Friday, April 18, 2014

April 21 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The April 21 PA Environment Digest is now available.  CLICK HERE to Print The Entire PA Environment Digest.

20 Business, Oil, Coal, Aggregate, Farm, Power Groups Oppose Act 13 Court Ruling
Monday a diverse group of 20 business, oil, coal, aggregate, farm, electric power, builder and chambers of commerce wrote to members of the Senate and House saying the PA Supreme Court’s ruling on the Act 13 drilling law and the Environmental Rights Amendment threatens the ability of Pennsylvania to retain and grow existing businesses and attract new ones.

Straight Talk: Article I,  Section 27 PA Environmental Rights Amendment Court Decision
By John A. Arway, Executive Director, Fish & Boat Commission
On December 19, 2013, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an opinion that held certain parts of our new Oil and Gas Act (Act 13 of 2012) unconstitutional.
Although I am a biologist and not a lawyer, I have spent many hours in court and on the witness stand as an expert witness defending the rights of our aquatic resources; however, I will not try to explain the implications of the decision to the law.
My primary interest in studying the decision focused on the opinion of the three justices who explained their concerns about how the law was inconsistent with Article 1, Section 27 of our state constitution.

DEP To CAC: Chapter 78 Drilling Regs Will Not Be Finalized Until 2015
Hayley Book, Director of DEP’s Policy Office, told DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday the agency was not likely to finalize proposed changes to Chapter 78 drilling regulations until sometime in 2015.

DCNR Releases First Report On The Impacts Of Drilling In State Forest Lands
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wednesday released a copy of its first monitoring report on the impact of shale gas drilling in State Forests based on 15 different monitoring values developed by agency scientists with input from its advisory committees.  
The report covers activities from 2008 to 2012 and was released at a meeting of the agency’s Natural Gas Advisory Committee in State College.

DEP Releases 2014 Susquehanna River Sampling Plan
The Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday released a work plan outlining efforts to continue studying and sampling the Susquehanna River basin throughout 2014. The plan includes analysis of water quality, water flow, sediment, pesticides, hormones, invertebrates, fish tissue and more.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Donates Surveillance Cameras to City of Pittsburgh

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Friday said they have donated high-tech surveillance cameras to the City of Pittsburgh to support enhanced enforcement efforts surrounding the act of illegal dumping within the City limits.
The high quality, motion activated, covert security cameras provide instant wireless transmission of site activity, photo documentation of license plates at speeds of up to 50 mph, and clear photos of activity day or night, which are key to prosecutions.
“From Pittsburgh’s wonderful greenways to its secluded hillsides, illegal dumping is far too common in our City,” said Mayor William Peduto. “Plenty of resources are available to help our residents and businesses dispose of waste properly, but irresponsible behavior continues. I want to thank Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful for assisting efforts by my administration and local partners to enforce the law and keep our neighborhoods clean.”
“The evidence collected by our cameras has been integral in the prosecution and conviction of individuals from Allegheny, Armstrong, and Elk counties.  Putting faces to what once was a faceless crime is gratifying and knowing that violators will be held accountable is even better,” says Shannon Reiter, President of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. “We are honored to be part of the effort to reduce illegal dumping in the City of Pittsburgh.”
Allegheny CleanWays, with the help of the Illegal Dump Survey completed in 2009 by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, will help determine site locations for camera installation. Cameras will be repositioned among known illegal dumpsites as needed.
The new cameras will augment a program that was piloted by Allegheny CleanWays and the City of Pittsburgh last year.
Two cameras, purchased through a grant from the Allegheny County Conservation District, were donated to the City of Pittsburgh for surveillance of the city’s worst dumping areas in late 2013. The addition of the new cameras will enable surveillance of more sites and increase the likelihood of a conviction.
For more information, visit the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful website.

Opinion: Corbett Plan For Drilling Good For State Parks, Forests

John C. Oliver III, Former Secretary, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
James M. Seif, Former Secretary, Department of Environmental Protection

As former secretaries of Pennsylvania’s departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, we are pleased that Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget continues Pennsylvania’s historic commitment to our treasured state parks and forests that have served our citizens for generations.
His proposal to raise revenue through limited leasing of state land for natural gas extraction would be done in a way that prevents additional surface disturbance to these lands. With future royalties directed back into the parks and forests, and with a new commitment to provide more than $200 million for state park and forest infrastructure, the commonwealth is meeting one of its most important obligations — the conservation of our valued public lands.
Our state parks and forests offer outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, protect special wildlife species and places and support local economies. Providing valuable resources like timber and natural gas always has been an important role and function of these lands as well.
Recent advances in technologies allow natural gas to be extracted from underneath lands up to a mile away using horizontal drilling. Gov. Corbett is proposing in his next budget limited leasing to allow natural gas to be extracted from deep beneath our state lands without allowing any additional disturbance on state parks and forests.
This no-surface impact drilling can be done by accessing the gas from adjacent private lands or from well pad sites which already exist or are planned under pre-existing leases. Future royalty payments would be invested back into the parks and forests for infrastructure improvements, land acquisition and the purchase of privately owned oil and gas rights. In state parks alone about 80 percent of the subsurface rights are held privately.
The governor will issue an executive order prohibiting the leasing of DCNR lands that would result in any additional disturbance to the surface of state forest or park land.
Some are skeptical about this new leasing program. We are not. As former secretaries of the two state agencies entrusted to care for our lands and waters, we know the employees of DCNR and DEP work tirelessly each day to be good stewards of the commonwealth’s natural resources. DCNR employees have been managing Marcellus gas drilling on state forest lands since 2008 and conventional drilling for decades.
Because of their stringent standards and professional management, the state forests have maintained their third-party certification as well-managed forests. These same employees — trained foresters, botanists, biologists and geologists — will make sure that “no surface activity” will mean just that. And they’ll be backed by an executive order that guarantees these protections.
Our parks and forests will greatly benefit from this additional infusion of money. Their valuable but aging infrastructure needs our attention. That’s why Gov. Corbett also is launching Enhance Penn’s Woods with $200 million in funding over two years — the largest-ever short-term investment in these lands — to fix our state park and forest roads, bridges, buildings, dams and more. Enhance Penn’s Woods will use existing and new funding sources to tackle more than 200 projects that will make trips to these public lands safer and even more enjoyable.
Being good stewards of these lands means making balanced decisions. We believe Gov. Corbett’s proposals to enhance and protect our state parks and forests will be long viewed as wise stewardship.

John C. Oliver III served as the first Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and James M. Seif served as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under former Gov. Tom Ridge.

DEP Publishes Final Impaired Waters Assessment, Listing Methodology Policies

The Department of Environmental Protection published notice in the April 19 PA Bulletin of the final assessment and listing methodology for determining when waters are impaired under Sections 303(d) and 305(d) of the federal Clean Water Act and required for Pennsylvania’s Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report.  
The 2013 Assessment Methods includes the following documents: Instream Comprehensive Evaluations; Limestone Streams; Multi-Habitat Pool/Glide Streams; Riffle/Run Freestone Streams; Continuous Instream Monitoring; Periphyton; Streambed Sediment; Surface Water Collection; Semi-Quantitative Fish Sampling Protocol; Lake Assessment Protocol; Aquatic Macrophyte Cover; Lake Fisheries; Evaluations of Phosphorus Discharges to Lakes, Ponds and Impoundments; Plankton Sampling; Chlorophyll A Sampling; Chemistry—Bacteriological Evaluations; Fish Tissue Sampling; Natural Pollutant Sources; Outside Agency Data; Appendix A—Sources and Cause Definitions; Appendix B—Taxa Tolerances; Appendix C—Biological Field Methods; Appendix C1—Habitat; Appendix C2—Benthic Macroinvertebrates; Appendix C3—Fish; and Appendix C4—Taxonomic Reference.  
These documents will be posted on DEP’s Water Quality Standards webpage.

Susquehanna River Basin Commission May 8 Public Hearing On Water Withdrawals

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission holds a public hearing on water withdrawal requests on May 8 in Room 8E-B East Wing, Capitol Building, Harrisburg starting at 2:30.  (formal notice) A copy of the agenda is available online.  For more information, visit SRBC’s Meetings webpage.

DEP Publishes Final Community Environmental Projects Policy In PA Bulletin

The final version of DEP's Community Environmental Projects (CEP) Policy was published in the April 19 PA Bulletin.  
The CEP policy outlines the process for DEP consideration of a Community Environmental Protect, in certain situations, in lieu of a portion of the amount of civil penalty it will accept as a settlement.
A CEP is a project that substantially improves, protects, restores or remediates the environment, or improves, protects or reduces risks to the public health or safety.
DEP staff will consider the performance of a CEP, in appropriate situations, in lieu of a portion of the amount of civil penalty it will accept as a settlement.  The department may, in determining the amount of civil penalty to collect, consider projects that have substantial public health or environmental benefits.
DEP may consider CEPs in situations it decides are appropriate, as an exercise of its enforcement discretion.  Additional consideration may be given to CEPs proposed in areas that are susceptible to disproportionate environmental impacts and projects that will benefit conditions in an environmental justice area.
DEP sought input from the Citizens Advisory Council and the Environmental Justice Advisory Board in the development of the policy. Where possible, those comments were included in the version that was shared with the public for comment.
Due to the early involvement of both advisory groups prior to public comment, neither had additional comments on the version published for public comment.
The final version of the policy will be available in DEP's eLibrary by searching for policy 012-4180-001.
(Reprinted from DEP’s April 17 Newsletter. Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)

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