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House Republicans Find A New Way To Stop Environmental Regulations

On April 17, Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming) introduced House Bill 2416 which would stop any proposed or final environmental or other state agency regulation from being finalized until at least 90 days after the March 6 COVID-19 emergency declaration by the Governor is terminated.

No proposed regulation may be submitted in final form to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission or the House and Senate committees.

No final or final-omitted regulation may be promulgated as a regulation by DEP or any agency.

The bill allows state agencies to petition the appropriate standing committees of the Senate and House-- solely controlled by Republicans-- for a waiver from the prohibition against publishing regulations.

There is no requirement in the bill for the committees to take any action on the request.

This procedure raises significant constitutional issues because it requires nothing be passed by the full Senate and House and presentment to the Governor.

On April 14, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, sent a letter to DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell demanding DEP stand down on environmental regulations during the COVID-19 shutdown.

This bill is consistent with the demand by Rep. Metcalfe.  Read more here.

Affected DEP Regulations

This bill would have an immediate impact on important DEP regulations, including--

-- Final regulation increasing permit fees on unconventional oil and gas well permits that is needed to fund DEP’s Oil and Gas Well Management Program

-- Final regulation reducing the sulfur content of heating oil from 500 ppm to 15 ppm

-- Final regulation updating hazardous waste regulations to conform to federal requirements

-- Proposed regulation setting air emission standards for Oil & Gas Operations

-- Proposed regulation setting cleanup standards for PFOA/PFOS contamination

-- Proposed regulation increasing Air Quality Permit fees needed to fund the program

-- Proposed regulation increase Water Quality/NPDES Permit fees needed to fund the program

-- Proposed regulation redesignating the Water Quality protection for over 40 streams

-- Proposed regulation setting a water quality standard for manganese

For a more comprehensive list, visit DEP’s eComment webpage.  Click Here for DEP Regulatory Update report showing the status of regulations.

The bill was referred to the House State Government Committee.  Rep. Everett serves as Majority Chair of the Committee.

Other Republican Bills To Kill Regulations

House and Senate Republicans have introduced and moved a variety of bills to kill DEP environmental and other regulations, eliminating DEP from permit decisions and more--

-- Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing: House Bill 806 (Keefer-R-York) would authorize the General Assembly to kill an economically significant final regulation by doing nothing.  It would require all final regulations with an estimated economic impact of $1 million or more to be submitted to the General Assembly for a vote by concurrent resolution.  If the House and/or Senate fail to take action to approve the final regulation, the regulation is deemed not approved and the regulation shall not take effect. Now in the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee.  Read more here.

-- Repeal Any Regulation At Any Time: House Bill 430 (Benninghoff-R-Mifflin) authorizes the General Assembly to repeal any regulation at any time by concurrent resolution, with review by the Governor.  Now in the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee.  Read more here.

-- Office Of The Repealer/ Vote To Approve Regulations: House Bill 1055 (Klunk-R-York) establish the Office of the Repealer unaccountable to anyone, General Assembly must vote to approve economically significant regulations, repeal 2 regulations for every new one adopted, reauthorize repeal of any regulation by resolution. (House Fiscal Note and summary.)  Now in the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee. Read more here.

-- Legislative Approval Of Economically Significant Regulations: Senate Bill 5 (DiSanto-R-Cumberland) requiring the Senate and House to approve any economically significant regulations having an impact of $1 million or more.  Now in the Senate Intergovernmental Operations CommitteeRead more here.

-- Fundamentally Crippling The Definition of Water Pollution: Senate Bill 619 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) making fundamental changes to the definition of water pollution under the state Clean Streams Law effectively making most spills and discharges to rivers and streams no longer pollution.  Now in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. Read more here.

-- Prohibiting Agencies From Telling Public Why A Regulation Being Proposed: Senate Bill 398 (Gordner-R- Columbia) which would amend the Regulatory Review Act to prohibit agencies from publishing a statement letting the public know why they are proposing new or amended regulations when they are asking the public for comments.  Now in House State Government Committee. Read more here.

-- Additional Review Of Any Documents By Committee: House Bill 1874 (Grove-R-York) authorize any regulated entity at any time to request a review by the little-known, and even less frequently used Joint Committee On Documents to determine if any “published or unpublished document”-- including permits, produced or issued by DEP or other agencies-- needs to be promulgated as a regulation. Now on the House Calendar for action.  A related bill-- Senate Bill 703 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) now on the House Calendar could also be used as a vehicle for the same provisions.  Read more here.

-- Eliminating DEP Decisions On Permits: House Bill 1107 (O'Neal-R-Washington)- creates 5 member politically appointed commission named by the Senate, House and Governor to “administer the permitting and plan approval process es vested in DEP by law,” including promulgating regulations establishing permitting requirements and environmental standards and taking action on individual permit applications.  Now in House Appropriations Committee.  Read more here.

-- Waiving Penalties/Providing Defenses To Violators: House Bill 762 (O’Neal-R- Washington) requires all state agencies to establish a new bureaucracy in the form of a Regulatory Compliance Officer with no oversight of any kind giving him the ability to issue an opinion on what any person’s obligations are under the laws administered by that state agency (within 20 business days) which can be used as a “complete defense” against any enforcement proceeding.  The Officer can also review any fine or penalty issued by the agency before it is imposed and set guidelines for waiving that penalty if the person being penalized “has taken or will take [steps] to remedy the violation.” DEP, on average, issues 31,000 permits and approvals a year-- surely 1 Compliance Officer can handle all those questions without delays.  Now in the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee.  Read more here.

-- Require Third Party Permit Reviews: House Bill 509 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) requires all state agencies to establish a new bureaucracy in the form of third party permit review programs that delegate decision-making authority to persons other than the public agency with the legal authority to make those decisions with no conflict of interest or other protections for the public or applicants.  Now in the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee.  Read more here.

Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the House State Government Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-5270 or sending email to:   Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Montgomery) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-783-4944 or sending email to:

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[Posted: April 18, 2020]


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