Speeding up government: DNR achieves 99 percent permit efficiency
In its latest report on permitting efficiency to the Minnesota Legislature, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports it has met new targets for expediting permit applications 99.6 percent of the time.
New permit efficiency expectations require DNR permit applications from industry and other entities to be approved or denied within 150 days.
A year ago, Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order directing the DNR and MPCA to meet the benchmark to ensure quick response to industry requests. The DNR's nearly 100 percent efficiency delivers on Dayton's promise that DNR should "move at the speed of commerce," as the governor said last year.
"The report shows the DNR is responsive to companies and other entities that require speedy review of their permit requests, while still safeguarding the state's natural resources," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "In this economic environment, I'm pleased to show that the DNR is not only able to meet expectations, but exceed them."
In many cases, DNR staff was able to render decisions on permits in less than two weeks, and often within a few days.
In addition to Dayton's executive order, the governor signed legislation codifying the 150-day permit decision goal for the DNR. "It's a goal we take very seriously," Landwehr said.
As part of the legislation, the DNR and other agencies are required to deliver semiannual reports to the Legislature on permitting efficiency on Feb. 1 and Aug. 1.
The report examines the efficiency of permitting in the following categories: water appropriations, public waters work, aquatic plant management, endangered species takings, and mining. For any permit that fails to meet the goal, the DNR is also required to report the reasons for not meeting goal, steps it will take to complete action on the application and the expected timeline to meet the goal.
Between July 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011, the DNR received 894 permit applications. Staff deemed 855 permit applications complete and made 891 permit decisions. The DNR missed the 150-day goal on only three permits during the reporting period, but all three permits have since been issued. In all three cases, which involved water appropriation or public waters work, the permit deadline was missed because of a combination of lack of staff and the state government shutdown last summer.
The vast majority of DNR permits during the reporting period involved water appropriations, work that would be done within public waters and aquatic plant management. In most cases, DNR staff made decisions on new permits within a day or two. Public waters work took more time, but staff was still able to make decisions on applications, on average, within two weeks.
Changes to permits took longer, but DNR staff was able, on average, to render decisions on applications between two and four weeks. On an iron ore and taconite mining permit, staff was able to render a decision within 79 days.