The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issues permits in a variety of areas, such as air quality, solid and hazardous waste, construction stormwater, and underground storage tanks. Issuing all types of permits in a timely manner has been an important focus area for the agency in the past few years. Data collected for the past year shows that the agency continues to improve its permitting efficiency.
“We work hard to make sure that the MPCA’s permits protect human health and the environment and that we issue them in a timely fashion to provide economic growth,” says MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine. “Credit for pushing us toward more efficient results goes in part to Governor Dayton and his executive order directing state agencies to meet environmental permitting timeliness goals.”
In 2011, Dayton issued what was to become known as the Permitting Efficiency Law. It first established goals for reaching decisions about issuing permits. Since then, the law has been amended a few times and now includes separate goals — 90 days for simpler permits, 150 days for more complex ones, and 210 days for municipal wastewater treatment facility permits.
Overall, the MPCA has met the mark, issuing about 97 percent of construction-related “priority” permits on time and about 93 percent of all permits issued within stated goals.
Minnesota businesses, local units of government and citizens depend on the MPCA to issue effective permits in an efficient manner to support jobs and economic development while balancing overall environmental health. The agency manages more than 15,000 permits and typically receives between 3,000 and 5,000 permit applications per year.
“I’m pleased with the overall results of our permitting programs — especially that we are meeting our timeliness goals for the construction permits that are critical for business growth,” says Stine. “But even so, we must never stop seeking process improvements that increase efficiency and transparency.”
As an example, the MPCA recently moved to a new data management system that allows the agency to offer more online services. It also:
- Allows permittees to submit information more efficiently and reduce paper transactions
- Reduces the number of permit applications submitted with incomplete information
- Improves access to quality data for staff, citizens, and partners
- Creates flexibility to more readily integrate new technologies
As part of this move, staff needed to map out and standardize permitting processes across the agency. Standardizing business practices allows the MPCA to increase efficiency and better serve the parties it permits, regulates and partners with.
The agency continues to design and implement smaller continuous improvement projects, too. For example, the MPCA recently worked with Minnesota’s ethanol industry to design new language that allows for additional flexibility in permits. This language is being incorporated into many of the ethanol air permits and provides for a lower burden on these facilities.