Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Secretary Rich Negrin stopped by the PA Chamber headquarters in Harrisburg last Wednesday to offer an official update as part of our members-only DEP Quarterly briefing.
During a lengthy fireside chat with PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein, Acting Secretary Negrin shared his vision and priorities for the agency. Their conversation touched on several key areas, including permitting reform, information technology upgrades, workforce diversification, customer service enhancement, environmental stewardship, and the development of carbon capture infrastructure.
Bernstein commended Negrin for his commitment to meaningful permitting reform and applauded the Shapiro administration’s ongoing efforts to modernize the state’s information technology resources. These improvements aim to simplify the intricate and often time-consuming processes surrounding agency applications and certifications.
Negrin emphasized his primary objectives are enhancing workforce diversity within the agency and ensuring effective communication with applicants and members of the public. To achieve these goals, Negrin shared he has been actively conducting all-staff roundtables across regional offices. Additionally, Negrin has taken the initiative to implement comprehensive customer service training for all personnel, thus improving the agency’s ability to cater to the needs of Pennsylvanians.
The Acting Secretary also highlighted the commitment of his executive staff to tackle the impacts of climate change. Specifically, the agency is set to revamp its environmental justice policy, which serves as a guiding framework for the permitting process in economically disadvantaged communities.
Following their conversation, Ramez Ziadeh, deputy secretary for field operations, provided an in-depth overview of the Secretary’s permitting reform plan. Ziadeh shed light on the specific strategies and actions that will be undertaken to streamline and optimize the permit application and approval process.
Ezra Thrush, policy director, also took the opportunity to introduce himself to attendees and expressed his eagerness to engage with stakeholders.
Finally, Bill Bates with the EPA’s Underground Injection Control program delivered a briefing on the agency’s plan for permitting carbon capture infrastructure. Bates shared insights into the importance of carbon capture technology and its potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, underscoring the EPA’s efforts to promote sustainable, environmentally conscious practices.
This meeting provided a valuable platform to discuss crucial matters of public interest and illustrated the shared commitment between business and government to create a more efficient and environmentally responsible Pennsylvania.
The next DEP Quarterly meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 21, 2023.