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Making Sense of the Environmental Permitting Process

What is an Environmental Permit?

A permit allows you to carry on various activities which may have an impact on the environment and human health.  The Environmental Resource Permitting (ERP) program regulates most alterations to the land surface in Florida that are not specifically exempt from regulations by statute or rule.  Environmental permitting can be a key instrument for reducing an industry’s environmental impact, facilitating its compliance with environmental requirements and promoting technological innovation.

There are three types of ERP’s: General Permits, Conceptual Approval Permits, and Individual Permits.  Normally, a General Permit is available for qualifying activities in uplands having less than 10 acres of the total project area and less than two acres of impervious surface.  The General Permit requires the submittal of an “electronic self-certification” before construction begins.

Beginning the Environmental Permitting Process

Environmental permitting is a complex and mandatory step in virtually any construction project that requires construction, alteration, operation, maintenance, removal, or abandonment of any new project which is a nonexempt activity such as the following:

  • In, on or over wetlands or other surface waters;
  • more than 4,000 square feet of the impervious and semi-impervious surface area subject to vehicular traffic;
  • more than 9,000 square feet of impervious and semi-impervious surface area;
  • project area of more than one acre;
  • impounds more than 40-acre feet of water; or
  • part of a larger common plan of development.

Most permits will be issued from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) or the State Water Management District.  These activities can also be regulated by the counties and municipalities within the state.

Generally, any activity conducted in, on, or over the surface waters of the State of Florida will require a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or the State Water Management District. Such activities generally are also regulated by the counties and municipalities within the State.  In addition, the Clean Air Act (CAA) establishes a number of permitting programs designed

Knowing which of the numerous applications and ERP compliance forms to submit requires some experience and knowledge to navigate through the process.  It is best to seek legal counsel first before applying for an environmental permit.  There will be a fee that needs to be paid when submitting.  The fees range in cost, depending on the project.

How Long Does the Process Take?

Each environmental permit is different, so determining how long the process takes is difficult to nail down, however, it is not a quick process.  The information needed is not always obvious, so getting legal assistance with the permit will usually help speed up the process.  If you don’t have all the information they require, the agency may return your application back to you.  Depending on how long the agency has spent on reviewing your application, you may lose some or all of the fee that you originally sent in.  The agency that is responsible for reviewing your permit application can take 13 weeks or more to complete.

Following this assessment, if everything is acceptable, the agency will write your permit for you to review.  Once you have the draft permit, it is critical that you read all the information and make sure it is to your satisfaction and that you agree with all of the conditions imposed on you.  You will have the opportunity to appeal if you are unhappy with their decision.

Making Sense of the Environmental Permitting Process

If your project requires a decision by an environmental agency, it is critical that you start the permitting process as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, this process can be time-consuming and costly, as well as confusing.  Like many governmental measures, the environmental permitting process is inefficient with no clear-cut roadmap for success.  It is extremely helpful to have someone on your side with extensive experience in this process.

I’m Rob Robinson, and I can help you draft permit applications to ensure they include all of the necessary information required by the applicable rules and case law.  I can also draft statements of compliance and other filings needed for your specific project and review documents for conformity to rules and regulations.  I will prepare the documents, arguments, and information in order to succeed in getting the permit, as well as survive an appeal on legally solid ground.

For over 30 years I have practiced law in the Greater Sarasota area.  Many of these years were spent at Sarasota’s oldest and most prestigious law firm.  I also served as legal counsel to a municipality for 14 years.  This experience has afforded me diverse experience and legal proficiency in how government works.  This background helps me understand what is needed in the permitting process in order to prevent challenges, expenses, and headaches later on.

If you are about to go through the environmental permitting process, please know that you do not have to go through it alone.  Contact my office immediately so that your permitting issues can be handled with individualized attention and care.

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