ANNAPOLIS – A study presented to lawmakers this week concludes that the environmental permitting process for business and developers is hampered by overlapping permits and duplicative government oversight.
The study was commissioned by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, the Department of the Environment, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the Maryland Association of Counties and conducted in Baltimore, Calvert and Cecil counties.
It found that multiple permits must be acquired for a single activity, said Michael C. Powell, the Baltimore lawyer who authored the study.
“Ninety percent” of the information developers must provide to obtain those permits is the same, Powell said.
The study, intended to assist the Legislature in streamlining the process, was the topic of discussion Wednesday at a meeting of the Joint Committee on State Economic Development Initiatives.
“The shear number of separate environmental permits, reviews and approvals is a significant problem for businesses seeking to locate or expand in Maryland,” Powell wrote in the study.
Powell, who chairs the environmental law department at Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger and Hollander, looked at hypothetical projects that might be undertaken in the three counties. Among them were a gasoline station, a “typical” commercial retail establishment and a solid waste recycling center.
The study identified all the state and local environmental permits necessary to complete the projects. There were several for each.
Scenario one, a gasoline filling station in Baltimore County, required approval from both state and local officials:
* The county Department of Public Works would first have to provide a grading permit.
* Then the county Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management would have to issue a grading and sediment control plan permit, a storm water management plan and permit and a forest conservation plan.
* Then the state requires, among other things, underground storage tank registration and fee, waste water discharge permits, a pretreatment discharge permit and management of erosion, sediment and storm water.
“One absolutely clear conclusion … is that environmental permitting in Maryland is extremely complex and confusing,” the study said.
The study also found duplication of oversight authority, which Powell said is a “common complaint.”
For example, he said, a developer gets a permit from the county for a certain project. But the state, which has oversight authority, then says no.
The developer has two different agencies to deal with — duplication that “exists almost everywhere,” Powell said.
Del. Michael Gordon, D-Montgomery, criticized the study for its failure to include counties like Montgomery and Prince George’s. The study acknowledges that the project, funded by the Department of Business and Economic Development, is not representative of the whole state and does not reflect the opinions of all the agencies that commissioned it. -30-