Pennsylvanians will soon find out that their state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards don’t carry the same weight that they used to carry.
Thanks to the REAL ID Act of 2005, Pennsylvania-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards will no longer be considered accepted forms of identification at most federal and federally licensed facilities, begin on Jan. 30, 2017.
Included in those facilities are nuclear power plants such as the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Salem Township.
However, federal courthouses or anywhere someone might go to receive benefits, such as a Social Security office or the Veterans Administration, will not be affected by the new regulations.
The REAL ID Act was intended to enhance the nation’s security by making it harder for terrorists to obtain state-issued identification documents.
Participation was voluntary until 2016. Pennsylvania was one of five states holding out on complying with the act, which implemented federal standards for tamper-proof identification documents such as driver’s licenses.
The state’s driver’s licences don’t comply with the act.
Alexis Campbell, state Department of Transportation community relations coordinator, said that a 2012 act passed by the state General Assembly prohibits the department from participating in the REAL ID Act.
“The language in Act 38 of 2012 would need to be repealed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly,” Campbell said. “(Act 38 of 2012) bars the governor and PennDOT from participating in REAL ID.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, effective Jan. 30, 2017, “nuclear power plants may not accept for official purposes driver’s licenses and state IDs from a non-compliant state/territory without an extension.”
According to Neil Sheehan, public affairs spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, beginning on Jan. 30, those with Pennsylvania IDs will also need to present another form of identification to visit the power plant’s property.
State-issued IDs such as driver’s licenses are never the sole data point for admitting anyone to a nuclear plant, either as a worker or a visitor, Mark Resner, an NRC senior security specialist, said in a blog post. And for workers of the power plant, the law will have minimal effect.
“Nuclear power plant workers have employee badges issued by their employers following an extensive background and criminal records check, psychological assessments and drug and alcohol testing,” Resner noted.
Visitors are usually known in advance and screened through a database and approved by an employees with required background credentials. Resner said visitors will also be continuously escorted while inside the facility.
Campbell noted that the change in federally acceptable forms of identification doesn’t begin until Jan. 22, 2018 for air travel.
“We (PennDOT) will continue to work with the federal government and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to find a solution to this issue,” she said.