Friday, February 26, 2010

March 1 PA Environment Digest

The March 1 PA Environment Digest is now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Secretary Hanger- DEP Cut To Bone After Years Of Budget Reductions

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger told the House Appropriations Committee this week said his agency's budget has had a series of budget cuts over the past few years and "now we are down to the bone or close to the bone" in terms of having the resources needed to accomplish its mission to protect the environment.
In 2007, then-DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty, used almost those same words to describe the Gov. Rendell's budget request for that year. Click here to read more.....

Weather Causes Postponement of Deer Open House in Northeast Pennsylvania

Due to weather conditions this weekend, Game Commission Northeast Region Director Steve Schweitzer today announced that the deer open house scheduled for tomorrow, Feb. 27, will be postponed.
The event was to be held from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at PPL Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center, 126 PPL Drive in Hawley. Schweitzer noted that the agency will work to reschedule the event at the PPL facility, but is unable to announce a new date at this time.
"Open houses are used by the agency as an interactive public outreach tool to explain and answer questions about the agency's deer management program," Schweitzer said. "In order to maximize this effort, we will need to reschedule the event to a different weekend because of the severe weather that hit Pennsylvania, especially here in the northeastern corner of the state."
Schweitzer said the agency would make an announcement about a rescheduled open house once details can be finalized. Click here for latest news from the Game Commission.

DEP Office Closure Advisories

According to DEP's website, the Pocono District Office will be closed Friday due to the snow storm. The Northeast Regional Office is operating on a 2 hour delay as is the Mansfield Office.

Friday NewsClips

Striking A Balance Between Gas Drilling And Environment
Gas Drilling Venture Divides Neighbors
Op-Ed: Residents Need To Realize Risks Involving Natural Gas Drilling, Rep. Siptroth
Feasibility Of Regional Manure Digester Examined
Stimulus Money Increases Small Farm Jobs, Improves Environment In PA
Hammer Creek, PA's Next Water Quality Battleground
Milford Supervisors Object To DEP Mandate For Septic Checks
Op-Ed: PA Agriculture Braces For Another Budget Hit
New Flood Luzerne Maps Offer Wealth Of Info
CMU Researchers Gauge Water Use In Supply Chain
Throop Illegal Dump Cleanup Underway, Delayed Only By Snow
Cheswick Coal Plant Upgrade May Hike Lead Emissions
Somerset Windmills Would Not Be Aviation Hazard, Feds Say
Carlisle Schools Choose Firm To Design Solar Panel Project
Editorial: Nuclear Power Play
2 Sue Allegheny Energy Over Sale Plan
Cooperative Extension Celebrates Milestone

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Help Wanted: Sustainable Agriculture Assn, Certified Organic, Blazosky Associates

The PA Association of Sustainable Agriculture, the PA Certified Organic Program and Blazosky Associates have a number of positions and an internship available.

Environmental Project Manager: Blazosky Associates is seeking to immediately fill an environmental project manager position in their State College office with a motivated person with an environmental consulting background. Individuals with civil and/or environmental permitting and design project experience along with pertinent experience securing solid waste, air quality and water quality permits in Pennsylvania is preferred. Individuals with renewable energy experience are also encouraged to apply. P.E. license in PA (or able to secure within six months) required. For further information please visit the Blazosky Associates website (Employment tab). Please send a cover letter with salary requirements, resume and references to B. Eckstut, Blazosky Associates, Inc. and send email to:

Director of Consumer Outreach and South Central Programs: The PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture is seeking a Director of Consumer Outreach and South Central Programs. Applications are due March. 15. Click here for full job announcement.

Administrative Director: The Pennsylvania Certified Organic Program is seeking an Administrative Director to direct the program. Click here for full job announcement.

PCO Internship: The Pennsylvania Certified Organic Program has an internship position available. Click here for full job announcement.

Thursday NewsClips

Dozens Turn Out To Oppose Gas Drilling In Matamoras, Wayne County
South Jersey Gas Says Its Shale Interest Paying Off
USDA To Hold Free Energy Information Session In Hempfield
Appliances Excluded From State's Energy Rebate Program
PPL Reportedly Spends $20 Million For Naming Rights For Soccer Stadium
Op-Ed: Cashing In On Climate Change
Appalachian Trail Neighbors Resist New Protections For Trail
Unauthorized Wastewater Hearing Brings Flowback Feedback
Editorial: Pipe Business Deal Shows Gas Industry Potential
Montgomery School Going Green With Geo-Thermal
Climate Skeptics -More Pennsylvanians Questioning Evidence
Elk Lake Schools Get Kudos For Energy Savings
Gas Alliance Says Drilling, Fracking Not So Invasive
Environmental Groups Seek Ban On Gas Wells In Floodplains

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Constellation Energy-- $90 Million Solar Project Financing Available

Constellation Energy today announced it will support the development of commercial photovoltaic power systems with a $90 million solar capital commitment.
To maximize the value of government renewable incentives, the $90 million set-aside will be available for customer-sited solar installations of 500 kilowatts or larger which begin construction before mid-year 2010.
Organizations interested in developing solar projects can contact Constellation Energy by ending email to: or 1-877-427-2005.

Wednesday NewsClips

DCNR Official Says More State Forest Land Will Be Leased For Drilling
Natural Gas Industry Has Engineering Firm Hiring
New Panel To Settle Disputes Over Natural Resources
Flood Potential From Snow Unknown
$2.7 Million Federal Grant To Help Fayette County Land Green Jobs
Worries About First Energy-Allegheny Energy Merger Persist
Regional Manure Digester Possible In Lancaster
Officials Want Local Share Of Natural Gas Severance Tax
Natural Gas Industry Air Quality Issues Addressed
Panel To Address Nockamixon Water Problems
Delaware River Dredging Set To Begin
Schuylkill Watershed Congress- Know Your Watershed
Spills Of Drilling Chemicals Worry Experts
Tioga County OKs Gas Lease With East Resources
Army Corps Says Now's The Time To Prepare For Flooding

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DCNR: Move Cautiously On Leasing More State Forest Land For Drilling

Acting Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley today told the Senate Appropriations Committee the Commonwealth should move cautiously in leasing any more State Forest land for drilling because it will become more difficult in the future to maintain the balance between producing natural gas and generating revenues and keeping the sustainable practices certification of the State Forest system.
Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre), Majority Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, agreed the state needs to be cautious. "If we don't put the right kinds of safeguards in place, shame on us," he said.
At the same time, Sen. Corman said projections he's seen about the royalties to be earned from just the leases already signed by DCNR say revenues will increase from an estimated $6 million in FY 2010-11 to over $300 million annually over the next 15 to 20 years.
Quigley also said he saw no reason why a proposed natural gas production severance tax would slow down gas leasing or drilling across the state considering the interest expressed in the last round of State Forest land leasing and the large investments made recently by companies in developing Marcellus Shale gas resources.
He noted that 90 percent of drilling activity occurs on private land and only about 10 percent on publicly owned land in the Commonwealth.
Sen. Corman commended Acting Secretary Quigley for keeping State Parks open and available for public use, even handling an over 13 percent increase in visitors, during a time when the Commonwealth was going through a severe budget crisis.
Acting Secretary Quigley said keeping the parks open came at a substantial cost in terms of reducing services significantly across the state and using Oil and Gas Fund monies to help pay staff and operating costs.
He said DCNR has reached the bottom in terms of cuts and any further reductions would mean not offering a quality park experience for the Commonwealth citizens. Quigley credited the dedicated women and men working at DCNR for keeping park services available to the public.
In response to questions, Acting Secretary Quigley touched on these topics during the Senate hearing--
State Park Drilling: In response to questions from Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) and Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), Quigley said the mineral and natural gas drilling rights for 75 percent of the land now used as State Parks is owned not by the public, but by private companies.
He said there have been several instances where the companies owning those rights have started to explore them in preparation for Marcellus Shale drilling. So far, he said, the impacts of those operations have been mitigated by surface rights agreements, but the activity is clearly picking up.
In contrast to State Park lands, Acting Secretary Quigley said, DCNR owns 75 to 80 percent of the mineral and natural gas rights under State Forest lands.
Gas Pipeline Impacts: Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Lackawanna) asked about the extent of natural gas gathering pipeline development and safety issues within State Forest lands.
Acting Secretary Quigley and DCNR Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forests James Grace said with six producing Marcellus Shale gas wells so far, there has not been much pipeline activity. However, Dr. Grace said many people believe the development of collection pipelines will become the largest environmental impact from gas well development in the future in terms of forest fragmentation and conflicts with the forest products industry and recreational users of State Forests.
Future Of Growing Greener Funding: In response to a question from Sen. Lawrence Farnese (D-Philadelphia) about needing more resources to develop Benjamin Rush State Park in Philadelphia, Acting Secretary Quigley said funding from the Growing Greener II bond issue runs out this year leaving only limited funding to support local and DCNR recreation improvement projects across the state.
Quigley said the real question is where we go from here in providing funding for these important projects which have direct economic benefit. Speaking for the agency, and not Gov. Rendell, he said he would welcome the opportunity to identify options for continuing Growing Greener-type funding.
Windmill Siting: Sen. Mary Jo White (R-Venango), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, asked about the status of leasing DCNR-held lands for wind farm development.
Acting Secretary Quigley said working with the industry and environmental groups through the Wind Energy Collaborative found there was relatively little potential for larger scale wind energy development on State Forest and Park lands. As a result, and with the pressures on the agency created by the Marcellus Shale natural gas leasing, he said they are putting off any attempts to get legislative approval to lease the land they own for windfarms.
Carbon Sequestration: In response to a question from Sen. Mary Jo White, Quigley said DCNR spent about $6 million on a study to determine the feasibility of developing a large scale underground carbon sequestration facility in the Commonwealth.
As a result of this work, they determined the geology of Pennsylvania was suitable for a sequestration facility, but the land area (and the mineral rights) needed to be assembled for a commercial carbon sequestration facility would make a project difficult.
For example, he said, an 800 megawatt coal-fired power plant would need an area of about 100 square miles for carbon sequestration over the 40 year life of the facility. With Pennsylvania's pattern of mineral ownership separate from surface rights owners, he said assembling a tract that large would be impractical. He said the agency is now looking at alternatives.
Gypsy Moth Spraying: Acting Secretary Quigley said, when asked by Sen. Baker, there will be no gypsy moth spraying this year as a result of budget cuts, however, Dr. Grace said the gypsy moth population has collapsed so he did not expect major damage to the Commonwealth's forests.
Timber Sales Collapse: Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh) asked why the projection of revenue from timber sales has decreased.
Acting Secretary Quigley and Dr. Grace said the timber market collapsed as a result of the downturn of the national economy and the housing market in particular. As a result, Dr. Grace said DCNR is selling the same amount of timber, but getting about half the revenue for it.
A copy of Acting Secretary Quigley's written testimony is available online. It is the same as presented to the House yesterday.

Note: Senate and House budget hearings can be seen live online on the PCN TV website Channels 1 and 2. Senate Hearings can be seen live and archived on the Senate Appropriations Committee webpage.

Tuesday NewsClips

Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearings: 10:00 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 1:00 Public Utility Commission. Hearing Room 1, North Office. Click here to watch online.
No Flooding Expected This Week For Fay-West Residents
DEP Plans To Boost Numbers Of Drilling Inspectors
Company's System Purifies Liquid In Marcellus Shale Drilling
Editorial: Air Your Views On Gas Drilling At Pike County Hearing
Lease Focus Of Lawsuit vs. Energy Company
New Season Of Hawks Via Franklin Institute Webcam
Birding Groups Rap Wind Turbines In Lancaster
Conservation Group Scores Congressmen On Environmental Votes
Plastics Recycling Enjoys Success In Elk County
Editorial: Reyerson Station State Park Lake Restoration Still Long Way Off
Company Shows Schools, Businesses How To Save Energy
Casey, Other Challenge EPA Authority To Regulated For Climate Change
Drilling Application Draws Crowed Up Delaware River
Editorial: Drexel Interns' Green Energy Project Intrigues

Monday, February 22, 2010

DCNR's Quigley: Only Sharp Service Reductions, Oil & Gas Fund Kept Parks Open

Acting Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley told the House Appropriations Committee today only a sharp reduction in services and the timely transfer of $1.7 million from the Oil and Gas Fund kept all 117 State Parks open for business this passed year.
At the same time, he noted State Parks experienced a 13.2 percent increase in visitors--- over 4.5 million more people using the facilities-- as Pennsylvanians look for close-to-home and less expensive recreation experiences.
In written testimony to the Committee, Acting Secretary Quigley said the Governor is recommending 12 new positions in the agency to help oversee the dramatic increase in leasing for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling on State Forest land.
Quigley told the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in December his agency did not have the staff resources needed to police the increased drilling activities. (12/21/09 PA Environment Digest)
His written testimony also highlighted DCNR's direct and indirect purchase of 130,000 acres of open space and critical habitat since the beginning of the Rendell Administration, including 73,000 acres added to State Forest lands and 5,000 acres of new State Park land.
Acting Secretary Quigley also said his agency is increasingly relying on monies from the Oil and Gas Fund to finance its operations. The proposed budget, for example, will use $10.6 million from the Fund to support Forestry operations and $2 million to supplement General Fund appropriations, in addition to the $1.7 million to keep State Parks open.
In response to questions, Quigley touched on several topics--
Moratorium On State Forest Drilling: Rep. David Reed (R-Indiana) asked whether DCNR was supporting a moratorium on leasing more State Forest land for natural gas drilling.
Acting Secretary Quigley said the Governor is considering it, but has proposed a natural gas production severance tax to provide funding for the state budget that could be an alternative to leasing. Rep. Reed noted the budget includes both leasing State Forest land and a severance tax.
Quigley noted DCNR is overseeing six producing Marcellus Shale wells, with 100 wells in the planning stage for this year. And in terms of statewide activity, only 10 percent or so of Marcellus Shale drilling activity is on State Forest lands.
State Forest Sustainable Management Certification: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) asked if the certification of State Forest land as using sustainable management practices by an independent agency is in jeopardy as a result of increased drilling on state land.
Acting Secretary Quigley said the sustainable certification rests on several factors including the degree of forest fragmentation and whether forest managers have enough staff and resources to properly manage the forest.
He said there is no doubt hundreds of new wells and their associated access roads and collection pipeline will have a negative impact on forest fragment in the future. He said we have only seen the tip of the iceberg on this issue.
Quigley said the certification is not only important to DCNR, but to Pennsylvania's forest products industry that relies on the certification to market many of its products. Forest-related industries support over 70,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.
Heritage Parks Funding Eliminated: Rep. Deberah Kula (D-Westmoreland) and Rep. William Kortz (D-Allegheny) expressed disappointment with the zeroing out of the Heritage Park grant program line item.
Acting Secretary Quigley said the recommendation was part of the budget agreement between the Governor and the General Assembly last year and carried forward to this year. He agreed the local Heritage Park areas are a very valuable resource for the Commonwealth and local economic development.
Threats To Close Parks: Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster) said he did not appreciate the threats used last year to close 35 State Parks, and the follow up calls by constituents to his office, as part of considering the state budget.
Acting Secretary Quigley said it was not a threat, it was real. He said only a sharp reduction in services offered at State Parks and $1.7 million in funding shifted from the Oil and Gas Fund by the Governor kept the parks open.
A copy of Acting Secretary Quigley's written testimony is available online.
The Senate Appropriations Committee holds a hearing on DCNR's budget on Tuesday, February 23 at 10:00.

Note: Senate and House budget hearings can be seen live online on the PCN TV website Channels 1 and 2. Senate Hearings can be seen live and archived on the Senate Appropriations Committee webpage.

Secretary Hanger- DEP Cut To Bone After Years Of Budget Reductions

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger told the House Appropriations Committee today his agency's budget has had a series of budget cuts over the past few years and "now we are down to the bone or close to the bone" in terms of having the resources needed to accomplish its mission to protect the environment.
In 2007, then-DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty used almost those same words to describe the Gov. Rendell's budget request for that year. (3/9/2007 PA Environment Digest)
In formal testimony before the Committee, Secretary Hanger highlighted hiring the Governor's directive to hire 68 new staff to beef up the agency's permit reviewers and inspection staff to deal with the influx of Marcellus Shale natural gas permits. He also said the agency was moving to update the agency's rules to put in place tougher Total Dissolved Solids and well casing requirements to protect water quality from new drilling technologies.
His testimony also repeated the Governor's call to increase the requirement for electric utilities to buy renewable energy under the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards and implementing the recommendations of the Climate Change Action Plan. He also outlined DEP's progress in spending its share of the federal stimulus funds and called for the extension of the $2/ton Recycling Fee to support local recycling programs. (2/12/10 PA Environment Digest)
In response to questions, Secretary Hanger touched on these issues--
Increasing Penalties for Drilling Violations: Rep. David Millard (R-Columbia) asked, on behalf of sportsmen in his area, whether DEP has considered increasing the penalties for water quality violations by drilling operations.
Secretary Hanger said he is not considering increasing penalties at this time because other tools like halting work on drill sites and revoking permits can be much more effective than simply imposing higher fines. "We will not allow violations to be a cheaper way to operate. We will not hesitate to make criminal referrals to District Attorneys, the Attorney General or to the (federal) Department of Justice for violations we see."
Taking Conservation District Out of Drilling Enforcement: Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster) asked the Secretary to explain why conservation districts were removed from the erosion and sedimentation permitting and enforcement process related to gas drilling operations.
Secretary Hanger said it seemed to make sense to have one agency rather than two handling permitting for Marcellus Shale drilling operations, especially when funding for districts is going down and funding for DEP's drilling permitting and enforcement operations is increasing courtesy of recent permit fee increases.
Future Drilling Enforcement Funding: Rep. William Adolph (R-Delaware), Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, asked if recent fee increases for drilling permits is adequate now and will it be adequate in the future to oversee Marcellus Shale production.
Secretary Hanger said the recent permit fee increases gave the agency more resources to handle the permitting and enforcement of Marcellus Shale drilling. Perhaps 10 to 20 years into the future, when the number of new permits decreases, the department may have to consider some sort of annual permit fee to support drilling oversight activities, but not now.
Monongahela River Total Dissolved Solids Pollution: Rep. William Kortz (D-Allegheny) asked for a status report on the TDS pollution in the Monongahela River, especially since water coming into Pennsylvania from West Virginia already violates TDS standards.
Secretary Hanger said water in the Monongahela had TDS in violations in 2008 and 2009 and agreed water coming into the state violated TDS standards at times.
He noted a number of steps were being taken to deal with the problem, including changes proposed to TDS regulations on sources in Pennsylvania, stopping wastewater treatment plants in certain communities from accepting drilling wastewater for treatment and intervening in water quality permits being considered in West Virginia to reduce TDS discharges.
Conservation District Funding Cuts: Rep. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) expressed concern about the cuts to funding for county conservation districts saying the state is only pushing costs down on local government.
Secretary Hanger said this was one of the many tough decisions that had to be made in this budget and if the funding is restored it would have to come from some where. He agreed, however, with the sentiment in the Representative's statement.
Chesapeake Bay Cleanup: Rep. Gorden Denlinger (R-Lancaster) asked for an update on the steps Pennsylvania was taking to comply with nutrient reduction requirements to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
Secretary Hanger said, briefly, Pennsylvania must show progress in meeting the cleanup standards because if we do not, the Commonwealth runs the risk of having a federal court taking jurisdiction and imposing requirements it seems are appropriate. He noted Pennsylvania now has to report our progress every two years.
He also said he sees promising new technologies, like manure digestors and using manure as a fuel, to help deal with the nutrient reduction requirements.
Mine Reclamation Funding: In response to a question by Rep. William Kortz (D-Allegheny), Secretary Hanger said DEP expects to receive $55 million in mine reclamation funds from the federal Office of Suface Mining. He did not mention funding for projects from the Growing Greener Watershed Restoration Program was largely ending this year.
Withdrawal From Delaware River Basin Commission: Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks) suggested Pennsylvania should consider withdrawing from the Delaware River Basin Commission because New York City is blocking attempts by the Commonwealth to deal with flooding and fishkill issues in the Basin.
Secretary Hanger said he has been engaging New York City in discussions on these important issues and that progress was being made
Septic Tank Maintenance Ordinances: Rep. John Siptroth (D-Monore) asked why DEP was putting pressure on local governments in Monroe, Wayne and Pike counties to adopt local septic tank maintenance ordinances and delaying the processing of sewage modules for new development. He also expressed concern about reductions in local sewage enforcement grants.
Secretary Hanger said a recent court decision required DEP to change the way it administers this program, but agreed the options communities have to comply with these requirements were not clearly articulated by agency staff. He said meetings are being arranged in the northeast counties to make those options clearer.
Secretary Hanger said funding local sewage enforcement was one of those tough budget decisions that had to be made and if it is to be restored it would have to come from some other part of the budget.
Sewage Permits Expiring: Rep. Doug Reichley (R-Berks) said bankrupt subdivisions being sold by banks are running into an issue where water quality permits are expiring for these incomplete developments and the new owners are being required to get a new permit with new requirements being imposed. He said this kind of inflexibility is blocking the orderly resale of these developments.
Secretary Hanger said he was just made aware of this issue by a letter from Rep. Reichley and was looking into it in detail.
Recycling Fee Extension: Rep. John Siptroth (D-Monroe) asked the status of recycling programs given the $2/ton Recycling Fee will be expiring soon. He also asked about the agency's position on legislation to authorize a county solid waste management fee of up to $4/ton.
Secretary Hanger said he is now in the process of shutting down the recycling grants program because the General Assembly has not taken action to extend the recycling fee. He did not comment on the county solid waste management fee.
Alternative Energy: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) asked for some general background on the costs and benefits of increasing the renewable energy requirements in the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards. Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Philadelphia) also asked about the benefits of alternative energy to urban areas.
Secretary Hanger pointed to the recent Black & Veatch study which documented the economic and other benefits of increasing the standard as recommended by Gov. Rendell. He said jobs have been created all over the state as a result of alternative energy investments and pointed to the recent announcement by Hellosphera US to create 400 jobs at the former Philadelphia Navy Yard.
A copy of Secretary Hanger's written testimony is available online.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on DEP's budget will be held on March 1 at 1:00.

Note: Senate and House budget hearings can be seen live online on the PCN TV website Channels 1 and 2. Senate Hearings can be seen live and archived on the Senate Appropriations Committee webpage.

Monday NewsClips

House Appropriations Committee budget hearings: 10:00 Department of Environmental Protection, 11:00 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 1:00 Department of Agriculture. Room 140. Click here to watch on PCN Channel 2.
Gas Well Foes Vow To Fight Rendell
Turtle Creek Stream Valley Greenway Plan Up For Discussion
DEP, DCNR Citizens Councils Offer Advice To Gubernatorial Candidates
Happy Birthday! Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition
Water Quality Snapshot Of 200 Mine Drainage Treatment Systems In Datashed
Peregrine Falcons Twitter, Live Online Video Now Available

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rendell Says Action Plan Will Protect, Restore Great Lakes' Ecosystem

Gov. Rendell, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and members of the Council of Great Lakes Governors today unveiled an ambitious action plan designed to address the most serious environmental challenges facing the Great Lakes ecosystem.
"The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative highlights the important and urgent cause of protecting and restoring this valuable natural treasure," Gov. Rendell said. "Pennsylvania may only represent a small portion of the Great Lakes basin, but we have strong ideas and plans on how to return the Lake Erie watershed to good health. This action plan is an unprecedented opportunity for state and local partners in Pennsylvania's Great Lakes watersheds to take steps that will have a lasting benefit."
In February 2009, President Obama proposed $475 million for a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The action plan unveiled today identifies goals, objectives and targets for programs and projects aimed at improving the Great Lakes ecosystem. The plan also outlines how the initiative's measures will be implemented through 2014.
The plan addresses issues including toxic substances and areas of concern; invasive species; near-shore health and nonpoint source pollution; and protections for habitat and wildlife.
The Governor said monitoring and evaluating the plan's actions will help to ensure accountability, and that continuing clear and regular communications and strong partnerships will be critical to the plan's eventual success.
"The priorities identified in the federal government's 2010 spending plan and the multi-year action plan support Pennsylvania's ongoing Great Lakes efforts," Gov. Rendell said. "One of our first cooperative tasks will be integrating the numerous existing federal, state and local restoration plans into a specific set of priorities and actions to create a blueprint for future action by both government and non-government organizations in Pennsylvania."
Click here for EPA's Great Lakes Action Plan.

Sunday NewsClips

Lackawaxen River Conservancy Leads River Of The Year Celebration
Threat Of Gas Drilling To State Forests Weighed
Drilling Water May Be Treated At Acid Mine Treatment Site
Plan To Truck PA Fracking Wastewater To Finger Lakes Shelved For Now
Over 100 Attend House Committee Hearing On Marcellus Shale Drilling
Marcellus Shale Wells Hit With One Quarter Of DEP Enforcement Actions
Western PA Facing Flood Of Record
Flood Control Efforts In Western PA
Great Lakes Watershed Grants Available
Scott Twp. Gearing Up For Potentially Costly Septic Inspections
Recycled Rock Salt Melts Ice Just As Well
PEC Green Buildings Report For Philadelphia- Video
Deer Audit Recommends Game Commission Release Population Estimates
Report Backs Deer Management Plan
Deer Program Audit Says Model Credible But Presents Concerns

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feb. 22 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The February 22 PA Environment Digest is now available. Click here to print this Digest.

CBF, Trout Unlimited Call For Ban On Marcellus Gas Wells In Floodplains After Incidents

Marcellus Shale natural gas wells are being permitted and drilled in floodplains. Two such wells, one operated by Stone Energy along Wyalusing Creek in Rush Township, Susquehanna County, and one operated by XTO along Muncy Creek in Shrewsbury Township, Lycoming County already experienced flooding events. Click here to read more....

Reminder: Early Registration Deadline for PA Environmental Educators Conference Is Feb. 20

The PA Association of Environmental Educators annual conference will be held March 11-13 at the Normandy Farm, Blue Bell, Pa. The theme of the Conference will be "A Sense of Place-Our Outdoor Heritage."
The keynote speaker for the event will be Dudley Edmondson author of "Black and Brown Faces In America's Wild Places."
Conference scholarships are available. Register by February 20 for early discounts. For more information, visit the Conference webpage.

Friday NewsClips

March 1 Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing on DEP has been changed to 1:00.
Judge Asked To Delay Drilling In Allegheny National Forest
Concerns Expressed About Marcellus Shale Drilling
Hess Corp Offers Drilling Deals To Damascus, Preston Areas
Texas Mayor Offers Warning About Natural Gas Drilling
Scientists, Amish To Fight Chesapeake Bay Pollution
Ashland Sewage Plant Upgrades Could Be Complete By Summer
Plans To Restore Cocalico Creek Area Reviewed
Resources The Focus Of First-Ever South Mountain Summit
Mercury Thermostat Disposal Offered In Dauphin County
Op-Ed: You Can Value Natural World, Yet Be Skeptical Of Climate Science
DEP Chief Reviews Meadville Biomass Heating Project
Chester County Unveils Landscape2 Plan
Geologist Concerned About Drilling Truck Traffic
Going Green At An Early Age
Editorial: Natural Gas Tax, Patience Will Yield Greatest Payoff
Marcellus Drilling Bubbles To Surface At Meeting
Litter Bugged Pittsburgh Resident
Drill Baby Drill!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

CBF and TU Call For Ban On Marcellus Gas Wells In Floodplains After Incidents In Susquehanna & Lycoming Counties

In the rush to develop the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania, natural gas wells are being permitted and drilled in floodplains. Two such wells, one operated by Stone Energy along Wyalusing Creek in Rush Township, Susquehanna County, and one operated by XTO along Muncy Creek in Shrewsbury Township, Lycoming County already experienced flooding events.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Trout Unlimited (TU) call upon the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to remedy this clear environmental and public health hazard.
“The handling of fracking chemicals and highly contaminated drilling wastewater in floodplains is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. It has to stop,” said Matt Ehrhart, executive director of CBF’s Pennsylvania Office. “Permitting well pads in floodplains causes a very serious threat of pollution. We call upon DEP to use its authority under the Clean Streams Law to order the companies operating these wells to permanently cap and abandon them, and then reclaim the sites to their natural condition.”
While current regulations do not allow well pads to be located within 100 feet of streams or within the floodway without an encroachment permit, neither the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act nor its regulations prohibit siting wells in floodplains. Because horizontal drilling technology is used to drill into Marcellus shale, the gas underneath streams and floodplains can easily be accessed from a pad location in an upland area, avoiding risk of flooding and catastrophic pollution to Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams. There is no reason to site wells in floodplains.
“This loophole must be closed immediately,” said Dave Rothrock, president of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited.
In late January, heavy rains hit northern Pennsylvania and several streams and rivers experienced flooding events, including Wyalusing and Muncy Creeks. Both the Stone Energy and the XTO sites were flooded as a result of these events.
“The risk of pollution to our streams will increase exponentially in a matter of weeks,” said Rothrock. “As we head into the season of snowmelt and spring rains, there should be absolutely no more well drilling activity in floodplains anywhere in Pennsylvania.”
The Stone Energy site was permitted along Wyalusing Creek by DEP without the necessary encroachment permits. While DEP issued a notice of violation to the company the week before the flood, the agency should have never issued the well drilling permit in the first place. CBF has previously highlighted serious flaws in the fast track permitting process implemented by DEP since April 2009, where permit applications do not receive careful environmental review but are instead pushed quickly out the door.
In August 2009, CBF appealed three erosion and sediment control permits issued by DEP for drilling sites in Tioga County. CBF’s appeals resulted in a DEP review of the plans and revocation of all three permits because of serious deficiencies.
“The Stone Energy site is yet another example of permits being issued without the necessary review,” said Ehrhart. “DEP should not have issued a drilling permit that close to the creek, plain and simple. If the agency was spending any time looking at the proposed location, it would have known that.”
Governor Rendell recently announced plans to hire 68 new DEP staff to bolster inspection and environmental compliance as Marcellus Shale development expands, and DEP announced plans to open a new regional office in Scranton to increase its presence in the northeast, where much drilling is already taking place.
“We are glad Pennsylvania has taken these actions,” said Ehrhart. “We hope that DEP will take advantage of these new staff and resources to ensure more careful review of permits.”
Photos of the Stone Energy flooding can be found online.

Coca-Cola, Keep America Beautiful Partner In Recycling Bin Grant Program

The Coca-Cola Company and Keep America Beautiful, Inc. recently announced the Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program is again accepting grant applications. The deadline for applications is March 12.
Grant recipients receive both donated recycling bins and expertise on how to set up recycling programs from Keep America Beautiful.
Eligible grant recipients include government agencies, civic organizations, schools and nonprofit groups. Successful applicants will be notified on or before April 22. For more information, visit the Recycling Bin Grant Program webpage.

Marcellus Shale Coalition Condemns Disregard For Environmental Laws

Marcellus Shale Coalition President and Executive Director Kathryn Klaber issued the following statement regarding the guilty pleas of two individuals who illegally poured 200,000 gallons of brine fluid from a shallow well drilling operation down an abandoned well in McKean County:
"On behalf of the members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, we are appalled by the actions of these two people and their disregard for Pennsylvania's environmental laws. Companies engaged in oil and natural gas development activity in Pennsylvania must meet the regulatory requirements of the Commonwealth, which extends to the businesses that support those operators in planning, drilling and completing wells.
"The MSC applauds the government agencies involved in the investigation of this crime and the efforts to bring these two people to justice, and trust they will be suitably punished for their disregard of Pennsylvania's environmental laws."
"The members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition are committed to using the best management practices in the industry to comply with all state regulations to protect the environment and the people of Pennsylvania."
NewsClip: Drillers Admit Violating Environmental Laws In Allegheny National Forest

Thursday NewsClips

House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee holds a hearing today on mitigating the environmental risks associated with drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation and House Bill 2213 (George-D-Clearfield) providing for additional well casing and other protections for groundwater for drilling operations. Knights of Columbus, Clearfield. 1:00
Philadelphia Launches Coolest Block Energy Contest
New Bike Paths For Southeast Courtesy Of U.S. Stimulus
Marcellus Shale Coalition Condemns Disregard For Environmental Laws
Op-Ed: Responsible Drilling Must Be Priority
$1 Million Solar Energy Grant For Potato Plant
Bucks Group To Eliminate Invasive Species
Op-Ed: Marcellus Decisions Crucial To PA's Future
Will Penelec Follow PPL Lead When Rate Caps Come Off?
Natural Gas May Take Tioga County From Rags To Riches
Clearfield Authority May Partner To Treat Frack Water
Centre Has Sufficient Infrastructure To Support Gas Drilling
Clinton: Our Job Is To Minimize Impact Of Gas Drilling
Clinton County: The Gas Rush Is On

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CBF: Budget Cuts Threaten Environmental Programs, Time For Honest Talk On Severance Tax

In the face of a second year of severe cuts in environmental funding Pennsylvania will be hard-pressed to meet its environmental obligations. With budget hearings set for next week, this is a crucial time for an honest discussion of a natural gas severance tax and what the proceeds should be used for, according to Matthew Ehrhart, Pennsylvania Office Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).
“Gov. Rendell's proposed 2010-11 budget locks in place the deepest cuts imposed on the state's environmental programs in the Commonwealth's history, undermining the basic ability of the state to protect Pennsylvania’s environment,” said Ehrhart. “At the same time, Pennsylvania is under a court-order and federal mandates to clean up our rivers and streams to meet basic water quality standards to protect public health and aquatic life, and restore the Chesapeake Bay.”
Last year the General Fund budget of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was cut 26 percent, 18 percent was cut from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and 333 full-time positions were cut from these agencies. Programs in the Department of Agriculture were also cut, including $5 million from the popular Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credit program.
This year Gov. Rendell has proposed to lock in those cuts and make $5 million more. In addition, he proposes to transfer $180 million from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund, which had supported the agency, to the General Fund to help balance the budget. The total cuts and diversions from environmental programs in the proposed budget total over $320 million.
If the proposed FY 2010-11 budget is adopted, it means more than $1.3 billion in environmental funding has been cut or diverted to other programs that could not get funding on their own over the last eight years.
“On top of these drastic cuts, funding is also running out this year from the 2005 Growing Greener II bond issue which is critical to helping farmers install best management practices, to reclamation of abandoned mines, and to permanently protecting farmland and open space important to improved water quality,” explained Ehrhart. “In short, this a perfect storm of financial trends for environmental programs that are all headed the wrong way in the face of mandates that require the state to do much more to restore water quality.”
Gov. Rendell and members of the Senate and House have proposed a severance tax on natural gas production which is now growing exponentially in Pennsylvania thanks to the development of the Marcellus Shale formation. Pennsylvania is the only state with significant gas reserves that does not have a severance tax.
In 2010 alone, the industry and DEP estimate over 5,200 permits will be issued for new Marcellus Shale gas wells, more than doubling the number issued in 2009, in spite of hard economic times generally and low natural gas prices. In addition, DCNR has leased State Forest land that will result in thousands of new wells bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue.
“Since 2003 when the first Marcellus Shale well was drilled, the natural gas industry has invested billions of dollars in leasing drilling rights and developing the infrastructure needed to take advantage of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania,” Ehrhart said. “As long as the gas is here, a hundred years by some estimates, the industry will be here.”
In the past, industries took resources like coal, timber and oil out of Pennsylvania at will, without much thought to what they would leave behind. As a result, Pennsylvania has thousands of miles of rivers and streams polluted by abandoned mine drainage and more abandoned oil wells from than any other eastern state.
“But now, we can choose a different path and make a lasting, positive contribution to restoring Pennsylvania's environment,” Ehrhart said. “By using the budget process to have an honest discussion of how a severance tax could be structured to help local communities cope with the demands of drilling operations on infrastructure and help make permanent improvements to the environment, our elected officials have an historic opportunity to offer true environmental leadership.”
CBF supports a natural gas severance tax which uses the revenue to:
-- Help local communities cope with the impacts to road, bridge and water infrastructure caused by drilling;
-- Restart the Growing Greener program to refocus funding on watershed restoration, agricultural best management practices, mine reclamation, plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, permanently preserve open space and farmland and make mandated improvements to wastewater and drinking water infrastructure; and
-- Provide funding to both DEP and DCNR to assure the protection of water quality in local rivers and streams affected by drilling operations.
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation opposes using revenues from a severance tax in a short-sighted attempt to balance the state budget,” Ehrhart said. “The opportunity for true leadership is now when the Commonwealth is in its time of most need, squeezed between severe budget cuts and significant clean water mandates.”

Wednesday NewsClips

Budget Hearings Today--
February 17-- House Game and Fisheries Committee hearing on the Fish and Game Commission annual report. Room 60 East Wing. 10:00.
February 17-- Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearings: 10:00 Department of Agriculture. Hearing Room 1, North Office.
Drillers Admit Violating Environmental Laws In Allegheny National Forest
State Forest Gas Leasing Stirs Opposition
Japanese Firm To Invest $1.4 Billion In PA Marcellus Shale
Audit: Tweak Deer Management Program
Report: Deer Estimate Should Become Public
DEP Report Says Longwall Mining Caused Subsidence Of Dam
Lancaster County Stimulus Story, Chesapeake Bay Cleanup
DEP Aids Recycling, Yard Waste Programs
Developer Wants To Double Size Of Carbon Solar Park
Erie Businessman Builds Biodiesel Plant From Pieces, Parts
Harrisburg Faces $2 Million Incinerator Payment March 1
Wilkes-Barre Last Stop Of PA Cycling Tour
Wyoming County Forum To Address Air Quality From Gas Wells
Schuylkill Conservation District Founder Receives National Recognition
Editorial: Hope For MOre Happy Trails Near Hazleton
Editorial: Gas Drilling Environmental Partnership In Action
Towanda Schools Eyeing Gas Royalty, Lease Money To Run Schools

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Late NewsClips

Drillers Admit Dumping Water In National Forest
Peregrine Falcons Nesting Again In Harrisburg
Rendell Hopes to Avoid More State Worker Layoffs

Japanese Oil Company Invests $1.4 Billion In Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Play

Mitsui & Co., Ltd tonight announced it was investing $1.4 billion in the development and production of Marcellus Shale gas projects in Pennsylvania through Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.
The Wall Street Journal reported Mitsui is expected to spend between $3 billion and $4 billion over the next decade to develop its portion of the Marcellus Shale project. Anadarko has least 715,000 acres with Marcellus Shale reserves, according to the Journal. NewsClip: Anadarko In $1.4 Billion Marcellus Shale Deal With Mitsui

Joint Committee Audit Validates Game Commission Deer Management Approach

An independent program audit by the Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released this week found the Game Commission has a credible system for managing the state's deer population and that deer were a major cause of forest regeneration failure.
At the same time, the report said the Commission needs to improve the involvement of stakeholders in its process for setting policy, in particular the non-hunting public.
The study was conducted by the Wildlife Management Institute.
“We believe it was a thorough review of our program and we appreciate the constructive criticism,” Carl Roe, Game Commission Executive Director, said. “We welcome the conclusion that the overall scientific foundation of the Game Commission’s deer management system is sound, and that the design of the current Wildlife Management Units reflect a necessary compromise between the various needs.
“The report also provides some opportunities to improve our deer management program. Some of the recommendations we can address easily, but some will require additional resources to be able to implement.”
Dr. Christopher Rosenberry, Game Commission Deer Management Supervisor, said he and his team concur with the findings of the audit that indicate the Game Commission has implemented a deer management program that is consistent with its mandates through structured public involvement and scientific data collection methods.
“As with any complex undertaking, such as a statewide deer program, room for improvement exists,” Rosenberry said. “In the past, the Game Commission has actively sought peer-reviews of various components of our deer program, conducted research and analyses to evaluate strengths and weaknesses, and implemented changes when warranted. The recommendations from this audit will be treated in a similar manner.
“The Game Commission appreciates the thoroughness of this review and evaluation of our deer program. This audit identified current strengths and areas for improvement within the deer management program. As with previous peer-reviews, the Game Commission will use these findings and recommendations to improve its deer management program where possible.”
Conclusions & Recommendations
The audit was required by House Resolution 642 (Levdansky-D-Allegheny). The major conclusions and recommendations in the report were--
-- The public has been given an opportunity to provide input to the PGC’s deer management decision making process. The PGC has encouraged public debate on the consequences of abundant deer on forest health, deer health, and human interactions.
-- PGC’s deer management goals are consistent with its constitutional mandate. The PGC is constitutionally mandated to conserve and maintain all wildlife for the benefit of all people. The PGC has done a good job in balancing the interests of all stakeholders, not just hunters.
-- The PGC has developed a credible population model to track population trends, both state- wide and at the WMU level. The PGC uses an SAK (sex-age-kill) model to estimate the size of the PA deer herd. WMI reviewed the factors used in the model and believe it to be credible. Using this model, the PGC estimates the 2007 deer herd to be about 1.03 million, with an upper estimate of 1.28 million and a lower estimate of 0.85 million. This represents a 25% decline from the 2002 estimate of 1.38 million.
-- The PGC needs to develop and prioritize policies and procedures to increase harvest reporting. The declining trend in reporting rate jeopardizes the viability of the PGC’s harvest estimates. The PGC’s point-of-license system offers opportunities to improve harvest reporting.
-- The PGC should seek an alternative to embryos per adult doe as an index of herd health. Natural variability in embryo data make this a poor measure of herd health. WMI suggested several measures that could be used if new data collection methodologies were employed.
-- Pennsylvania forests are challenged by many environmental and social factors, but abundance of deer is a major cause of forest regeneration failure. Deer management is an essential part of forest ecosystem management. Progress cannot be made towards the goals of sustainable forestry and better wildlife management unless deer numbers are in balance with their food supply.
-- Forest regeneration is a sound measure of forest habitat health, but insufficient sampling jeopardizes the value of the measure. Forest health data as currently collected suffers from inadequate sampling.
The report makes several recommendations to improve sampling.
-- Citizen Advisory Committees allow stakeholder participation, but is not a fully objective method to assess citizen desires. CACs provide opportunities for public input into the PGC’s deer management plans, but the non-hunting public is not fully represented, and the PGC does not commit to the results of the CAC process when establishing WMU goals.
-- Wildlife Management Units are appropriately sized. Large WMUs (such as in PA) allow for better sampling of deer management data, but make it difficult to manage for hunter preferences. The DMAP and other programs help mitigate this disadvantage.
Recommendations: The PGC should:
-- Continue to improve the accuracy of the SAK model. WMI makes several technical suggestions.
-- Use the point-of-sale licensing system, in con- junction with increased enforcement of mandatory reporting requirements, as a way to improve harvest estimates.
-- Publish its estimates of the deer herd population for each WMU and explain how those numbers are derived.
-- Consider eliminating herd health as a goal due to the lack of a good measure of goal attainment.
-- Improve the sampling size for its forest regeneration metric. WMI makes several technical suggestions for improvements.
-- Create a statewide CAC and use statistically valid survey methods to obtain public input at the WMU level.
-- Increase communication with stakeholders.
The full report is available online. An executive summary is also available.

Tuesday NewsClips

Rendell Revisits Natural Gas Severance Tax
EPA Official: State Regulators Doing Fine On Hydrofracking
Lackawaxen River Conservancy Capitalizes On River Of The Year Honor
Biologists Experiment With Treatment For White-Nose Syndrome In Bats
Pittston Parks Cleanup Set
Amos Funk, Farmland Preservation Pioneer, Dies
Crackdown On Marcellus Haulers
Chesapeake Waste Disposal Plan Puts Steuben At Center Of Dispute
Riches From Gas Leases Make PA Forests, Game Land Poorer
Op-Ed Face Off: To Drill Or Not To Drill

Thursday, February 11, 2010

DEP Issues Drilling Wastewater Treatment Permit In West Branch Susquehanna

The Department of Environmental Protection today issued an industrial wastewater discharge permit to TerrAqua Resource Management LLC of Williamsport that allows the company to treat and discharge 400,000 gallons per day of gas well drilling wastewater.
“This is the first new permit issued in the West Branch Susquehanna River watershed for treating gas well drilling wastewater,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell. “The monitoring requirements and stringent limits on total dissolved solids, chlorides and sulfates in this permit will protect the water quality of the West Branch Susquehanna River.”
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination permit requires TerrAqua to meet the proposed new regulatory standards of 500 parts per million for total dissolved solids and 250 parts per million for chlorides and sulfates. These standards will be required statewide effective Jauary. 1, 2011.
TerrAqua has indicated that it will pursue a thermal treatment process capable of reducing total dissolved solid levels to less than 500 parts per million at all times.
The discharge permit also requires TerrAqua to monitor for radioactivity, a large number of metals, including barium, strontium, iron, manganese and aluminum, as well as organics such as toluene, benzene, phenols, ethylene glycol and surfactants.
The company’s application for the permit, which was submitted in August 2008, went through an extensive public participation process. More than 150 people attended a DEP public meeting held in July 2009 to discuss the permit and ask questions.
“The department received nearly 200 public comments regarding this permit application and have responded to and addressed all relevant questions and concerns raised in those comments,” Yowell said.
TerrAqua now must submit a water quality management permit application to DEP for the treatment plant’s design and technology. This permit is required to construct and operate the plant.
The company has also applied for a general permit from DEP’s waste management program to process, recycle and reuse this wastewater for subsequent fracking operations.
The DEP Northcentral Regional Office has nine additional permit applications under review for proposed gas well drilling wastewater treatment plants in Bradford, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Lycoming, and Tioga counties. Proposed discharge points include the Susquehanna, Chemung, and Tioga rivers as well as several streams.

Thursday NewsClips

State Offices in Harrisburg are on a 2 hour delay.
State Budget A Raw Deal For The Environment
Unemployed Get Training For Weatherization Jobs
Climate Experts: Snows No Proof
Philadelphia's Green Machine Gets A New Leader
Editorial: Gas Wells Subject To Local Zoning
New Septic Rules Causing Concern In Wayne County
Drilling Down On Gas Issues In Abington
FirstEnergy Buying Power Rival Allegheny Energy
Upper Delaware Council Makes Plea For Flood Control
Hess Oil Prepping For Massive Gas Drilling In Wayne, Susquehanna Counties
SRBC Sets Hearing For Gas Drilling In Wayne County
Paul Carpenter Column: Robber Barons Rape Resources
Natural Gas Expo Coming Up In Coudersport
Editorial: Handling Of Climate Prof Mann Appropriate
Beaverdale Area Wind Farm Planned
DuBois Takes Part In Source Water Protection Program

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10,000 Friends Of Pennsylvania 2010 Commonwealth Award Nominations Due

Attention smart growth advocates and urban design professionals! 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania is now accepting entries for the 2010 Commonwealth Awards program. The deadline for nominations is February 26.
The 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania Commonwealth Awards is a juried state-wide program to recognize businesses, nonprofits, elected officials, and citizens contributing to the economic and environmental health of the Commonwealth.
The awards pay tribute to visionaries - developers, builders, designers, community leaders, local officials, financiers, and others - who have invested in building a better future for Pennsylvania. These leaders put smart growth to work by envisioning, promoting, designing and building communities that improve life for residents, employers, employees, and visitors.
A new design and leadership category was added in 2010. The PNC Bank Opportunity for All - Affordable Housing/Community and Economic Development Awards will highlight affordable and special needs housing projects and community and economic initiatives that positively impact lower income communities.
In addition to the project awards, The PNC Leading the Way Awards will acknowledge outstanding leadership by specific individuals or teams in promoting and developing affordable housing in the commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Awards honor both design projects and individuals in two separate divisions. The design projects are evaluated by a jury of accomplished leaders in planning, design, and community development.
Eligible projects must be located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the project must have been built or under construction since January 1, 2005. The individuals are evaluated by the 10,000 Friends Board of Directors.
The 2010 winners will be announced at a program on May 11 at the Hilton Harrisburg in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For more information, visit the Commonwealth Awards webpage.

Special Dinner Celebration For Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence April 20

The Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence are given out each year by the Department of Environmental Protection to highlight the best in environmental innovation and expertise throughout the Commonwealth.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council will host a gala dinner in Harrisburg on April 20 to honor the award winners at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel. For information on sponsorship and attendance, contact Cyndee Stofko by sending email to:

Deadline Extended For Proposals To West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Symposium

Trout Unlimited and the West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Coalition have extended the deadline for accepting proposals for presentations at the May 6-7 West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Symposium until February 17.
If you have interesting or innovative research or a project to share related to abandoned mine drainage, mine reclamation, innovative uses for mine drainage or treatment residuals, or a related topic? Projects with a focus in the West Branch Susquehanna River basin are preferred, but not required.
TU and the WBSRC are seeking individuals to provide presentations on these topics on May 6, during the 5th West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Symposium. Interested persons should send a short abstract (250 word maximum) along with their name, affiliation, and contact information to Rachel Kester by email to:

Wednesday NewsClips

State offices, DEP offices in Harrisburg and other areas of the state are closed today due to the snow storm.
In Election Year, Few Lawmakers Warm To Rendell's Risky Tax Plan
Not A Good Time For Tax Changes
Senate GOP Says It Will Block Rendell's Tax Overhaul
John Baer: Guv's Interesting Budget Ideas Are DOA To GOP
Column: Legislature Has Ed Rendell Fatigue
Colleges Add Natural Gas Industry Programs
Lake Erie Could Freeze Over Entirely For First Time In Years
Luzerne Stormwater Operation Costs Mulled

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Governor's Proposed Budget Locks In 26 Percent Cut In DEP, 18 Percent Cut At DCNR

Gov. Rendell today proposed his 2010-11 state budget effectively locking in the 26 percent cut made in the Department of Environmental Protection and 18 percent cut at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources made in the current year budget and the additional mid-year cuts.
The Governor's budget documents are available online--
-- Governor's General Budget press release;
-- Governor's press release on Health Care and Seniors;
-- Governor's press release on Reforming Taxes;
-- Governor's press release on Education, Preparing a Workforce;
-- 2010-11 detailed budget documents;
-- Proposed Budget Fact Sheets - Highlights, Addressing Future Deficits, School Funding, Childhood Education, Taxing Cigars, Smokeless Tobacco, Natural Gas Tax.
Budget Overview
Gov. Rendell proposed a $29 billion General Fund budget for 2010-11 that assumes the state will receive $2.75 billion in federal stimulus funds, without a broad-based tax increase, but he did propose changes in the personal and businesses tax code.
He also proposed a Stimulus Transition Fund to reduce the projected $2.4 billion deficit in the 2011-12 budget when federal stimulus funds are no longer available and takes a swing at the multi-billion dollar unfunded pension cost spike.
The Governor would generate revenue for the Stimulus Transition Fund, which could not be used until the 2011-12 budget, by calling on the General Assembly to make several changes to state's tax structure to make it fairer. He would --
-- Lower the 6 percent Sales Tax to 4 percent by eliminating 74 exemptions now in the law (but not food, clothing and prescriptions) and taxing legal fees and other items, eliminating the 1 percent vendor's discount and expanding the tax to tobacco products;
-- Cut the Corporate Net Income tax from 9.99 percent to 8.9 percent by adopting combined reporting, eliminating the Delaware loophole and eliminating the cap on net loss carry forward; and
-- Proposes a natural gas production severance tax that he estimates will generate about $178.6 million-- $17.9 million to be returned to communities with Marcellus Shale gas drilling impacts and $160.7 million to the Transition Fund..
The Governor also plans to take steps to deal with the looming unfunded pension cost spike in 2012-13 by increasing the Commonwealth's employer payments for the State Employees Benefit Fund by $200 million, reamortizing both the State Employee and School Employee Funds over 30 years and he laid out a schedule of increasing employer contributions over the next few years, capping annual increases at 3 percent.
Senate Republicans React
Senate Majority Leader Domining Pileggi (R-Delaware) said the Governor is proposing over $1.1 billion in increased spending at the same time the state is facing a budget deficit of $500 million. He also said now is not a time to radically restructure the state's tax system with the Governor leaving office. The next Governor should be involved in this discussion. He added he thought it was a question of timing on the Marcellus Shale severance tax. He doesn't not want to see the economic potential of this industry lilmited.
Senate Republican Appropriations Chair Jake Corman (R-Centre) said large sections of the Governor's budget are based on action by the federal government to provide additional federal stimulus funds and on passing health care legislation. It's a budget, he said, based on "a wing and a prayer." "Government spending will not get us out of this recession, jobs will."
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said, "we aren't cowards if we don't raise taxes." On the Marcellus Shale tax, he said the Governor wanted and the General Assembly passed grant programs for solar and wind energy adding he isn't asking for that kind of support, only for the gas industry to be treated fairly.
Marcellus Shale Tax
The proposed Marcellus Shale natural Gas severance tax would charge companies a 5 percent tax on the value of the natural gas at the wellhead, plus 4.7 cents per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas taken from the ground.
The Governor estimates the tax would generate $178.6 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year. The Governor would allocate $160.7 million to the proposed Stimulus Transition Fund and $17.9 million to local communities seeing infrastructure and other impacts in communities where drilling is occuring under a proposal that was not detailed.
Gov. Rendell projects the severance tax would generate $260 million in 2011-12, $320 million in 2012-13, $396.2 million in 2012-14 and $475.6 million in 2014-15.
He also repeated his proposal to hire 68 new employees at the Department of Environmental Protection and made unspecified increases in staff to allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to oversee increased natural gas drilling in State Forests.

Note: All budget requests incorporate the budget reductions already taken in the 2009-10 budget.

Environmental Protection
Overall - General Fund budget cut $3.7 million, overall counting all funds cut $8.2 million
Personnel line items cut $1.3 million
Sewage Facilities Planning Grants cut $100,000
Sewage Faiclities Enforcement Grants cut $300,000
Stormwater Management - zeroed out
Environmental Stewardship Fund Watershed Protection cut $1 million
Conservation Districts cut $31,000
Nutrient Management Fund increase $614,000
Consumer Eduction Program - zeroed out
Recycling Fund - reducing grants $8.3 million because Recycling Fee needs to be extended

Conservation & Natural Resources
Overall - General Fund cut $994,000, overall counting all funds cut $23.7 million
Heritage Park Grants - zeroed out
Keystone Park & Forest Facilities - increased $3.9 million
Keystone Grants for Local Recreation - increased $3.2 million
Keystone Grants for Land Trusts - increased $1.3 million
Oil and Gas Fund - transfers $180 million to the General Fund to balance the budget from State Forest Marcellus Shale natural gas lease revenues.

Overall - General Fund $5.3 million, overall counting all funds cut $101,000
Conservation Districts cut $570,000
Nutrient Management Fund cut $100,000

Environmental Stewardship Fund - for the first time more than half of the income in the Fund will go for debt service -- $36.8 million with only $33.2 remaining for projects. That amount will increase to $60 million of the $66 million in new revenues coming into the Fund.

REAP Tax Credit - As proposed last year in the two-year budget, the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credit will be funded at $4.5 million, down from $5 million in the current year and $10 million in the first year.

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner