State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, is preparing to reintroduce legislation that would remove potential loopholes from the state's Clean Streams Law.
Current state law stipulates that a person or municipality can be charged only if they “willfully” violate provisions to protect water resources.
Readshaw's legislation, which he will introduce shortly, would change the term to “negligent.”
The bill also would give the state the ability to file criminal or civil charges for up to five years after the violation is discovered.
“The way the law reads now, the attorney general could prosecute only if the person or municipality were aware that the action they were taking would imperil the quality of a water channel,” Readshaw said.
“My bill would permit charges to be filed when a party has committed what appears to be an obviously negative act.”
As an example, Readshaw said that if enacted, the revised law could be used when someone dumps a load of household trash or debris down a roadside stream bank.
“While the person may be ignorant of the fact that the material is damaging the waterway, they know that dumping the material was illegal,” Readshaw said.
“The droughts of recent years have warned us to protect every possible water resource. My legislation would enhance our protection ability. “
Violations of the law would be a third-degree felony punishable by a fine of $2,000 to $75,000 for each offense, up to seven years in prison, or both.
Readshaw originally introduced the legislation during the 2003-04 session and, while it was not enacted, it was lauded in hearings on the proposal.