Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gov. Corbett Offers Explanation For Signing Anti-Buffer Bill Into Law

In a letter to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA Wednesday, Gov. Corbett said this about signing into law House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) that environmental groups say weakens DEP requirements for stream buffers in Special Protection Watersheds--
“Under Pennsylvania’s implementation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System stormwater permitting requirements, it is our chief responsibility and obligation to maintain and protect the water quality of the Commonwealth’s waterways.
“We must also be practical in our implementation, mindful that there are benefits to our communities when we provide flexibility in how this obligation is fulfilled, as long as water quality is not compromised.  I believe House Bill 1565 achieves this balance.
“Under this legislation, a riparian buffer or riparian forested buffer may be  utilized as one avenue of protecting water quality.  Additionally, a permit applicant may seek to demonstrate to the Department of Environmental Protection that other alternative measures, drawn from recognized best management practices, are equally effective in minimizing the potential for impacting water quality and in meeting the Commonwealth’s obligation to maintain and protect both existing and designated uses.
“The DEP retains the ability, on a case by cases basis, to require a riparian buffer or riparian forested buffer if doing so is the only effective manner in which to safeguard water quality.  Moreover, House Bill 1565 goes further by requiring additional installation of replacement buffers for any project proposed within 100 feet of a special protection waterway.
“I am confident that this legislation strikes the appropriate balance sought by our communities, while providing the tools necessary for our environmental regulators to ensure our waterways continue to be protected.”
Acting DEP Secretary Dana Aunkst told DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday DEP intends to be ready to implement House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) 60 days after the bill is signed as required in the legislation.  He said at this point he does not know whether DEP’s regulations will have to be changed or if additional technical guidance is needed.

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