Gov. Justice order to expedite permit process could benefit business, oil and gas industries

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice signed an executive order Monday intended to streamline the permitting process for business and industry seeking to set up shop in the Mountain State.

“West Virginia has consistently been ranked at or near the bottom amongst all states for our regulatory environment by publications such as Forbes and CNBC,” Justice said in a press release. “This is an area where we need to improve.

“Like our President, Donald J. Trump, I have been very focused on regulatory reform and will aggressively continue those efforts in our state,” Justice said in the release.

According to the governor’s staff, the executive order would require expedited permitting for all projects, as well as prioritization of permits for projects of critical economic concern.

The order also would require executive state agencies to file written reports to the permit applicant, executive director of the state Development Office and governor that explain inaction on completed permit applications for projects of critical economic concern.

And the order would establish an annual reporting requirement from the Development Office to the governor and Legislature explaining whether the program is operating successfully.

“The purpose of this action is to provide an expedited permitting process for business and industry to secure all necessary permits,” the order reads.

“Executive state agencies shall immediately review all completed grant applications upon receipt,” the order says. “Executive state agencies shall grant or reject all permits in an expeditious manner without compromising the integrity of a thorough analysis or statutory requirements.”

The executive order does not specify what types of permits would be considered under the order, but allows companies to petition the West Virginia Development Office to have their project considered a “project of critical economic concern.” The Development Office would then have 45 days to rule on the request.

Justice spokesman Butch Antolini did not immediately respond to a request for further information on the executive order, and state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher could not be reached for comment.

But to the extent speeding up permits could help attract business to the state, the executive order was good news, said West Virginia Chamber of Commerce director Steve Roberts.

Roberts said he imagines the order will apply to environmental permits, water permits and solid waste permits required for business and industry seeking to establish businesses in the state. He said most companies want to comply with environmental and other regulations, and should have their permits granted in a speedy manner provided they are complying with state laws and regulations.

Roberts said he frequently hears business and industrial owners say they can get permits approved more quickly in Ohio and other neighboring states. Sometimes, he said, the delay in getting a permit approved “can mean the difference between a company locating here or locating in a neighboring state.”

Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, said it was not yet clear how the executive order might affect the Mountain State’s oil and gas industry. IOGA represents about 600 small and large oil and gas companies in the state.

But Burd said the order might be a boon to the industry if it speeds up the process for getting environmental permits for oil and gas pipeline construction. Those in the oil and gas industry believe the state has been hamstrung by not being able to get abundant Marcellus and Utica shale gas to market because of a lack of pipeline infrastructure to move the gas.

Several major pipeline projects are in different stages of development in West Virginia.

Burd said he was awaiting further details on Justice’s executive order.

“I guess we’ll find out a little bit more as it goes on,” he said.

Justice said he has repealed more than 1,300 rules and regulations since taking office.


This article was authored by Rusty Marks for WV News. Click here to read it on the publication's website.