Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that streamlines and modernizes the review of permits by the Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) for the first time in nearly three decades. Additionally, the final rule provides more flexibility to regulated parties, states and tribes, and the public.
“Over the years, the scope of responsibilities for EPA’s EAB has changed and the permitting appeal has become too lengthy,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Making the reviews more streamlined and the judicial review more prompt will lead to better certainty and a fairer process for both those applying for EPA permits and for the public.”
The Agency’s rule streamlines the often-lengthy permitting review process before the EAB by expediting certain timelines of the prior process and imposing new, targeted deadlines.
Over the past 27 years, EAB’s role in permit appeals has changed as more states and tribes assumed permitting authority under EPA’s statutes. In an effort to streamline and modernize the permitting process, the final rule clarifies the EAB’s scope of review and makes permits effective more quickly by expediting administrative appeals through the following measures:
- Establishes a 60-day deadline for the EAB to issue final decisions once an appeal has been fully briefed and argued, with a one-time 60 day extension;
- Limits the availability of filing extensions to one request per party, with a maximum extension of 30 days; and
- Streamlines the amicus process.
On November 6, 2019, EPA proposed changes to the EAB to facilitate speedy resolution of permit disputes and additional reforms to streamline the current administrative appeal process. The rule finalized today incorporates extensive input received during the public comment period.
The EAB was created in 1992 to hear administrative appeals. At that time, the number of EPA-issued permits was increasing. Over the past 27 years, EAB’s role in permit appeals has changed as more states and tribes assumed permitting authority under EPA’s statutes. This has dramatically reduced the number of EPA-issued permits and, in turn, the number of permits appealed to the EAB.