State environmental officials vowed to work more closely with manufacturers to improve water permit processes after meeting Aug. 14 with members of CBIA's E2: Energy & Environment Council.
Betsey Wingfield, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Oswald Inglese, director of DEEP's Water Permitting and Enforcement Division, and other DEEP officials met with E2 manufacturing members at CBIA headquarters.
The meeting grew out of the Manufacturers Roundtable held in June with DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes at the CBIA 2019 Energy & Environment Conference where manufacturers expressed concern about the length of the permit and renewal process.
The gathering highlights the impact Connecticut companies can have on public policy when they become CBIA members.
Representatives from aerospace, chemical, and other manufacturing companies questioned the lengthy permitting process.
In some cases, they said, a renewal for a wastewater discharge permit can take years.
While companies can continue to conduct activities authorized by an expired permit—if they filed a timely permit-renewal application—they have no ability to meet new customer demands involving new materials or production processes without an updated permit.
Inglese said DEEP would like the ability to modify an existing permit, but federal regulations won't allow it.
"We've tried everything to get around it and the EPA is clear with us about what we can and cannot do," he said.
Manufacturers said they understand DEEP is working with limited resources, that some experienced people retired, and new hires are getting on board.
It's why they suggested assigning permit writers to work with the same companies so the writer better understands the organization.
Connecticut manufacturers want to protect the environment and address federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
To achieve that, it takes cooperation between manufacturers and regulators, but also requires continuity at DEEP.
But retirements of experienced workers at DEEP has become an issue as the agency is facing a retirement cliff in 2022 due to contractual changes.
That—coupled with a younger workforce that changes jobs frequently—presents a problem, Wingfield said.
"Staffing is going to be a huge challenge," she said.
That's why a new approach to permit writing and inspections is needed.
One way DEEP addresses this, Wingfield said, is by cross training new hires to do the work of inspectors and permit writers.
Wingfield asked what DEEP can do to build relationships with permit holders.
E2 members suggested that inspectors and permit writers get to know the facilities they regulate.
As one manufacturer said: "We need to put ourselves in each others' shoes. We're working for the same goal: We want to comply and you want us to comply."
The meeting concluded with DEEP committing to following up with specific ideas for addressing concerns manufacturers raised.