Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Environmental Legislation Scorecard, The Naughty And Nice List

The first half of the 2017-18 legislative session saw several critical environmental bills signed into law, including permanently reauthorizing the $2/ton Recycling Program fee, an update of the PA One Call Program to include natural gas gathering lines, requiring solar credits to come from only inside Pennsylvania, reauthorization of storage tank cleanup programs, a resolution creating a Senate lead exposure task force and making permanent the Wild Resource Conservation Tax Checkoff.
But, there were also several environmental provisions that became law or almost became that would make Santa’s naughty list, including a roll back of stream protections from underground coal mining, setting a less restrictive standard for manganese discharges into rivers and streams and banning plastic bag bans, which was vetoed by the Governor.
The FY 2017-28 budget given final action on October 30 failed to address any of the major or minor environmental funding shortfalls identified during the Senate and House budget hearings, including in DEP’s Safe Drinking Water Program criticized by EPA for failing to have the resources needed to meet even minimum federal requirements and funding to meet Pennsylvania’s obligations to cleanup our rivers and streams.  Click Here for more.
The budget also transfers money from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund to support State Park and Forest administrative costs, the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund and the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, something the PA Supreme Court said in June violated the public trustee provisions of the Environmental Rights Amendment.  Click Here for more.
The budget also transferred all of the $30.5 million from the Attorney General’s settlement of Volkswagen air pollution violations to the General Fund to balance the budget, cuts  funding for the Susquehanna and Delaware river basin commissions and transfers $300 million from yet unidentified special funds to the General Fund to balance the budget.
DEP’s  General Fund budget appropriation-- $147.7 million-- is $17.9 million BELOW what it was in 1994-95-- $165.6 million-- and 40 percent BELOW what it was in 2002-03-- $245.6 million.
This means DEP will have to continue to rely on permit fee increases on those it regulates to fund its programs.
The 2018 half of the session will again see a major budget crisis with the Independent Fiscal Office projecting a $1 billion deficit.  Click Here for more.
A remedy which will no doubt surface again will be transferring money out of special funds.  House Republicans have a hearing on this issue set for DEP and DCNR on January 25.  Click Here for more.
Other legislation pending in the new year includes an overhaul of the Electronics Waste Recycling Program, bills authorizing the adoption of local stormwater management fees, a lawn fertilizer regulation/education bill, legislation protecting the existing Act 13 drilling impact fee income, increasing penalties for littering, authorizing local clean energy project funding and letting the Game and Fish and Boat commission boards set their own fees.
Last, but not least, is naming the Eastern Hellbender Pennsylvania’s state amphibian and symbol for clean water in the Commonwealth.
Here are links to the naughty, nice and pending environmental bills that saw action in 2017--
Good Bills
-- Sunset For $2/ton Recycling Fee Eliminated: Part of the Administrative Code bill-- House Bill 118-- that became law included a provision eliminating the sunset date on the $2/ton Recycling Fee ensuring financial stability for the state’s local Recycling Program into the future.  Of course, this does not eliminate the threat of a raid on the Recycling Fund next year to balance the budget. The bill was signed into law as Act 40.  Click Here for more.
-- Natural Gas Gathering Pipelines: Senate Bill 242 (Baker-R-Luzerne) adding unconventional and larger conventional natural gas gathering pipelines to the PA One Call utility safety program is a major win. The bill was signed into law as Act 50.  Click Here for more.
-- Storage Tanks: House Bill 290 (Metzgar-R-Bedford) providing for legislative appointments to the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board, fills a gap in funding for DEP’s Storage Tank Program and extends the sunset date for the environmental cleanup programs for storage tanks.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.  [The Governor is expected to sign this bill into law.]
-- Closing Solar Borders: A provision requiring solar energy credits under the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards to be purchased within Pennsylvania also became law as part of House Bill 118.  This change should encourage more solar energy in the state and increase the value of solar credits.  The bill was signed into law as Act 40.
-- Lead Exposure Task Force: Senate Resolution 33 (Yudichak-D-Luzerne) was passed by the Senate creating a bipartisan task force to investigate the scope of Pennsylvania’s lead exposure problem, including in drinking water.  Click Here for more.
-- Wild Resource Conservation Tax Checkoff: This checkoff was permanently reauthorized as part of the Tax Code bill-- House Bill 542-- that became law.  It helps assure funding for DCNR’s Wild Resource Conservation Program.  The bill was signed into law as Act 43.
Naughty Bills
-- Roll Back Stream Protections From Mining: Senate Bill 624 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) retroactively rolling back protections for streams from deep coal mining.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.  (Click Here for more.)  Gov. Wolf allowed this bill to become law without his signature as Act 32.
-- Manganese Standard: Included in the Administrative Code bill-- House Bill 118 (Kaufer-R- Luzerne)-- is a provision which directs the Environmental Quality Board to adopt a proposed manganese standard within 90 days that includes the 1 milligram/liter manganese standard established under 25 Pa Code Chapter 93.7 and insure the standard is met at the point of intake for water suppliers (25 Pa Code Chapter 96.3). The 1 milligram/liter standard is 20 times the level of manganese that water suppliers are allowed to have in their water supplies, according to EPA’s secondary maximum contaminant level. The bill was signed into law as Act 40.  Click Here for more.
-- Banning Plastic Bag Bans: House Bill 1071 (Farry-R-Bucks) to prevent the imposition of a ban, fee or surcharge on recyclable plastic bags (House Fiscal Note and summary).  This bill was vetoed by the Governor-- Veto No. 1.
Other Bills That Became Law
-- Funding Sewer/Water Laterals: A section of the Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 674-- that became law allows public municipal authorities to use funds to replace private water and sewer laterals.  This was proposed originally to help the Pittsburgh Water Authority deal with lead service lines.  The bill was signed into law as Act 44.
-- Water Authorities Under PUC: House Bill 1490 (Turzai-R-Allegheny) placing the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority under the regulation of the Public Utility Commission.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.) [The Governor is expected to sign this bill into law.]  Click Here for more.
-- Alternative Septic Systems: Senate Bill 144 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) amending Act 537 on include alternative on-lot sewage systems in sewage plans.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.  The bill was signed into law as Act 26.
-- Construction Code: House Bill 409 (Evankovich-R- Allegheny) making changes to the process for adopting amendments to the Uniform Construction Code, including energy efficiency standards.  A Senate Fiscal Note and summary is available.  Signed into law as Act 36.  Click Here for more.
-- Natural Gas Vehicles: Senate Bill 589 (Langerholc-R-Bedford) increasing maximum allowable weight for natural gas vehicles.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.  The bill was signed into law as Act 31.  Click Here for more.
-- Noxious Weeds: House Bill 790 (Pashinski-D-Luzerne) repeal the Noxious Weed Control Law and replace with the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.  Signed into law as Act 46.
-- Timber On Federal Land: House Bill 1494 (Rapp-R-Forest) authorizing the state to enter into a cooperative agreement with federal agencies for the purpose of selling timber on federal land.  A Senate Fiscal Note and summary is available.  The bill was signed into law as Act 25.
-- Performance-Based Budgeting: Senate Bill 181 (Mensch-R-Montgomery) providing for a performance-based budgeting (exempting appropriations to the General Assembly and the Judiciary) and creating a Performance-Based Budget Board.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.  Signed into law as Act 48.  Click Here for more.
Good Bills Pending
-- Protect Existing Act 13 Drilling Impact Fee Income: A Commonwealth Court decision in March on the definition of stripper well in Act 13 threatens to reduce revenue from the Act 13 drilling impact fee by another 10 percent ($16 million) a year.  Although the Public Utility Commission is appealing the decision, Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Fayette) introduced House Bill 1283 in April to fix the problem (sponsor summary).  The bill is in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Click Here for more.
-- Local Stormwater Fees: In June the House voted overwhelmingly to give communities the ability to fund local stormwater and flood prevention projects by passing 4 bills-- House Bill 913 (Everett-R- Lycoming) providing for the adoption of stormwater fees by incorporated towns, House Bill 914 (Everett-R- Lycoming) providing for the adoption of stormwater fees by boroughs, House Bill 915 (Everett-R-Lycoming) providing for the adoption of stormwater fees by first class townships and House Bill 916 (Everett-R-Lycoming) providing for the adoption of stormwater fees by Cities of the Third Class.  Click Here for more.
The bills are necessary because the House and Senate continue to cut funding for local stormwater and watershed improvement projects.
They are sponsored by Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming) one of Pennsylvania’s members on the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission.
-- Lawn Fertilizer Regulation/Education: Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin) regulating the application of fertilizer by homeowners, golf courses and athletic fields was reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on October 25 and is now on the Senate Calendar for action (Senate Fiscal Note and summary).  The bill is sponsored by Sen. Richard Alloway, one of Pennsylvania’s representatives on the Chesapeake Bay Commission.  Click Here for more.
-- Local Clean Energy Funding: House Bill 1722 (Harper-R-Montgomery) would authorize local governments to create energy improvement districts to help fund energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation projects by commercial and industrial buildings to reduce their operating costs is pending in the House Local Government Committee (sponsor summary).  Thirty-three other states have adopted similar PACE Programs.
A companion bill is in the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee-- Senate Bill 234 (Blake-D-Lackawanna)-- was reported out of Committee on October 24, amended on the Senate Floor and is now in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Click Here for more.
-- Electronics Waste Recycling Program Reform: On October 30 the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 800 (Alloway-R- Franklin) which totally revamps the whole electronics waste recycling law and put in its place a new system that he believes will fix many of the problems.  Click Here for more.
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing on the bill on October 23.  Click Here for more.
-- Littering Penalties: On July 8 the Senate passed Senate Bill 431 (Scavello-R-Monroe) to significantly increase fines for littering. Currently, fines for littering under Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) run from $50 to $300 for a first-time offense, and $300 to $1,000 for a second and subsequent offense.  Under Senate Bill 431, fines would be increased up to $2,000 for multiple offenses, based on the size and weight of litter.  Click Here for more.
-- Game, Fish Commission Fees: Legislation passed the Senate in March giving the Game and Fish and Boat Commissions the ability to set their own fees by regulation is now stalled in the House Game and Fisheries Committee.  
Senate Bill 30 (Eichelberger-R-Blair) authorizing the Fish and Boat Commission to adopt its own fees saw no action on the bill in Committee.  Senate Bill 192 (Stefano-R-Fayette) authorizing the Game Commission to adopt its own fees was Tabled in the Committee.  Click Here for more.
-- Designating Eastern Hellbender PA’s State Amphibian: A project of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Student Leaders group, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), one of Pennsylvania’s members on the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission, introduced Senate Bill 658 in May to name the Eastern Hellbender as Pennsylvania’s state amphibian.
The bill was reported out of the Senate State Government Committee on June 14, passed the Senate November 15 and is now in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Click Here for more.
Shortly after the Senate action, House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) circulated a co-sponsor memo to colleagues announcing his intention to introduce legislation naming the Wehrle’s Salamander as the state’s official amphibian.
Rep. Reed said this salamander was discovered by R. W. Wehrle, a jeweler, businessman, and naturalist from Indiana, Pennsylvania in 1911. He was known for his submissions of animal specimens to museums and for providing outdoors experiences for area boys through his Boy’s Naturalist Club. In 1917, the salamander he discovered was named after him.
So far, Rep. Reed has not introduced the bill.
The Hellbender bill prompted Associated Press reporter Marc Levy @timelywriter to do a 24-hour poll on Twitter pitting the Hellbender against the Wehrle’s Salamander.  The Hellbender won handily with 90 percent of the vote with 144 votes counted.
Check the PA Environmental Council Bill Tracker for the status and updates on pending state legislation and regulations that affect environmental and conservation efforts in Pennsylvania.

1 comment :

  1. Awesome job. Wish I had time to read thru and click on all the links!

    ReplyDelete

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