HARRISBURG, Pa. (June 27, 2016) – Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a bill that expands and clarifies a state law that takes a small but important first step in setting the foundation to reject federal some EPA rules and regulations in practice.
Sen. Donald White (R) introduced Senate Bill 1195 (SB1195) earlier this year. The legislation amended and clarified a law passed in 2014 that requires the state legislature to give approval before the state submits any plan to comply with EPA “Clean Power Plan” emission requirements.
Under Pennsylvania law, the state Department of Environmental Protection must submit any plan to comply with EPA Clean Power Plan emmission requirements to the legislature at least 100 calendar days before sending it to the EPA. If either legislative chamber rejects the state plan, the DEP must address the reasons for the rejection and modify it, or draft a new plan. New provisions just signed into law by the governor require a 180-day public comment period with at least four public hearings before the DEP can submit a new plan after legislation disapproval.
The amended version of the law also prohibits the DEP from submitting any plan until the expiration of the stay on the Clean Power Plan ordered by the Supreme Court.
The Pennsylvania aw does not guarantee the state will ultimately reject compliance with these EPA mandates, but it is does set the foundation to do so. The legislature now has the power to put an indefinite halt in compliance with the Clean Power Plan. It also brings the entire process into the public spotlight, allowing Pennsylvania residents to have input into it.
Without this law, the DEP and the EPA could work behind the scenes to adopt such plans without any public or legislative input at all. The DEP would act, in practice, like a part of the federal government. By passing this law, Pennsylvania has reasserted some state authority over the DEP and the entire process.
With the federal courts putting a “pause” on federal implementation of some of the Clean Power Plan, this law represents a good first step toward fully blocking unconstitutional EPA Clean Power Plan mandates. It puts the process back in the hands of the state, thus diminishing the power of the federal agency. The legislation also sets the stage for more aggressive action such as refusing cooperation with the enforcement of EPA rules and regulations down the road.