Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CBF-PA Statement On Gov. Corbett Signing Anti-Buffer Bill

Harry Campbell, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Pennsylvania Executive Director, issued this statement Wednesday following Gov. Corbett’s signing of House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton). The legislation removes important protections for Pennsylvania’s most pristine waterways.
“We believe this legislation weakens Pennsylvania’s ability to protect its most important, sensitive, and high quality waterways. It also will make implementing the Commonwealth’s commitments to the restoring local rivers and streams much more difficult.
“This legislation will put a greater burden on Pennsylvania’s taxpayers, businesses, farmers, and local governments to further reduce pollution. Having removed this important requirement to protect and restore local water quality, the Administration must now address how it intends to make up the difference.”

$16.4M Awarded For Conservation, Environmental Protection Projects Thru Drilling Fees

Gov. Tom Corbett Wednesday announced the Commonwealth Financing Authority approved $16.4 million in funding to support 106 projects through seven Act 13 Marcellus Legacy Fund programs designed to support conservation projects and environmental protection measures throughout Pennsylvania.
“We established these programs to ensure a portion of the Marcellus Shale impact fee collected goes back to local communities to support environmental enhancement and conservation programs,” Gov. Corbett said. “The Act 13 funding approved today by the CFA will provide $16.4 million to our local communities.”
The 106 projects approved today are located in 36 counties: Adams, Allegheny, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Cambria, Chester, Clarion, Clearfield, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Indiana, Jefferson, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Tioga, Union, Washington, Westmoreland and Wyoming.
The funds were a part of the $44.9 million made available over the past three years to fund the Marcellus Legacy Fund programs administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
The Act 13 Marcellus Legacy Fund programs include Orphan or Abandoned Well Plugging, Watershed Restoration and Protection, Baseline Water Quality Data, Flood Mitigation, Abandoned Mine Drainage Abatement and Treatment, Sewage Facilities, and Greenways, Trails and Recreation programs.
Act 13, which Governor Corbett signed into law in 2012, authorized counties to impose an impact fee on unconventional natural gas wells. To date, the fee generated more than $630 million that is benefitting every Pennsylvanian. The majority of the revenues are distributed to local governments where drilling is taking place, with the remainder of the money used for statewide initiatives.
The programs are administered jointly by the Department of Community and Economic Development, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Department of Environmental Protection, under the direction of the CFA.
A list of projects funded is available online.
For more information, visit the Commonwealth Financing Authority website.

Corbett Announces $19 Million In Alternative, Clean Energy Investments

Gov. Tom Corbett Wednesday announced Pennsylvania continues to expand its commitment to advance clean, alternative and renewable energy sources with the investment of more than $17.5 million in grants and more than $1.5 million in loans through the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
“Through these projects we are investing in cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation of our resources,” Gov. Corbett said. “They will support and improve upon the development of renewable energy use across Pennsylvania.”
The CFA approved 19 projects today through the state’s Alternative and Clean Energy (ACE) Program and one through the High Performance Building Program including seven alternative energy production projects, five high performance building projects and eight compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations which have the benefits of reducing emissions. The proliferation of fueling stations is expected to result in fuel savings and the utilization of domestically produced natural gas.
The CFA investments in Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Bucks, Carbon, Centre, Cumberland, Chester, Dauphin, Franklin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Philadelphia, Tioga and Washington counties are projected to result in more than $194.7 million in additional economic investments.
The ACE Program provides financial assistance in the form of grants and loan funds that will be used by eligible applicants for the utilization, development and construction of alternative and clean energy projects in the state.
A list of projects funded is available online.
For more information, visit the Commonwealth Financing Authority website.

Gov. Corbett Signs Anti-Buffer, Climate Plan Veto Bills Into Law

Gov. Corbett Wednesday signed into law House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) that environmental groups say weakens DEP requirements for stream buffers in Special Protection Watersheds and House Bill 2354 (Snyder-D-Fayette) which authorizes a one-House of the General Assembly to veto any greenhouse gas emission reduction plan required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Anti-Buffer Bill
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA wrote to Gov. Corbett last week urging him to veto the bill for several reasons--
— We believe this legislation reduces the ability of Pennsylvania to meet its commitments under the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, which you signed in August. The Bay Agreement and Pennsylvania’s obligations under the Clean Water Blueprint rely heavily on protecting and restoring forested stream buffers. We should be taking steps to encourage more stream buffers in more areas, not significantly weakening the requirement we have which covers just 4 percent of our watersheds as this bill does.
— Pennsylvania is obligated by the federal Clean Water Act to maintain and not degrade the water quality in designated Special Protection Watersheds.  We believe this legislation reduces the ability of the Commonwealth to meet this anti-degradation requirement and leaves us vulnerable to action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and federal courts determining that our water quality protection program does not meet minimum federal requirements.  We have made this point very clear in letters to both the Senate and House and in more detail.
— The options for meeting any buffer requirements listed in the bill are either not real options, extremely ambiguous, or effectively remove the buffer requirement and its benefits.  A large and growing body of scientific research concludes there are no practices or combination of practices—scientifically speaking—which are “substantially equivalent” to a forested riparian stream buffer.  The other option of allowing buffers to be placed, not at the point of the earth disturbance, but at some other location not only defeats the purpose of the forested buffer, but potentially puts its benefits nowhere near the impact.  
A summary of House Bill 1565 and the House Fiscal Note are available.
Climate Plan Veto
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council last week urged Gov. Corbett to veto the bill saying, “By authorizing a one-House veto of any plan the Department develops, House Bill 2354 goes far beyond the oversight role the General Assembly should have over the implementation of environmental regulations in the Commonwealth. It replaces any balanced discussion of the actions we should take and turns the issue into an unguided political football.
“In contrast to the oversight role the General Assembly has already carved out for itself under the Regulatory Review Act, it does not require passage of a concurrent House-Senate resolution with an opportunity to sign or veto that resolution by the Governor. It allows one chamber to veto those plans and force the Department to start over. This creates a serious chilling effect on any effort to pass necessary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our Commonwealth.
“In 2008 the General Assembly passed bipartisan legislation -- the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act -- laying out a thoughtful process for detailing the contributions the Commonwealth makes to climate change, and offers members of the General Assembly a direct role in helping to formulate a Climate Change Action Plan through the Climate Change Advisory Committee.
“Further, the Air Pollution Control Act requires any changes to the State Implementation Plan, which ultimately any climate change plan would be, to have extensive public review before it is forwarded to EPA.
“The Regulatory Review Act requires any regulations proposed to implement the State Implementation Plan to be reviewed by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the General Assembly under an extensive process, allowing for concurrent resolution and the Governor’s review.
“Now House Bill 2354 would add a fourth bite at the apple for interests who oppose action on this critical and complex issue by authorizing a one-House veto. It makes a decision that should be decided on facts and substantive analysis into a political debate without any criteria to guide the General Assembly’s review.”
The PA Coal Alliance put out this statement today--
“Fundamental questions about energy reliability, infrastructure and price need to be addressed during the planning phase to ensure that, whatever strategy for compliance Pennsylvania ultimately pursues, it will result in an electric generation mix that will achieve the emission reduction targets and maintain competitive pricing for manufacturers and consumers,” said Pennsylvania Coal Alliance CEO, John Pippy.
“I’ve been doing business in Pennsylvania for 28 years and the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations will directly impact my livelihood and the livelihood of those that we employ,” said Tom Crooks, Vice President of R.G. Johnson. “Thank you to the legislature and Gov. Corbett for supporting legislation that takes a comprehensive approach to our energy policy and allows for the consideration of all impacts and outcomes of these proposed rules to ensure Pennsylvania’s business owners and ratepayers are not overlooked in this process.”
A summary of the House Bill 2354 and House Fiscal Note are available.

Schuylkill County Joins Clean Water Counts Initiative: CBF-PA

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA Wednesday applauded the Schuylkill County Commissioners for adopting a Clean Water Counts resolution, calling on state officials to make clean water a top priority for the Keystone State.  
Since launching this initiative, Berks, Luzerne, Westmoreland, Wyoming, York, Northumberland, and now Schuylkill counties have all joined the effort and have passed resolutions.
“Healthy families, strong communities, and a thriving Pennsylvania economy depend on clean water,” said Harry Campbell, CBF’s Pennsylvania Executive Director. “We applaud and thank the Schuylkill County Commissioners for publicly voicing their support for clean water in the Keystone State.”
CBF embarked on the Clean Water Counts campaign in response to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) most recent statewide surface waters assessment.
The results show that of the 86,000 miles of waterways flowing through the Commonwealth, nearly 20,000 miles are polluted. DEP also reported that the top pollution sources are agricultural and urban/suburban runoff, and abandoned mine drainage.
Nearly 750 miles of waterways flow through Schuylkill County, but unfortunately over 480 of those miles are polluted. Overall, abandoned mine drainage is the greatest source in the county, polluting 183 miles.
Other pollution sources in the County include agriculture, which accounts for 76 miles of polluted waterways, urban and suburban runoff which pollutes 102 miles, and ‘other’ pollution sources impair 105 miles of local creeks and streams.
Through public education and engagement, CBF is hoping to increase awareness of water pollution issues, like those in Schuylkill County and elsewhere in the Keystone State. The goal is to urge state officials to make clean water a priority and commit the needed funding and programs to ensure that the waters that we rely on for drinking and household uses, recreation, and to grow our food, all meet clean water standards.
In addition to calling on local officials to pass resolutions, CBF is asking residents to show their support by signing the Clean Water Counts online petition. It takes only a few minutes, but signatures will go a long way toward demonstrating the importance of clean water to our elected officials.
For more information, visit the CBF-PA’s Clean Water Counts! webpage.

Funding Available For Stream Restoration Projects In Franklin County Thru CBF-PA

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA announced Wednesday funding is now available to farmers and creekside landowners interested in improving property value, farm profitability, and local water quality in the West Branch Antietam Creek Watershed.
CBF and partners, the Franklin County Conservation District and Franklin County Natural Resource Conservation Service, and others, will be working with farmers and landowners in the watershed to install streamside forested buffers. Additional opportunities exist for farmers interested in installing additional water quality farm-improvement projects.
Kristen Kitchen is one of CBF’s Restoration Specialists and works with farmers and landowners in Franklin County to make stream improvements that make sense for clean water and for property and farm values.
“This project is a unique opportunity for landowners to do their part to help improve and protect the West Branch Antietam Creek for everyone who lives in the watershed,” said Kitchen. “Planting trees along streams is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways for landowners to improve the overall appearance and health of their stream.”
Funding is also available for farmers interested in additional on-farm enhancements like barnyard improvements, grassed waterways, agricultural erosion and sedimentation control plans, and manure management plans.
Funding is provided through the Department of Environmental Protection and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.   
To read the stories of other farmers who have had great success with these, and other types of on-farm improvements, visit CBF-PA’s Farmer Success Stories webpage.
Contact Kristen Kitchen for more information by calling 717-514-9095 or send email to: kkitchen@cbf.org.

Corbett Announces $65.6M Investment In Water Infrastructure Projects In 16 Counties

Gov. Tom Corbett Wednesday announced the investment of $65.6 million in 19 non-point source, drinking water and wastewater projects across 16 counties through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority.
“By taking the actions that it did today, the PennVEST Board of Directors helped communities all across the Commonwealth deal with critical infrastructure needs,”  Gov. Corbett said. “The activities funded by the millions of dollars awarded today will improve waterways in the Commonwealth, make drinking water safer for our citizens and help us meet our commitment to a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.”
Of the $65.6 million, $50.6 million is for low-interest loans and $15 million is offered as grants.
The awards range from a $370,050 grant to a volunteer fire company in Huntingdon County make improvements to its facilities that will reduce nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, to a to a $17,291,000 loan and grant combination to an authority in Cambria County that will make improvements to both its wastewater treatment plant and collection system in order eliminate the wet weather contamination of a local stream.
“I commend the PennVEST Board for its efforts to improve the lives of Pennsylvania families in all corners of the Commonwealth,” Gov. Corbett said.
The funding comes from a combination of state funds approved by voters, federal grants to PennVEST from the Environmental Protection Agency and recycled loan repayments from previous PennVEST funding awards. Funds for the projects are disbursed after bills for work are paid and receipts are submitted to PennVEST.
A list of the projects awarded funding is available online.
For more information, visit the PennVEST website or call 717-783-6798.

CBF-PA: Fall Issue Of Chesapeake Bay Bound Newsletter Now Available

The Fall issue of the Chesapeake Bay Bound newsletter is now available from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA featuring articles on--
-- Clean Water Counts In PA Update From PA Director Harry Campbell
-- Click Here to sign up for your own copy of Chesapeake Bay Bound

CAC: DEP Extends Comment Period On Oil & Gas Enforcement Policy Changes

Kurt Klapskowski, Director of DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Planning and Program Management, told the DEP Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday the agency will be extending the public comment period for proposed changes to the Oil and Gas Program Enforcement Policy until November 18.
Klapskowski provided Council with an overview of the changes in the enforcement policy which he said was not updated since 2005.  The changes added new sections on when inspections are to be conducted and the results posted on DEP’s eFACTS system, the procedures for investigating water damage complaints and clearer guidance on data and reporting requirements.
The policy would require DEP staff to inspect wells prior to and during production (page 10 of the proposed policy)--
-- Prior to the commencement of drilling on a new well pad;
-- During drilling, casing, and cementing operations;
-- Following well stimulation and completion activities;
-- Following the time period in which the owner or operator is required to restore a site
after drilling a well;
-- While a well is being altered or repaired or when casing is being replaced;
-- Prior to a well being granted inactive status;
-- Annually for disposal wells;
-- Following a violation to determine whether the violation has been corrected; and
-- Following a complaint.
During the post-production period, the policy requires a well to be inspected--
-- During the plugging of a well;
-- After the owner or operator restores a site following plugging or abandonment; and
-- Before a bond or other financial security is released.
In actual practice, Klopskowski said, wells are usually inspected two or three times and sometimes only once.  To do all the inspections required in the policy, Klopskowski said, would require DEP to have 500 to 600 inspectors.  He said DEP did not have the resources to do that.
When asked about the difference between actual practice and the inspection requirements in the proposed policy, Klopskoswki said the policy represents an “aspirational goal.”
Klopskowski said the policy is on a fast track and should be finalized by the end of the year.  He noted DEP staff is already following the policy in the field.
Acting Secretary’s Report
Acting Secretary Dana Aunkst provided the Council with an update on several issues in response to questions from Council members--
-- TENORM Study: The draft final report on DEP’s comprehensive study of radiation associated with the production and distribution of natural gas should be going to the peer review group in November and is likely to be finalized in December.  He noted none of the samples collected by DEP had results triggering either required reporting or a response under the state Radiation Protection Act.
-- Shale Air Emission Studies: In response to a question about a news report saying DEP left out some sampling results from its regional, short-term studies of air emissions from oil and gas production activities done during the Rendell Administration in 2010 and 2011, Aunkst said DEP was preparing a response on the issue.  He said he is aware some results were inadvertently left out of the short-term studies, but were included in a longer-term study DEP is conducting. The question was prompted by comments made by Joanne Kilgour, Sierra Club, during the Council’s public comment period. (see below)
-- Waters Of The U.S. Rule: Aunkst said DEP did submit comments on the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/Corps of Engineers rule largely because the agency wanted to oppose any “one size fits all” rule applied to states.  He said the proposed rule will not have any real impact on when water quality permits will be required in Pennsylvania because state water quality laws were broader than the earlier federal rule.  He did note he was concerned there would be more oversight and review of state permit actions if EPA adopted the rule as proposed.
-- Alternate Sewage Systems: When asked about the status of efforts to change sewage regulations to allow for proven alternative sewage systems, Aunkst said he thought the issue was moving ahead and would be discussed during an upcoming Sewage Advisory Committee meeting.  A concern was expressed the changes needed to make this happen were included in a larger rulemaking package that could get bogged down in the process.
-- Stream Buffer Legislation: Aunkst said DEP intends to be ready to implement House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) 60 days after the bill is signed as required in the legislation, if bill becomes law.  He said at this point he does not know whether DEP’s regulations will have to be changed or if additional technical guidance is needed.
Chesapeake Bay Update
Andy Zemba, Director of DEP’s Interstate Waters Office, provided an update on Pennsylvania’s efforts to meet the Chesapeake Bay Watershed cleanup milestones.  (Copies of Zemba’s handouts are available on the CAC webpage.)
He noted his office has a major initiative underway to improve the reporting of best management practices on the ground that he said should show significant under-reporting of practices and bring Pennsylvania closer to meeting the milestones.
Zemba also provided Council with a copy of a chart showing the specific actions DEP and its partners plan to undertake to try to meet the 2015 milestones, noting that EPA requires 60 percent of the best management practices must be in place to meet the later milestones by 2017.
He said he thought Pennsylvania would meet its milestones, but it will take a lot of work.  When asked about more resources coming online to get more practices on the ground, he said he did not think it was likely, but that Act 13 (the Marcellus Shale impact fees) did provide some additional funding.
DEP Advisory Committee Chair Roundtable
After the regular business meeting, CAC’s Public Participation Committee held a roundtable discussion with the chairs and DEP liaison staff to Advisory Committees in the Department on ways to improve the effectiveness of the committees.  
This initiative started in September with a survey of Advisory Committee Chairs to solicit their ideas on improving the process and the 1998 DEP policy guiding their deliberations.
The Public Participation Committee provided Council with the preliminary results of the survey Tuesday that included the responses from 18 of the 22 DEP Advisory Committees.  (A detailed summary of the responses is also available online.)
Overall, the Chairs of most of the Advisory Committee thought DEP used them effectively and provided them with good support.  Several Committee Chairs made recommendations for improvements based on their experiences.  
The Public Participation Committee intends to discuss the results of the roundtable Tuesday and the final survey results and develop recommendations for Council consideration at its November 18 meeting.
Public Comments
Two individuals presented remarks during the Council’s public comment period--
-- Bonita Hoke, PA League of Women Voters: She expressed concern about the passage of House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) and its negative impact on water quality, suggested DEP conduct a formal analysis of the impact climate change will have on increasing the risk of natural disasters, recommended efforts be expanded to meet the Chesapeake Bay cleanup milestones and commented that DEP should be doing more to advise the General Assembly on environmental issues.
-- Joanne Kilgour, Sierra Club: Expressed concern about a news report saying DEP left out some sampling results from its regional, short-term studies of air emissions from oil and gas production activities conducted during the Rendell Administration in 2010 and 2011, and called on Council to look into the issue.
Other Activities
-- Environmental Advocate: Kimberly Morewood, the Director of DEP’s Office of Environmental Advocate, provided Council with an overview of her office and the services it provides to citizens seeking input on permit decisions.
-- Act 54 Longwall Mining Impact Report: Council Chair Terry Tayton reported the final Act 54 Longwall Mining Impact Report is still undergoing final review by the Department and may be available for Council review by the end of the year.
-- Priorities For Governor: The Council assigned its Policy and Regulatory Oversight Committee the responsibility of preparing a report on the DEP priorities the Governor’s Office should address in the next four years regardless of who wins the November 4 election.
The next meeting of the CAC is on November 18.  It will be the final meeting in 2014.
For more information, visit DEP Citizens Advisory Council webpage.