House Bills 542, 453, 118 violate the Constitutional Environmental Rights of all Pennsylvanians. These bills set up a perilous process that undermines the Commonwealth’s fair and reliable implementation of its laws and the requirements of the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Constitution. These bills decimate the DEP by:
Outsourcing the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) core responsibilities to be carried out by private industry: These bills give industry the ability to essentially write and review its own permits using private consultants rather than DEP officials. This, slants the process toward degradation and exploitation rather than protection of communities. This change would impact every environmental permit, not only shale gas permits.Imposing harshly inadequate review timelines: These bills favor the granting of shale gas permits by automatically granting approval if DEP does not act within a limited time frame, even if there is insufficient information about degradation to the local environment and human health, and even if degradation is likely to occur. There is even a money-back guarantee if DEP finds an application deficient and in need of more review, despite the costs DEP will incur in carrying out its duties.Institutionalizing industrial influence: The bills fail to guard against self-dealing, allowing industry to pick from a set of private contractors review its permits, even when a clear conflict of interest exists. The package of bills also creates a panel of industry supporters to review shale gas air quality permits rather than DEP. This means no conflict of interest test or accountability for reviewers, no public review of permit actions, and no requirements regarding constitutional responsibilities.Deepening environmental injustices: The package of bills perpetrates degradation of the environment and public health in places already heavily impacted by pollution. . For example, the bills allow for streams to be turned into miles-long dumping grounds for the discharge of more pollution by mining activity and frack wastewater.Misappropriating funds: The bills allow for misappropriation of Oil and Gas Lease Funds by failing to require compliance with Article 1, Section 27.
This package of bills is blatantly unconstitutional. We urge you to stand up for a functional Department of Environmental Protection by communicating to House leadership that you will oppose any bill with these or similar provisions.