HARRISBURG – The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved two bills today that would limit unnecessary delays in the appeals process for permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), while also restoring accountability and integrity to the process, according to the bills’ sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Senate Bill 726 would bring Pennsylvania in line with the federal process for reviewing and appealing permit decisions, and provide more clarity regarding permit appeals from decisions made by DEP.
In some cases, environmental groups have created unnecessary and expensive delays for projects they opposed by filing numerous appeals on issues that were not raised during the permitting process, Bartolotta said.
“We need an appeals process that is efficient, predictable and reliable in order to ensure critical infrastructure projects can move forward with the proper environmental considerations in place,” Bartolotta said. “Limiting appeals to the issues that were raised in the public comment period is a simple, commonsense step to give businesses the clarity and certainty they need to invest in Pennsylvania projects.”
Bartolotta added that her bill would not limit the ability of concerned citizens to submit comments on proposed permits, nor would it limit their ability to appeal a decision. It would only ensure that if a citizen thought a decision was important enough to sue the DEP, that they voice the concerns during the comment period when there is a record of decision. This standard already exists under Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act.
The committee also approved Senate Bill 727, which would shorten terms on the Environmental Hearing Board from six to five years and restrict judges from serving more than two terms unless they began by filling in for a vacancy on the bench.
The original intent of the law was for judges to serve a single, six-year term. Instead, many of the judges appointed to the board remain in office for many years until a successor is appointed – including some who have been serving since the 1990s.
“The Environmental Hearing Board was never intended to be a lifetime appointment,” Bartolotta said. “This legislation restores the original intent of the law to ensure new judges are appointed and confirmed promptly.”
Both bills were sent to the full Senate for consideration.
CONTACT: Katrina Hanna (717) 787-1463