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Bill Could Threaten Endangered Species, Federal Funding in PA
September 23, 2013- Tom Joseph
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A bill being proposed by Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania would be a crippling blow to endangered fish and wildlife and could jeopardize millions in federal funding the state receives to protect them, according to environmental and wildlife groups. The measure would give the state Legislature more authority over endangered species listings at the expense of the independent commissions which designate them now. It also would make it easier to place Marcellus Shale gas wells.

According to Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, the process for steering development around endangered species has worked well for two decades in the state, and the agenda here is clear.

"And now they want to push the endangered species laws aside so that they can just run willy-nilly over important and critical habitats for these remaining living resources, and I think that's a great tragedy."

Schweiger said when it comes to drilling of the Marcellus Shale formation deep underground, technology exists to keep it away from endangered species.

"They can do a lot with what they have, and particularly with horizontal drilling they don't need to go into these critical habitats to get the gas," he said. "Gas companies want to drill their wells as quickly and cheaply as possible, rather than spending the extra dollars to drill in a way that ensures habitats are protected."

Schweiger said natural gas entities are given more than enough leeway as it is, and a bigger picture, including future generations, needs to be taken into consideration.

"In fact, I think there's a constitutional question, because the Pennsylvania constitution clearly guarantees those rights to future generations, and the Legislature is failing to do that when it moves legislation like this, Schweiger charged.

Federal regulations require that state commissions have independent authority when it comes to designating endangered species, and without it Pennsylvania could lose $27 million in fish and wildlife restoration grant money.
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