PEC Letter to Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee

PEC submitted the following comments to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which will have a voting meeting tomorrow (January 30, 2018) for several bills.

January 29, 2018

To:  Members of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee
Re:  Senate Resolution 104 and Senate Resolution 226

Dear Senators:

Tomorrow the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will be meeting to consider, among other bills, Senate Resolution 104 and Senate Resolution 226. The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) respectfully submits the following comments on these two resolutions.

Senate Resolution 104 (P.N. 796)

SR 104 urges the Governor to end an existing moratorium on non-surface disturbance horizontal drilling on state forest land. This moratorium was put into place after the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) leased more than 312,893

acres for natural gas development and storage. After legal challenge, the state courts have expressly stated that determination with respect to the propriety and manner of leasing state forest land rests with the Secretary of DCNR, and that both that decision as well as any proceeds resulting from leasing are subject to the responsibilities and rights articulated in Article I, Section 27 of the state constitution (the Environmental Rights Amendment).

While SR 104 does not seek to directly compel new leasing, and only considers less-invasive subsurface activities, its stated purpose is to generate new revenue to address the state budget deficit. This purpose runs counter to the Environmental Rights Amendment and its interpretation by the state Supreme Court. Of all the options available to the General Assembly to reduce costs or generate new revenue to address the state deficit, we do not believe pursuing means that have been found to violate our state constitution is appropriate. For this reason, PEC opposes this legislation and urges you to oppose SR 104.

Senate Resolution 226 (P.N. 1275)

SR 226 seeks an independent performance analysis of environmental permitting programs. PEC supported this legislation when it was introduced, and we believe it is a balanced and thoughtful approach to concerns expressed by the regulated community with respect to administrative performance at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

At the end of last week, Governor Wolf announced an initiative to reform and improve DEP permitting. This initiative may very well address many of the concerns raised, and we feel that effort deserves support and opportunity for implementation. Nonetheless, we remain supportive of the independent and comprehensive analysis envisioned in SR 226.

Thank you for your consideration.

John Walliser
Senior Vice President, Legal and Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
2124 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 481-9400