Thursday, March 26, 2015

Keep PA Beautiful Affiliates Host Tire, HHW Collection Events In 5 Counties

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s local affiliates Keep Cambria County Beautiful, Tri-County CleanWays (Butler, Lawrence, Mercer counties) and Keep Washington County Beautiful are holding special collections this spring, sponsored in part by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Household Hazardous Waste/Small Business Hazardous Waste Collection Program.
“This program allows our affiliates to provide convenient, low cost collections for their residents for otherwise hard to dispose of items. The tires and appliances that are collected at these events won’t end up over the hill where they would be difficult and costly to remove,” said Shannon Reiter, President of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.  “I applaud our affiliates for providing this annual service. It allows residents to plan for proper disposal.”
Upcoming special collection events include:   
— Keep Cambria County Beautiful, Appliance and Tire Collections, April 25 at Croyle Township, May 2 at Patton Borough and May 9 at Cambria Township, all from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.. For more information contact Mark Stockley at 814-472-2120.
— Keep Washington County Beautiful, Tire Collection, May 30. Contact Jason Theakston for more information at 724-228-6811.
— Tri-County CleanWays (Butler, Lawrence, Mercer Counties), Tire Recycling Event, May 9 at the Forward Township Municipal Building, Butler County from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.. This event is open to all residents, regardless of County. Contact Jerry Zona for more information at 724-658-6925.
Check the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Calendar of Events page often, as events will be posted as they are scheduled or contact your local County affiliate for more information by going to KPB’s Affiliate webpage.

Morrison, Smith Appointed Acting Chief Counsels For DEP, DCNR

Richard Morrison, has been named Acting Chief Counsel at the Department of Environmental Protection, moving over from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources where he served as Chief Counsel.
He replaces Dennis Whitaker who has been Chief Counsel since November 2013 and served previously as Chief Counsel for DCNR from 1990 to May 2012.
Martha Smith, Assistant Counsel for DCNR, has been named Acting Chief Counsel of DCNR.
Richard Morrison was named DCNR’s Chief Counsel in November 2013. Prior to joining DCNR, Mr. Morrison was acting Chief Counsel for the Department of Environmental Protection.
He served as executive deputy chief counsel for the Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Chief Counsel since May 2012. He previously served as assistant director of DEP’s Bureau of Regulatory Counsel.
He joined DEP in January 2005 and served as program counsel for the department’s mining program, for the Bureau of Radiation Protection and the Bureau of Waste Management.
Prior to joining DEP, Mr. Morrison was in private practice in the New Jersey office of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews and Ingersoll where he practiced environmental litigation and franchise law.
From 2001-04, he was an assistant counsel to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. He is a 1994 honors graduate of Rutgers School of Law, Camden.
Martha Smith, as Assistant Counsel in DCNR, provided counseling in real property law, including acquisitions for the Bureau of Forestry and Bureau of State Parks, boundary disputes, easements and rights-of-way, rails-to-trails matters, warrants and patents, real estate contracts, navigable rivers, grants, and litigation in both county and appellate courts and the Board of Property.
She has been with the Commonwealth since 1985, working first for the Department of Environmental Resources until the creation of DCNR in 1995.
Prior to joining the Commonwealth, she began her career clerking for The Honorable Carson V. Brown, President Judge of the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas, from 1978 to 1980.
From 1980 to 1985 she worked in private practice at Saxton and Flayhart, a general practice law firm, and as a part-time public defender and a member of the Zoning Hearing Board.
She is a 1975 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University (B.S. Law Enforcement and Corrections) and a 1978 graduate of the Duquesne University School of Law.

PUC Approves Peoples Gas Program To Promote Access To Natural Gas Service

The Public Utility Commission Thursday approved a pilot program that will change the way Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC, Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC – Equitable Division and Peoples TWP LLC (collectively Peoples Companies) charge customers to extend natural gas service to their homes.
“Pennsylvania sits on top of one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. As a result, Pennsylvania consumers and businesses should have every reasonable opportunity to take advantage of this efficient and clean-burning natural resource,” said PUC Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer in a statement. “[We] continue to challenge other natural gas utilities operating in underserved or unserved areas of the Commonwealth to begin thinking creatively on how they, too, can bring a homegrown fuel to more Pennsylvania businesses and homeowners.”
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve Peoples Companies’ implementation of the Service Expansion Tariff (SET) program, a five-year pilot program intended to reduce the upfront financial barriers faced by potential customers who are interested in receiving natural gas services in areas where gas is currently unavailable.
The joint settlement was reached among the Peoples Companies, the Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the Office of Consumer Advocate and the Office of Small Business Advocate.
Under most natural gas company tariffs, a customer who wishes to have natural gas service extended to his or her property must pay the cost of that line extension as an upfront payment, which can amount to thousands of dollars.
The SET program allows eligible residential customers to pay the extension costs through a monthly fixed fee of $55 until the outstanding principal balance is zero, for a maximum of 25 years. If necessary, a customer may pay a portion of the extension cost upfront in order to bring the financing period down to 25 years.
Residential customers also will have an option to pay the costs for the service line through an additional monthly fee of $15, until the outstanding principal balance of the service line cost is zero.
Similar pilot programs currently offered in the Commonwealth include UGI’s Pennsylvania gas distribution utilities’ Growth Extension Tariff program, which allows eligible customers to pay extension costs over 10 years as a monthly charge; and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania’s New Area Service program, which allows eligible customers to pay extension costs over 20 years as a monthly charge.
Peoples Companies provide natural gas distribution, supply and transportation service to approximately 700,000 customers in western Pennsylvania.

Proposed PUC Rules On Natural Gas Supplier Disclosure Out For Comment

The Public Utility Commission Thursday issued for comment a proposed rulemaking that would provide natural gas shopping customers with greater detail in natural gas supplier (NGS) disclosure statements and more timely information on “contract renewal” and “change in terms” notices. The proposed rulemaking follows a regulation implemented last year for electric generation suppliers.
The Commission voted 5-0 to seek comments on a proposed rulemaking that would require NGSs to display key contractual terms and conditions more clearly for customers on both fixed- and variable-rate products, provide historical pricing data on their products and prominently mark customer notices prior to contract expiration or changes in terms.
The changes are designed to provide additional information and greater protections for residential and small business customers choosing a competitive supplier for their natural gas service.
“We have seen success with a rulemaking implemented last year to ensure electric suppliers are transparent and are consistent in educating their customers on contract details, potential price fluctuations and changes in contract terms,” said PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson. “After examining the benefits of that rulemaking to electric shopping customers, we determined it is not only beneficial, but necessary to apply similar standards to natural gas suppliers.”
Written comments shall be submitted within 30 days of publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Further instructions on filing comments will be contained in the Final Order.
The proposed regulations include:
— More contractual information on conditions of price variability, including whether there are limits on variability;
— A clear statement of the price per unit for the first billing cycle of natural gas generation;
— Customer access to historical pricing information;
— Separate mailings for either fixed-term contracts that are expiring, or any changes to terms of service;
— A separate NGS contract summary along with the full disclosure statement to ensure NGSs highlight key terms and conditions in a uniform, consistent manner;
— New requirements for contract “Initial Notices” and customer “Options Notice” prior to the expiration of a contract or change in terms;
— A renewed emphasis on highlighting changes in pricing or any terms and conditions – including a fixed rate becoming a month-to-month rate that includes a 30-day notice of any price change; and
— Prominent marking on front of the “Options Notice” envelope clearly stating that it contains important information regarding the expiration or changes in terms of a customer’s electric supply contract.

PUC Seeks Comments On Manual Used To Assess Energy Efficiency Savings

The Public Utility Commission Thursday sought comments on proposed updates to the Technical Reference Manual, which is used to assess energy savings attributable to energy efficiency and demand response measures for the implementation of the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS Act) and the energy efficiency and conservation provisions of Act 129 of 2008.
The Commission voted 5-0 to seek comments on the proposed changes. Comments are due within 30 days after publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, with reply comments due 10 days thereafter.
Written comments should be sent to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Attn: Secretary, P.O. Box 3265, Harrisburg, PA 17105-3265. Interested parties may also e-file comments.
Initially established in March 2005, the TRM is updated periodically in order to keep pace and remain relevant and useful as experience and technology related to energy efficiency increases.
The AEPS Act specifically required the Commission to develop standards for tracking and verifying savings from energy efficiency, load management and demand-side management measures.
Generally, AEPS requires that a certain percentage of all electric energy sold to retail customers be derived from alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, biomass and demand-side management resources.
The law applies to both electric distribution companies (EDCs) and electric generation suppliers (EGSs), which must demonstrate their compliance on an annual basis.
Act 129 expanded the PUC’s oversight responsibilities and imposed new energy efficiency and conservation requirements on EDCs with at least 100,000 customers, with the overall goal of reducing energy consumption and/or demand.
For more information, visit the PUC’s Act 129 webpage.

5 Things We Learned From Senate And House Hearings On DEP’s Budget

The Senate and House Appropriations Committee hearings on Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget for the Department of Environmental Protection are now complete.  Here are five things we learned as a result of those hearings--
1. Pipeline Task Force: DEP is in the process of forming a Task Force to look at ways of promoting cooperation and reducing the environmental impacts of the 25,000 to 30,000 miles of natural gas pipelines expected to be developed in Pennsylvania over the next few years.  DEP is not looking at expanding its regulatory role over pipelines, or taking over the responsibilities of the Public Utility Commission on safety.  The logical questions now are: Who will be on the Task Force?  What will their specific charge be?  Will their meetings be open to the public?
2. Pennsylvania Not Meeting Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Commitments: An open secret for the last six years or more, Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley acknowledged, to his credit, Pennsylvania is not meeting the commitments the Commonwealth made to cleanup our own rivers and streams that will result in a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.  He said more resources, more technical help and a “reboot” of the entire program are needed and promises a new plan to deal with the issue.  Several House and Senate members suggested money proposed for an alternative energy initiative would be better spent on cleaning up Pennsylvania’s own waterways.
3. DEP Has Been “Hollowed Out” With Staff Reductions: Again, to his credit, Quigley acknowledged what has been obvious, for the last six years [actually beginning in the first year of the Rendell Administration], DEP’s budget and staff has been subject to cuts far and above what other state agencies have suffered.  This is particularly true of programs to protect water quality, he said.  He noted over the last six years agency staff has been cut 14 percent while other agencies have been cut 6 percent.
4. Republicans Upset Over Handling Of Drilling Regulations: Republican members of both the Senate and House are upset over DEP’s replacement of all the members of the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board and about the short, 30 day comment period with no hearings to review major revisions to the proposed final versions of the Chapter 78 and Chapter 78A drilling regulations.  At a minimum, Sen. Yaw suggested extending the comment period.
5. DEP Had No Role In Shaping Severance Tax Proposal: Quigley acknowledged he and DEP had no role in drafting the Governor’s proposed natural gas severance tax, even though significant environmental funding issues were at stake.  While the proposal ended up preserving $76 million in existing environmental funding under a reenacted impact fee, environmental groups in Pennsylvania are nearly unanimous in their belief any new severance tax should include significant funding for environmental restoration of one type or another, particularly watershed cleanup and abandoned mine reclamation.  It is now absent from the proposal.
The question now is, what is the General Assembly and the Wolf Administration going to do about the holes in DEP’s budget identified by the budget hearings?
Click Here for a copy of Acting Secretary Quigley’s written testimony.
Click Here for a summary of the March 11 House budget hearing on DEP.  Click Here for a summary of the March 25 Senate budget hearing on DEP.

Thursday PA Environmental NewsClips

Click Here  for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chester-Ridley-Crum Watershed Hosts 30 Cleanups April 25

The Chester Ridley Crum Watersheds Association is seeking enthusiastic volunteers for its 18th Annual CRC Streams Cleanup on April 25 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at thirty sites throughout the watersheds in Chester and Delaware counties.  The cleanup event engages over 500 volunteers annually and has removed nearly 600,000 pounds of trash from our streams and streamside lands.
The aim of the event is not only to pick up trash but to show how our everyday decisions affect the health of our creeks and the watersheds surrounding them.  Healthy communities start with healthy streams.  
By volunteering to clean our streams, you are providing trash-free streams that result in cleaner, safer waters and healthier environments for all to enjoy.
Pre-registration is requested for volunteers who would like to contribute to healthier streams. A free picnic for volunteers will follow at Ridley Creek State Park.
For more information, visit the Chester Ridley Crum Watersheds Association website or contact CRC at 610-359-1440 or send email to: info@crcwatersheds.org.

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