Energy. Environment. Economy.

Corbett approves bills on stream buffers and carbon plan

Governor Corbett signed a pair of bills Wednesday dealing with two hot-button environmental issues. The first would eliminate stream buffer requirements for the state’s cleanest waterways. The second measure gives legislators a role in crafting a federally-mandated carbon reduction plan–a top priority for the state’s coal industry.

The stream bill removes the 150 feet buffer requirement between new developments and Pennsylvania’s cleanest streams. It was supported by the Pennsylvania Builder’s Association. The law only applies projects that need stormwater discharge permits and are adjacent to the state’s “high quality” or “exceptional value” streams – a small percentage of waterways. Supporters have said the buffers amounted to eminent domain that restricted landowners. Environmental groups criticized the measure as a step backwards.

A separate bill approved by Corbett requires legislative approval of a federally-mandated carbon pollution plan. Under proposed rules recently put forth by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Pennsylvania will have to cut its carbon emissions by 32 percent over the next 15 years. The new climate policy will mean major changes for the state’s energy industries.

The new law gives the state House and Senate 20 days to consider the carbon plan crafted by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Legislators can either approve it or ask for changes. If neither chamber votes on a final plan in time, it will be automatically approved and submitted to the federal government.

The coal industry lobbied heavily in favor of the measure, arguing the carbon plan will significantly impact its business. A coalition of environmental groups opposed it saying that it will create an extra bureaucratic hurdle for cutting carbon pollution.





  • Patrick Henderson

    Stateimpact’s characterization of the stream buffer legislation (HB 1565) is not complete. The article states that the bill “removes the 150 feet buffer requirement” between new developments and Pennsylvania’s cleanest streams”. However, the article does not actually state what the bill does. Specifically, the bill requires that compliance with NPDES stormwater permit requirements can be met 1) either by utilizing a riparian buffer or forested riparian buffer, or through utilization of alternative best management practices approved by the state DEP that are substantially equivalent in nature. DEP will determine was is appropriate and reserves the right to require a riparian buffer if necessary to protect water quality. Additionally, if an alternative best management practice is utilized in a special protection watershed, the permittee must also offset any square footage within a 100 foot boundary of the waterway by securing an equivalent amount of additional riparian buffers within the same watershed. The legislation is focused on providing flexibility while ensuring that whatever compliance means is utilized maintains and protects existing and designated water quality uses – which of course is the underlying compelling environmental interest.

    Patrick Henderson
    Office of Gov. Corbett

    • Victoria Switzer

      and who will oversee this???? And who will see if the equivalent riparian buffers are secured? Will this be like the imaginary land of mitigation? If they don’t do it right I am sure there will be stiff penalties and cessation of work by the guilty company. DEP will determine what is appropriate? Appropriate for the advantage of the gas industry or for the preservation of Penn’s Woods and waterways?

    • JimBarth
      Mr. Henderson, our PA DEP, especially under your administration’s authority, has bent over backwards to allow shale gas mining in our Commonwealth, in spite of all the evidence of non compliance, incompetence, and the short cuts taken by the industry that put citizens in the shale extraction areas at great risk. Reports and “studies”, such as the ones in the link to Don Hopey’s reporting that I supply above, performed either incompetently by PA DEP, or, with outright fraudulent intent on the part of PA DEP, abound.
      This is simply to say that the republican legislature, Governor Corbett, PA DEP, and certainly the industry itself, can not be trusted at all.
      Enforcement only after citizens suffer years of abuse, fines only after the abuse becomes impossible to ignore, and, allowing the offenders to continue to operate in PA all show a complete lack of will on the part of the players I mention above to prevent any contamination by the industry whatsoever.
      Justice delayed is certainly justice denied in the case of the Administration you serve, and the propaganda that you attempt to serve us.
      The more complicated your system becomes, with proposed trade offs and offsets, the even greater probability that our high quality watersheds, streams, rivers and lakes will be completely exposed, and the even greater likelihood that PA DEP will continue to be able to only sweep up after the elephant passes, and more likely that no one will be able to sweep up at all. Please, move to Texas, take the soon to be ex-Governor with you, and serve the Texas Railroad Commission. That name suits you and your Governor, appropriately.

      • Victoria Switzer

        I am wondering where Patrick will end up. He has served very well indeed. I am pretty sure he will not be moving into the shalefields although we do have a lot of nice homes for sale.

    • nathansooy

      The real purpose of HB 1565 is to eliminate the requirement for the 150 ft buffer in exceptional value and high quality (DEP designated) streams. The requirement was considered a serious problem by the Pennsylvania Builders Association that saw the Chapter 102 EV and HQ buffers requirements as a detriment to their property rights.

      By passing and Gov Corbett signing HB 1565, hard fought protections for the cleanest streams of Pennsylvania have been curtailed. The so-called “best management practice” options that HB 1565 creates are nothing but a ready excuse for DEP not to require a scientifically proven riparian buffer. The alternative BMP’s will not do the same job.

      I am so thankful that Governor Corbett will soon be assigned by the voters to the ash heap of history.

    • Julieann Wozniak

      Yeah, yeah. You can’t put lipstick on this pig: your boss sold us out again, and I can’t wait to turf him out next month. His policies have devastated Greene County, where he’s despised by everyone besides knee-jerk Tea Party loyalists, who enjoy being abused.

  • Steve Todd

    Offsetting buffers in another location makes as much sense as taking the water filter off your water, and putting two on your neighbors house. #HB1565 is a classic case in point of lobbyists misdirecting clueless legislators and their staffs on technical issues. Shame on all who had a hand in this one.

  • kenneth weir

    Patrick Henderson is nothing more than an old time circus barker, a true blue Marcellus shill professional.

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