The bill to delay the development of the Clean Power Plan which the state is required to submit to the federal Environmental Protection Agency passed the Senate last week by a 41-9 vote. It would add complicated process and much delay to the effort to develop a sound plan that would begin Pennsylvania’s transition to a clean energy economy.
But the delays and the onerous processes outlined in the bill are really sideshows. The bill is really an attempt to intimidate the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) into crafting a weak plan that will pass muster by coal and gas drilling industries and their allies in the legislature.
The first regulations to protect the air and water from pollution from shallow conventional gas wells were written in 1984 – 32 years ago. Conventional drilling causes contamination and water loss and penetrates the same aquifers that fracking does, and the conventional drillers have more violations of environmental laws than the frackers. New rules to modernize standards for the conventional drillers were poised for final adoption, but the House Environmental and Resources Committee tacked new language to kill the new regulations onto a bill previously passed in the Senate and quickly approved it.
Large commercial and industrial electricity users have decided that they do not want to pay their fair share for Pennsylvania’s energy efficiency program, so they want to opt out of the program. If the bill passes, it will undermine the program making it harder to achieve energy savings, and it will shift the costs for the program onto other ratepayers including residential customers.
And the legislature is also attempting to grind to a halt the development of new regulations whether they address environmental protection, public health, public safety or worker safety.
None of these bills is in the public interest. They threaten the state’s ability to protect the right to clean air and clean water that the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees to its citizens. And this bald-faced anti-environmental legislation reveals just how pervasive the influence of industries’ unlimited campaign contributions and lobbying dollars are in the legislature. Instead of representing the wishes and interests of the voters in their districts, many of our senators and representatives are carrying polluted water for their political donors.
All these bills are hurtling toward passage by both chambers of the General Assembly in the next two weeks. When they pass, they will land on Governor Wolf’s desk. The Governor will then have to decide if he will stand up for the public or he will cave to the political pressure that has been purchased by industry.