Bill Sponsors: Del. Luke H. Clippinger, Del. Robbyn Lewis
Bill Numbers (a combination of three separate bills):
- House Bills
for Better Public Notification: 0715 (enhanced communication from PSC with affected communities)
and 1387 (requires gas companies to issue proper notice with affected communities)
- for Increased Health Protections: 1632 (requires applicants seeking PSC permit to locate utility infrastructure to submit a Health Impact Assessment of affected communities to the PSC)
- for Better Public Notification: 0715 (enhanced communication from PSC with affected communities)
- Senate Bills XXX and XXX
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This is a pairing of two true Environmental Justice bills. Far too often, overburdened communities are asked to bear the burden accepting power plants in their neighborhoods. These communities find that the process for notifying them of these decisions and plans are inadequate and fail to protect them.
Established in 1910, the Public Service Commission approves and regulates public utilities in the state. This authority includes issuing certifications to construct or modify generating stations or high-voltage transmission lines. Communities facing this type of development have found that the process does not consider the health impacts of these projects, and that they are often the last to know when an action is underway.
The first bill being proposed would require strong public notification through modern means including an easily accessible, updated website. The bill will also require that notifications be conducted much earlier in the process. The second bill would require that Health Impact Assessments be conducted as standard practice for matters before the Commission.
An example of how the Commission's process fails citizens was in Brandywine where multiple power plants were built in the same general vicinity and the accumulation of health impacts on the same overburdened communities was never taken into consideration when approving projects. The disproportionate impact in Brandywine was recognized by the Public Service Commission, but they chose to move forward anyway because there was nothing in the legal framework to prevent the approval. Their comments are sobering:
“It is unfortunate for Brandywine that it is a suitable and legally available area for proposed power plant projects. If a proposed plant to be sited in Brandywine meets all legal requirements (at all governmental levels), the fact that other plants are located nearby is not a legal restriction to another one being built. This is true even though the negative impacts of a plant fall most severely upon Brandywine while the benefits are distributed across a much larger geographic area.”
The two bills are designed to address these weaknesses in the system:
- HB XXX/SB XXX - This bill will increase the requirements for public notification to community members in a more robust way that genuinely makes an effort to notify community members.
- HB XXX/SB XXX - This bill will add additional protections for those living near a proposed facility to require that a Health Impact Assessment be conducted to public health into how energy decisions are made.
"Learn to do good; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the orphan; plead the case of the widow."