Pa. natural gas industry pushes to change endangered species laws
PITTSBURGH — 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 currently have to list birds, animals, fish and other species, and to grant special consideration to special Wild trout Streams.
The bills would instead 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.
The state programs are separate from federal endangered species listings and are often used to manage species that are threatened in a particular region but perhaps not nationally. Pennsylvania lists about 88 birds, fish, amphibians and other animals as endangered or threatened. For example, the black-crowned night heron is listed as endangered in Pennsylvania, but not nationally.
In practical terms, developers and oil and gas companies face additional restrictions when a parcel of land is listed as habitat for a threatened or endangered species.
Kathryn Klaber, the CEO of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, noted in an email that “every industry that moves dirt” must go through a comprehensive habitat review process prior to development, including coordination with multiple states agencies.
The state Fish and Boat Commission has serious concerns about the proposed changes.
Executive director John Arway told legislators last month that the proposed changes have “the very real potential to severely compromise” the state's ability to protect species. The legislation requires a re-evaluation of the status for all species on the list within two years. Arway said that “will be virtually impossible, which means many species will go unprotected.”
Arway said that since the legislation would only protect federally listed endangered species, other fish and animals “may disappear from Pennsylvania's waters, wetlands and landscape.”
Jugovic said the proposed changes could make it nearly impossible to list new species, make it easier to develop sensitive areas and threaten federal conservation grants.
Rep. Martin Causer, a Turtlepoint Republican and chair of a key committee, told the AP that many legislators feel the process of listing threatened and endangered species “needs to be looked at.”
Causer said one of his key concerns is that there needs to be more opportunity for public comment in the process.
“I think there will have to be amendments to the bills,” Causer added, based on a public hearing that was held last month. He said another hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17 in Indiana, Pa., and he's interested in hearing more comments from sportsmen and environmental groups about their concerns.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition provided a copy of the joint industry letter to the AP, but it's not clear how much of a role Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has in the proposal.
Patrick Henderson, Corbett's energy executive, declined to say whether his office has lobbied for the proposed changes.
The gas-rich Marcellus Shale has led to a drilling boom in Pennsylvania over the last five years, with thousands of new wells and hundreds of miles of new pipelines. That's brought jobs and billions of dollars in royalty payments to landowners, but also concerns over environmental impacts. The shale formation also extends under Ohio, West Virginia and New York.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Red Wings rally, shock Penguins in overtime
- Predators winger Neal caught ‘blindsided’ by trade from Penguins
- Rossi: Middling Steelers must make a statement
- Report linking field surface to cancer elicits Mt. Lebanon protest
- Steelers free safety Mitchell is still settling into role on defense
- Steelers’ Adams delivers in pinch against Texans
- Former Ligonier Township supervisor accused of costing residents thousands, viewing porn on the job
- House has Pitt defense trending in right direction
- Federal grand jury reviewing Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board violations, sources tell Trib
- Propels leave the lights on to showcase their after-school activities
- 3 Pitt football recruits plan to enroll early