Our Comments on New DEP Requirements for Hazardous Waste Facility Permits

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) is responsible for providing guidance to applicants and interested parties regarding the permitting procedures of hazardous waste facilities. 

On January 20, 2024, the DEP issued a notice of intent to adopt a new guidance document for these facilities, along with a draft of what the guidance would include. The document outlines how an application for a hazardous waste facility is submitted, reviewed, and approved, as well as how the public can provide input during the application review process. 

The draft document is titled “Guidance Manual for Permitting of New Commercial Hazardous Waste Treatment and Disposal Facilities.” The new draft guidance and the previous guidance that the DEP had issued for this permitting process are fairly similar, but significant changes were made to the public participation processes. 

MWA, along with 15 additional signatories, submitted a comment letter on the draft guidance to the DEP on February 17th. (See the full comment here.) Commenters strongly support the inclusion of stronger public participation language and Environmental Justice Policy initiatives. However, we strongly oppose language that indicates the public meeting and public hearing may be held consecutively. We believe these two opportunities should be stand-alone events. 

For a summary of the pros and cons of the new guidance, see below. 

Pros of the New Guidance 

  • Emphasizes the importance of the public participation process
  • Increases requirements for public notification 
  • Includes more stringent recommendations that encourage participation for Environmental Justice communities
  • Allows the public an additional 15 days after the public hearing to provide comments on the project to the DEP 
  • Provides a digital platform for the public to review pertinent public records, such as the comment response document prepared by the DEP 
  • Preserves DEP time and resources by removing the opportunity for the applicant to submit components early
  • Encourages submission of new components that will aid in coordination between departments, provide for a more thorough application review, and allow DEP access to the facility when needed 
  • Provides additional timeframe guidance for when and how long DEP’s reviews will take 
  • Requires the DEP to outline their reasons for issuing a permit in a formal document 

Cons of the New Guidance 

  • Tries to limit public participation opportunities by encouraging the public hearing and public meeting to be “combined” into one event, rather than requiring them to be two separate events
  • Reduces the time for review by the municipality where the project is to be located by placing less stringent times for notification 
  • Removes information regarding when and why the in-depth process associated with the Certificate of Public Necessity would be necessary
  • Reduces the amount of time that the siting team has to review the application and notify the applicant of any deficiencies 

You can read the full comment here. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Madison Hinkle at madison@mtwatershed.com or at (724) 455-4200 ext.7.