Where PEC Stands on the Budget
As with every year, PEC continues to monitor the different moving pieces of adopting a state budget. This process includes multiple pieces of legislation, historically connecting everything from what financial resources are provided to agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) to perform their missions to the citizens of the Commonwealth, to issues wholly unrelated to state fiscal operations – for example, how DEP regulates a particular industry, or how DCNR manages its state park and forest system.
PEC has long held that the state budget process should: (1) ensure that both DEP and DCNR, as well as the Fish & Boat and Game Commissions, have sufficient support to conduct their responsibilities; and (2) not include that riders seek to substantively rewrite environmental protection or conservation laws. Unfortunately, decision makers in Harrisburg have consistently failed both of these principles over the past several years.
Included below is an ongoing list of actions and informational pieces on state budget issues in which PEC is engaged.
This letter was sent to all members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 21st.
Last night the House amended House Bill 1401 to include a number of provisions that unreasonably roll back environmental protections in exchange for a severance tax.
We respectfully request that you oppose House Bill 1401. There are a number of important reasons for this, not the least of which is that the bill would eviscerate important environmental protections without allowing for an airing of the underlying issues. In other words, by including these provisions, the General Assembly fails its responsibility to act with deliberate consideration of important policy issues facing the Commonwealth. Furthermore, this legislation now contains language that potentially violates one or more provisions of our state constitution by subverting environmental protection for increased revenue.
House Bill 1401 is now a vehicle that curtails key community and environmental protections, undermines the responsibilities of the Department of Environmental Protection, and flies on the face of the state’s responsibilities under Article 1, Section 27 of the Constitution. It does this through amendments:
- Providing for the automatic approval of permits, regardless of whether those permits were complete or properly evaluated. [Amendment A04214]
- Restricting the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from increasing its permitting fees, which are used to cover agencies operating expenses, until 2021. [Amendment A04208] and
- Allowing gas operators to move the surface location of a well, and alter the subsurface path of a well bore, without further analysis provided to DEP of whether those changes increase the risk of pollution incidents. [Amendment A04203]
It is likely more adverse amendments will be offered today during debate.
We are more than happy to address and consider any of these issues under the full light of an appropriate, deliberative process, and encourage you to do the same.
While we understand the need to find monies to address budget shortfalls and recognize that a severance tax on the natural gas industry has become a politically demanding issue for the legislature, House Bill 1401 has now become much more than a revenue bill.
Thank you for your consideration.
President, Pennsylvania Environmental Council
November 21, 2017 – PEC Opposes House Bill 1401
September 18, 2017 – PEC Urges Senators to Reject House Revenue Bills
September 11, 2017 – PEC Opposes Legislative Raid on Special Funds
July 27, 2017 – PEC Opposes Riders to State Budget Legislation
July 12, 2017 – PEC Letter on Administrative Code Legislation
A disaster in the making
by David Hess and Davitt Woodwell
Centre Daily Times, August 11, 2017
The chaotic state budget process is again moving in fits and starts in Harrisburg. And, again, the public is left to wonder how our environment will bear the brunt of political trade-offs on what should be purely fiscal decisions.
Two years ago, the state leveraged the budget to slow efforts to address climate change. Last year, budget negotiations were used to eliminate new regulations on the conventional oil and gas industry. This year, it appears members of the General Assembly and the governor are willing, in exchange for new revenues in the form of a severance tax, to sell out the integrity of environmental permitting in our state…
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Our Message to Members
Late last week the Senate quickly amended budget legislation to include a number of provisions that dramatically weaken environmental protections. These provisions include taking permitting review away from the Department of Environmental Protection, and establishing a new legislatively-appointed committee that can reject certain proposals to protect air quality.
This amended legislation was hastily passed by the Senate, and is now before the state House of Representatives for consideration.
We urge you to contact your Representative this week and let them know that you oppose these harmful provisions. Specifically:
- That you oppose taking permitting decisions away from the Department of Environmental Protection and handing them to private interests.
- That you oppose creating a politically-appointed committee that has the ability to reject air quality protections proposed for the natural gas industry.
- That you oppose forcing the Department of Environmental Protection to approve potentially deficient permit applications solely because they have not made a final decision within a prescribed number of days.