MPCA reports 99 percent compliance with permitting efficiency lawThe Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) says it is achieving a 99 percent success rate in issuing environmental permits for construction of new projects and expansions to existing facilities within 150 days.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) says it is achieving a 99 percent success rate in issuing environmental permits for construction of new projects and expansions to existing facilities within 150 days.
The 150-day goal was part of a 2011 executive order from Governor Dayton which later became law in the 2011 session. The MPCA submitted its second semiannual report to the Minnesota Legislature Feb. 1, recapping how it is doing in meeting the goals of the law. Although it's the second semiannual report, it's the first to include detailed data because when the first report was issued, 150 days had not passed since the law was enacted.
The intent of the law, according to Jeff Smith, manager of the MPCA's Industrial Division, was to set permitting goals for the agencies that issue permits and then collect data to better understand why certain projects didn’t meet those goals. These data will help the agencies identify opportunities to improve the process.
"We've been working hard to improve our permitting efficiency, and we’re very pleased to report to the legislature that we are very close to meeting the goals for permitting of new construction in the 2011 law," Smith said. “We still have some work to do in other areas, but this is a big improvement.”
The MPCA manages more than 15,000 air, water and land permits, and receives between 3,000 and 5,000 permit applications each year. Once issued, many MPCA permits are good for five years and then must be reviewed and reissued, although permittees can continue to operate under the terms of their old permits until they’re reissued.
To support jobs and economic development in the state, and enhance overall environmental protection, the MPCA's policy is to work first on applications involving construction.
“These priority projects typically require a new permit or significant modification of an existing permit. Often they are the most technically complex and potentially controversial projects," Smith said. “These are also the permits that have the most bearing on jobs and growth.
“We've known that permitting efficiency is an issue for a long time, and have been working to implement a variety of reforms since 2003,” Smith said. “To be successful requires that everybody is doing their part. We’ve been meeting with those interested and impacted by the permits we issue to clarify their responsibilities and to listen to their needs and concerns. We understand that continuing to streamline our permitting and environmental review processes are important while also ensuring that we continue to issue permits that protect human health and the environment.”
Smith says the governor’s order spurred the agency to focus more intensively on priority projects, but there's more work ahead to be able to meet all of the law’s requirements. For example, while the agency was 99 percent successful in issuing priority permits within 150 days, the overall success rate was 81 percent.
The MPCA report shows the agency received 2,658 permit applications during the reporting period of March 4 through Dec. 31, 2011; 1,691 of them were designated priority projects.
Another provision of the law requires the MPCA to determine within 30 days whether permit applications are complete, meaning they contain adequate information for the MPCA to “start the clock” on the 150-day timeline. The report shows that 125, or 5 percent, of the applications received in the period covered in the report were deemed incomplete and returned to applicants for more work.
The MPCA’s Semiannual Permitting Efficiency Report is available on the agency’s website.