Tuesday, May 4, 2021

House Environmental Committee Republicans Oppose Fees Funding Water Quality Protection Programs; Write RGGI On Authority For Regs To Reduce Carbon Pollution From Power Plants

On May 4, the Republican members of the
House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved two letters expressing their opinions on water quality permit fees and statutory authority for adopting regulations to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

Funding Water Quality Programs  

One letter went to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission opposing fee increases to fund DEP’s water quality protection program made necessary due to persistent cuts in General Fund support for this program.

DEP began the process to update Chapter 91 and 92a wastewater and NPDES water quality permit and administration fees in 2016.

Chapter 91 wastewater facility fees have not been increased since 1971 and NPDES permit fees were last increased in 2010.

The Water Quality permit fee increases (Chapter 91) would cover from 500 to 600 applicants annually and the NPDES permit fee increases (Chapter 92a) would cover approximately 4,000 facilities.

The final fee package for most categories of permits has fees that continue to be significantly less than those of most neighboring states.

Since 2007, DEP’s Clean Water Program staff has been reduced by 25 percent due to cuts in state General Fund appropriations.

DEP believes 25 additional staff are necessary in the Bureau of Clean Water to adequately carry out its responsibilities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has told DEP several times since 2010 the agency does not have adequate resources to carry out its federally mandated responsibilities for the NPDES Program, including the MS4 Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program.

DEP’s changes would increase permit fees to make up for cuts in General Fund appropriations a total of $6.5 million-- Chapter 92a NPDES-- $4.5 million-- and Chapter 91 Water Quality-- $2 million-- permit fees.

Documents related to this draft final regulation are posted on the EQB webpage.

Click Here for a copy of the letter.

The Independent Regulatory Review Commission is scheduled to meet on this regulation May 20.  Read more here.

RGGI Letter

A second letter was sent to the organization administering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative reducing carbon pollution from power plants expressing the view of those members Gov. Wolf does not have the statutory authority to adopt regulations joining that initiative.

“Both the General Assembly and industry groups within our state have made it clear during this process that the General Assembly's authority will not be relinquished and must be protected, even if it is necessary to involve the courts to do so. 

“Any communications you have had with agents from the Governor's office or our state Department of Environmental Protection asserting that Pennsylvania will shortly be joining RGGI based upon the authority of a regulation are illegitimate and should not be relied upon.

“At this point, you have likely already spent a great deal of time and resources planning for Pennsylvania's entry into RGGI. lt is unfortunate that our Governor has put you in this position by proceeding so far down this path without obtaining legislative approval for his actions.”

“We would urge you to make it clear to the DEP and the Governor's office that you will not be wasting any more energy on this project until it is made clear that Pennsylvania will actually be joining by an act of our legislature.

“We, the undersigned members of the Pennsylvania House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee respectfully request that you do not move forward with completing Pennsylvania's proposed entry into RGGI, unless and until Governor Wolf obtains proper authority, by legislative action of the General Assembly.”

Click Here for a copy of the letter.

This is not the first letter of this type sent by Republicans on this Committee.

In January of 2020, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) sent a letter to the RGGI executive committee saying Pennsylvania has a “rogue Governor” who lacks the authority to make Pennsylvania part of the RGGI initiative without legislative approval.  Read more here.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: dmetcalf@pahousegop.com. Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to: gvitali@pahouse.net

Related Article:

-- Republicans On House Committee OK Bill To Roll Back Environmental Protections From Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling, Legalize Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater

[Posted: May 4, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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