A Thursday, Nov. 7 press conference at the Capitol Building Media Center repeated the opposition to House Bill 1576, the Endangered Species Coordination Act. Many of PA’s foremost environmental watchdogs, such as Trout Unlimited, and their legislative defenders spoke against HB1576, which has a companion Senate Bill 1057.
HB1576 is “The (Marcellus Shale) industry’s number one ask this session,” Rep Greg Vitale told the conference, citing a “personal conversation with an industry lobbyist.”
The Delaware RiverKeeper, which did not speak at the press conference, later said the bills “are scheduled for a vote next week – tentatively Nov 13th.” They oppose both bills, because they “would undercut important protections and the scientific listing process for the very species of PA and Class A streams that need our help and protection the most.”
Dick Martin, Coordinator for PaForestCoalition.org, explains: “The bill would take the ability to declare a species endangered or threatened from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commission or Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and would transfer the decision-making process to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. The bill also would require that any species currently listed as threatened or endangered go through the IRRC process, to justify its continued designation.” IRCC is appointed by elected officials.
Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway told the audience that currently the average PNDI is reviewed in 30 days, and that time drops to 20 days for O&G permit applications. Additionally, less than 1% of PNDI’s last year resulted in additional requirements for applicants. Arway described HB1576 as “critically flawed, a huge step backward. We see this as a backdoor attempt to weaken protections,” of PA endangered species.
HB1576 has been “crafted and moved by the O&G industry,” explained Rep
Steve McCarter. “Why take this (environmental permit component review) from trained biologists and scientists and give it to untrained bureaucrats?”
Self-described conservative Republican activist of religious faith, Josh First, had this to say: “We oppose this bill,” because it “will cost the fish and game industries millions of dollars per year. Adding IRCC will create bureaucracy. It’s as worthless as teets on a bull.” First explained that he is in the timber industry, and that he used to be an EPA regulator.
Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Senior Director Jeff Schmidt called the bills “Special interest legislation against the public interest.” They are a”Dangerous and unprecedented attack on PA’s wildlife,” according to PennFuture Policy Director Steve Stroman.
OPPOSITION (Jan. 3, 2014 Update)
Perennial defenders of the status quo, Steve Mohr & Dennis Wydra of Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania (USP), support the proposed changes. Mohr & Wydra justify their support because they feel “The Game Commission does not practice what it preaches and it’s time to shed some light and heat on the commission’s underhanded dealings with the Commonwealth’s threatened and endangered species”
Another OpEd in that same publication gives context on USP feelings, on issues environmental:
“USP believes now is the time to “Drill, baby, drill” on all of our state forests”
“It sure looks like the 700,000 acres of state forest land containing gas and oil are worth more than the trees on top of the gas.”
“This property (PA’s state forests) should be viewed as the “peoples’ 401K,” and it’s time they see a return on their investment.”
“Through its partnership with the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association…” or PIOGA. Search PIOGA, and discover that it really doesn’t matter what comes after. The goal is not to protect our air, dirt or water, or anything living on or in it.
Folks have been raising these concerns for months. Stan Kotala, of the Juniata Valley Audubon wrote an excellent LTE in the September 6, 2013 Altoona Mirror. He points out a devastating consequence of passing Pennsylvania HB 1576 and SB 1047: “their passage would likely mean the loss in up to $27 million in federal wildlife restoration funds. These federal funds would be lost because managing threatened and endangered species in the fashion proposed by this bill would demonstrate our state’s incompetence in wildlife management.”
Stan later explained an even more onerous consequence: “Keep in mind that the presence of threatened and endangered species is one of the factors that determines whether a stream is designated as HQ/EV.” The HQ/EV designation is reserved for our most pristine natural streams. Often HQ/EV streams host such priceless PA treasures as our world-class native Brook Trout. The protocols for acquiring environmental permitting are significantly more rigorous in HQ/EV waterways. Loss of this designation would even further reduce the protections afforded these Commonwealth treasures.
WHAT CAN I DO?
1) Send this email to your state legislator in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and tell him/her that you oppose the Endangered Species Coordination Act.
2) Tell Pennsylvania Representatives that Anglers Oppose House Bill 1576
3) Sierra Club PA Chapter – Next week legislators may take action to gut protections for Pennsylvania’s endangered species.
UPDATE Nov 13, 2013:
I Tweeted from today’s, 9:30 Game & Fisheries Committee, Room 60, East Wing – consideration of HB 1576. http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/cteeInfo/index.cfm?Code=18&CteeBody=H
Gubernatorial candidate John Hanger urged all to Vote NO. http://www.hangerforgovernor.com/don_t_wreck_endangered_species_act via @hangergovernor
Tweets from @stevenwtodd, #Games&Fisheries HB1576 –
Packed house in East Wing Rm 60. PaForestCoalition is her so is Rep Greg Vitale. Both worked hard to kill this.
Over 100 rank & file General Assembly & audience, most of Committee present. Most against. pic.twitter.com/4tdyURZipZ
Boring reading of a bill most likely have memorized by now. Many amendments, some sound good, most windowdressing.
Everett moves amendments. Majority chair; “we are confident there will be no loss of fed funds,” council reviews.
Rep Gillespie will vote against bill, to not “get away from scientific approach to permitting. Not a do-over.”
Majority Chair: only Fish & Boat & Game Commission don’t have independent review of PA agencies. Checks, balance.
Majority Chair: Nearly every concern but IRCC addressed with amendments. Not sure opponents ever satisfied.
Rep Jesse White: bill makes bigger govt, increases bureaucracy and “politicizes science. How will (IRCC) know?”
Rep Heffly: not ruled by scientists, by elected officials. If scientists so confident, why oppose indie review.
Roll vote leaning heavily yes, 16 Yeah, 8 Nays. Bill reported to Floor vote.
Afterward spoke with: Rep Greg Vitale: “will proceed as if it comes to Floor soon.” Thanked Rep J White for NO.
UPDATE Nov 15, Per ForestCoalition@aol.com:
From a source close to the action:
The bill is being fast-tracked and the House is likely to vote on the bill on Tuesday, Nov 19 or Wednesday (Nov 20).
Since Gary Haluska (Dem Minority Chair of the G&F Committee) voted for the bill on 11/13, it will be an uphill battle, but we have to try to defeat it now.
Please CC us with your Representative’s reply. That will allow us to gauge our effectiveness – and the probable vote next week.
The basic talking points are:
The legislation takes authority away from PFBC and PGC
It politicizes a scientific process.
It it harmful to the species that need the most protection.
The PFBC and PGC could lose over 20% of their budgets because this endangers their Federal funding.
Has the party of Ronald Reagan lost its conservation ethic?
Please relay this message to your contacts.
If you need other “talking points”, please contact ForestCoalition@aol.com
UPDATE January 9, 2014:
The day before The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee heard these bills, seven prominent outdoor sports groups, including Trout Unlimited, co-signed the following letter in opposition to HB 1576 and SB 1047. The groups states that: “The current process keeps the science in and politics to a minimum. The supporters of the bill want the reverse.”
UPDATE March 13, 2014
HB1576 – to end endangered species protection as We The People want it, and was the Oil & Gas industry’s #1 ask this session – appears dead! Bravo to all who called and told our employees that our laws are not always for sale to the largest campaign donor !!!
From: Garth Everett <Geverett@pahousegop.com>
Date: March 12, 2014 at 9:53:23 AM EDT
To: (a constituent who asked Everett to “Please represent your district of hunters, fishermen, bird watchers, conservationists and assorted eco-nuts.”)
Subject: RE: HR 1576
On Monday, 3/10, our Caucus met and discussed HB 1576 prior to bringing it to the floor for consideration. In our Caucus meeting, I and a number of my colleagues expressed our opposition to the bill. As a result, the bill was pulled from the voting schedule. It is my sense that the bill does not have the support necessary to pass out of the House and will not be brought to a vote.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me on an issue which I know is of great importance to you. Please feel free to contact me in the future with any of your state government concerns.
Garth Everett, State Representative
84th Legislative District
Harrisburg Office: (717) 787-5270
District Office: (570) 546-2084