Saturday, October 26, 2019

Briefing: Trick Or Treat? Environmental Policies Promoted By Today’s Republicans

Here’s a quick summary of the environmental bills moved recently by today’s Republicans.  Just looking at the short descriptions of each bill gives you a good picture of the environmental policies promoted by today’s Republicans*--
-- Legalizing Road Dumping Of Conventional Drilling Wastewater: Senate Bill 790 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) would set new  environmental protection standards for conventional (not Shale gas) oil and gas well drilling and legalizes the road dumping of drilling wastewater from conventional wells was passed by the Senate and is now in the House.  Click Here for more.
-- Limiting Grounds For Citizen Appeals Of DEP Permits: Senate Bill 726 (Bartolotta-R- Washington) would create a new standard for the review for appeals of DEP permit actions before the Environmental Hearing Board by limiting parties appealing permit decisions-- a company or a citizens group-- to issues raised in and information contained in a record of decision on each permit DEP staff would have to prepare was reported out of Committee and is now on the Senate Calendar for action.  Click Here for more.
-- Killing Regulations By Doing Nothing: House Bill 806 (Keefer-R-York) would authorize the General Assembly to kill an economically significant final regulation by doing nothing.  It would require all final regulations with an estimated economic impact of $1 million or more to be submitted to the General Assembly for a vote by concurrent resolution.  If the House and/or Senate fail to take action to approve the final regulation, the regulation is deemed not approved and the regulation shall not take effect. The bill passed the House and is now in the Senate.  Click Here for more.
-- Require Repeal Of 2 Regulations For Every New Regulation Added: House Bill 1055 (Klunk-R- York) would enact an arbitrary requirement for state agencies to repeal 2 regulations for every new regulation a state agency wants to adopt.  It would also create the new, reductant, Independent Office of the Repealer. Passed the House, now in the Senate. Click Here for more.
-- Limiting Public’s Right To Know Why A Regulation Is Being Adopted:  Senate Bill 398 (Gordner-R-Columbia) amends the Regulatory Review Act to prohibit agencies from publishing a statement letting the public know why they are proposing new or amended regulations when they are asking the public for comments was passed by the Senate, and it is now in the House. Click Here for more.
-- Changing The Clean Streams Law To Make Most Spills, Discharges No Longer Pollution, Letting Companies Decide:  Senate Bill 619 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) makes fundamental changes to the definition of water pollution under the state Clean Streams Law effectively making most spills and discharges to rivers and streams no longer pollution.  It also lets an individual or company who causes pollution to surface or groundwater, rather than DEP, determine if any spill should even be reported to DEP and whether it is pollution in the first place. The bill passed the Senate and it is now in the House. Click Here for more.
-- Waiving Penalties/Providing Defenses To Violators: House Bill 762 (O’Neal-R- Washington) requires all state agencies to establish a new bureaucracy in the form of a Regulatory Compliance Officer with no oversight of any kind giving him the ability to issue an opinion on what any person’s obligations are under the laws administered by that state agency (within 20 business days) which can be used as a “complete defense” against any enforcement proceeding.  The Officer can also review any fine or penalty issued by the agency before it is imposed and set guidelines for waiving that penalty if the person being penalized “has taken or will take [steps] to remedy the violation.” DEP, on average, issues 31,000 permits and approvals a year-- surely 1 Compliance Officer can handle all those questions without delays. The bill passed the House and is now in the Senate.  Click Here for more.
-- Creating A 5 Member Environmental Permitting Commission Eliminating DEP Permit Reviews: House Bill 1107 (O'Neal-R-Washington) creates 5 member politically appointed commission named by the Senate, House and Governor to “administer the permitting and plan approval process es vested in DEP by law,” eliminating all DEP staff currently reviewing permits, and giving the commission the authority to promulgate regulations establishing permitting requirements and environmental standards and also taking action on all 31,000 individual permit applications DEP receives a year was reported out of Committee and now in House Appropriations (Part of House Republican EnergizePA natural gas subsidy package). Click Here for more background.
-- Require Review Of Any DEP Permit In 30 Days Without Public Comment: House Bill 1106 (Puskaric-R-Allegheny) requires DEP approval of any permit regulating air quality, waste, erosion and sedimentation and dam safety and encroachments within 30 days without regard to public review of permits, creates a new bureaucracy in the form of a “referee” to decide disputes between DEP and applicants over application completeness was reported out Committee and is now on the House Calendar for action (Part of House Republican EnergizePA natural gas subsidy package).  Click Here for more background.
-- More Complex, Costly, Less Efficient 3rd Party DEP Permitting: Senate Bill 891 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) authorizing third party review of Chapter 102 (erosion and sedimentation) and Chapter 105 (dam safety and encroachment) permit applications which will make DEP’s permit reviews more complex and costly was reported out of Committee and is now on the Senate Calendar for action.  Click Here for more.
-- Require 3rd Party Permit Reviews: House Bill 509 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) requires all state agencies to establish a new bureaucracy in the form of third party permit review programs that delegate decision-making authority to persons other than the public agency with the legal authority to make those decisions with no conflict of interest or other protections for the public, taxpayers or permit applicants.  Was passed by the House, and is now in the Senate. Click Here for more.
-- Unlimited Tax Give Away To Natural Gas Using Industries: House Bill 1100 (Kaufer-R- Luzerne) would establish a tax credit to industries using Pennsylvania recovered methane in manufacturing-- borrowed from the tax credit that attracted Shell’s ethane plant in Beaver County (Part of House Republican EnergizePA natural gas subsidy package) was passed by the House and is now in the Senate.
-- Limiting Availability Of Information On Impacts Of Underground Coal Mining: Senate Bill 763 (Bartolotta-R-Washington) amends Act 54 to make reports on the environmental and property damage caused by deep coal mining operations optional was reported out of Committee and re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Click Here for more.
-- Keystone Tree Fund: Both House Bill 374 (Everett-R- Lycoming) and Senate Bill 108 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) creating a $3 checkoff on drivers and vehicle licenses to support DCNR’s TreeVitalize and riparian buffer planting programs are in the Senate awaiting action.   House Bill 374 is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee October 28.
-- Use Local Funds To Pay PFAS Cleanup Costs: House Bill 1410 (Stephens-R-Montgomery) would use local funds which would otherwise pay state taxes for cleaning up PFAS contamination, rather than relying on responsible parties to pay for cleanups  (House Fiscal Note & Summary) was reported out of Committee and is now on the Senate Calendar for action.
More Good, Bipartisan Bills
There are more good and even bipartisan environment and energy bills available to move in the Senate and House.  Click Here to find a more extensive list.
Why not move some of them?
And given all the “tricks” on this list, you decide if today’s Republicans are out of touch with what real Pennsylvanians think should be the right policies for protecting their streams and rivers and the Commonwealth’s environment.  
Perhaps you-- the reader-- have your own additions to the Tricks or Treats list?  Send them to: Editor David Hess at
(Written by David Hess, former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.)
[*Note: “Today’s Republicans” refers to Republicans in office, or elected after January 2003, and still in office.  When in doubt, the “not today’s Republicans” voted against Senate Bill 619 on the final roll call vote in the Senate.  In the House, the “not today’s Republicans” voted against House Bill 806 on final roll call.  The “not today’s Republicans” is a short list.]
Republicans Moving Troublesome Bills Last Week:
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[Posted: October 27, 2019]

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