Sunday, January 15, 2017

Opinion: Pa. bill eases the way for more toxic emissions

                                                                                                                                     Pittsburgh Post-Gazette photo

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
columnist Brian O'Neill opines:
It’s not often we see legislation that eases the way for the emission of methane and other volatile organic compounds we’d be better off not breathing, but America’s Largest Full-Time State Legislature is considering just that.
The idea is to make federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations the maximum, not the minimum, to protect oxygen-breathing life forms in Pennsylvania, a group you and your children are likely among.
The 10 Republican senators co-sponsoring the Pennsylvania bill all have been amply compensated with campaign contributions from the natural gas drilling industry, but let’s save details on that impressive cash outlay until later.
Senate Bill 1327 seeks to amend a state air pollution bill dating to 1960. The amendment would bar the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from imposing any air pollution standards “more stringent than those promulgated’’ by the EPA. This would happen just as the new Donald Trump administration appears keen to relax those EPA restrictions.
Letting the feds provide the ceiling rather than the floor here would be a curious move for a citizenry that has this passage in the Declaration of Rights atop our Pennsylvania Constitution:
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
One can be pro-drilling, as I am, and still be baffled by how many current lawmakers seem never to have played a hand of poker. There is no need to fold to the gas industry when Pennsylvania is the heart of the largest natural gas field outside of Iran. That gives us the cards to make reasonable demands, one of which is surely this: Don’t leak so much damned methane.
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