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Drillers back endangered species changes

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By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 7:33 p.m.

As gas drilling booms in Pennsylvania, major industry groups are backing efforts to change the state's endangered and threatened species laws, alterations that environmentalists say could have far-reaching effects on wildlife.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association, and the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania outlined their support in an Aug. 26 letter obtained by The Associated Press. The industry said the proposed legislation provides for “more efficient and effective resource development” as well as “transparency and accountability.”

Legislation in the state House and Senate would put some limits on the exclusive authority that the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have to list birds, animals, fish and other species, and to grant special consideration to special wild trout streams.

Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Apollo, is the lead sponsor of the House proposal.

The bills would give the state Independent Regulatory Review Commission a major role in the listing process.

George Jugovic, a lawyer with the environmental group Penn Future, said the existing system is working well, and that the political independence of the Game and Fish commissions makes them better able to protect at-risk species. In contrast, the Regulatory Review Commission members are political appointees.

The legislation “is a bad idea wrapped in a number of bad ideas,” Jugovic said.

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