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Controversial endangered species, wild trout bill passes committee, but with changes

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A bill to subject Pennsylvania's endangered and threatened species designations to additional regulatory oversight has been approved by a House committee.

But not without changes.

House Bill 1576 calls for the state Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission to run their designations through the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

The proposal also covers wild trout stream designations.

State Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong and Indiana counties, said earlier this fall he saw need for the legislation as industry on the Allegheny River has been adversely affected by endangered mussels.

Known as the Endangered Species Coordination Act, the measure has been supported by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

An early critic of the measure, state Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Philadelphia and Montgomery County, called the move "unnecessary bureaucratic changes."

The House Game and Fisheries Committee, noting two public hearings on the matter, "adopted a comprehensive amendment that addressed virtually every concern raised during those hearings," according to a news release from committee Chairman Rep. Martin Causer, R-Cameron, McKean and Potter counties.

The changes included nixing a requirement for agencies to redesignate currently listed species within a two-year time frame and putting the requirement to perform field surveys back onto a permit applicant impacting land, the release stated.

The previous version of the bill meant the permit applicant would not have had to do such work unless data already supported that a species was present, said Greg Raffensperger, executive director of the committee.

Still, the amended bill would mandate that an agency provide a 30-day turnaround once it receives field survey results to either clear a project or detail avoidance, minimization and mitigation actions to the applicant, according to the release.

The House legislation passed the committee by a 16-8 vote, the release stated. Another bill on the matter, Senate Bill 1047, was referred to committee earlier this year in the state Senate.

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey covers York County, agribusiness, energy and environment, and workforce issues. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at brentb@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

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