Setting Uniform Construction Permitting Standards
By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
The House last week voted to approve legislation which I cosponsored, bringing construction permitting in line with those of surrounding states.

Pennsylvania’s grossly cumbersome and antiquated permitting process puts an unnecessary financial burden on these construction sites that have very little impact on the environment.

The federal environmental standards provide for a general permit for small residential and family farm projects, while large commercial projects require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which is more lengthy, costly and more involved with paperwork, surveys and hiring outside management firms.

States bordering Pennsylvania comply with a two-tiered program that already exists at the federal level. However, Pennsylvanians alone must comply with a regulatory scheme designed specifically for big business projects even though they are already abiding by the environmental restrictions federal law mandates.

This discrepancy is harmful to our economy, driving businesses to other states, forcing family farms to shut down and sell their property for development – damaging our food supply chain – and frustrating families and small contractors just trying to build or fix a home.

House Bill 591, will allow construction sites that result in a land disturbance of more than one but less than five acres, to apply for a waiver of an otherwise required NPDES permit, bringing Pennsylvania’s NPDES program up to the same standards as the federal government and surrounding state programs. There are no shortcuts in the federal requirements, and every rule must be followed, just as they are in New York, Ohio, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland.

New Jersey and Maryland, in particular, have large populations compared to their land mass and many critical waterways and wetlands. Yet, those states have had no problems in issuing general permits when and where those permits are allowed, again showing that Pennsylvania is dated and far behind other states in environmental regulation.

House Bill 591 is critical legislation for jobs and our economy. The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.