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Following a joint public hearing of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and the House Game and Fisheries Committee today, state Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery/Phila., called H.B. 1576 an industry motivated and championed effort to prolong and politicize the process for listing animals on the endangered species list in Pennsylvania.
“Today’s hearing was filled with more disappointment and rhetoric about how endangered species are blocking the way for coal, natural gas and other industries that rely on our natural resources to make a profit,” McCarter said. “I was hoping that today’s hearing would have resulted in more compassion from the bill’s sponsor in protecting these species and in understanding the inherent dangers associated with disrupting natural habitats.
“Instead, it became very clear this is an industry bill geared toward removing vital regulatory protections to meet the industries’ desire for additional profit opportunities,” McCarter said. “One member specifically mentioned how there is an abandoned factory in his district that is home to a native bat population that could block the way for a gas pad to be drilled on that site. Clearly, the intentions of this legislation are not conservation.”
House Bill 1576, to be known as the Endangered Species Coordination Act, aims to make several changes to the way a species is designated as endangered or threatened. Realistically, the bill in its current form would neuter the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission’s power to declare a species endangered or threatened and transfers the decision to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the legislature.
“Based on hearing testimony, the IRRC does not seem to know how this bill would play out, nor do they have the background in science to make these types of determinations,” McCarter said. “Ecosystems need to be protected by sound science. House Bill 1576 does not stipulate the industries responsibility in working with the departments to protect these species moving forward. That is the balance we’re seeking. This bill does not provide that balance.”
The bill would provide that any species which is currently listed as threatened or endangered must go through IRRC process and the legislature within two years of the legislation to justify its continued designation.
“Allowing non-scientific bureaucrats and politicians veto power over the endangered species list will inevitably slow down efforts to protect these species and hundreds of others currently under review,” McCarter said. “These unnecessary bureaucratic changes will make it increasingly difficult to protect Pennsylvania’s native species and jeopardizes the delicate balance of our rich natural heritage.”