Nebraska Governor Pete Rickett’s challenge to state agencies to better utilize information technology to improve effectiveness of state government and improve responsiveness to constituents prompted the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) to emphasize the ongoing effort to streamline permitting processes. NDEQ had identified the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) construction stormwater permit program and the Air Quality state construction permit programs as areas where reliance on an online permitting process could better utilize NDEQ resources and reduce the time required for eligible applicants to go through permitting.
The construction stormwater and Air Quality construction permitting programs require significant staff resources. Prior to the conversion to the online process, the construction stormwater program required approximately 1.5 full-time staff equivalents (FTEs) to administer it. The online system, on the other hand, will be administered with under 0.5 FTEs. The Air Quality program estimates that up to 25 percent of all construction permit applications submitted could be handled by the online state general construction permitting program.
The construction stormwater program also involves the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as an integral part of the permitting process. Previously, paper applications had to be routed through, and approved by, the commission. With the online process, the commission’s approval is routinely received electronically on the same day – and saves commission staff considerable time.
A major component of both permitting efforts is the reliance on the applicant to provide information in a more meaningful manner to NDEQ. In the case of the Air Quality general construction permit program, the applicant must respond to between 10 and 14 yes/no questions. Based on the applicant’s responses, NDEQ is able to determine if coverage under a general construction permit can be granted.
To date, the Air Quality Program has developed general construction permits for the following source categories: aggregate processing, emergency engines, hot-mix asphalt plants, and concrete batch plants. Additional source categories, including incinerators and surface coating operations, are in development. It should be noted the online program is not applicable to Prevention of Significant Deterioration or Title V facilities.
Results to Date:
The first full month of accepting construction stormwater general permits was December 2015. Twenty-six permits were received that month. On average, it took one day from the receipt of application to the notification that the facility was covered. Previously it took about 14 days to go through this process. A total of 416 applications for construction stormwater permits have been received in 2016; again, permits have been issued in an average of one day. Facilities are still allowed to submit paper copies of the applications, but of the 416 applications received, only 44 were submitted in paper form.
April was the first month in which requests for coverage were received under the Air Quality general construction permit program. Requests have been received from facilities with emergency engines, aggregate processing, and a hot-mix asphalt plant. The facilities were notified that they were covered by the general permits within days of making application. Previously reviewing and issuing these permits would have required four to eight months.
NDEQ continues to examine permitting programs in an effort to save time for both the agency and the regulated community and welcomes opportunities to discuss the possibilities.