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Teleworking and technology allow permitting and other critical activities to continue through COVID-19 pandemic

Investments in technology and the ability to telework have allowed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to continue to fulfill its mission to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While operating remotely, DEP has maintained oversight of regulated entities and responses to environmental emergencies.
“As an agency, we are doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by transitioning our offices into fully remote operations,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Due to advances in software, DEP employees consistently maintain productivity while working remotely.”
Throughout the pandemic, state agencies have followed guidance for businesses issued by the Governor and Secretary of Health, including the recommendation for employees to telework, if possible. Approximately one-third of commonwealth employees are either teleworking full-time or splitting their time between telework and working onsite based on their job duties. The Office of Administration has also developed resources to support employees and supervisors while teleworking.
“Telework has been a long-standing practice for many private sector employers, as well as the federal government and many other states,” noted Secretary of Administration Michael Newsome.
“Teleworking during the pandemic is a proven, common sense way to continue serving Pennsylvanians and protect public health.”
“In the future, telework has the potential to reduce costs for things like office space and parking and enable employees to continue working through other types of disruptions.”
The DEP employs more than 2,300 people throughout its Central Office in Harrisburg and six regional offices located throughout the commonwealth (Southwest Regional Office, South-central Regional Office, Southeast Regional Office, Northeast Regional Office, North-central Regional Office and the Northwest Regional Office). Additionally, the DEP has several regional district mining offices: Knox, New Stanton, California, Moshannon, Cambria and Pottsville.
From April 1, through Aug. 31, DEP has:
• Reviewed and processed 23,368 permit applications and authorizations
   o 93 percent of permits with Permit Decision Guarantee were processed on time
• Conducted 31,801 inspections
• Responded to 136 environmental emergencies
Additionally, DEP leveraged its enterprise content management software, OnBase, to fully digitize the routing of all internal documents. OnBase is also being used to accept online applications for permit types that are not yet part of the department’s e-permitting system. To date, over 700 uploads have come through this new tool.