streamline regulatory processes to encourage job creation.

A budget proposal released today by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett emphasizes jobs creation and looks to cuts in environmental protection and permitting as one way to save money.

It will take some time to wade through the 1,184-page document—we’ll post a more complete story tomorrow.

But a quick glance shows that the Department of Environmental Protection will face reduced funding across the board, including in its water safety and water treatment programs.

The state has been under pressure recently to reign in environmental damage from its fast-growing natural gas drilling industry, and has faced criticism--including in a 2009 ProPublica investigation—-for its inability to handle and safely treat wastewater produced from the drilling process. In response, the DEP has added staff, implemented stricter drilling rules, and begun permitting and building new and improved water treatment plants.

That momentum could now change.

The governor’s proposal also includes, on page 48, this statement about streamlining the regulatory process:

Regulatory Reform: Friction-free processes for government interaction with job creators are critical to maintain economic momentum and competitiveness. State government needs to be a partner with job creators. To address the length of time agencies take to act on permits and eliminate permit backlogs, PennDOT and DEP have begun auditing and assessing all of their permit processes to make them more responsive to the needs of job creators. In addition, the DCED secretary is empowered to expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.”

The governor’s staff did not immediately respond to calls for comment. We’ll try them again tomorrow.

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