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Pa. chamber supports bills for endangered species, economic development balance

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The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry has submitted testimony supporting a proposal to subject threatened and endangered species designations by the state Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission to additional oversight, the statewide business organization said last week.

The proposal is known as the Endangered Species Coordination Act and is before lawmakers, who have returned to Harrisburg for session this fall.

Additional steps are already required if the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources makes designations, according to a release from state Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong and Indiana counties, who authored House Bill 1576.

Specifically, the bill would make decisions subject to review by legislative committees and the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Legislation also would cover designating waters as wild trout streams, according to Pyle’s office.

Pyle said he saw need for the legislation because of how industry on the Allegheny River has been adversely affected by endangered mussels.

A federal issue that a local school district ran into while developing a new building project also contributed, he said. The district had to pay more than $60,000 to a fund for the Indiana bat in order to move forward, because the project is in an identified habitat of the bat.

One of the key provisions of his proposal is that it effectively requires agencies to verify that species are where they say they are, Pyle said.

In the other legislative chamber, state Sen. Joseph Scarnati, R- Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga and Warren counties, and the body’s president pro tempore, has Senate Bill 1047 proposing designation reforms.

The proposal is consistent with the chamber’s policy that economic development and environmental protection can and should exist together and that there should be a balance, President and CEO Gene Barr stated.

Earlier this year, state Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Philadelphia and Montgomery County, came out swinging against the idea and called the bills “unnecessary bureaucratic changes.”

“Industries that rely on our natural resources should be fighting against these bills, not championing them,” McCarter said in a statement. “You reap what you sow.”

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