Saturday, June 25, 2022

Most UNwanted List: Lookout For Bad Environmental, Energy Provisions During Final Budget Week

This is it!  The week when the state budget gets done!  There’s always lots of mischief afoot, especially late at night, behind closed doors when bad environmental and energy things get added to the Administrative Code and Fiscal Code bills that accompany the budget without warning.

Here are just some of the things to watch for--

-- Exempting Conventional Oil & Gas Wells From Well Plugging Bonding: The House just passed House Bill 2644 (Causer-R-Cameron) blocking any increase in conventional oil and gas well plugging bonds and exempting pre-1985 wells (which is most of them) from any bonding leaving taxpayers liable for $5.1 billion in cleanup costs and House Bill 2528 (Struzzi-R-Indiana)-- would mandate DEP award oil and gas well plugging contracts to Pennsylvania contractors, with no regard for cost to taxpayers. 

See through their camouflage and read the bills.

Conventional drillers have been very good at sneaking their changes in law into budget bills at the last minute.   Read more here.

-- Making Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Legal: Language from House Bill 1144 (Causer-R- Cameron) and Senate Bill 534 (Hutchinson-R- Venango).  Read more here.

-- Blocking Methane Emission Reductions From Conventional Oil & Gas Wells: The Environmental Quality Board just finalized a regulation to reduce methane emissions from UNconventional shale gas facilities and they plan to adopt a separate regulation covering conventional oil and gas facilities because it has long been  required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Conventional operators don’t think it should apply to them and have said so publicly.  Read more here.

-- Take Away Protections In Oil & Gas Well Erosion & Sedimentation Permitting: At the request of the UNconventional shale gas industry, Senate Bill 692 (Bartolotta-R-Washington) was introduced to make fundamental changes in the erosion and sedimentation permitting requirements for conventional and unconventional oil and gas activities, including well pads, pipelines, processing and treatment facilities. Watch out for language from this bill.  Read more here.

             It’s puzzling why the UNconventional gas industry wants to take more shortcuts in the permitting process when they haven’t used 40 percent of the permits they already got from DEP.  Read more here.

-- Unleashing The Natural Gas Industry: The House and Senate have legislation to “unleash” the natural gas industry, introduced at the request of the industry, which effectively means lifting environmental and public involvement requirements on natural gas facilities.  Legislation includes: 

        -- Ending the Moratorium On Fracking In Delaware River Basin: House Bill 2451 (Fritz-R-Wayne) proposes to unilaterally change the Delaware River Basin Commission compact by including a provision that would reverse the unconventional shale gas fracking moratorium adopted by the Commission in various forms starting in 2010.   Read more here.

        -- Legislation To Deregulate The Oil & Gas Industry, Coal-Fired Power Plants: Watch for language from Senate Bill 1219 (Mastriano-R-Adams, Hutchinson-R-Venango).  Read more here.

        -- End Moratorium On Leasing More State Forest Land For Drilling:  House Bill 2461 (Owlett-R-Tioga) would end Gov. Wolf’s moratorium on leasing more State Forest land for oil and gas development and directing DCNR to establish a program to lease more lands for drilling.  Read more here.

-- DEP Permit Applicants Always Right: House Bill 604 (Fritz-R-Susquehanna) adds more bureaucracy to the DEP permit review process, declares in law the applicant for an environmental permit is always right and ignores environmental justice concerns.  Read more here.

-- RGGI Killers: Both the Senate and House have legislation taking away DEP’s authority to adopt regulations to reduce carbon pollution from any source, but especially power plants.  Language from Senate Bill 119 (Pittman-R- Indiana) and House Bill 637 (Struzzi-R-Indiana) could find their way into Code bills.  Read more here.

-- Stacking The Independent Regulatory Review Commission, Veto Over Regs: The House just passed House Bill 2649 (Grove-R-York) that would amend the Regulatory Review Act to add two more legislative appointments to the IRRC giving legislative members a majority.  The bill also gives the IRRC authority to block final regulations from any state agency from going into effect. Good for blocking regulations, bad for good public policy.   Read more here.

-- Prohibit Communities From Moving To Clean, Cheaper Energy To Address Climate Change: Both the House and Senate have legislation introduced at the request of the natural gas industry that would prohibit counties, local governments and authorities from promoting clean, cheaper energy sources to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.  Watch for language or variations of language from House Bill 1947 (O’Neal-R-Washington) and Senate Bill 275 (Yaw-R- Lycoming).

-- Extra Bonding For Wind/Solar Energy Facilities: Both the Senate and House have legislation to set minimum statewide bonding and decommissioning requirements for solar and wind energy facilities to make it more restrictive was introduced at the request of the natural gas industry to slow renewable energy.  The bill also preempts local governments from adopting their own requirements.  Watch for language or variations of language from House Bill 2104 (Rapp-R-Forest) and Senate Bill 284 (Yaw-R-Lycoming).

-- Digging Out Streams To Address Flooding: The House has a package of bills that promote the idea that digging out streams to address flooding hazards is the way to deal with the issue.  Of course, it’s not.  Returning streams to their floodplains and natural stream restoration is the way to go for long-term fixes.  Look for language from any of their eight bills on the topic.  Read more here.

Of course there are many others to watch for--

-- Unconstitutional Transfer From the Oil & Gas Fund: The PA Supreme Court has now said twice it is unconstitutional to make transfers from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Fund to support programs that have nothing to do with the Fund’s purpose or to support DCNR’s own personnel and operating costs.  Yet the General Assembly and Governor continue to do it.  Read more here.

-- Redefining Water Pollution: House Bill 1842 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster) and Senate Bill 545 (Yaw-R-Lycoming)  which would redefine water pollution to allow polluters to determine when spills are serious enough to notify DEP. Read more here.

-- Mandating Third-Party DEP Permit Reviews: Watch for language from Senate Bill 535 (Yaw-R-Lycoming)

-- Prohibiting The State From Owning Clean Energy Credits: Senate Bill 945 (Yaw-R- Lycoming) directs state government to sell all its Renewable Energy Credits and deposit the proceeds in the Marcellus Legacy Fund for use to plug oil and gas wells abandoned by the industry and left to taxpayers to pay to clean up.  Read more here.

None of this could happen, but it pays to be on the lookout for everything on the Most UNwanted List!

Let’s Pass Some Good Legislation

There are also lots of good, bipartisan environmental and energy bills the Senate and House could secretly add to Code bills.

Click Here for many examples.

Take Action Now!

-- Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers, Hunters, Anglers, Farm, Environmental, Recreation Groups All Working Together, Down To The Wire, To Bring Home A Win On Growing Greener III Funding [PaEN]

[Posted: June 25, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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