Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Turn the page? Many questions, few answers about Chapter 102

  • What was supposed to be a discussion focused on regulations which are having negative economic impacts in this area seemed more like a cheerleading session for the current state government.

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  • What was supposed to be a discussion focused on regulations which are having negative economic impacts in this area seemed more like a cheerleading session for the current state government.
    On Tuesday afternoon, the Wayne County Builders Association hosted a briefing on Chapter 102 regulations put in place by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The keynote speaker was DEP Secretary Michael Krancer. The event was held at Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Banquet Center.
    But as Krancer took to the microphone, he told the audience he wanted to discuss the proposed budget of Gov. Tom Corbett, saying that was the “bigger topic.” Krancer has been very public about being a “big fan” of Corbett’s budget.
    Krancer then proceeded to tout the record of the Corbett Administration, saying DEP has refined its methods and is doing more work with the same amount of people. He also had critical words to say about the previous administration.
    “We have to pay attention to the cost side of the ledger,” said Krancer.
    He said an audit was conducted on the DEP laboratory and told the audience it “got great reviews.”
    Krancer also talked about how Pennsylvania ranked last in the nation in tax burden on businesses and how they were attempting to right the ship in that area.
    He also spoke about environmental safety and how his office has “doubled oil and gas inspections” in its first year. Krancer added that DEP is serious about enforcement.
    “We’re going to watch and monitor the cheaters,” said Krancer.
    In what appeared to be a political statement, Krancer then told the audience to “engage your popular beliefs” when considering those running for political office, specifically mentioning the general election coming this November.
    When the microphone was turned over to the audience, questions then began surfacing about Chapter 102.
    Chapter 102 regulations were implemented in 2010 and focus on stormwater management. There are many aspects to the regulations, including higher permit fees and an appeals process which many feel is burdensome and unnecessary.
    Another huge issue involves a required 150-foot buffer zone in certain construction areas which are near “high quality” or “exceptional value” waterways in the state. In those areas, applicants are required to install a 150-foot riparian forest buffer if those waters are impaired or maintain a 150-foot setback of whatever existed on the site prior to the earth disturbance activity. The irony, however, is that streams and waterways in this area are some of the cleanest in the state which puts many of them in those categories. More than 90 percent of Wayne County waterways are in one of these two classifications.
    For people in businesses ranging from construction to real estate to forestry, the rules can mean a huge economic loss. Many say those losses are happening right now and they want the state to correct the problem.
    Page 2 of 3 - But Krancer didn’t seem to have many answers when it comes to Chapter 102.
    One person asked him about these specific requirements, saying he gets different answers from officials within DEP. The man said he has asked “over and over again” about whether wetlands and private ponds are part of the rules. He said some people tell him yes, some say no. He asked Krancer for answers.
    “I’ll plead I’m a simple city lawyer,” said Krancer. “I rely on 2,600 technical experts.”
    He also said changing regulations in Pennsylvania is a “long and laborious job.”
    Krancer also said that “every time” he talks about Chapter 102, some people tell him the 150 foot distance is “not enough” and there “should be no waivers.” His point was there are disagreements on all sides of the issue.
    Another question centered on farming in Pennsylvania and whether DEP valued farming as much as the building industry.
    “That depends on who you talk to,” said Krancer. “Both activities are very important to Pennsylvania and America.”
    He also took a shot at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, referring to them in their “ivory towers,” saying DEP has “more in field experience.”
    Aaron Robinson, a township supervisor in Pike County, asked Krancer about how they are supposed to integrate the rules into zoning regulations.
    “It’s going to be a costly process to integrate and a lot of townships don’t have the resources,” said Robinson.
    Robinson also said he works in the forestry industry and said Chapter 102 is having a negative impact economically.
    “There is an impact on timber harvesting when you look at the 150 foot buffer zone,” said Robinson, adding the DEP should consider the economic impacts of such regulations.
    “We don’t have enough cost-benefit analysis,” said Krancer. “We want to make good decisions based on allocation of economic resources.”
    Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith then took to the microphone, saying the ramifications of Chapter 102 are far reaching.
    He said the law is making it difficult for development to move forward.
    “Development is shutting down here,” said Smith. “It’s time for us to back off a little bit and let us develop economically to help us survive.”
    That line drew the loudest applause of the evening.
    Smith also criticized the appeals process.
    “We cannot continue to go down the path of these appeals,” said Smith.
    He said the regulations are making “farms go out of business.” Smith added that easing the rules would “allow people around this lake to survive.”
    Said Krancer: “Elections have consequences. There is a great policy debate in this country.”
    He continued on the political theme: “We all have opportunities, we had one today (election day) and we have one in November.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Another person asked Krancer about the Delaware River Basin Commission, wondering when the administration will “make it go away.”
    Krancer said the governor is at “his wit’s end” with the DRBC.
    He also said the issues are “being driven by the governor of Delaware,” adding he is “not confident the voters of Delaware are going to make the right decision” when choosing the next governor.
    Krancer also was critical of the fact the bulk of Delaware does not get its water from the Delaware River yet they are the driving force behind the commission.
    “Sometimes they smell like the tail of a dog,” said Krancer of Delaware. “And it (the state) is shaped like a dog with a tail. This is the tail wagging the dog.”
    Krancer was also critical of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying he is going against “his own president” in not wanting to allow fracking in New York.
    Another question came from realtor Davis Chant, who said Chapter 102 rules have led to a “taking of property.” His reasoning is that the buffer rules mean smaller homes have to be built as well as small businesses. Some, he said, are not built because of the rules, hindering the economics of the area.
    Chant also said even though there is taking of property, there is “no compensation” coming to those landowners.
    “I don’t want to play lawyer,” said Krancer, who was a sitting judge before taking on the cabinet post.
    “I see taking of property rights,” said Chant.
    Area resident Bob DiLorenzo told Krancer that Chapter 102 is eroding the tax base.
    “I hear you,” said Krancer. “If you dry up the tax base, we’re going in the wrong direction.”
    After the questioning, Krancer left the meeting and went to a forum in Hamlin.
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