Friday, December 19, 2014

Registration Now Open For IronMaster’s Challenge 50K, 15K Runs On April 26

The Central PA Conservancy and the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club are now accepting registrations for the 2015 IronMasters 50K and 15K runs on April 26 in and around Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cumberland County.  Click Here for complete details.

DEP Publishes Interim Final Policy Implementing Mandatory Stream Buffer Changes

The Department of Environmental Protection published notice in the December 20 PA Bulletin asking for comments on an interim final policy implementing Act 162 of 2014 relating to mandatory stream buffer requirements.
The policy takes effect December 20, but DEP is asking for public comments by February 18.
The policy describes the kinds of permits the Act covers and does not cover and outlines the other requirements of the options for providing best management practice equivalent to a forested stream buffer from the Act.  
The policy says any covered permit application submitted prior to December 21, 2014 must still meet the old requirements.
DEP published a separate notice December 20 announcing the availability of the stream buffer options under Act 162.
Written comments should be submitted to Jennifer Orr, NPDES Construction and Erosion Control, Bureau of Waterways Engineering and Wetlands, Rachel Carson State Office Building, P. O. Box 8460, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8460 or send an email to:
For more information, contact Jennifer Orr, 717-787-3411 or send email to:

Friday PA Environmental NewsClips

Click Here  for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rep. Godshall, Rep. Harper Plan To Introduce Water Well Standards Bills

Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery) and Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) have both announced plans to reintroduce legislation setting standards for water well constructions.
Legislation-- House Bill 343 (Miller-R-York)-- setting water well standards died in the Senate this year, after passing the House.
“Over 3 million Pennsylvania residents depend upon private water wells, accounting for more than 20,000 new wells drilled here each year,” said Rep. Godshall.  “Nonetheless, only Pennsylvania and Alaska are without any baseline standards guiding the construction of these drinking water sources.
“My legislation requires our Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules and regulations recommended by the National Groundwater Association to ensure that our drinking water is protected from contamination resulting from poorly constructed water wells,” said Rep. Godshall.  “And, because this has been a source of confusion in the past, my legislation clearly prohibits the metering or otherwise taxing the use of private water wells.”
“Improperly constructed water wells can lead to poor water quality by providing pathways for bacteria and contaminants such as naturally occurring shallow methane gas to migrate into water supplies,” said Rep. Harper.  “Ensuring that the well is constructed properly from the start will help to prevent water quality problems in the future.”

Getting A New Electronic Gadget As A Holiday Gift? Recycle The Old One

Are you getting a new electronic gadget as a holiday gift?  Do a little research now on how you can recycle or reuse the old one before you just throw it out.
Pennsylvania’s 2010 Covered Device Recycling Act requires the recycling of electronic devices including computers, monitors, televisions, audio equipment, scanners and printers.
You can no longer just put them out for the trash.
To find out where you can recycle electronics, Click Here for a list of permanent collection programs or Click Here to contact your county recycling coordinator.
Frequently electronics retailers and consumer electronics manufacturers also have recycling programs available.  Click Here for manufacturer and retail sponsored locations.
For more background on e-waste recycling, watch this video by ECOvanta, a Philadelphia-based electronics recycling company.

Auditor General: Special Report On Potential Lost Revenue From Tax Exempt Properties

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale Thursday released a special report on property tax exemptions that might be costing local municipalities, counties and school districts more than $1.5 billion in property tax revenue in the 10-county sample examined for the report.
Data is included for the following counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Bucks, Dauphin, Erie, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, and Montgomery. The report reflects potential property tax liability in the county, municipality and school district where each property is located.
“We are at a major crossroads in the decades-long debate over how to define and review the property tax exempt status of nonprofit organizations in Pennsylvania,” DePasquale said, noting that legislation is moving forward that could put a constitutional amendment on the ballot as early as May for voters to decide how charitable entities can gain tax exempt status.
“There is no denying that counties, municipalities, and school districts across the state continue to grapple with mounting financial challenges, while many nonprofits’ charitable work is financially dependent upon their property tax exemption,” DePasquale said. “Before the issue comes to voters I want people to be informed and know how their vote may impact their local community.
“This report should stimulate interest in this important issue that could be put to a public vote shortly after the General Assembly returns to Harrisburg next year,” DePasquale said.
The report is available online.

Further Comments On Retail Natural Gas Markets Sought By PUC

The Public Utility Commission Thursday directed its Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) to move forward with an investigation into Pennsylvania’s retail gas market as well as seek comments on issues related to its investigation.
“I am excited by the potential for this investigation to bring real change to the Commonwealth’s retail natural gas market and I believe OCMO has provided us with a path forward to properly vet the issues,” said PUC Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer in a statement “The Order before us today provides a structured framework to bring our natural gas retail market to the next level, an effort I am certain will proceed with all deliberate speed.”
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the Final Order that directs OCMO to examine several specific issues involving retail gas competition. OCMO is further directed to form working groups composed of Natural Gas Distribution Companies (NGDCs), Natural Gas Suppliers (NGSs) and other interested parties to investigate potential changes or standardization of the use of capacity and storage assets; issues regarding system balance, tolerances and penalties; amendments to creditworthiness requirements; and issues regarding nondiscrimination in access points on distribution systems.
The PUC also seeks additional comments on specific topics including NGS supplier disclosure statements and supplier-related elements that would be appropriate for inclusion on a joint NGDC-NGS bill. More information on how to submit comments is available in the Final Order.
On Aug. 21, 2014, the PUC approved a Tentative Order that finds an investigation into the retail natural gas market is necessary and also outlines several issues for OCMO to examine in the course of this investigation into Pennsylvania’s retail gas market. Comments were received on the following issues:
• Assignment of capacity and use of storage assets
• Non-discrimination in access points on NGDC systems
• System balance, tolerances and penalties
• Creditworthiness requirements
• Seamless moves and instant connects for consumers
• Accelerated switching timeframes for consumers
• Low-income customer shopping
• Enhancements to
• Expanded consumer education about shopping
• Purchase of receivables programs
• Disclosure requirements
• Joint NGDC – NGS bill
• Account number access mechanisms
• Migration riders
• Electronic data protocols
This latest action builds on comments received in response to a Sept. 12, 2013 joint motion by PUC Commissioners Pamela A. Witmer and James H. Cawley and a corresponding Order that initiated the investigation into the retail natural gas markets. The goal of the investigation is to improve the competitiveness of the retail natural gas market.
In the October 2005 Report to the General Assembly on Pennsylvania’s Retail Natural Gas Supply Market, the PUC determined that effective competition did not exist in Pennsylvania’s retail natural gas market. As a result, the Commission was required by law to convene a natural gas stakeholders working group to explore avenues, including legislative, in order to encourage increased competition in the Commonwealth.
The PUC has implemented a number of changes in an attempt to enhance retail gas competition as a result of that proceeding, including completed rulemakings regarding NGDC cost recovery and rates and NGS licensing.
For more information, visit the PUC’s Retail Markets Investigation-Natural Gas webpage.

PUC Seeks Comments On Proposal For Annual Fees For Electric, Gas Suppliers

The Public Utility Commission Thursday voted to adopt a Tentative Implementation Order for Act 155 of 2014 (Act 155), which, among other things, allows the Commission to assess electric generation suppliers (EGSs) and natural gas suppliers (NGSs).
“We must ensure that any fees and assessments on EGSs and NGSs are not discriminatory and do not skew competitive pricing,” said Commissioner James H. Cawley in a joint statement with Chairman Robert F. Powelson. “Utilities usually recover assessments through base rates, not in the price-to-compare, while NGSs and EGSs must recover any fees and assessments in their prices for electric and natural gas supply offers.”
The Commission is funded by assessments of the regulated entities based upon intrastate revenues. Assessments are paid into the state treasury’s General Fund for use solely by the Commission.
The Commission voted 5-0 to determine the methodology for:
— Establishing annual fees related to PUC oversight of NGSs and EGSs, as permitted by Act 155 and Sections 2208 and 2809 of the Public Utility Code;
— The treatment of fees collected pursuant to the Federal Unified Carrier Registration Act; and
— Removal of the gross intrastate operating revenues associated with the Federal Unified Carrier Registration Act.
In the case of EGSs, Commissioner Cawley noted there is a question as to whether the traditional method of allocating indirect costs is consistent with the legislative requirements that any fees imposed be consistent with the “reasonable cost basis” standard.
EGSs’ gross intrastate revenues are composed primarily of electric distribution company transmission charges, and electric generation-related energy, capacity and ancillary charges, all of which are wholesale pass-through costs for EGSs.
“Given these gross revenue realities and competitive issues, we are interested in receiving comments on other, perhaps more accurate, methods of meeting the statutory requirement of establishing EGS and NGS fees on a reasonable cost basis, while ensuring competitive equity for supply services,” said Commissioner Cawley.
Interested parties have 30 days from the publication of the Order in the Pennsylvania Bulletin to provide written comments to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Attn: Secretary, P.O. Box 3265, Harrisburg, PA 17105-3265.
Act 155 was signed into law on Oct. 22, 2014, by Gov. Tom Corbett. It amends Chapters 5, 14, 22 and 28 of the Public Utility Code to allow the PUC to establish annual fees to fund the Commission’s oversight of NGSs and EGSs.
Act 155 also allows the Commission to include the intrastate operating revenues of licensed entities in determining its budget cap, and to exclude from the budget cap funds received from the federal government and other sources to perform functions unrelated to the Commission’s jurisdictional regulation.

PUC: Technical Manual On Energy Efficiency Measures Updated

The Public Utility Commission Thursday approved an updated 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 of Act 213 and the energy efficiency and conservation provisions of Act 129 of 2008.
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the updated TRM, which sets the standards used to measure and verify applicable energy efficiency measures used by the state’s largest electric distribution companies (EDCs). The updated TRM will go into effect on June 1, 2015.
Initially established in March 2005, the TRM is updated annually in order to keep pace and remain relevant and useful as experience and technology related to energy efficiency evolves. In addition, energy efficiency measures have become more prevalent and necessary, as evidenced by the enactment of Act 129 of 2008.
AEPS 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 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.

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