Permits Improvement TeamOver the past 25 years, EPA has continually searched to find the best ways to protect the environment. Among the most successful methods have been EPA's programs requiring industrial and municipal facilities to obtain permits to control their pollutant emissions(1) to the air, land and water. Programs such as New Source Review for air emissions, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for water discharges and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) for hazardous waste management have in many ways reduced the negative impacts of industrial and municipal facilities on human health and the environment.
The Permits Improvement Team (PIT) was created in July 1994 to examine all of EPA's permitting programs (air, water, and hazardous waste) and identify how they can be improved. The Team consists of EPA, state, tribal and local government officials.
It was recognized early on that a number of permit improvement initiatives were already completed or underway at EPA headquarters, the EPA regional offices and state, tribal and local governments. Rather than "reinvent the wheel", the PIT began to inventory these initiatives. The Permit Improvement Team Inventory was used to help the PIT identify specific recommendations on how to improve EPA's permitting programs
But numerous environmental challenges remain. Perhaps the greatest challenge for EPA today is to answer the public demand for more environmental protection at less cost. This demand of "more for less" requires EPA to examine both the philosophy and practice of its permitting systems, to determine how they can be made to function more effectively while at the same time decreasing costs for environmental agencies and the regulated community.
The Permit Improvement Team seeks to resolve these concerns by establishing a revised approach to environmental permitting: public performance-based permitting. This approach incorporates two concepts; one, the establishment of a defined level of performance to be achieved by the permittee and two, providing the public with the necessary information so they can monitor the permitting process and compliance of permitted facilities. Details of this approach are found in the Concept Paper on Environmental Permitting and Task Force Recommendations.