by Nicholas A. Dulepski
The PA General Assembly is making determinations on several state environmental policies this week. H.B 1237, sponsored by Rep. Dawn Keefer- R- York, allows the General Assembly to now either vote on an “economically significant” environmental regulation or simply do nothing, which would disallow the regulation’s enforcement (Hess, 2018). A house committee approved and amended the bill, along with similar bills, such as House Bill 209, a bill cosponsored by Keefer (Hess, 2018). H.B 209 establishes The Independent Office of the Repealer, whose sole purpose is to review both old and new environmental regulations and suggest to the GA or governor’s office that they be repealed (Hess, 2018). The committee is yet to act on H.B 1959 (Rep. Rothman- R) which would roll back state agency permit- issuing authority on hazardous waste, underground mining, safe drinking water, oil and gas, sedimentation and more by instead giving the authority to a third- party. The bill hopes to cut long wait times for permits from the DEP. Reading through the bill, Rothman defines a third- party as “any individual in the Commonwealth who possesses the requisite certifications and qualifications of an occupation relating to a permit administered by a state agency.”.
It’s hard to make sense of these bills especially after Duke University, in January of this year, released a report on damages to water sediments downstream of PA oil and gas sites. The report confirmed that these sediments were 650 times more radioactive than the control sediments (Lucas, 2018). I understand that some will argue restricting environmental regulations is necessary for good business, but do these laws put our health at risk?
This bill is definitely tough for environmental advocates. It will take power away from the Department of Environmental Protection and this will cause a rift in the current way that they make policy. Not only will this bill effect the environment but it will impact the health of so many Americans. Every bill that looks to benefit the environment will have to go through legislation to sign off for anything that directly or indirectly brings in a revenue or atleast $1 million dollars. Pennsylvania clearly has environmental issues and I feel that this new bill will only restrict the state and its future in the fight to help the environment. Places that are not as fortunate such as inner cities need the environmental protection department to push bills that will allow for necessities to live such as fresh drinking water.
I think that this bill has a negative impact on the balance of powers shared between branches in our state government because its giving each section veto power over regulations, but denying the governor power to veto the legislative decisions. This bill gives the House or the Senate veto power over any new state regulation that has an economic influence of $1 million. New regulations will need to be approved by both the Senate and House during the 10 legislative days or 30 calendar days, or the bill will be disregarded. This isn’t fair because if a decision isn’t made within that time frame Pennsylvania’s environment and communities can suffer. In conclusion, this bill would make it hard for the executive branch to develop new regulations that safeguard our environment and public health in Pennsylvania.
This bill is in blatant disregard for the balance of powers in our state government as it pertains to environment regulation. This bill also offers no protection from a governor who rolls back regulations and just increases the process to make any major regulations. Many of these regulations are vitally important to the health and wellbeing of people, and many of the regulations need to be made in as expedited of a process as possible for the safety of those affected by it. I understand that using a third-party for issuing permits may quicken the process, however this would only lead to more opportunity for corruption and less regulation within the system. This bill might be useful to regulate a governor who is prone to frivolous spending of the state budget, but in a state as large as Pennsylvania, it is not hard to surpass that $1 million a year mark in it’s regulations.