Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gov. Corbett Signs Anti-Buffer, Climate Plan Veto Bills Into Law

Gov. Corbett Wednesday signed into law House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) that environmental groups say weakens DEP requirements for stream buffers in Special Protection Watersheds and House Bill 2354 (Snyder-D-Fayette) which authorizes a one-House of the General Assembly to veto any greenhouse gas emission reduction plan required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Anti-Buffer Bill
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA wrote to Gov. Corbett last week urging him to veto the bill for several reasons--
— We believe this legislation reduces the ability of Pennsylvania to meet its commitments under the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, which you signed in August. The Bay Agreement and Pennsylvania’s obligations under the Clean Water Blueprint rely heavily on protecting and restoring forested stream buffers. We should be taking steps to encourage more stream buffers in more areas, not significantly weakening the requirement we have which covers just 4 percent of our watersheds as this bill does.
— Pennsylvania is obligated by the federal Clean Water Act to maintain and not degrade the water quality in designated Special Protection Watersheds.  We believe this legislation reduces the ability of the Commonwealth to meet this anti-degradation requirement and leaves us vulnerable to action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and federal courts determining that our water quality protection program does not meet minimum federal requirements.  We have made this point very clear in letters to both the Senate and House and in more detail.
— The options for meeting any buffer requirements listed in the bill are either not real options, extremely ambiguous, or effectively remove the buffer requirement and its benefits.  A large and growing body of scientific research concludes there are no practices or combination of practices—scientifically speaking—which are “substantially equivalent” to a forested riparian stream buffer.  The other option of allowing buffers to be placed, not at the point of the earth disturbance, but at some other location not only defeats the purpose of the forested buffer, but potentially puts its benefits nowhere near the impact.  
A summary of House Bill 1565 and the House Fiscal Note are available.
Climate Plan Veto
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council last week urged Gov. Corbett to veto the bill saying, “By authorizing a one-House veto of any plan the Department develops, House Bill 2354 goes far beyond the oversight role the General Assembly should have over the implementation of environmental regulations in the Commonwealth. It replaces any balanced discussion of the actions we should take and turns the issue into an unguided political football.
“In contrast to the oversight role the General Assembly has already carved out for itself under the Regulatory Review Act, it does not require passage of a concurrent House-Senate resolution with an opportunity to sign or veto that resolution by the Governor. It allows one chamber to veto those plans and force the Department to start over. This creates a serious chilling effect on any effort to pass necessary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our Commonwealth.
“In 2008 the General Assembly passed bipartisan legislation -- the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act -- laying out a thoughtful process for detailing the contributions the Commonwealth makes to climate change, and offers members of the General Assembly a direct role in helping to formulate a Climate Change Action Plan through the Climate Change Advisory Committee.
“Further, the Air Pollution Control Act requires any changes to the State Implementation Plan, which ultimately any climate change plan would be, to have extensive public review before it is forwarded to EPA.
“The Regulatory Review Act requires any regulations proposed to implement the State Implementation Plan to be reviewed by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the General Assembly under an extensive process, allowing for concurrent resolution and the Governor’s review.
“Now House Bill 2354 would add a fourth bite at the apple for interests who oppose action on this critical and complex issue by authorizing a one-House veto. It makes a decision that should be decided on facts and substantive analysis into a political debate without any criteria to guide the General Assembly’s review.”
The PA Coal Alliance put out this statement today--
“Fundamental questions about energy reliability, infrastructure and price need to be addressed during the planning phase to ensure that, whatever strategy for compliance Pennsylvania ultimately pursues, it will result in an electric generation mix that will achieve the emission reduction targets and maintain competitive pricing for manufacturers and consumers,” said Pennsylvania Coal Alliance CEO, John Pippy.
“I’ve been doing business in Pennsylvania for 28 years and the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations will directly impact my livelihood and the livelihood of those that we employ,” said Tom Crooks, Vice President of R.G. Johnson. “Thank you to the legislature and Gov. Corbett for supporting legislation that takes a comprehensive approach to our energy policy and allows for the consideration of all impacts and outcomes of these proposed rules to ensure Pennsylvania’s business owners and ratepayers are not overlooked in this process.”
A summary of the House Bill 2354 and House Fiscal Note are available.

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