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PA House Bill 1565: An update

October 15 2014:

Here is an update on the bill.

All,

Despite all of your tremendous efforts, and the efforts of our conservation partners, the Senate just voted 27-22  to pass HB1565 (PN4258).  The bill will now go to the House for concurrence.

 Senator Baker and Brubaker spoke in support of 1565, while Senators Dinniman, Rafferty, and Ferlo spoke in opposition to the bill.

While the outcome is certainly not what we want, it is better than the original bill that would have just removed the riparian buffer requirement, period.  It is apparent that the amendments adopted over the past few weeks, particularly those made in the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, were in response to concerns we raised about vagueness of bill language and the effectiveness of buffers.  So thank you for sending that message to Senators! 

 I will let you know what happens in the House tomorrow.  Regardless, our work on this issue—i.e. protecting buffers–is certainly not done.  DEP will very likely be developing regulations next year, and there will be opportunities for public input.  It will be important for TU to weigh in on those regulations, to ensure that as protective as the law will allow.

 Again, thank you all for your efforts!

Katy

I have heard from many folks over the last few days who have asked why this bill is bad. If interested parties are able to remove or decrease riparian buffers as they see fit then what is the point of having riparian buffers in the first place? I understand we are in tough economic times and we need to encourage development but you would think that would encourage folks to also conserve our resources even more than ever before.

Please join TU in the fight for our headwaters. You can get involved at : http://www.patrout.org/

October 6 2014:

I received an email late this morning regarding this dangerous bill we have been following for the last few weeks. If you haven’t figured this out by now let me fill you in on how our political process works in Pa (and in the rest of the nation for that matter). The last legislative session of the year is quickly approaching. This is the time of the year when a lot of questionable legislation makes through the law-making process because it “must” be voted on by the end of the year.
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Here’s the latest development:

From Katy Dunlap, TU Eastern Water Project Director

Dear TU Team:

Thank you so much for your efforts to contact Senators on House Bill 1565.  It’s clear from this week’s action on the bill that they are definitely listening to our concerns!  That being said, there still one major core concern that has not been addressed—the removal of the requirement to maintain existing riparian buffers in HQ/EV watersheds.

On Monday, HB1565 was amended and voted out in the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.  The amendments do two things:

(1)    Clarified that the replacement buffer must occur along special protection waters within the same drainage list (according to chapter 93).  This does not mean that the replacement buffer has to be installed on the same stream.  As you know each drainage list is unique and can encompass significant acreage and multiple counties.  While TU asked for “drainage” to be clarified and this amendment does that, we are still not pleased that the replacement buffer does not have to be on the same stream because one stream will always be losing the benefits of the buffer.

(2)    Tried to strengthen practices that can be used instead of a buffer, by requiring the alternatives used to be “collectively…substantially equivalent to a riparian buffer…” This recognizes that riparian buffers are the most effective management tool.

Bottom line:  the amended bill still allows for existing riparian buffers to be destroyed in the headwater streams—potentially trout streams.

Because of a glitch in the legislative printing office yesterday, no action was taken yesterday on the amended bill, which is now known as HB1565 (P.N.4258).  That gives us an extra day to make sure our voices are heard!

Here are the talking points to use with your Senator:

Although the amendments clarified the bill and made slight improvements, we are still opposed to the bill because it fails to require maintenance of existing riparian buffers in high quality and exceptional value watersheds.

  1. We currently have a system that requires riparian buffers, but allows for flexibility through waivers and exemptions.  If there is an issue with delays in the waiver process, let’s look for an administrative fix rather try to legislatively fix the problem and as a result allow for existing buffers to be destroyed.
  2. Stress that there are no equivalents to a riparian buffer—these are the best and most effective management tool for protecting streams and we need to protect our best streams (EV and HQ).

Please continue to urge your members to contact Senators today and throughout the week.  I just learned that the bill will have its second consideration today—so the bill may have its final vote as early as next Tuesday!  To find your senator, http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/index.cfm

I will send you an update after today’s session.

Thanks for all you do for trout!

Katy

 

Here is a great video that covers the topic:

 

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