White_ bill protects energy industries – indiana, pa – march 18, 2016

State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, said the state Fiscal Code bill approved by the Senate and sent to the governor includes provisions intended to protect the region’s energy-producing industries and the thousands of workers they employ from overreaching state and federal regulations.

House Bill 1327 includes provisions addressing Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan and removing conventional well operations from the Wolf administration’s new oil and gas well regulations.

“I was extremely pleased that these provisions were included as part of the Fiscal Code, which is a requisite component of the state budget package,” White said in a release.

“The inclusions of these provisions underscores the importance of these issues to the commonwealth and in particular our local energy producing industries.”

One important section of House Bill 1327 outlines specific procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the implementation strategy developed by the Department of Environmental Protection for the federal Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“The U. S. Supreme Court has suspended the implementation of the Clean Power Plan rules for further discussion and evaluation, so it only makes sense for Pennsylvania to follow that approach,” White said. “The language in House Bill 1327 would allow the General Assembly to give Pennsylvania’s plan thoughtful consideration before it is submitted.”

White said Pennsylvania’s plan must take into account the impact that overregulation could have on jobs and the state’s economy.

“It is essential that the Legislature be proactive in protecting our industries and the thousands of workers they employ,” White said. “The state regulations to comply with this federal edict could have a devastating impact on the industries in our region. It is estimated that nearly half of Pennsylvania’s counties would be in violation of the stricter emission limits and we certainly would be in that mix. Our electric generation plants are already stressed by federal regulations. These new state compliance rules could put their long-term future and the good jobs they provide our region at risk.”

On a related item, White said Wednesday he’s been told the decision to idle the coal processing plant at the Homer City Generating Station is a reflection on the coal industry’s struggle to complete with very low natural gas prices.

White said coal is now being shipped to the Homer City station from a coal cleaning plant in Greene County, a move that has impacted about 32 workers at the Homer City processing plant.

White said the Homer City Generating Station is another casualty of “the continuing war on coal.”

“A lot of people have been led to believe coal’s a dirty word,” White said, adding he’s perplexed and disappointed that approximately $750 million has been spent on installing scrubbers at the Homer City station to reduce emissions, and that still may not be enough to satisfy regulatory agencies.

Another section of the Fiscal Code invalidates regulations on conventional oil and gas wells that were published after Nov. 30, 2013.

In essence, that would prevent the state’s Environmental Quality Board from promulgating regulations governing surface operations at gas wells that are scheduled to go into effect later this year. Regulators would have to establish new standards for conventional wells.

Changes involving unconventional oil and gas wells are not impacted by the Fiscal Code measure.

“This provision requires the DEP to recognize that conventional gas well operations have been a key part of our communities for 120 years,” White said.

“They should not be treated in the same manner as the big Marcellus shale industries.”