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Pennsylvania Update II

Farm Bill Veto: A Victory For Environmentalists

PennFuture and the Army for a Clean Environment (ACE) both praised Governor Ed Rendell for his decision to veto House Bill 1222, a bill which that had potential to strip local governments of all rights to protect citizens from pollution caused by factory farms.

The governor's action comes despite a major pressure campaign from agribusiness, which had forced the bill through the state House and Senate with no hearings or public notice.

... In other developments, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Dec. 31 it may start regulating 15 more pollutants contained in the nearly 6 million tons of sewage sludge that are used or disposed of in the United States each year.

... Also Wednesday, EPA denied a petition from 73 labor, environment and farm groups for an immediate moratorium on land-based uses for sewage sludge. That would have affected more than 3 million tons of sludge used each year as fertilizer.

My impression had been that Rendell was inclined not to veto this bill. But placing heavy emphasis on the results of the request for public opinion (assuming he actually did) gives an advantage to opponents of the bill. There are a lot more individuals who can be motivated to call in by the idea that toxic sludge might get dumped in their communities than can be motivated by the idea that certain agricultural practices may be interfered with. The sludge users could mount a defensive campaign to try to convince people that the sludge is harmless, but I have trouble seeing a way they could get people to want sludge used so bad that they'd actively support the bill.

I need to find some additional sources on this issue. The Times-News's anti-sludge bias is pretty apparent -- for example, almost all the paragraphs of the story that I didn't quote were quotes from Dante Picciano of ACE. I think it's less about favoring liberalism or environmentalism, and more about supporting the hometown -- similar to the way you wouldn't expect balanced coverage of the Lehighton-Berwick football game. The issue has been framed as "local communities versus outside (even out-of-state) companies." Combine that with the presumably greater availability and willingness of local environmentalists to speak to a reporter from a podunk newspaper, and you've got a bit of a slant to the coverage.


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