Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Republicans On House Environmental Committee Approve Letter Opposing DEP Air Quality Fee Increase

On September 15, the Republicans on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission opposing the final Environmental Quality Board regulation increasing DEP’s Air Quality Program fees.
The letter says, in part, “This final regulation is unacceptable, and if implemented would have a severe financial impact on our business and economy. We therefore ask IRRC to disapprove this regulation in its final form since the provisions of the regulation are unreasonable. We urge the EQB and DEP to withdraw this final regulation.”
On July 21 the Environmental Quality Board approved the regulation over the objection of Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), Majority Chair of the Committee.  He was one of two votes against the regulation on the 20 member Board.  Read more here.
Rep. Metcalfe said with the devastating economic impact of the COVID shutdown this was no time to raise permit fees and promised to get his Committee to recommend the Independent Regulatory Review Commission disapprove the regulation like he did in June of last year. Read more here.
At the Board meeting, Krish Ramamurthy, Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation, said the federal Clean Air Act requires DEP to have resources sufficient to pay for the program.  In addition, just because the emissions are down does not significantly reduce DEP’s workload for this program.
He added Air Quality staff has been reduced by more than 65 positions.
DEP started development of this fee package in December of 2017 and the EQB originally proposed the Air Quality fee increase package in December of 2018.  The state Air Pollution Control Act requires DEP to adopt fees to cover the cost of the program.
The final regulation would increase fees to generate $13 million annually to support the program-- for the federal Title V and state non-Title V permit fees.
The proposal included a new annual maintenance fee for both kinds of permits, a new fee for asbestos notifications and an increase in the existing operating permit fees.
There was no proposed increase of the Title V per ton emission fee, beyond the annual increase based on the Consumer Price Index.
These are the first general Air Quality fee increases since 2013.  DEP budget cuts have resulted in eliminating more than 30 percent of its staff or about 100 positions.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: dmetcalf@pahousegop.com. Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or send email to: gvitali@pahouse.net
[Posted: Sept. 15, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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