PA DEP Tries to Expand Its Power, Republicans Try to Reign It In

A troubling development over the past generation or so has been the rise of executive agencies that formulate and adopt their own laws–without said laws being voted on by a legislature. Those new laws are called “regulations.” Long ago the legislative branch of government ceded some (much!) of its power to these agencies. Can you imagine a legislature debating over every new line in a Dept. of Motor Vehicles manual? Or debating standards for nuclear reactors? It was thought that specialists should oversee such minutiae, so the legislature delegated their authority to various executive branch agencies–like the DMV, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Environmental Protection Agency. Not only is this done at the federal level, it’s also done at the state (even local) level. On the state level in Pennsylvania, the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) is charged with developing regulations to protect PA’s environment. The DEP sits in the executive branch–under the oversight of the governor (currently Tom Wolf). However, over the years the legislative branch has lost much of its oversight over the activities and new regulations adopted by these agencies. Coincidentally (or not), the PA DEP has just launched an effort to (our words) expand its power in making new regulations. At the same time, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that restricts regulatory agencies like the DEP, and gives the legislature more of a say in how they operate. Looks like a battle is shaping up in the Keystone State over the (expanding) role of the DEP…

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