|Posted:||January 23, 2013 04:42 PM|
|From:||Senator Andrew E. Dinniman|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||DEP Public Notification and Access to Information Act; Pipeline Acre-for-Acre; and Condemnation Approval|
|In the near future I will introduce a three-bill legislative package to improve how the DEP notifies the general public of important permitting actions and how it provides access to related documents; to protect taxpayer-funded easements against pipeline projects on an acre-to-acre basis; and finally, to protect agricultural easements against condemnation of land for pipeline and Electric Corridor projects.
Introduced as SB504
|Description:||DEP Public Notification and Access to Information. My first piece of legislation will be my DEP Public Notification and Access to Information Act to improve the delivery of information from the DEP and permit applicants to the general public. My bill is based partly upon what the DEP already does within its Environmental Justice Areas, which are U.S. Census tracts where 20 percent or more individuals live in poverty and/or 30 percent or more of the population is minority.
I introduce this bill due to the lack of public notification and permit information received by residents in my district in a recent DEP permit application. Specifically, after a pipeline operator’s first request to install a pipeline across a major waterway in my district was denied by the DEP in 2009, it reapplied for the permit in 2012. As far as notifying the public of this second permit request (and of subsequent comment periods and hearings), the DEP’s only required action was to publish notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Under my Public Notification and Access to Information Act, the DEP would require pipeline operators to notify property-owners affected by their proposed pipeline (in line with current Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
requirements). For those seeking a specified list of DEP permits, my bill would require notification to residents who live within a half-mile of the project (in line with the DEP’s current practice within Environmental Justice Areas).
My Public Information and Access to Information Act will also require the DEP to post on its website permit applications and supporting public documents, e.g. engineering studies, etc. In last year’s pipeline permit process, Senator John Rafferty and I had to make a last-minute request for supporting documents prior to a scheduled hearing. Additionally, the DEP only provided permit applications and supporting documents in hard-copy form, which in turn could only be accessed from my office or local libraries. It is time for Pennsylvania’s DEP to follow in the footsteps of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which provides Internet access to permit applications and supporting documents.
Introduced as SB506
|Description:||Pipeline Acre-for-Acre. In addition, due to the many existing pipelines in my district and the many more planned in order to bring Marcellus Shale gas to market in Philadelphia and other ports, a second bill I am introducing would require pipeline operators that take taxpayer-funded agriculture and conservation easements to replace them within the same county. My bill would only require such acre-for-acre replacement in the first, second and third-class counties – which are more prone to population and land pressures. To further protect these easements and other land in first, second and third-class counties, the bill would further require that pipeline operators take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that their projects do not worsen the stormwater characteristics (total volume and rate of stormwater run-off) of their pipeline right-of-ways.
Introduced as SB507
|Description:||Condemnation Approval. My third bill also seeks to protect Act 43 farmland from condemnation by PUC- and FERC-approved projects and again would only affect first, second and third class counties. Act 43 currently exempts such projects from requiring the approval of the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board. My bill deletes this exemption and I will introduce it in light of not only gas pipeline projects but also the National Electric Corridor project.|