Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bill Would Require PUC Oversight Of Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority

House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) announced Thursday they will be introducing legislation to place the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority under the oversight of the Public Utility Commission.
Over the last year, local and national newspapers have recounted many service issues facing PWSA. They include multi-million dollar debt and uncollectibles, unmetered accounts, incorrect billing, system leaks, and noncompliance with federal water quality mandates.
Additionally, the system has thousands of lead service lines, many of which have not been identified or located. These issues call into serious question the sustainability of PWSA and the health and safety of those served by the system.
“The citizens served by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority need safe water like everyone in the Commonwealth,” said Speaker Turzai. “The stability of the authority to serve its customers requires fiscal responsibility and best practices, both of which are lacking. We want to work collaboratively with the mayor and our colleagues in the General Assembly to address PWSAs persistent problems.”
“This legislation is about consumer protection and the health and safety of those served by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority,” said Rep. Readshaw. “This is really a commonsense approach that will move the system in a positive direction.”
PUC oversight is crucial to correcting the authority’s long-standing difficulties. The PUC has the power to demand sound financial practices, systemic upgrades to infrastructure and reliable service delivery to customers.
“The city and the authority clearly need guidance and direction that will be provided by the PUC. This positive approach addresses systemic problems with the authority and will ultimately best serve the customers of PWSA,” said Turzai.
Click Here for a copy of Speaker Turzai’s co-sponsor memo.

Wildlands Conservancy Highlights Educational Programs In June

The Wildlands Conservancy in Lehigh County Thursday highlighted its schedule of educational and other programs in June, including--
-- June 1:  You & Me, Water Worlds (repeat June 15)
-- June 3: Wildflower ID Hike
-- June 12: Outdoor Skills Camp
-- June 24-26: Lehigh River Sojourn (Click Here to watch a video of the Sojourn)
-- Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Conservancy
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the Wildlands Conservancy website. Like on Facebook, Follow on Twitter and Join on Instagram.  Click Here to support the Conservancy.

Small Water System Improving Drinking Water Quality Workshop Oct. 5 In Lehigh County

The PA Section of the American Water Works Association and its partners will hold a Workshop on Improving Drinking Water Quality for Small Water Systems on October 5 in Wescosville, Lehigh County.
This workshop discusses the multiple barrier approach in prevention of microbial contamination , how to disinfect water appropriately , manage distribution disinfectant residuals and DBP formation.  Also discussed is the ability to operate distribution system components to optimize system performance and water quality.
Topics will include: water treatment, disinfection by-products reduction and control, distribution system operation and maintenance, and some brief regulatory review.
The workshop will be held at the Lehigh County Authority, 1053 Spruce Street, Wescosville from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Click Here to register or for more information.
For more information on programs, initiatives and other upcoming training opportunities, visit the PA Section of the American Water Works Association website.
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DCNR, Indian Creek Valley ATV Club Officials Dedicate Fayette County Land Acquisition

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Thursday joined Indian Creek Valley ATV Club officials and members in a celebration of the club’s acquisition of almost 88 acres that expands ATV riding opportunities in Fayette County.
DCNR facilitated the acquisition by awarding a grant to the club, which stresses ATV riding instruction, safe operation and respect for the land. Indian Creek Valley ATV Club offers its members 52 miles of trails winding through club lands and property leased from area private owners.
“I commend you for the club accomplishment celebrated here today,” Dunn told a gathering of club members and local officials, “and congratulate you for its track record of working to provide and expand safe, quality off-road riding experiences for ATV enthusiasts. Clubs like this go a long way to instill training, safety and environmental awareness within the ATV riding community while, at the same time, boosting local economies.”
The secretary noted Fayette is among the leading counties in ATV registration in Pennsylvania, where Bureau of Forestry figures as of May 1, show there were 170,196 active registrations and 109,073 limited registrations. In Fayette County, those figures are 3,520 and 7,766, respectively.
“We know ATV enthusiasts always are seeking new, safe trails on which to ride, and the Indian Creek Valley ATV Club helps answer that call,” Dunn said. “You folks should be proud of what you now offer both the seasoned rider and newcomers to the sport.”
The secretary and club officers and members were joined by township officials at the dedication, held at the club’s new trailhead on Melcroft Road, Saltlick Township.
“Our club is excited to get this grant and increase our permanent riding area to 163 acres and our overall area to 970 acres,” Indian Creek Valley ATV Club President Al Sain told the group. “The new land provides abundant opportunities for scenic views, challenging trails, and member amenities. We look forward to working with local businesses to improve the local economy and provide additional services to our members like groceries, gas, camping and storage.”
The Indian Creek Valley ATV Club was formed in September 2000 as a family-oriented organization promoting safety and respect for the environment. Today, the club boasts 255 family memberships, including 543 riders and 395 machines.
The club operates a riding area of trails made possible through the leasing of 796 acres from 12 property owners. All trail maintenance is completed by the membership.
With the latest acquisition, the club now owns 163 acres of property to go with their leased land. In 2016, the Club bought its first 65 acres with its own funding.
For more information on ATV riding in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s All Terrain Vehicle Riding webpage.  For information on ATV-related grants, visit DCNR’s Grant Opportunities webpage.
For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter,  Click Here for upcoming events.  Click Here to be part of DCNR’s Online Community,  Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

DEP: Trump Budget Proposal Threatens Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air And Job Creation

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell Thursday released a letter he sent to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation warning that the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to environmental protection and clean energy programs will threaten Pennsylvania residents and businesses.
“The proposed cuts in the Trump administration’s budget, if enacted, would risk the safe drinking water of more than 10 million Pennsylvanians; and that’s just one program area,” said McDonnell. “The proposed budget also cuts funds for air quality monitoring, sewage treatment plant inspections, and land cleanup programs that put Pennsylvanians to work.”
In his letter addressed to the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, McDonnell warns that significantly reducing federal funding risks safe water, stifles job creation, and allows harmful pollutants to poison Pennsylvania air.
Cuts to key U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program areas, if enacted, would mean:
-- Risk Safe Water. The Trump budget proposal includes a 17 percent reduction in funding for EPA’s drinking water programs and a 30 percent cut to the Public Water System Supervision Grant – which is funding provided to DEP. In the Safe Drinking Water program, these cuts will mean at least 30 percent fewer inspections at the commonwealth’s 8,500 public water systems, hampering our ability to detect contaminants like lead, water-borne pathogens, and putting Pennsylvania’s 10.7 million public water customers at risk.
-- Diminish Local Water Quality. The proposed cut to the federally funded portion of the Clean Water Bureau budget will mean cutting at least 850 inspections from the 6,144 inspections that ensure that sewage plants, industrial wastewater discharges, and construction sites are not threatening the water quality of Pennsylvanians downstream. Reductions in federal funds will also lengthen permit issuance timelines, hampering important economic development projects in Pennsylvania.
-- Abandon Farmers. Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay program — which the President recently acknowledged as a model of federal/state partnerships, and is starting to show real results in curbing pollution to the Bay — will have its funding completely eliminated. This program will no longer be able to provide much-needed support to Pennsylvania’s small farmers and local governments to improve their local water quality.
-- Stifle Job Creation. Pennsylvania’s Brownfields program cleans up contaminated properties for redevelopment, directly promoting economic development and preserving green space. Since 1995, almost 5,000 brownfields have been cleaned up, leading to almost 100,000 jobs created or retained. The President’s budget proposes a 30 percent cut to the Brownfields Categorical Grant and another 30 percent cut to the Hazardous Substance Superfund program, which will inhibit contaminated sites from being returned to productive use for new and expanding business and industry in Pennsylvania.
-- Threatens Groundwater. This proposed budget includes a nearly 50 percent cut to the Leaking Underground Storage Tanks Program and zeros out the federal funding provided through categorical grants, which could pose risks to Pennsylvania’s valuable groundwater resources.
-- Allow Harmful Pollutants To Poison. The proposed 30 percent cut to the federal funding provided to DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality will limit air monitoring for harmful pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, mercury, and particulate matter, and have a negative impact on the timeline for review of air quality permits which companies need in order to start operations or expand.
-- Expose Children To Radon Gas And Other Toxics. This proposed budget includes the complete elimination of funding to help protect residents from radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Pennsylvania has one of the most serious radon problems in the country and the proposed cuts will result in the elimination of public education efforts and distribution of free radon test kits for new parents.
The proposed budget also provides for 29 percent less funding for toxics risk review and prevention, including the zeroing out of the Lead Risk Reduction Program. This valuable program certifies remediators to ensure they are following all safeguards from removing lead from buildings and educates citizens about limiting lead exposure in their home.
-- Suppress Environmental Justice. The President’s proposed budget will eliminate the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, which exists to ensure that Americans, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, have meaningful involvement in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws and policies. Closing this program shows a startling disrespect for minority and economically disadvantaged Americans.
The letter continues--
Similarly, there will be serious impacts from the proposed cuts to the Department of Energy on the families and businesses of Pennsylvania.
I am specifically concerned about the proposed elimination of the State Energy Program (SEP), which has had broad bipartisan support for more than 20 years. SEP funds allow DEP’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance (Energy Office) to design and carry out energy programs tailored to the needs of our residents and businesses.
In recent years, $1.5 million has been provided annually to Pennsylvania in SEP funding (leveraged at least 4 to 1), which we have used to boost economic development, save businesses money through energy conservation, and fund new technology.
Complete elimination of this funding would limit our project partners’ ability to boost economic development within Pennsylvania as well as to lower energy bills and conserve resources.
Great energy-related work is being done in Pennsylvania. Elimination of these critical and valuable programs means we would no longer be able to conduct:
-- Nearly 100 energy efficiency assessments for small and mid-sized manufacturers with implemented energy saving measures resulting in 2.8 million kWh per year of electricity conserved and $700,000 in economic benefits. These measures also result in water conservation and reduction of air pollutants.
-- At least 60 energy assessments for small business owners of urban restaurants and corner stores in at-risk neighborhoods, which result in energy retrofits with estimated minimum annual energy savings of 878,000 kWh per year.
-- Energy efficiency training for building managers to operate schools, local government buildings, state government buildings at the highest efficiency. Energy savings implemented by those trainees will save estimated $3.5 million and 30 million kWh per year for schools and taxpayers.
-- Construction and demonstration of new energy security technology such as the microgrid project at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. This demonstration plans to show optimization of Marcellus shale natural gas through combined heat and power and integration of renewables in the most cost-effective manner.
-- Training of college students, who benefit from participating in the implementation of these programs to prepare them for tomorrow’s energy-related jobs in Pennsylvania.
-- Educational programs that help local governments to adopt energy-efficient street lighting technologies. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 LED street lights were installed in 2016, representing about 10 to 15 percent of leased street lights in Pennsylvania.
-- Development and use of tools that support our ability to respond appropriately to energy supply disruptions caused by weather, cyber security or other events.
The letter concludes--
The justification provided in the proposed federal budget for reducing funding to states is “to reduce federal intervention in State-level energy policy and implementation.”
In truth, the elimination of these programs does not reduce federal intervention, but instead cuts valuable resources that Pennsylvania families and businesses rely on to reduce energy use and implement an all-of-the-above energy policy.
This includes fossil, renewable, and energy efficiency programs designed to benefit families, businesses, schools and local governments.
This funding allows Pennsylvania to work in partnership with the Federal Government to plan for, respond to, and mitigate the impacts of energy supply emergencies.
These budget cuts do not reduce any of the responsibilities that EPA, DOE or DEP have to the people of Pennsylvania, but does decrease the resources available to fulfill those responsibilities. These cuts, if enacted, would harm businesses seeking permits, and harm residents’ clean water, air, and land.
Pennsylvania has benefited from a long partnership with the federal government to address environmental and energy concerns. The result has been great improvements to the health, quality of life, and economic prosperity of Pennsylvania residents.
In EPA’s nearly 50-year history, the agency has helped to save the bald eagle from extinction by regulating pesticides, reduced corrosive and toxic acid rain, helped to protect the ozone layer, and curtailed tailpipe emissions which contribute to smog.
Significantly reducing federal funding to the states is not cooperative federalism. It is asking states to continue to accept all the responsibility while eliminating the resources to carry them out.
We urge the Trump administration and the members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to not turn their backs on the very federal-state partnerships that have produced these many benefits.
We hope to continue to work with federal agencies to protect Pennsylvania’s public health and support economic prosperity. Thank you for your consideration of our joint responsibilities.
Click Here for the full text of the letter.  The same letter was sent to all members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation.
Secretary McDonnell sent a similar letter to EPA about the initial budget outline developed by the Trump Administration in March.
[Note: These federal cuts would come on top of state funding cuts to DEP’s budget which resulted in a 40 percent cut in state General Fund dollars to the agency and a 25 percent reduction in staff.
[DEP receives about 30 percent of its budget from the federal government, 20 percent from the state General Fund and 50 percent from permit review fees and penalty monies.]
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$442,274 Pipeline Grant Connects Communities In Susquehanna County To Natural Gas

Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday announced seven new project approvals through the Commonwealth Financing Authority, totaling more than $20.7 million in funding to support business growth in Pennsylvania that will lead to the creation and retention of more than 1,145 jobs.
One of those projects was a $442,274 grant to Leatherstocking Gas Company, LLC, for the extension of a natural gas line to serve the Borough of Montrose and Township of Bridgewater. The project, with a total estimated cost of $884,548, is anticipated to create 100 jobs and retain 80 jobs.
This grant was made through CFA’s Pipeline Investment Program which has an open application period.
“Projects like those approved today not only propel business development efforts across the state, but they also enhance the quality of life of Pennsylvanians, all while creating and retaining jobs,” said Gov. Wolf. “Specifically, through our new Pipeline Investment Program, we are finally able to provide access to low-cost, clean-burning natural gas to unserved areas in Susquehanna County, saving families and businesses thousands each year and giving the area an advantage when attracting new business. Today’s approvals are a win for these regions – and a win for the Commonwealth.”
Click Here for the complete announcement.

DEP, Trout Unlimited Testify At U.S. House Hearing On Good Samaritan Bill To Encourage Mine Reclamation

The U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing Wednesday on a draft Community Reclamation Partnerships Act (LaHood-R-IL), or good samaritan law, designed to encourage reclamation of abandoned mines.
Laws like Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Act adopted in 1999 are designed to promote abandoned mine reclamation by protecting landowners, groups and individuals who volunteer to reclaim abandoned mines, treat acid mine drainage or plug abandoned oil and gas wells from civil and environmental liability.  The groups can be covered by Good Samaritan if they did not cause or create the abandoned mine or water pollution.
John Stefanko, DEP Deputy Secretary for Active and Abandoned Mine Operations, and Chris Wood, President of Trout Unlimited, were two of the three witnesses at the hearing.
Stefanko, also representing the Interstate Mining Compact Commission and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs, gave an overview of Pennsylvania’s experience with the Good Samaritan Program.
Since 1999, Pennsylvania had 79 acid mine drainage treatment projects in 20 counties undertaken under the program with a variety of groups that include local governments, municipal authorities, individual community supporters, corporations, watershed associations and conservancies.
A key component of the program’s success is its reliance on the DEP’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program’s long-standing expertise in their field, Stefanko explained.
Under Pennsylvania’s program, all activities related to a given project proceed under the guidance and approval of DEP, which utilizes its expertise and long resume of successful water treatment projects to appropriately adjust requirements to match the scale and complexity of the proposed project and to ensure that only well-conceived projects move forward.
Stefanko said the program proposed by the bill before the Committee today reflects the structure of the EGSA, and should successfully integrate its advantages.
Chris Wood, President of Trout Unlimited, also used the Pennsylvania experience as an example.  From his testimony--
In Pennsylvania’s lower Kettle Creek watershed [Potter, Tioga Counties], an area scarred by abandoned mine drainage, water quality is improving.
For example, Trout Unlimited and partners have worked to reclaim about 160 acres of abandoned mine land and installed nine passive treatment systems in the Kettle Creek watershed.
As a result, 3 stream miles that were previously devoid of life are now full of fish and aquatic insects, and 6 miles of reconnected stream now boasts a thriving population of native brook trout.
The improvements have been made possible because state level Good Samaritan protections have allowed groups such as Trout Unlimited to take on the challenging work.
Federal-level Good Samaritan protections would facilitate cleanups of abandoned coal mine lands across the country, which is why Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood offered testimony today on Capitol Hill on the Community Reclamation Partnership Act.
“TU has worked to restore streams and rivers damaged by pollution from abandoned mines from the Appalachian coalfields in Pennsylvania to the hardrock mining areas of the Rocky Mountain states, and my testimony is based upon these experiences,” Wood said in the hearing hosted by the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee. “TU stands ready to expand our work to clean up abandoned mine pollution, and we need such legislation to make it happen”
Wood told the subcommittee’s members that the draft bill provides a solid foundation.
“There is room for improvement in some areas, but we regard the draft as a significant step that is headed in the right direction,” Wood said. “It must work well on the ground, of course, and as our field practitioners are studying the Draft Bill, we will offer additional feedback in the coming days. We are confident that the finished, introduced bill will be worthy of the Subcommittee’s strong consideration and eventual approval.”
Babb Creek [Tioga County] Pennsylvania is another beneficiary of abandoned mine reclamation work.
“Several years ago, the Babb Creek Watershed Association accomplished delisting 14 miles of Babb Creek, now a wild trout fishery, from EPA’s impaired streams list,” Wood noted. “ Another 14 miles in the Tangascootack Creek watershed is pending removal from the impaired streams list as a result of passive treatment systems constructed by the Clinton County Conservation District.”
And, on a larger scale, Wood noted impressive improvements in the West Branch Susquehanna River watershed has over the past few decades.
“A comparison of conditions in the West Branch Susquehanna in 1972 with those in 2009 indicated that fish species increased 3,000 percent, and pH increased from 3.8 to 6.6,” Wood said.
Wood pledged TU support to Congressional efforts to enact an abandoned coal mine Good Samaritan policy.
“Improving water quality around the nation is a fundamental goal of the work of this subcommittee, and thus we are pleased that the subcommittee is looking at one of the most vexing water problems remaining in coal country,” he said. “We stand ready to work with you so that affected communities around the nation will again have clean, fishable waters.”
Click Here for copies of witness testimony and to watch a video of the hearing.
Not The First Hearing
The Department of Environmental Protection and Trout Unlimited testified before  Congress in 2015 on this same issue.  The Western PA Coalition For Abandoned Mine Reclamation and Eastern PA Coalition For Abandoned Mine Reclamation have also been active on the Good Samaritan Program.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s program, visit DEP’s Environmental Good Samaritan Act webpage.
(Photo: Before/After in South Branch Bear Run, Indiana County, Susquehanna River Basin Commission.)

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