Thursday, August 17, 2017

30 Environmental Groups Urge House To Vote Against Budget Bills That Would Demolish DEP

A coalition of 30 groups released a letter Thursday calling on the House of Representatives to reject Senate-passed budget bills, calling the package of legislation an unconstitutional plan to “decimate” the Department of Environmental Protection’s ability to regulate the fossil fuel industry.
The letter, which was signed by over 30 organizations, identifies several major concessions to the drilling industry.
Under the guise of balancing the budget with a small tax on drillers, the bills would empower private consultants to conduct environmental permit reviews, and would fast-track the permit approval process at the DEP.
The bills also would create an industry-friendly panel to review shale gas air quality permits, taking that responsibility out of the hands of the DEP entirely.
The bills also fail to include mechanisms to restrict conflicts of interest, setting the stage for a process where the drilling industry is quite literally policing itself.
The text of the letter follows—
House Bills 542, 453, 118 violate the Constitutional Environmental Rights of all Pennsylvanians. These bills set up a perilous process that undermines the Commonwealth’s fair and reliable implementation of its laws and the requirements of the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Constitution. These bills decimate the DEP by:
-- Outsourcing the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) core responsibilities to be carried out by private industry: These bills give industry the ability to essentially write and review its own permits using private consultants rather than DEP officials. This, slants the process toward degradation and exploitation rather than protection of communities. This change would impact every environmental permit, not only shale gas permits.
-- Imposing harshly inadequate review timelines: These bills favor the granting of shale gas permits by automatically granting approval if DEP does not act within a limited time frame, even if there is insufficient information about degradation to the local environment and human health, and even if degradation is likely to occur. There is even a money-back guarantee if DEP finds an application deficient and in need of more review, despite the costs DEP will incur in carrying out its duties.
-- Institutionalizing industrial influence: The bills fail to guard against self-dealing, allowing industry to pick from a set of private contractors review its permits, even when a clear conflict of interest exists. The package of bills also creates a panel of industry supporters to review shale gas air quality permits rather than DEP. This means no conflict of interest test or accountability for reviewers, no public review of permit actions, and no requirements regarding constitutional responsibilities.
-- Deepening environmental injustices: The package of bills perpetrates degradation of the environment and public health in places already heavily impacted by pollution. For example, the bills allow for streams to be turned into miles-long dumping grounds for the discharge of more pollution by mining activity and frack wastewater.
-- Misappropriating funds: The bills allow for misappropriation of Oil and Gas Lease Funds by failing to require compliance with Article 1, Section 27 [the Environmental Rights Amendment].
This package of bills is blatantly unconstitutional. We urge you to stand up for a functional Department of Environmental Protection by communicating to House leadership that you will oppose any bill with these or similar provisions.
Food & Water Watch; Marcellus Outreach Butler; Center for Coalfield Justice; Southwest PA Environmental Health Project; PSR Pennsylvania; Berks Gas Truth; Delaware Riverkeeper Network; Mountain Watershed Association; Pennsylvania Council of Churches; Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN); Clean Water Action; South Hills Area Against Dangerous Drilling (SHAADD); Elk County C.A.R.E.S.; Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens' Group; Save Our Salem; Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air; No Fracking Bucks; Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Group; Protect Penn-Delco; Citizens' Alliance Upholding a Safe Environment; Middletown Coalition for Community Safety; Protect Penn-Trafford; Uwchlan Safety Coalition; Aquashicola/ Pohopoco Watershed Conservancy; LAWPA (Local Authority Western PA); Damascus Citizens for Sustainability; Upper Burrell Citizens Against Marcellus Pollution UBCAMP; Schuylkill Pipeline Awareness; Pennsylvania Earth Guardians; Marcellus Protest; Allegheny County Clean Air Now; Citizens to Preserve Ligonier Valley; Resolution Media Fund; Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia; Energy Justice Network; Thomas Merton Center Ecojustice Working Group.
Related Stories:

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner