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House Environmental Committee Hears From Industry, Business Groups On Triennial Review Of Water Quality Reg, Stream Redesignations
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On January 15, the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee heard comments from the American Forest and Paper Association industry group and the Monroe County Clean Streams Coalition business group about their concerns with the final Triennial Review Of Water Quality regulation.

No one from the Department of Environmental Protection offered comments at the meeting.

DEP is required to review, revise and update, as needed, at least once every three years, water quality criteria and standards to reflect the latest scientific information and new federal guidelines for criteria development, and other implementation guidance.

The EQB adopted the Triennial regulation for comment in April of 2017 and held four public hearings on the proposal.  It was adopted as a final rule in November, 2019.

Among other issues, the regulation deals with setting standards for ammonia and bacteria, makes changes to stream designations for a variety of streams and providing for exceptions for fishable and swimmable waters.

The regulation is now in final review by the Senate and House environmental committees and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.  It is scheduled to be considered at the Commission’s January 31 meeting.

House and Senate Committees can comment to the IRRC at any time before their meeting.

Paper Industry

Matiiapa Chindori-Chininga, Manager, Environmental Policy, American Forest and Paper Association, was critical of the technical details of the way the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DEP calculated safe water quality criteria using average deterministic procedures and default standards.

She said the procedures used by EPA and DEP to adopt water quality criteria are too stringent and do not reflect the population and other characteristics in Pennsylvania.

She also said DEP did not include a realistic estimate of the economic cost of complying with the new standards in its analysis and over-estimated expected benefits.

She said Pennsylvania should do a specific risk assessment and economic cost study on each and every water quality criteria set by DEP.

Chindori-Chininga said other states are delaying adoption of new water quality criteria until they develop a risk-based assessment process and a more robust analysis of the economic impact of those criteria using newer tools.

She noted gathering the data needed to develop state-specific characteristics and other information to do a risk-based assessment for each criteria would “take years” and pointed to other states, including Florida, who are trying to do that.

She said the Association would be happy to meet with DEP on this issue.  (Click Here for comments by the Association to IRRC in 2018, but no additional comments have been submitted yet ahead of the January 31 IRRC meeting.)

At the time the regulations were adopted as final by the Environmental Quality Board in November. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, Majority Chair of the Committee and a voting member of the EQB, noted he raised the issue of inadequate cost estimates on behalf of the American Forest Paper Association. (See November EQB Minutes page 6.)

Rep. Metcalfe voted against the final regulation.

Monroe County Business Group

Thomas Duncan, Esq, Manko, Gold, Katcher and Fox LLP presented comments on behalf of the Monroe County Clean Streams Coalition business group which has been engaged in a multi-year effort challenging DEP’s exceptional value water quality stream designations in the Pocono Region.

The Coalition includes, among others, Kalahari Resorts, Pocono Manor and the Pocono Raceway.

Duncan told the Committee the lack of transparency in the process used by DEP to make stream designations has resulted in improper designations that have stifled economically beneficial development.

He pointed to a specific project to develop a $250 million Pocono Springs Village a retail-entertainment destination in Monroe County that resulted in sending wastewater from the project to a municipality several miles away, instead of discharging wastewater to an exceptional value Swiftwater Creek.

Duncan noted the wastewater issue did not stop the project from being being developed, but it might for others in the region.

The Coalition’s comments alleged DEP did not address the comments it submitted on the regulation during the public comment period which included a request for notice to landowners of stream redesignations.

Duncan also said DEP does not make available its existing use memoranda report to the public.  The memoranda includes DEP's existing use determination.

Duncan said his group received a letter from DEP this week responding, in part, on the need for landowner notice issue.  The letter pointed out the several ways DEP provides notice of landowners and the public on stream redesignations.

[Note: PA Environment Digest has published many articles over the years from DEP soliciting water quality information from the public to help the agency do stream redesignations on specific streams.

[In the case of Swiftwater Creek in Monroe County, the Brodhead Creek Watershed Association submitted a petition to redesignate the stream in 2007 and the Environmental Quality Board accepted the petition for study on October 16, 2007.

[DEP conducted an aquatic life use and stream survey work on the creek May 1-2, 2008.

[The townships affected by the proposed designation were notified on May 14, 2010.  The formal solicitation for technical information notice about the proposed redesignation was published on May 12, 2012 by DEP.   

[The final draft designation report was made available for public comment on September 4, 2015.  Click Here for a copy of DEP’s Swiftwater Creek Stream Evaluation Report published in 2016.]

The only comments the IRRC has received on the final Triennial regulation have been from the Monroe County Clean Streams Coalition business group.

On the other side of the stream designation issue in Monroe County has been the Brodhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited and PennFuture.  (See Pocono Record and StateImpactPA stories.)

A copy of the regulation, supporting documents and DEP’s presentation to the EQB can be found on the Environmental Quality Board 2019 meetings webpage for November.

Click Here to watch a video of the Committee meeting [when posted].

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: dmetcalf@pahousegop.com. Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to: gvitali@pahouse.net.

(Photo: Drawing of proposed Pocono Springs development in Monroe County.)

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[Posted: January 15, 2020]


1/20/2020

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