DEP Technology Advancement: eComment

June 23, 2015
Carol F. McCabe
News Flash

In a May 30 Pennsylvania Bulletin notice, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced a new uniform process for developing Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs), including enhanced public transparency through the use of DEP’s online commenting system  eComment.  DEP’s draft “Policy for Development and Publication of Technical Guidance” can be found in DEP’s online eLibrary and is open for public comment until July 14, 2015.

Long used by the Department, TGDs provide insight with respect to DEP’s interpretation and implementation of regulatory requirements.  Although not intended to be a substitute or supplement for regulatory requirements, TGDs provide “practical and specialized direction” to both DEP program staff and the public. This specialized direction may include summaries of regulatory requirements, explanations of technical or administrative procedures, and insights into DEP policy considerations in regulatory implementation.  Pursuant to the proposed new policy, DEP will follow prescribed procedures for the development of TGDs.  As in the past, each TGD must meet criteria addressing necessity, clarity, administrative efficiency, economic impacts and conformance with state statutes and regulations.  In addition, the policy would add specifications for the contents of each proposed and final TGD package, as well as procedures for publication, review and comment on TGDs.  Most importantly, in conjunction with publication in thePennsylvania Bulletin, all supporting documentation and public comments will be available online.  

Under the policy, the first public draft of a TGD will be published online as well as in thePennsylvania Bulletin, with a 30-day window for public comment. The DEP Policy Office will receive comments by means of eComment, email, and mail within 30 days from the publication of the document.  Notably, DEP will make all public comments available for viewing on the DEP website within five business days of submittal. After the end of the 30-day comment period, a formal Comment-Response document will be developed which will answer and address every comment submitted. Twice each year, the DEP will also publish a non-regulatory agenda, listing all of the policies and TGDs that may be revised or introduced. The proposed new eComment procedure will apply to DEP non-regulatory documents including; internal guidelines, policy statements, guidance manuals, decisions, rules, and written materials that provide directives, guidance, or compliance-related information to the public.