Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. – A bill on the table at the state Capitol claiming to balance economic growth and environmental protection is being taken to task by some Democrats and state officials in Harrisburg.
House Bill 1576 would remove requirements that developers need to look for endangered species on a parcel of land unless some have been found there previously.
Democratic state Rep. Greg Vitali says the bill also adds layers of bureaucracy by having both an independent panel and the Legislature review definitions for endangered and threatened species.
"It will do more harm than good because the new process would add unnecessary delay to the designation process, thus putting endangered species at risk by not being designated quickly enough," Vitali says.
The bill also calls for species on the current endangered list in the state to be justified within two years, and those that aren't would be dropped.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway says the task of doing that with 62 current species would be virtually impossible.
Sponsors of the measure say it makes the state, not developers, prove that endangered species are where they are supposed to be.
State Rep. Rick Mirabito, a Democrat, says H.B. 1576 raises a simple question surrounding a complex issue.
"Whether or not in 20 years, the animals and the plants that we see today are going to be there,” he explains. “And as elected officials we have an obligation to protect the environment. "