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On behalf of Pa. Gov. Mark Schweiker, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary (DEP) David E. Hess announced that DEP's Regulatory Basics Initiative has saved Pennsylvania businesses and local governments an estimated $672 million since the plan was launched in August 1995.
Secretary Hess made the announcement to Pennsylvania business leaders gathered at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry's annual Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Conference.
"The Regulatory Basics Initiative (RBI) was designed to increase compliance with environmental regulations while making the compliance process simpler, less time consuming and less expensive for businesses and taxpayers who foot the bill for both state and local officials enforcing environmental regulations," Secretary Hess said.
"During the past seven years, we have deleted 4,500 pages of outdated, confusing and unnecessary guidance documents. We have made all 11,500 pages of technical-guidance documents available to the public through the DEP website. And we have drafted regulatory changes to cut redundant administrative activities."
Secretary Hess said these changes were accomplished by reviewing 5,000 pages of regulations and 16,000 pages of policies to identify areas in need of revision. More than 35 public hearings were held, and DEP responded to more than 1,040 public comments. DEP's 27 advisory committees made up of Pennsylvania citizens also provided input.
"I believe Pennsylvania's businesses and local governments -- our partners in protecting and improving the environment -- want to comply with our environmental laws and regulations," Secretary Hess said. "Our job is to make that as easy and understandable as possible, and the Regulatory Basics Initiative has done that."
Secretary Hess told the group that water-resources legislation pending in the legislature will help ensure future economic growth in the Commonwealth while also benefiting the environment.
"Pennsylvania businesses have relied on our state's rich natural resources to flourish, whether it was the coal in our hills fueling the mining industry, the trees in our forests used for logging, or the rich soil which makes some of the best farmland anywhere in America," Secretary Hess said. "Water is no less important to Pennsylvania business and industry today, and we need to make sure we have adequate water supplies to meet our economic needs as we move forward in the 21st century."
The Governor's Action Team, which helps recruit and retain businesses for Pennsylvania, reports that its research shows 900,000 gallons of water per month would be needed to support a one million square foot distribution center. Pennsylvania continues to be a prime spot for these distribution centers because of its location near the population centers of New York and New England, and as the access point from the Northeast to the markets of the Midwest.
"Food processors, part of our state's largest industry, also use a tremendous amount of water," Secretary Hess said. "But today, in many parts of Pennsylvania, we have no idea how much water we have available or how much we're using. Our state water plan hasn't been updated since 1976."
The water-resources legislation would require DEP to update the state's water plan within three years and every five years thereafter. The plan would identify areas where demand now, or in the future, exceeds supply, and it would offer solutions. These critical water-planning areas would get technical help from state experts, but decisions would be made at the watershed level with involvement from local officials, businesses and the general public.
The legislation also would set up education and outreach programs to help businesses and individuals learn ways they can conserve water and save money at the same time.
"Conserving water makes good business sense," Secretary Hess said. "And we want water conservation to become in the public's mind what recycling is today -- an easy way to help the environment."
The final key component of the water-resources legislation would set standards for drilling private wells in Pennsylvania. Fifteen-thousand new wells are drilled each year in Pennsylvania, but there are no standards determining how these wells are to be drilled, leaving both consumers and adjacent property owners vulnerable to water-supply contamination.
"We have made great strides at DEP in becoming partners with Pennsylvania businesses, in finding ways to improve both our economy and our environment," Secretary Hess said. "I now ask Pennsylvania business leaders to join the Schweiker Administration in urging passage of water-resources legislation as the final piece of our environmental puzzle, and to make sure we have the water we need to support a growing Pennsylvania economy in the 21st century."
More information on the water resources legislation is available through the PA PowerPort at http://www.state.pa.us, PA Keyword: "water resources."