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Discussion Starter #1
Interesting article that lends support for the reasons for the legislative effort to strip PGC and PFBC as well as DCNR authority:

Energy companies, conservation groups and the state Department of Environmental Protection are wrangling over how best to protect Pennsylvania's wildlife and natural bounty while still allowing drillers to retrieve the lucrative gas locked beneath parks, scenic rivers and other sensitive areas.

In draft regulations that will come before a state board for review Tuesday, the DEP proposes a fluid solution: Drillers must tell the stewards of the resources where they plan to drill -- whether near public parks, game lands or habitats for rare species like panic grasses and shrews -- then those agencies can suggest ways to avoid harm. DEP will consider the risks and the agencies' recommendations, and decide whether to add protective conditions to a drilling permit.

But drillers are wary about handing over too much vetting authority to the DEP and other stewards, saying it could add expense and regulatory burdens to the extraction process........

In a regulatory analysis that accompanies the draft rules -- which were born out of the state's 1-year-old, oil and gas law, known as Act 13 -- the DEP wrote that its proposed consultation process will protect the "bounty" of public resources that improve "the quality of life for [Pennsylvania's] residents and all those who visit." The process will also protect those resources that serve as "a major economic contributor to Pennsylvania through tourism, outdoor fish and game sports and recreation," the DEP wrote.

<span style="font-weight: bold">But in a stern letter, an industry-dominated state advisory board countered that the rules and the debate around them have shown "the department does not even fully understand how the oil and gas industry operates in several respects."

DEP's proposal for weighing impacts to public resources is one of many issues that the five-member Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board said led to its recommendation that the draft regulations not yet be published for public scrutiny.

The advisory board contends that the rules give state agencies like the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources too much authority to shape permit decisions, give protected status to too many species not legally considered threatened or endangered, and create "a burdensome and open-ended" consultation process instead of setting firm criteria to limit -- not expand -- DEP's power to place conditions on drilling permits.

"The department's proposed revisions include numerous new obligations that would increase operational costs and complexity without clear justification or environmental necessity," the board wrote.</span>.........

In a short-lived effort, the DCNR and the DEP adopted a policy in October 2010 to measure and minimize drilling impacts in state parks and forests where the public does not own the oil and gas rights and cannot prohibit drilling. The policy was rescinded in February 2011 by Gov. Tom Corbett's administration as "unnecessary and redundant."

DEP's proposed new drilling regulations contain a hint of that discarded policy: Before granting a permit for a well in a public park, on game lands or near a public water supply, the department would invite the agency that oversees the protected space or species into the conversation.

The state's public resource agencies have indicated that they'd like a say -- or at least consistent warning -- when wells might impact public lands..........

The DEP's deputy secretary for oil and gas management, Scott Perry, said that even in cases where companies have leases to drill under state forests and game lands, a discussion about the uses and protection of the resources during the permit application process is appropriate.

"From DEP's perspective, the point of the public resource protection provisions in Act 13 is really to get at the things that DEP doesn't already -- the impacts that don't fall within purely environmental protection," he said.....

In written comments, the Marcellus Shale Coalition suggested several criteria to make sure public resource protections do not restrict oil and gas development, including forbidding any permit conditions that would add more than $30,000 to the cost of a shale well or $6,000 to a conventional well, unless the company itself agrees to waive the cap.

The coalition suggested that just $2,000 could be considered an "excessive financial burden" -- an idea that made environmental advocates bristle.......


24,796 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Then we have this power play to restrict the ability of the PGC and the PFBC to set regulation and or even complete land deals by the legislature:

////// Lots to this article and all should take the time to read it. ///

State Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong, and state Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, have fired the first salvo, and for sportsmen and sportswomen, it should be "the shot heard 'round the Commonwealth."

Much as the NRA likes to preach that the federal government wants to take away guns, the view from this tree stand is that the state government wants to take away your forest and wildlife habitat.

........the chances of the state legislature taking control of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission decision-making are increasing each day.

Already, due to political pressure and appointments, Gov. Tom Corbett's pro-drilling Marcellus Shale forces have a stronghold in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources leadership, opening up significant portions of state forest to speculative drilling, deforestation and proven groundwater pollution.

Now, Pyle and Scarnati — according to Monday's front page article in The Morning Call — want the endangered species laws to fall under legislative oversight, producing a time-consuming process that will delay response by PGC and PFBC to protect certain species and habitat.

Such decisions would fall under the purview of the Independent Regulatory Review Committee (IRRC), but the problem with something like IRRC taking control over anything related to wildlife, fish, water or the environment lies in its response time and reliance on the legislative branch for final approvals, which could delay for up to two years things that need to be done immediately.

Last fall, for example, the first-ever Pennsylvania cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) were verified in farm-raised deer in the central part of the Commonwealth. Within days, outgoing Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe issued an executive order listing more than 600 square miles of the state as a disease management area (DMA)...............

The proposed legislative oversight would more narrowly define the habitat range of suspected endangered species, theoretically opening up more public land for development. In the case of the Corbett administration, that translates to more Marcellus Shale exploration......

At least for me, when I need facts from the PGC or PFBC, as I did last December regarding the reclassification of the Saw Mill Run and its effect on reopening Firefly Hatchery (the old Kriss Pines Trout Hatchery near Lehighton) I received more than enough scientific information and had unfettered access to a wide variety of specialists on PFBC staff.

This proposal comes a week after the game commission announced it will begin the process of delisting bald eagles from the threatened species list. ......

Putting the decision under IRRC domain would unnecessarily lengthen the process and subject it to a political process.......

Some also fear that the move to introduce the IRRC and political process to PGC, PFBC and DCNR is the precursor to merging the agencies as a cost-cutting move, when in reality it would strip the agencies of the power to react in a timely manner.

The game commission proposes seasons and bag limits for the coming hunting and trapping seasons with the latest scientific evidence as it relates to the various species in January. The seasons and bag limits are posted in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for public and legislative awareness, and then finalized with a vote by the PGC board of commissioners during their regular April quarterly meeting.

If IRRC became involved, seasons and bag limits would have to be established up to two years in advance, paying no regard to what is actually happening with the population and habitat at the moment.

Three years ago, the PGC shut down Wildlife Management Unit 5C, which consists of most of Lehigh and Northampton counties, to fall turkey hunting because studies proved that overall numbers were low. Spring gobbler hunting was still allowed because it came after the breeding season.

Under IRRC restrictions, the game commission would not have been able to ban fall turkey hunting for another two years, .....

Sportsmen and sportswomen in Pennsylvania need to keep a very wary eye on Harrisburg in the coming weeks.,0,139369.column
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