EPA Video Targets Best Practices in Permitting

In support of the Trump administration’s efforts to expedite infrastructure projects, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Smart Sectors program released a video, “Best Practices in Permitting,” highlighting best practices in environmental permitting. The video, which was developed to encourage replication for other permitting projects, features The Boeing Company, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (S.C. DHEC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), The Nature Conservancy, Open Space Institute and Lowcountry Land Trust.

“A streamlined permit process, as called for by President Trump, is beneficial for both the environment and the economy,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “The best practices outlined in this video advance the President’s One Federal Decision Memorandum for critical infrastructure projects and can help American job creators save time and resources while accelerating and improving environmental protections.”

“Administrator Pruitt has set an ambitious goal of improving the agency’s permitting timelines to six months or less,” said EPA Chief Operating Officer Henry Darwin. “As we pursue that goal, we want to highlight those who have worked together to obtain permits on a shorter timeline, so others realize this is doable and are encouraged to pursue similar success.”

“Developed as a helpful resource for organizations that want to make infrastructure improvements, this video and story map marks the first of many Smart Sectors products designed to illustrate a collaborative process for achieving economic and environmental success,” said EPA Office of Policy Acting Associate Administrator Brittany Bolen. 

When Boeing decided to secure additional land for future growth in Charleston, S.C., the company identified 468 adjacent acres that met its needs. Because about 150 of those acres were wetlands, Boeing worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, S.C. DHEC and EPA Region 4 to secure air and wetlands permits for development.

Just over six months after submitting the permit applications, Boeing received the permits to expand. One major component of the company’s comprehensive mitigation plan involved protecting wetland and upland resources that are next to the Francis Marion National Forest. 

The mitigation plan included restoration and enhancement of aquatic resource functions and habitat improvements on nearly 4,000 acres of land, which will expand the green belt around Charleston. The land will eventually be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, providing the public with access for hiking, bird watching and other recreational activities. 

The wetlands mitigation plan benefits the community, water quality, wildlife, and threatened and endangered species. From a regulatory perspective, it also helps maintain and improve the Cooper River watershed by fully offsetting adverse impacts to aquatic resource functions associated with the expansion of the existing aircraft manufacturing and assembly complex. 

“This is a good example of a watershed approach to compensatory mitigation,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Biologist Nat Ball. “We like to see wetland mitigation projects adjacent to existing protected lands because that helps ensure the success of the restoration.” 

“Although the Army Corps of Engineers issues the actual wetlands permit, EPA can provide support throughout the permitting process,” said EPA Region 4 Wetlands Regulatory Division Ecologist Kelly Laycock. “What I would say to other companies is: call us to request pre-application meetings. Once you file a permit application, the process becomes more formal. Everything must be documented in writing, and that takes longer. Engaging early in the process makes the permitting process work much more efficiently. Additionally, wetlands projects don’t have to be large; it’s more about functional ecological gain than it is about acreage.” 

“In terms of challenges, The Nature Conservancy was not the right long-term owner of the land,” said The Nature Conservancy South Carolina Chapter Executive Director Mark Robertson. “I think putting our heads together and communicating was what ultimately worked.” 

To access the video go here.

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