On February 7, 2020, SWEP members trekked through wind, sleet, and snow to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Southwest Regional Office for an update from Department staff during our Brown Bag lunch event.
Brian Schimmel, Local Government Liaison for DEP kicked off the meeting by introducing Regional Director Ron Schwartz. Director Schwartz provided an overview of operations and programs in the Southwest region, which covers eight counties and 494 municipalities, including Pittsburgh where the office is located. Director Schwartz outlined some challenges particular to the Southwest Region, including an increase in flooding events impacting permitting for projects across industry sectors and the institution and implementation of new e-permitting and other electronic filing initiatives, and described how the Department was adapting and rising to meet those challenges.
Director Schwartz was followed by Dana Drake, Waterways & Wetlands Program Manager in the Southwest Region. Ms. Drake provided an overview of hot topics in her program including the establishment of the Regional Permit Coordination Office, a centralized office within DEP to support Chapter 102, 105, and Section 401 State Water Quality Certifications required under the federal Clean Water Act for pipelines spanning three or more counties and two or more DEP regions or those crossing state lines. Ms. Drake also covered recent changes to the PAG-02, General Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Construction Activities, which was renewed with significant updates in December 2019.
Our third and final speaker was Kareen Milcic, Environmental Group Manager for permitting in for the Oil and Gas program. Ms. Milcic focused her update on the Geologic Hazard Mitigation Program administered through the Erosion and Sedimentation Control General Permit For Earth Disturbance Associated With Oil And Gas Exploration, Production, Processing, Or Treatment Operations Or Transmission Facilities (ESCGP-3) that was finalized by DEP in October of 2018. The Geologic Hazard Mitigation Plan is a new component in the ESCGP-3 and is a vitally important component of the permitting process as flooding and landslide events continue to increase across the commonwealth.
We wrapped up the lunch with some cookies and a Q&A session, where all three speakers graciously answered questions from SWEP members. We are so grateful for the opportunity to hear from DEP in this informal yet incredibly valuable setting for our membership! We hope continue offering this event annually for our members and look forward to our next lunch with the Department.