Vermont's environmental permit review process must be changed, according to a top state regulatory enforcement official.

David Mears, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, told members of the Associated Industry of Vermont on Tuesday that the state must make it easier for developers to apply for environmental permits such as those for stormwater, septic and wetlands.

"I remain utterly, completely frustrated by the permit review process," Mears told a crowd of business owners attending the event. He said there should be more public involvement in the early stages of a permit review process and an expedited appeal process for concerns raised after a permit decision is issued.

Last minute permit appeals to the state environmental court cost developers time and money, Mears said, and they are a "headache" for the agency.

Mears said the appeal process should include what is called an on-the-record review in which a court would consider the evidence that has already been presented by the state and the developers, rather than deciding an appeal de novo, with all new information.

Previous proposals to adopt on the record review have failed in the Legislature. This year, Mears says he would like to present a balanced proposal to the Legislature that has both the support of the business community and environmental groups.

"I have no interest in trying to jam any of these improvement ideas down anybody's throat," he said.


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