Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Senate Committee OKs Resolution That Could Lead To Roll Back Of Environmental Laws

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Tuesday voted to approve and report out Senate Resolution 385 (Brooks-R-Crawford) directing the Joint State Government Commission to identify environmental laws and regulations more stringent than federal law.
The resolution was amended to extend the deadline for the study from 12 to 18 months.
Only a vote by the Senate is needed to direct the Joint Commission to undertake this study, not the House. The vote could come as early as this week.
While the intent is to develop a list at this point, it is clear some legislators want to use that list as a first step to rolling back environmental protection in Pennsylvania because they believe state regulations are more stringent than they need to be.
In fact, when the resolution was introduced, Sen. Brooks said, “While most certainly all of us understand the importance of our environment, this resolution is intended to find balance through practical application of the laws and regulations and at the same time permit economic growth and job creation.  Hopefully, this can be a first step in pinpointing current laws and regulations that impact hardworking citizens and businesses and make Pennsylvania more competitive in attracting new businesses.”
The preamble language in the resolution takes out of context references in Governor’s Executive Order 1996-1 and language in Section 6.6 of the state Air Pollution Control Act.
Executive Order 1996-1 does not call for the automatic rollback of state environmental regulations to federal standards where they are more stringent as referred to in the resolution.
In fact, the preamble to the Executive Order says, “WHEREAS, despite the increasing volume and burden of regulations, they remain an appropriate and necessary means of protecting the public health and safety.”
The Order also says clearly where state law requires more stringent measures or there is an articulable Pennsylvania interest, more stringent regulations can certainly be adopted.
The goal of the Executive Order was to have more effective regulatory programs at a reduced cost of compliance for those affected by them.
At the Department of Environmental Protection, this was a systematic review carried out over several years through the Regulatory Basics Initiative by working through a transparent process with DEP’s advisory committees on section by section reviews of regulations and technical guidance.  
The result of that effort was saving individuals, businesses and local governments $138 million in compliance costs, the elimination of nearly 5,000 pages of outdated regulations and more than 1,700 pages of unneeded technical guidance and 29 packages of regulatory changes.
In contrast, the language in Sen. Brooks’ co-sponsor memo says she wants to use this study to “pinpoint” current laws and regulations and rollback those protections.
Sen. Brooks also takes out of context Section 6.6 of the state Air Pollution Control Act.
She leaves out the part that says, “This section shall not… be construed to weaken standards for individual sources or facilities in effect prior to the effective date of this act.”
It is clear the words “find balance” and “make Pennsylvania more competitive” are code words for the continuing efforts by some members of the Senate and House to rollback Pennsylvania’s state laws protecting the environment and reducing state environmental programs to the lowest common denominator.
A sponsor summary is available.
The Committee also amended and reported out House Bill 1103 (Zimmerman-R- Lancaster) exempting agricultural high-tunnel greenhouse structures from stormwater permitting requirements (House Fiscal Note and summary).
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: gyaw@pasen.gov.   Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: yudichak@pasenate.com.

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