Action Alert: Keep the DEP Independent
PRC joins with our colleauges at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) in opposing provisions contained in the Senate amendments to House Bill 542 which would undercut the permitting review authority of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and severely compromise environmental protections in our state.
PRC concurs with PEC’s assessment of the amendments as stated in its letter dated July 27, 2017. As stated by PEC these amendments include:
- Establishing a new, legislatively-appointed review board that has sole authority to disallow air permitting controls for the unconventional gas industry. This provision provides special treatment for one particular industry with respect to environmental law and regulation.
- Mandate third party review and approval of environmental permits. In more direct terms, effectively ceding a primary component of the state’s responsibility to protect public health and the environment to public interests. There are no provisions made as to assuring the qualifications of these private interests, ensuring the right for public comment, or protecting against self dealing.
Taken together, these provisions woudl undermine the authority of DEP professional staff to objectively and independently review and act on permit applications without any conflicts of interest, which is critical of the Commonwealth’s responsibility to protect natural resources guaranteed in the Pennsylvania Constitution. The complete overhaul of DEP’s permitting program as mandated by these amendments and in this manner is ill advised and should not move forward without thorough review, thoughtful analysis, and robust community and industry encouragement.
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