Power to the Suit

This week was about the power of the suit. Not the white coats of nurses and other health professionals, not the tee shirts that read “parents as teachers”, not even AARP, but the suit accessorized by wing tips or high heels. The Capitol was full of more folks in suits this week than I had noticed earlier in the session. It’s time to get serious when unfamiliar faces show up. And it’s pretty clear that the folks in suits are being listened to, catered to and respected by leadership.

The evidence for my observation is the continuing assault on our property rights, our water, our safety, our peace of mind, our children’s education- I could go on and on. And now we see on the floor of the House truly egregious misuse of procedures- speaking the truth can be declared out of order. Really?

More specifically, the oil and gas industry has provided several bills that would make the industry’s work easier and probably cheaper. Here is one example: SB565, the subject of this week’s action alert would permit well pad and road construction activities done pursuant to a storm water permit, separate from and prior to an actual well work permit. At least it was amended to include advance notice to property owners, thanks to testimony from David McMahon and a motion from Sen. Snyder.

Another example is SB601, which would amend the Solid Waste Management Act to provide for specialized landfills for fracking wastes. These landfills (if you’re gonna have fracking, you’re gonna have wastes and they have to go somewhere) could be located without input from either local Solid Waste Authorities or the Public Service Commission. Somehow, this would enhance the “responsible development” of oil and gas resources.   Really?

The DEP’s rules governing extractive industries are continually nibbled at by industry lobbyists.   Most of the amendments offered by industry are ignored, but they continue to be offered and your ECouncil team and our friends at SORO and Rivers Coalition continue to prepare defenses to the proposed rules. It’s exhausting and dispiriting, yet necessary.

Finally, there is SB508 which would have prevented nuisance suits against activities that adversely affect your property value, peace of mind or even health. You know, what fracking and compression stations do to their neighbors. It would have repudiated centuries of common law. It went to a subcommittee and returned as a committee substitute. People afflicted by a legal or permitted activity will still not be able to file a nuisance suit, unless the nuisance is in violation of the permit. And who benefits from this bill? Not you and not our friends and neighbors who live among gas wells or coal mines. Really? Yes, really.

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