Action alert and news of note
Thursday afternoon saw the Pennsylvania Senate come up with their "solution" to Pennsylvania's budget situation. And it is a doozy. The good news? Your voices WERE heard and the restricted environmental funds were left untouched. But, somehow, environmental regulation and the power of the DEP to do its job got all tangled up in a revenue bill.
So here's an overview - and your (now seemingly weekly) Action Alert:
Beyond raising revenues, the
legislation severely weakens environmental oversight and ties the hands of the Department of Environmental Protection. It:
Establishes 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.
Mandates third party review and approval of environmental permits. In more direct terms, it effectively cedes a primary component of the state’s responsibility to protect public health and the environment to private 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.
Another major problem with
the legislation is that while it calls for a severance tax on the natural gas industry, none of the revenue generated is allocated to conservation, restoration and preservation programs like
Growing Greener. All the revenue disappears into the black hole of the General
Over the past seven years, nearly
every severance tax legislation introduced included funding for environmental
programs. Why the Senate chose to completely ignore this
critically important component - while throwing environmental protection to the wind - leaves all of us users and supporters of
environmental protection scratching our heads. So, what should you do NOW?
Let the Senate know that you are IRATE they passed legislation that kills
environmental oversight - human and environmental health should not be a bargaining chip.
Contact the Administration and urge the Governor to oppose the changes to environmental oversight and
implore them to support 25% of the severance tax going to the
Environmental Stewardship Fund for Growing Greener III.
Call and email your House members and urge them to stand-up for Pennsylvania families and
communities by opposing the proposed changes to environmental oversight. Encourage them to demand that 25% of the severance tax be
allocated to the Environmental Stewardship Fund.
Thank you for your continued vigilance. There is a distinct and indistinguishable connection between healthy air, water, and land and the beauty and recreational opportunities of the public lands we love.
In other, more positive, news - our western Pennsylvania friends (and beyond) are invited to come to the Community Arts Center of Cambria County beginning on Monday, August 14 to see the Photo Gallery Showcase, the winners of last year's photo contest. We'll begin with an opening night reception that Monday evening at 5:30 pm. All of the winning photographers have been invited to attend and it should be lots of fun and you may feel inspired to enter this year's contest which is open for entries now through Labor Day.
The Pocono Record (and the Friends of Big Pocono) provide a lovely video of a sunny morning on top o' the mountain for your viewing enjoyment.
Finally, a lovely and informative Facebook post by Kirsten Dorshimer tells the tale of the Goat Hill Serpentine Barrens of the William Penn State Forest (home of the Friends of the State Line Serpentine Barrens). This week's masthead features Appalachian ragwort by photographer George Gress.