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[ Conservatives Oppose Decreased Oversight of Oil and Gas Industry ]

A conservative group has launched an ad campaign to oppose parts of the Pennsylvania Senate’s budget bill that it says would jeopardize clean air and water protections.

Buried in the bill is a provision that would give a politically-appointed committee oversight of air-quality permits, including methane emissions and natural gas waste from drilling. Another would outsource review of oil and gas permits to private companies and set arbitrary deadlines for approval.

David Jenkins, president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, says the ad campaign is an attempt to raise public awareness.

“I don’t think the public really realizes just how dramatically different and radical what’s being proposed is,” he says.” “And it’s not even being openly debated – it’s being slipped into a budget-related measure.”

Sponsors of the changes outlined in the bill say they would accelerate development and economic growth in the state.

But Jenkins calls the measures an unprecedented attempt to strip authority from the Department of Environmental Protection, and give it to the oil and gas industry.

“It’s ceding the state’s responsibility for making sure we have clean air and clean water, making the process much more user-friendly to the lobbyists that represent the industries that are being regulated,” he explains.

He notes that establishing a new Air Quality Permit Advisory Committee and outsourcing to private contractors also would add new layers of bureaucracy.

While defending environmental regulations is generally considered a more liberal cause, Jenkins believes opposing these provisions is solidly within the conservative mandate.

“We want lean and efficient government, but lean and efficient also has to be effective and accountable,” he adds. “And what this does is completely the opposite – it makes it less lean, less efficient and less accountable.”

-Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

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