Environmentalists rip bill to change endangered species process - abc27 WHTM

Environmentalists rip bill to change endangered species process

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Endangered species would be further endangered if House Bill 1576 were to become law, according to a coalition of environmental groups that held a news conference to oppose it Thursday.

The bill is dubbed the Endangered Species Coordination Act, but critics say it's a coordinated effort by developers, mostly the Marcellus Shale Coalition, to do an end-run around regulations governing an endangered classification.

"This bill neuters the Game Commission," said Sarah Speed of the Humane Society of the United States. "It prevents them from taking action to protect endangered species and instead requires the federal government to come in first."

The head of Pennsylvania's Fish and Boat Commission is angling against House Bill 1576; urging lawmakers to reject it.

"If it would become law in its current form it would be a huge step backward in Pennsylvania's proud conservation history," said John Arway, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission.

Under the measure, an independent regulatory review commission which has no scientists and legislative panels would have to sign off before a species could be declared endangered.

"This bill would make it very difficult to list any animal in Pennsylvania as state threatened or state endangered," said Steve Stroman of PennFuture.

State Representative Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) said many groups that move ground in Pennsylvania like developers, builders, loggers and gas drillers have joined forces in support of House Bill 1576. He speculates that they don't like environmental delays to their projects and want to bottle up the process by which a plant, animal or fish is declared endangered.

"If that process takes two years, by the time we can afford them any protection it might be too late," Vital said. "Development may have already made them extinct."

But Representative Jeff Pyle (R-Indiana/Armstrong), the bill's sponsor, argues the current system is arbitrary and often blocks development.

At a public hearing in September, he strongly advocated for House Bill 1576, all but saying that to reject it is to kill jobs.

"If you remove our ability to log, to mine, to drill, you're kicking us in the teeth. You are making us move from this area," Pyle said with great passion.

But sportsmen disagree.

"This (HB1576) is a catastrophe for hunters and anglers in this state," said Josh First of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.

First opposes the bill and fires back at anyone that suggests he's a tree hugging liberal.

"I'd like to point out I'm also a conservative Republican activist," First said. "And I see absolutely nothing in this bill that represents my values."

House Bill 1576 is scheduled to be discussed in the House Game and Fisheries Committee next Wednesday morning.

Senator Joe Carnation has a similar version in his chamber.


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