Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell Speaks at Lehigh Valley Event
By Colin McEvoy on May 18, 2017
Patrick McDonnell, acting Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), during his visit to the Lehigh Valley on May 18.
McDonnell said much of his focus has been on improving the efficiency of internal processes at the DEP, such as permitting and document management. He has hosted listening sessions across the state seeking input on how to improve interaction with the department.
“We’re constantly looking at things and trying to determine how we can get better,” he said.
For example, the DEP has implemented e-permitting and e-inspection platforms allowing outside parties to submit electronically, reducing time and improving proficiency, McDonnell said.
The department also introduced a general permitting process for sites smaller than five acres, he said. This means applicants will not have to go through the full permitting process, which also allows the DEP to focus more attention on sites with greater environmental impact and risk.
McDonnell said these internal improvements have been challenging, as the department has experienced 10 years of budget cuts, with 754 jobs lost over that time, bringing the agency down from about 3,200 workers to just over 2,400. Those cuts have affected the DEP’s water programs the hardest, he said.
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McDonnell was appointed Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania DEP by Gov. Tom Wolf in May 2016. Prior to that, he had most recently served as the department’s Director of Policy, where he oversaw the agency’s regulation and policy development processes.
He also has Lehigh Valley roots, having obtained his bachelor’s degree in politics from DeSales University, and his master’s degree in political science from Lehigh University.
McDonnell also ran the State Energy Office and was charged with coordination of renewable energy and energy efficiency issues. He had previously spent 13 years with DEP in a variety of roles, before briefly leaving the department to serve as executive policy manager for former Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
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