Apr. 14, 2020

CRANBERRY –House Environmental Resources and Energy (ERE) Committee Majority Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) sent the following letter to PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell seeking clarity on DEP’s COVID-19 regulatory priorities:

“Dear Secretary McDonnell:

“I write you today regarding concerns with DEP’s priorities during this extremely challenging time for our citizens and business community. DEP must commit to being part of the solution in aiding our economic recovery efforts, instead of being an obstacle and allowing businesses to get caught up in bureaucratic red tape.

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the unique and critical step of declaring in their March 26,2020, Memorandum (COVID-l9 Implications for EPA's Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program) that they ‘do not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.’

“On the other hand, DEP released on its website an entirely inadequate statement declaring that entities may request a temporary suspension of regulatory requirements and/or permit conditions by emailing a form to the department. There is no indication of a timeline of when decisions will be made, there is no indication of how decisions will be made, and there is no indication that you will be using this effort to grant the business community the relief it desperately needs.

“If this program is as dysfunctional and inefficient as the Department of Community and Economic Development’s business waiver program, it will be an unworkable nightmare for the business community. Additionally, decisions made by DEP under this policy will take place outside of the public view. The department should scrap this system, and instead, echo the EPA’s statement to provide widespread relief to regulated entities during this time.

“As far as the department’s staff resources, DEP should be focusing all its resources on maintaining essential operations during this time, primarily including issuing permits in a timely fashion to businesses that have requested them. No department staff time should be devoted to pursuing partisan objectives such as the governor’s scheme to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) during this unique time.

“Now is not the time to continue plowing forward with blatantly partisan and illegitimate regulatory efforts such as RGGI, which will further harm Pennsylvania's workers and our business community. Proceeding would indicate that you are more concerned with attaining divisive political objectives and adhering to an artificial timeline in an attempt to implement this proposed regulation as quickly as possible rather than with serving the citizens and businesses of the Commonwealth during this challenging time.

“I demand that you commit to not holding any meetings of the Environmental Quality Board to consider regulations such as RGGI until these meetings can be conducted in person.

“Finally, I would like to know specifically how DEP plans to aid our Commonwealth’s economic recovery efforts. What regulations do you intend to roll back or repeal to allow our business climate to recover as quickly as possible? How will the department change the way it operates to encourage economic growth?

“Pennsylvanians across the state are suffering, both with the current health situation, and with the uncertainty of losing their jobs and businesses due to the situation. Once the immediate health situation has been contained, and businesses begin to resume operations, drastic steps must be taken to encourage economic growth.

“Any regulations that will harm this recovery effort must be reformed or removed. Any delay by DEP in processing permits will harm this recovery effort and is thus entirely unacceptable. I would appreciate any information that you can provide on these essential topics.”

Representative Daryl Metcalfe
12th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Ty McCauslin
RepMetcalfe.com/ Facebook.com/RepMetcalfe