Did some big environmental setbacks just get horse-traded for Republican budget votes?
A Fiscal Code amendment that randomly showed up over the summer, which would effectively derail the Department of Environmental Protection’s ongoing process for writing new traditional oil and gas regulations, has now returned in both the House and Senate versions of the budget, reports Dave Hess.
Other changes would give the state legislature more time to delay the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and cut $15 million from the Growing Greener program.
The Senate amended a series of bills in the agreed-to budget package Wednesday night, one of which would kill the conventional drilling regulations and force DEP to start the process over, reduce Growing Greener watershed restoration and related funding by $15 million next fiscal year and expands the time the General Assembly has to review any plan DEP develops to meet EPA’s Clean Power Climate Rule under Act 75 of 2014.
The budget package moving in the Senate has been agreed to by Senate Republicans and Democrats, House Democrats and Gov. Wolf. The House Republicans are still holding out for their own budget.
This of course has nothing to do with the budget at all, but dirty energy lobbyists see an opportunity to sneak something through while voters are distracted by the big picture fight over the budget.
John Walliser of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council points out in PEC’s letter opposing the bill that this rulemaking process, far from a liberal plot by Tom Wolf, was initiated by Tom Corbett in response to a law passed by the Republican legislature in 2012.
“This proposed rulemaking was developed in response to legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2012 and signed into law by Governor Corbett; rulemaking that has been subject to 12 public hearings, 2 separate public comment periods, and more than a dozen public meetings with the oil & gas technical advisory board.
This legislative amendment has not been afforded proper public consideration. Instead, it has been buried in omnibus legislation that, due to long-overdue resolution of the Commonwealth’s budget, will be virtually impossible to untangle or be vetted on its own merits. There are serious questions as to whether inclusion of this provision in the Fiscal Code violates the single subject rule of the Pennsylvania Constitution; not to mention the Environmental Rights Amendment of Article I, Section 27.”
Given all the oil and gas industry campaign money pouring into the Capitol, opponents of this amendment have their work cut out for them, but it’s nevertheless important to call your House lawmakers about it.