PennFuture Opposes Bill to Restrict Citizens' Rights; Proposed Legislation Passes Committee Without Hearings, Despite Voters' Demand for Open Government

Apr 17, 2007, 01:00 ET from PennFuture

    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 mercury spewed into the air by outdated power plants.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.

SOURCE PennFuture