The following is a reprint of an article posted today on MetroNews.com:
DEP Attempting to Gain Ground On Permits
DEP Secretary Randy Huffman admits it is taking his department longer to process permits for horizontal drilling than he wants. Recent reports indicate the DEP is trying to defray a backlog of permits, Huffman says it's more a matter of getting their legs under them.
"All the rule changes we've gone through over the past year has effectively slowed down the permitting process. That creates a backlog, but the backlog is just a number," Huffman said. "What we are really focused on is trying to create a stable and predictable regulatory environment here."
Huffman says it will take a while to reach that level. Presently the average time to have a well permit approved is 94 days. Huffman says when they started the process it was 104 days. Although not a long period of time, he says it's still longer than the drilling industry is used to waiting. "The reasonable expectation for how long it would take to process a typical horizontal gas well permit is 45 and 60 days," he said. "That's our objective because there's just no way to do it any sooner than that."
The public comment period required in the permitting process is one of those obstacles to speeding the process. Another is personnel. The DEP hired two staffers to handle the horizontal drilling permits, but one stayed only a brief period of time and left. The other quit before he started because of personal reasons.
"We have reworked the office of oil and gas and reprioritized their work so we could still get everything done, but at the same time we wanted to make sure we were processing the horizontal well permits in a timely manner," he said.
Huffman says he expects to have the process down and streamlined by midsummer.