Pennsylvania Governor Signs ACRE Legislation; Local Environmental Ordinances to be Reviewed
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Gov. Edward G. Rendell today signed the Agriculture Communities and Rural Environment (ACRE) bill.
The bill was the result of work undertaken by the legislature and the Rendell administration to address potentially illegal local ordinances affecting farming while providing for strong environmental protections for rivers and streams.
"The crafting of this bill brought all parties to the table and, coupled with new Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Agriculture regulations, it forms a package that responds to the concerns of both the agricultural and environmental communities," said Gov. Rendell. "This comprehensive plan not only addresses nutrient management issues, but strikes the proper balance between farmers and the communities they call home."
House Bill 1646, sponsored by Rep. Art D. Hershey (R-Chester), allows for the state attorney general to review both existing and future local ordinances and asks that office to bring any actions in the Commonwealth Court in a timely manner when an ordinance goes beyond what is allowed under state law. If the Court finds that the ordinance does indeed exceed the authority granted to local governments, then it can be struck down.
The legislation also requires that any disputes between farmers and the local community will be sent directly to the Commonwealth Court to ensure that the precedents established are applicable statewide, preventing a variety of county legal standards. The bill also established new standards for odor control when major new animal farming operations are established.
Finally, the plan calls for tougher standards governing the spreading of animal manure on the land as fertilizer to prevent pollution of surface waters. This issue is addressed primarily though regulations being issued by the DEP and the Department of Agriculture.
"As these measures are implemented, we can expect farming practices that will work both for farmers and their surrounding communities, while protecting our environment," said the governor.
The bill passed the House 131-65 and the Senate 49-1.
Source: PR Newswire; Pennsylvania Office of the Governor