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DEP Reports Progress on Implementing Shapiro Administration Permitting Reform, Reduces Permit Backlog by 41 Percent

To date, under the PAyback program, DEP has not had to refund a single application fee – meaning permits are getting out the door in a timely manner.


Pittsburgh, PA – The Shapiro Administration’s efforts to enhance and improve permitting are showing early success as the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) improves online permitting, online payment, and delivers on-time permit decisions.

DEP has successfully implemented the PAyback program, the Shapiro Administration’s online money-back guarantee system and begun making significant progress in reducing backlogs and speeding up processing timelines. Through the PAyback program, led by the Office of Transformation and Opportunity (OTO) and the Commonwealth Office of Digital Experience (CODE PA), application fees are returned to applicants upon request if agencies don't take action on applications submitted on or after November 1, 2023 within set review timeframes. To date, DEP has not been required to refund a single application fee.

DEP has also pledged to address the backlog of permits that were overdue before the implementation of PAyback, and has seen a drastic reduction in the permit backlog. DEP has hired 15 new staff members dedicated to processing permits, thanks to investments from the 2023-24 budget signed into law by Governor Shapiro, and has utilized some staff working overtime when needed to address the backlog. Since hiring the additional staff members and cataloging and reviewing DEP’s nearly 800 available types of permits, DEP has reduced the backlog of permits by nearly 900 individual permits – or 41 percent – as of March 1, 2024.

“Permit modernization is instrumental in establishing an excellent customer service model and providing support to all stakeholders through the permitting process," said DEP Interim Acting Secretary, Jessica Shirley. “As we continue to implement updates and enhancements, DEP will improve the user experience and the application and review process. At the same time, DEP will continue to protect human health and the environment and ensure compliance with Pennsylvania’s environmental laws and regulations.”

DEP has also made it easier for businesses to upload documents and payments for permit applications electronically. Applicants can now use DEP's Public Upload, a new service which allows individuals, small businesses, and corporations to electronically upload documents and payments. DEP's Public Upload system was implemented in December 2023, and since then, more than 7,100 documents have been submitted, collecting more than $600,000 in revenue. Electronic submissions are the most efficient way to submit documents, providing for the fastest review timeframes for authorization, and enhanced security.

“Governor Shapiro has made clear that Commonwealth agencies need to streamline permitting and enhance their customer experience to demonstrate that Pennsylvania is open for business,” said Chief Transformation Officer Ben Kirshner. “DEP is leading the way by changing how it does business, reducing its backlog and improving how it interacts with permit-seekers, while continuing to vigilantly protect our environment.”

Additional initiatives underway at DEP as part of permit modernization include:

  • Finalizing a pilot program to evaluate new procedures that will improve the quality of submissions and review efficiency of Chapter 102 Individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit applications. This pilot program is expected to reduce the review timeframe by 73 business days and improve the quality of applications received.
  • Creating a quarterly Agriculture Permitting Stakeholder Roundtable to engage farmers, conservation district managers, owners, operators, producers, and consultants to collect feedback on permitting processes.
  • Formalizing a pre-application meeting process to better-inform potential applicants of the permitting process and the specific permits they need. The Permit Application Consultation Tool (PACT) is available online.
  • Undergoing User Experience (UX) research with key stakeholders that will provide useful insights into what they need and value during the application process. The goal of the customer experience initiative is to understand and improve the applicant’s experience and reduce bottlenecks in review.

DEP aims to complete more projects in the coming months. DEP will provide updates to the public on process improvements and related review timeliness data as projects are completed.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, please visit website, or follow DEP on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.


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