PennFuture Opposes Bill to Restrict Citizens' Rights; Proposed Legislation Passes Committee Without Hearings, Despite Voters' Demand for Open Government
HARRISBURG, Pa., April 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) declared its opposition to SB 354, passed today by the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. The legislation will restrict citizens' rights to ask for relief from pollution. "Even though the voters clearly demanded a more open process with more citizen involvement, Senator Mary Jo White (R-Venango) has sponsored legislation to narrow and restrict citizens' rights to petition their government for rules protecting the environment," said John Hanger, president and CEO of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future. "And in a move steeped with irony, Senator White's committee did not even hold public hearings on this legislation. "Apparently testimony from the public on a bill that would restrict the public's involvement would be inconvenient, to say the least. "SB 354 is totally unnecessary legislation. The current law allowing citizens to petition the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) for pollution protection works fine, as the 11,000 Pennsylvanians who publicly supported mercury control rules showed last year," continued Hanger. "But that successful petition and others were anathema to the polluters, whose public comments indicated that they felt the system empowers citizens too much. So some are rushing this attack on citizens' rights through, without any opportunity for public hearings. "But citizens should continue to have the right to ask for protection from all pollution, from diesel soot to heat-trapping gases that cause global warming, and everything in between. There is nothing to fear from allowing citizens to petition their government on any matter," said Hanger. SB 354 would restrict citizens' rights to petition for relief from pollution by narrowing the petition rights to only pollutants that are already specifically regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or are already covered by federal or state statutes. This move comes after an unprecedented citizen campaign, led by PennFuture, successfully petitioned the EQB to adopt strong protections against toxic mercury spewed into the air by outdated power plants. Opponents failed in every attempt to stop these new regulations over the 18 month campaign. PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization that advances policies to protect and improve the state's environment and economy. With offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and West Chester, PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education and assisting citizens in public advocacy.
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