Backroom budget deal attempts to derail environmental regulations

The Pennsylvania Senate today passed the Fiscal Code, a must-pass piece of legislation that is part of the budget process. It contains provisions that would subvert Pennsylvania’s climate plan and gas drilling regulations and raid $12 million from the Alternative Energy Investment Act to create a new “Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund” providing more taxpayer help to an industry that still doesn’t pay a severance tax in Pennsylvania.

Environmental and conservation organizations are furious. In a joint press release issued earlier today, Larry Schweiger, PennFuture’s CEO said, “With a new sense of urgency for passing a budget to fulfill the basic functions of government to its citizens who have been held hostage for over five months, lawmakers are shoving this Fiscal Code through so they can run off to New York and attend the Pennsylvania Society dinner and related fundraisers with funders who are likely to benefit from this bad deal — big oil and gas companies.”

Both the climate plan, which will require power plants to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide, and the new gas drilling regulations have undergone extensive public scrutiny with more public involvement coming for the climate plan. Having failed to stop them through the proper public processes, legislative leaders resorted to the tried and true secret backroom deal.

Since the Fiscal Code is supposed to deal with appropriations and not environmental standards, the deal may also be illegal. Joanne Kilgour of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club said, "Using the Fiscal Code in this way lacks transparency, violates the public's trust, and runs counter the Pennsylvania Constitution."

Pennsylvania taxpayers and anyone who cares about good government should also be furious. The House should strip out these provisions and send it back to the Senate.

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