Feb. 28, 2024

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Interim Acting Secretary Jessica Shirley, Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Ramez Ziadeh, and Deputy Secretary for Administration and Management Ian Harlow, along with Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Dunn, Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry John Norbeck, and Deputy Secretary for Administration Michael Walsh, testified today before the House Appropriations Committee. House Republicans questioned the DEP on improvements of their permitting process, dam safety, and regulatory updates, including the status of the Regional Green House Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the Climate Action Plan. Additionally, Republicans asked about the increased spending within DCNR and their ability to keep up with their current core functions before taking on new initiatives.

Key Takeaways

· Permitting reform is long overdue in Pennsylvania. While Governor Shapiro claims permitting times have improved; House Republicans questioned why the DEP appears to be moving the goalpost and has not completed the 10-point plan they proposed in 2023.

     o Last week, the Department of Community and Economic Development testified before the Committee about the need to bring more businesses to Pennsylvania. This week the DEP provided a litany of reasons to avoid Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth’s ability to grow may very well rest with the ability of the DEP to modernize and stop needlessly changing permitting standards and regulations.

· Governor Shapiro appealed to Commonwealth Court Ruling declaring RGGI needs legislative approval, this issue continues to loom like a potential hurricane over Pennsylvania’s energy industry. Our citizens deserve clear direction from the Governor on his energy policy rather than lawsuits and non-answers.

     o House Republicans were also surprised to learn Interim Acting Secretary Shirley was not given advance notice the Governor intended to appeal the RGGI decision.

· House Republicans remain concerned with the potential impacts of the East Palestine train derailment. The DEP provided a positive update, stating there appears to be no long-lasting impact on the air and water near the derailment.

· DCNR’s budget and responsibilities have increased over the past several fiscal years. House Republicans expressed concerned that adding more parks, walking trails, and electric vehicle charging hubs, will shift the focus off of the essential functions of the department.

Notable Q&A

Rep. Jim Struzzi asks the DEP about the future of RGGI and other job killing carbon taxes in Pennsylvania. 

Rep. Ryan Warner explains why the RGGI tax scheme requires legislative approval per the Constitution of Pennsylvania. 

Rep. Kristin Marcell reviews DCNR park management policies and budgeting. 

Full Hearing

Watch the full hearing here.

Rep. Seth Grove, Republican Chairman of the PA House Appropriations Committee
196th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives