PEC Opposes House Bill 2354

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Legislation would allow General Assembly to Quickly Veto State Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan
September 29, 2014

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council sent the following communication to the Pennsylvania Senate today.

September 29, 2014

To: Members of the Pennsylvania Senate
From: John Walliser, Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Re: Opposition to House Bill 2354 (P.N. 3898)

Dear Senators:

In the final five days of this session you may be asked to vote on House Bill 2354 (P.N. 3898), which authorizes a one-House veto of any plan the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Department) develops to comply with a proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation under Section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act. Section 111(d) requires a reduction in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council believes this legislation is an inappropriate and premature response to the serious issue of climate change, and should be opposed.

By authorizing a one-House veto of any plan the Department develops, HB2354 goes far beyond the oversight role the General Assembly should have over the implementation of environmental regulations in the Commonwealth. It replaces any balanced discussion of the actions we should take and turns this into an unguided political football.

In contrast to the oversight role the General Assembly has already carved out for itself under the Regulatory Review Act, it does not require passage of a concurrent House-Senate resolution with an opportunity to sign or veto that resolution by the Governor. It allows one chamber to veto those plans and force the Department to start over. This creates a serious chilling effect on any effort to pass necessary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our Commonwealth.

In 2008 the General Assembly passed bipartisan legislation -- the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act -- laying out a thoughtful process for detailing the contributions the Commonwealth makes to climate change, and offers members of the General Assembly a direct role in helping to formulate a Climate Change Action Plan through the Climate Change Advisory Committee.

Further, the Air Pollution Control Act requires any changes to the State Implementation Plan, which ultimately any climate change plan would be, to have extensive public review before it is forwarded to EPA. The Regulatory Review Act requires any regulations proposed to implement the State Implementation Plan to be reviewed by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the General Assembly under an extensive process, allowing for concurrent resolution and the Governor’s review.

Now House Bill 2354 would add a fourth bite at the apple for interests who oppose action on this critical and complex issue by authorizing a one-House veto. It makes a decision that should be decided on facts and substantive analysis into a political debate without any criteria to guide the General Assembly’s review.

The timing of this legislation is also off. EPA’s proposed 111(d) rulemaking is still undergoing public review – it is likely that numerous and substantial comments will be raised and considered by EPA. Accordingly, the content of EPA’s final rule is uncertain. Therefore, any legislative action relating to or in anticipation of EPA’s rule would be untimely given the likely timeframes for promulgation of a final rule and subsequent State Plan development.

We fully recognize that EPA’s proposal, if finalized, will require an unprecedented undertaking for the people and environment of our Commonwealth. Nonetheless, Pennsylvania must take action. PEC unequivocally supports prompt reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources and sectors across the Commonwealth. Decision making toward that goal must be based on substantive analysis.

House Bill 2354 would unbalance that equation and impair Pennsylvania’s ability to advance a strong and sound emissions reduction strategy, potentially forcing EPA to impose its rules directly on Pennsylvania. We suspect this is not the desired outcome by the General Assembly.

We ask that you oppose this legislation. Thank you for your consideration.