The Approval Process

The word “approval” refers to permits, registrations, certifications, licenses, and similar issuances granted by MDE after a complete evaluation and review to implement the requirements of Maryland regulations.

MDE issues many different types of approvals. These range from simple registrations to licenses for individuals to permits that contain specific limitations on pollutants. The more complex environmental approvals are necessary to control the amount of pollutants released to the air, water and land. Where it has been deemed necessary to control specific chemicals (i.e., mercury or lead) or groups of chemicals (i.e., volatile organic compounds or petroleum hydrocarbons) or the effects of groups of pollutants (i.e., biochemical oxygen demand or sediment) limitations are placed in approvals. If limiting the activities of applicants can reduce releases from regulated entities, best management practices may be included in the approval, sometimes in combination with limitations.

The first step in the process is determining what approvals may be necessary for the activity you have planned. MDE has a variety of resources, including the Permit Guide. After you know what approvals you need, please obtain the application forms. These forms vary in the amount of information required based on the needs of the programs that issue the approval.

Once completed, the application and appropriate fee is submitted to the appropriate program within MDE and is checked for completeness and accuracy. At this point those approvals that are primarily registrations and many types of general permits can be issued within days. For approvals that require public participation, when the application is deemed complete, the Department publishes a “notice of an opportunity for a public information meeting” in the local newspaper and notifies parties on the interest list for that facility. The Department maintains an interest list for most areas of the State. The applicant has a chance to present their project with MDE and interested parties present and receive feedback at the meeting.

The applicable program then drafts an approval. This task ranges in complexity and can include using mathematical models, reviewing environmental policies, determining regulatory requirements and other scientific input. Each approval has a “standard turnaround time” which is the time that the Department typically takes to issue the approval. The more complex the approval, the more public interest, the longer the standard turnaround time. Approvals that do not require public participation are issued at this point. Approvals that require public participation must proceed with the process below.

Once an approval is drafted, the Department publishes a “notice of an opportunity for public hearing and comment period” in the local newspaper as well as notifies parties on the interest list for that facility/area of the State. The hearing is a formal proceeding where MDE presents the tentative decision (draft approval) to the interested parties. The public hearing only occurs when there are parties that have a basis for commenting on the draft approval. Otherwise the public can submit written comments to the Department within a certain period of time.

The Department reviews the testimony from the hearing and all comments received and may generate a “response to comments” document. If only minor adjustments to the draft approval are necessary, MDE makes these and issues the approval. If more extensive changes are necessary, the approval is redrafted and the interested parties are notified of the changes. If there are no significant comments on the redraft, the approval is issued.

Once the approval is issued, the applicant or other parties can still appeal its conditions through the Office of Administrative Hearings and then through the courts.

Certification of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage

Section 1-202 of the Environment Article provides that the applicant for a permit or license to engage in any activity in which the applicant may employ a “covered employee”, as defined in §9-101 of the Labor and Employment Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland (“LE”), shall provide to the Maryland Department of the Environment the policy of binder number of a valid workers’ compensation insurance policy that has been issued to the applicant. Such a filing is required before the Department may issue any such license or permit.

Alternatively, the applicant shall file a Certificate of Compliance issued by the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission only in cases where the applicant is either:

  1. A sole proprietorship with no employees;
  2. A partnership with no employees other than individual partners;
  3. A Farm Corporation, a Maryland Close Corporation, a Professional Corporation or a Limited Liability Company with no employees other than corporate officers or limited liability company members who have elected, under LE §9-206, to be excluded from workers’ compensation coverage;
  4. A business that is an employer of only “casual employees” as provided under LE §9-205 and defined in Maryland Law; or
  5. A business that is the owner of a Class F (Tractor) Vehicle who meets the requirements of exclusion as defined under LE §9-218.

Verification of Tax Payments

As part of the approval process, if the purpose of an approval application is to renew an existing approval, disclosure of the organization's Federal Tax Identification Number or the owner’s personal Social Security Number (only if the Federal Tax Identification Number is not available) is mandatory. Maryland Environment Article, Section 1-203 (2003) requires MDE to verify that applicants for the renewal of permits or licenses have paid all undisputed taxes and unemployment insurance. Once obtained, this information is not used for any purposes other than to determine payment of taxes.

Other Approvals

In addition to permits, MDE issues other regulatory approvals such as Wastewater Operator Licenses, Asbestos Training Provider Approvals, Radioactive Materials Licenses, Surface Coal Mining Blaster Certifications, Well Driller Licenses, Notifications for Underground Storage Tanks, etc. Each has its own issuance and application procedures. Some include public notification requirements and some do not.

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