State makes it easier to track DEC permits

MONTPELIER —The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in January put in place a new system intended to make it easier for citizens to comment on projects and track their own applications.
As part of ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency of state government, the legislature passed an act in May 2016 requiring the DEC to standardize the public notice and comment procedures in its permit process. The new Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB), launched earlier this year, is intended to do just that.
The DEC issues more than 9,000 permits each year, and for over half of those issued in 2018 public notice will be issued through the ENB, according to a press release by the department. On the new system, users can go to one online interface to request public meetings, add comments and receive notice of their permit application decisions.
Consolidation is a major benefit of the ENB, according to the DEC. What were once 85 permit procedures have been merged into just a handful of categories, and all permit information can now be found in one place on the ENB website.
According to DEC officials, standardization is an improvement over the old system.
“There were very different public notice requirements depending on the program,” said Jessica Mendizabal, a DEC analyst. “Those comment period lengths could vary depending on the permit type, and applicants that were applying for the same project, but for several different types of permits across programs might not know the difference between public comment period lengths.”
Now, the DEC hopes it has developed a standardized comment period length for every category of permit. A wetlands individual permit, for example, will always have a minimum comment period of 30 days.
“I would hope that it would let applicants plan their projects better, so they’d know what to anticipate in terms of how long they might have to wait to have their permits processed,” Mendizabal said.
Mendizabal said that user feedback since January has been mostly positive, though the DEC will continue to consider public suggestions about ways to improve the interface.

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