Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Senate Republicans Pass Bills To Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing, Require Private Review Of Permits, Not Tell Public Why Regulations Changes Being Proposed

On May 25 and 26, Republicans in the Senate passed legislation to kill regulations by doing nothing, require private review of permit applications, not tell the public why regulations are being proposed and more.

The bills now go to the House for action.  House Republicans have passed similar legislation which is now in the Senate.

The bills include--

-- Killing Regulations By Doing Nothing-Again: Senate Bill 520 (DiSanto-R-Dauphin) contains the single provision authorizing the General Assembly to kill economically significant regulations by doing nothing.  Read more here on the same bill from last session.

-- IRRC-Super Agency to Kill Regulations: Senate Bill 126 (Brooks-R-Crawford) would require the automatic review of all “economically significant regulations” with an $1 million or impact adopted after the legislation is enacted and after the regulation has been in place for three years.

The promulgating agency is required to prepare a review of the regulation it then forwards to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.  The IRRC will then determine if the regulation is in the public interest after a 30 day public comment period.

So, the five members of the IRRC become a super veto agency for any regulation-- which have the force of law-- from any other state agency they have jurisdiction over without any further review by the General Assembly and the Governor as currently happens.

The only recourse would be to appeal the IRRC’s decision to Commonwealth Court.

The General Assembly itself gave up on these so-called sunset reviews of state agencies and programs a long time ago because they essentially became a costly, time-consuming exercise with little benefit.

Now, they want to revive this process for regulations.

Republican legislators in the past have also wanted to reserve the power to kill regulations to themselves as the elected officials-- which they do in a way in Senate Bill 520--but now in this bill they seem comfortable giving it to “unelected officials.”

Hope the “consistency” makes sense to you.

-- Don’t Tell The Public Why A Regulation Is Being Proposed: Senate Bill 426 (Gordner-R- Columbia) would make an already lengthy and convoluted process for the review of regulations by the General Assembly longer and more convoluted.

But the real kicker in this bill is that it prohibits agencies from publishing statements with regulations explaining the purpose of the regulation, why the regulation changes are being made and what those changes are.

These statements are particularly useful for the public to help them understand why environmental regulations are being proposed.  Read more here about last session’s bill on the same topic.

The reason Sen. Gordner wants to get rid of these statements?  “There have been instances when courts have interpreted SOPs in a way that is either inconsistent with the regulations themselves or inconsistent with the intent of the General Assembly.  This legislation seeks to correct those instances.”  Read more here.

Gov. Wolf vetoed similar legislation in 2016-- Senate Bill 562. Read more here.

-- Mandate Private Contractor Review of DEP Permits: Senate Bill 28 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) requires all state agencies to establish a program to review permit applications by private contractors for applications that have been “delayed,” eliminating agency review of permit applications on behalf of the public and adding more state bureaucracy and cost on taxpayers.

The bill has many fatal flaws, including no conflict of interest provisions that would prohibit a third party permit reviewer from reviewing their own permit applications.

It sets a standard 30 day window for agency review of permit applications which eliminates the ability of the public to comment on permit applications required by other state and federal laws.

The bill also lacks any deadline for a review and decision by the third party permit reviewer on applications, which is allegedly the reason for the legislation in the first place.

If legislators are worried about delayed permit reviews, at a May 2019 hearing by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, the Cumberland County Conservation District testified it took an AVERAGE of 33 business days (more than 6 calendar weeks) for a consultant to get back to the District with corrections.  Read more here.

Also remember, DEP is processing 94 percent of its permit applications within the Permit Review Guarantee Program deadlines, even in a pandemic.  Read more here.

Related Articles:

-- House OKs 4 Bills On Killing Regulations By Doing Nothing; Shielding Law Violators; Mandating Private Review Of DEP Permit Applications

-- House Republicans Pass Bill Creating Office Of The Repealer Of Regulations

[Posted: May 26, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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