Saturday, January 30, 2021

House Republicans Introduce Bills To Raid Dedicated Environmental Funds, Cripple Solar Energy, Shield Violators From Enforcement

Three bills were introduced last week to expand the House Republican 2021 environmental and energy agenda--

Raid On Dedicated Funds

House Bill 255 (Grove-R-York) would transfer 46 dedicated funds-- including 13 dedicated environmental and conservation funds-- into the General Fund as restricted accounts so they can be drawn upon to pay the state’s bills when the General Fund balance is low so the State Treasurer does not have to borrow money.

The dedicate environmental funds include the-- Conservation District Fund, Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund, Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund, Environmental Education Fund, Recycling Fund, Unconventional Gas Well Fund (supports Oil and Gas Drilling regulation), Marcellus Legacy Fund (distributes Act 13 drilling impact fee revenue to communities state agencies for conservation purposes), Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Fund and others.  Read more here.

In his co-sponsor memo to colleagues, Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) explained the bill this way, “When the General Fund hits a zero balance we cannot pay our bills.  Traditionally the Treasurer will issue utilize a debt instrument to inject liquidity into the General Fund.  This increases costs to taxpayers as the debt interest is a new and increasing cost.

“This legislation would correct the poor financial practices of the past by placing several special funds back into the general fund along with their funding streams to lower the costs for taxpayers and improve our financial position.”

Conservation, hunting, fishing, environmental, conservation districts and many others opposed similar attempts to freeze or transfer dedicated environmental funds into the black hole of the General Fund because these funds are used to support community-based environmental restoration, recreation and land protection efforts as well as fund critical state environmental programs.  Read more here.

Shield Violators

House Bill 288 (O’Neal-R-Washington) would create a Regulatory Compliance Officer in each state agency to, among other duties, develop guidelines to waive penalties if a business or other entity if they just attempted to comply with a regulation.

The Officers could also offer advisory opinions that would offer violators a complete defense from enforcement

Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate-- Senate Bill 29 (Phillips-Hill-R-York)-- on January 20..  Read more here.

Cripple Solar Energy

House Bill 266 (James-R-Venango) would require the recycling of solar panels under the state’s Electronic Waste Recycling Program-- the Covered Device Recycling Act-- which on the surface sounds responsible until you realize the state’s e-waste recycling program is badly broken and it would put a tremendous burden on solar panel makers.

In April of 2019, the House Environmental Committee held a hearing on recycling, and electronic waste recycling in particular, and heard testimony about how the e-waste program is broken, both for the communities it serves and the electronics product manufacturers that support it.  Read more here.

The program continues to be broken and needs major changes for it to function.  The Senate and House have failed to take action to fix the program.

At a September 16 House Environmental Committee information meeting on the last session’s version of this bill, the PA Recycling Markets Center, the PA Resources Council, the Solar Energy Industries Association and DEP said the Covered Device Recycling Act is not an appropriate program for recycling solar panels.

Click Here for a copy of the Solar Energy Industries Association comments.   Click Here for a PA Recycling Markets Center comments.

The issue of recycling solar panels has been brought up frequently by Rep. Dush, the previous sponsor of the bill who was elected to the state Senate last November, and other conservatives in hearings on climate change and renewable energy.

They contend the state should not “rush” into promoting renewable energy until there is a viable way to recycle the panels.

This is nothing more than a thinly disguised attemptsto make solar energy more costly and unattainable for Pennsylvanians and favor fossil fuels.

House Republican 2021 Environmental & Energy Agenda (So Far):

-- Republicans On House Committee OK Letter Urging IRRC To Disapprove Reg. Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants

-- House Republicans Reintroduce Bill To Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing

-- House Republicans Want To Mandate Private Contractor Permit Application Reviews, Eliminating DEP’s Review On Behalf Of The Public

[Posted: January 30, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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