Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bill To Require DEP To Replace Delaware, Susquehanna River Basin Commissions Referred To House State Government Committee, Bypassing Environmental Committee

On Tuesday, House Bill 2222 (Moul-R-Adams), requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to replace the interstate Delaware and Susquehanna River Basin Commissions in regulating groundwater, was referred to the House State Government Committee, bypassing the Environmental Committee.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), Chair of the House State Government Committee, held a series of hearings over the last year related to what he sees as “regulatory overreach” by DRBC and SRBC.
In fact, Rep. Metcalfe went so far as to say the members of the General Assembly who originally adopted the Susquehanna River Basin Compact were either incompetent, negligent or corrupt.
The Committee hearings led to the introduction of this legislation and House Republicans passing a series of other “regulatory reform” bills.
The House State Government Committee has another hearing scheduled for June 11, this time on issues related to the Delaware River Basin Commission.
House Bill 2222 would not only give DEP the authority to regulate groundwater withdrawals statewide for the first time, it would also require DEP to submit any new or amended regulations to regulate groundwater to the House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committees for their approval before the regulations could be promulgated.
This review and approval procedure is substantially different from the detailed review procedures already established under the Regulatory Review Act which requires no legislative approval before regulations are allowed to proceed.
In a co-sponsor memo circulated to House colleagues in February, Rep. Moul said, “Currently, there are several entities that issue this type of [groundwater] regulation including the DEP and the Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions.
“This joint authority often requires water users to engage in duplicative efforts in attempting to comply with overlapping regulations, leading to great expense to the water users in our communities.”
[Note: DEP has no statutory authority to regulate the withdrawal of groundwater.  It only has authority to regulate the withdrawal of water by supply water companies from surface water sources.  
[DEP can only collect information on how much water is being withdrawn from surface and ground water sources under the Water Resources Planning Act of 2002.
[In fact, the 2002 Act specifically says, “Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to authorize a delegation to the Statewide committee or the department of any power to regulate, control or require permits for the withdrawal or use of water.”
[In addition, no state or federal statutory authority exists to regulate the withdrawal of ground or surface water from sources in the Ohio River Watershed in the entire Western part of the state.
[Both the Susquehanna and Delaware River Compacts has explicit authority to regulate ground and surface water withdrawals in their respective areas.]
Rep. Moul’s memo went on to say, “My legislation would make DEP the exclusive authority to regulate groundwater within the Commonwealth and to impose fees, fines or penalties on the use, withdrawal, or retention of groundwater.”
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: dmetcalf@pahousegop.com.   Rep. Matthew Bradford (D-Montgomery) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-772-2572 or sending email to: mbradford@pahouse.net.
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