By Rep. Aita Kulik
Majority Committee Chairs were appointed and, as has been previously reported in the last issue of the paper, I’ve been named the Chair for the House Game and Fisheries Committee.
This committee particularly interests me because there are hundreds of avid sportsmen and women in our district. We have many places to fish and hunt within our borders and so many other places close by in which to enjoy these sports.
Pennsylvania on the whole is a great state for hunting and fishing. We have thousands of acres of game lands and streams: lakes and rivers are everywhere. I look forward to working with the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission on making sure our hunters and fishers can enjoy all that Pennsylvania has to offer.
I also look forward to talking with hunters and fishers across the state to hear what issues are of importance to them. People who are out in the woods and on the water value these resources. Their voices are important to lawmakers as we look to advance legislation that impacts them directly.
On March 14, I attended a bipartisan public hearing in Darlington Township, Beaver County, a mere six or so miles from East Palestine, Ohio. Wind and water don’t respect state lines. Being so close to the Norfolk Southern train derailment site, those residents are suffering the same problems as their next-door neighbors in Ohio. They are facing respiratory issues, possible contamination of land and water, and the potential loss of their homes and businesses.
Many worry they will develop long-term illnesses as a result of the crash.
We heard from representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, and the Department of Human Services. The governor and these agencies have been on-site to address the concerns of the residents of Darlington and the surrounding towns. More must be done to help these people.
Railroads run through all the towns in our district. Some are more prevalent, such as Carnegie, Bridgeville, McKees Rocks and Coraopolis. In the cases of Coraopolis and Carnegie, the tracks run straight through the heart of town. Any type of derailment or accident would be a potential catastrophe.
The federal government regulates railroads and at this point, there is little state and local governments can do as far as enacting laws regarding them. However, we as state legislators will be influencing our federal counterparts to do more to protect our residents, and are also committed to doing whatever we can on the state level to hold railroads responsible to our citizens.
As the new Chair of the Game and Fisheries Committee, I am joining with my colleague Rep. Robert Merski from Erie County to advance legislation that will enable our game commission and the fish and boat commission to address any potential contamination of land, vegetation and waterways after an environmental disaster. We are working on legislation that would help give warning to our hunters and fishers, and to all residents, of possible contamination.
Keeping our game lands and streams clean and safe is beneficial to our wildlife and our sportsmen and sportswomen.