Thursday, September 22, 2016

Warning Flags Raised Over House Attempts To Roll Back Environmental Protection

The PA Environmental Council and other groups this week put a spotlight on House attempts to rollback protections now in DEP’s drilling regulations, kill regulations with a single vote from a single committee in the House or Senate and possible attempts to reduce protection for endangered species.
Rollback Drilling Regulations
The PA Environmental Council wrote every member of the House Thursday expressing concern about Amendment A09804 to be offered by Rep. Jaret Gibbons (D-Beaver) to House Bill 1391 (Everett-R-Lycoming), that would rollback well site restoration, waste disposal reporting and freshwater construction standards now in DEP’s Chapter 78a Marcellus Shale drilling regulations.
The language would also limit DEP’s ability to protect public resources from impacts by both conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells.
The gut-and-replace 7-page amendment would gut House Bill 1391, which deals with the unrelated oil and gas well landowner royalty issue, and slip in regulatory language repealing Chapter 78a provisions (page 5 & 6 of the amendment).
PEC pointed out DEP’s drilling regulations went through “the most extensive public review process in modern history” and are set to go into effect in the next few weeks.
PEC called the attempt to add regulatory language to a royalty bill “non-germaine and inappropriate.”
Kill Regulations With 1 Vote
Legislation was introduced this week by Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams)-- House Bill 2355-- that would let one committee of the House or Senate kill final DEP or other agency regulations with one vote.
To kill a regulation now under the Regulatory Review Act the full House and Senate must adopt a resolution and the resolution has to go to the Governor for his/her action, exactly like any piece of legislation.
There may also be an attempt to add House Bill 2355 language to Senate Bill 562 (Gordner-R-Columbia) that is now in the House Appropriations Committee so the House Bill does not need to move through the whole process in the short time remaining in this session.
House Bill 2355 was no doubt prompted, in part, as a reaction to DEP’s drilling regulations which many conservative members of the Senate and House disagreed with.
The General Assembly was successful in killing DEP’s conventional drilling regulations by passing a new law in June that was signed by Gov. Wolf.  DEP is now starting that regulatory process over for conventional wells.
Reducing Protection For Endangered Species
Senate Bill 1166 (Stefano-R-Fayette) and Senate Bill 1168 (Eichelberger-R-Blair), which would allow the Game and Fish and Boat Commission to set their own license fees, are set to be considered on the House Floor next week.
Given that it’s election season, the prevention of habitat damage and extinction of endangered species and how those efforts could block development has been a concern to many conservative legislators.
Three years ago House Bill 1576 (Pyle-R-Armstrong) and Senate Bill 1047 (Scarnati-R- Jefferson) were introduced to make it much more difficult to protect endangered, threatened or species of special concern.
The two Senate Bills now on the House Calendar present an opportunity for a House member to amend the bills to deal with that issue, at least for the Game and Fish and Boat Commissions.
Click Here for background on the legislation.
What’s Next
Both the House and Senate will be in session 3 days next week, but then skip to the weeks of October 17 and 24 for their last 6 session days before the November 8 election.
All bills die at the end of this session November 30 and have to start over next year.
So, what do you think they can do in 9 voting days?  We’ll find out!
Related Stories:
Senate Committee Vote Sept. 27 Could Lead To Roll Back of PA Environmental Laws
New DEP Secretary, Other Issues May Be On Fall House, Senate Agenda

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