Monday, September 22, 2014

PA Environmental Council Calls On House Members To Oppose Buffer Rollback Bill

The PA Environmental Council Monday wrote to members of the House Monday opposing House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) eliminating the nearly 4 year old requirement for stream buffers in High Quality and Exceptional Value streams.
A House vote is expected today (Monday).
The text of their letter follows--
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), I am writing to express our opposition to House Bill 1565. This legislation would eliminate the existing requirement of a riparian buffer or forested riparian buffer for new development requiring a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit in a High Quality or Exceptional Value watershed.
It is important to note that the existing buffer requirement is only triggered by the need for an NPDES permit and therefore does not apply to existing landowners and their current land use. Further, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PaDEP) regulations (25 Pa Code Section 102.14) already provide a long list of exceptions to the buffer requirement. This requirement can also be exempted through a waiver from the PaDEP. In her January 29, 2014 testimony before the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, Deputy Secretary for Water Management Kelly Heffner could not recall a single instance where such a waiver was denied.
In other words, existing law already provides ample flexibility. Passage of this legislation could in fact invite new federal review of permitting activities in Pennsylvania; particularly in the Susquehanna / Chesapeake Bay watershed where targeted pollution reduction requirements and strategies are already in play.
Riparian buffers prevent property damage and the expense of flooding; dramatically reduce stormwater management costs; help keep pristine streams clean; reduce the cost of treating water for potable uses; and in general, promote and sustain healthier communities. State law already provides ample flexibility for ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place while allowing for accommodation.
House Bill 1565 is an unnecessary bill that could result in undesired consequences for Pennsylvania. We strongly urge you to oppose this bill. Thank you for your consideration.
From: John Walliser, Vice President for Legal and Governmental Affairs

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