Robin Smith: Most DENR permits timely

December 21, 2013 

DENR Secretary John Skvarla’s Dec. 19 letter “Customer-friendly DENR” needs a little more context.

Over the last 15 years, DENR created a number of streamlined permit reviews including general permits (that cover categories of projects), “fast-track” permits and express permits. The last DENR report to the legislature on permit processing times showed that the majority of environmental permits were being issued in under 30 days. Less than 1 percent of the applications going through an express permit review took over 90 days and less than 5 percent of the permits going through a standard permit review took more than 90 days. That report was issued in March 2012.

Many of the permits taking more than 90 days are complicated federal air-quality permits or projects that also require a Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When a project needs a Corps of Engineers permit, the need to coordinate with the corps drives the timing of the state water-quality review.

DENR’s next permit-processing report should allow a comparison between the 2012 figures and permitting times under Skvarla’s leadership, but it isn’t possible to make a comparison yet.

Robin Smith, Chapel Hill

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