PEC Presents Objections to Senate Bill 655 (P.N. 1137)

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On behalf of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, we are asking members of the Pennsylvania Senate to remove rulemaking prohibition language in Senate Bill 655 (P.N. 1137) relating to conventional oil and gas operations. This prohibition does not belong in the state fiscal code, is against the public interest, and potentially violates the single subject rule of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

With Act 13 of 2012, the General Assembly passed, and Governor Corbett signed, environmental protection standards applicable to both conventional and unconventional oil and gas operations. Since that time, the General Assembly, through last second inclusion in state budget legislation, has made efforts to walk back protections applicable to conventional operations despite clear and growing evidence that such operations pose ongoing risks and liabilities to the public and environment.

If the General Assembly wants to revisit standards relating to conventional operations, it should do so openly in dedicated legislation where its members and the public are given fair and full opportunity to participate and comment on the merits of the proposal. Using fiscal code legislation as a vehicle violates the public trust. It may also violate the state’s Constitution.

Last week the Pennsylvania courts issued a determination in the consolidated Sears challenge that questioned the ongoing legality of using state budget legislation to advance non-fiscal ends. We believe that inclusion of an environmental rulemaking prohibition in Senate Bill 655 is precisely the type of action the Court is contemplating when it references logrolling concerns underlying Article III of the Constitution.

We ask that you give the people of Pennsylvania full and fair opportunity to participate in the legislative process, and to remove the rulemaking prohibition in Senate Bill 655. We will also call on Governor Wolf to veto this legislation if it passes in current form. Thank you for your consideration.