Reformers say make state permits more like pizzas



(The Center Square) – When it comes to Pennsylvania’s notoriously sluggish permitting process, reformers say the state should follow Dominos’ lead.

That is, make it possible for developers to track the progress of their application online, just as customers can after ordering a pizza, said Luke Bernstein, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

“It’s easier to get a permit to go to the moon than it is to build a project in Moon Township PA,” he said. “We can streamline the process and be more transparent.”

Bernstein said U.S. Steel chose Arkansas over Pennsylvania for the location of a $3 billion facility that would offer 900 jobs, many that average six-figure salaries. The company said the project would be complete long before the state issued the necessary permits.

Projects in process, such as a hydro-electric plant in Braddock that’s been nearly a decade in the making, likewise struggle with regulatory hurdles that drive the cost up by millions. The natural gas industry routinely points to the cumbersome rules that prevent it from boosting capacity and lowering energy costs.

Policymakers express similar fears about national efforts to expand broadband access. Pennsylvania will receive $1.16 billion from the federal infrastructure package to build out its network over the coming years – a process that permit delays will almost certainly beset completion.

The state has taken some steps, however, to address the issue. In January, Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order that refunds applicants when the government misses its deadlines.

Senate Bill 350, introduced in the upper chamber in May, creates an online tracking process for applicants to improve transparency and reassure developers their projects haven’t been forgotten, said prime sponsor Sen. Kristin Phillips Hill, R-Jacobus. An identical measure passed the Senate in May 2021, but did not advance to the House.



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