Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Senate Committee OKs Bill To Limit Eminent Domain Use On Land Protected By Conservation Easements

The Senate Local Government Committee Wednesday approved and reported out House Bill 2468 limiting the use of eminent domain by government agencies on land with conservation easements for parks and open space purposes.
The Senate action comes little more than 24 hours after the House Tuesday voted 179 to 18 to pass the bill.
Two school districts in the state-- Cumberland Valley in Cumberland County and Lower Merion in Montgomery County-- have decided to use eminent domain to condemn privately-owned land permanently preserved by conservation easements held by local land trusts, over the objections of many residents of the communities. Other suitable non-preserved land in each vicinity is available, according to the bill sponsors.
The bill would require any government agency to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before using eminent domain to take permanently preserved land. The procedure is similar to that found in the Agricultural Area Security Law which requires additional scrutiny before condemnation of agricultural lands. The Orphans’ Court is given authority in the Donated and Dedicated Property Act over certain transactions related to publicly owned lands held for public uses.
The bill was introduced by Representatives Warren Kampf (R-Chester), Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) and Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery).
A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for action.
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EPA Outlines Expectations For Next Phase Of Chesapeake Bay Restoration

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday sent letters to Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia outlining what the agency expects to see in state and local implementation plans for the third phase of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
Four pages of the 18 page expectations document outlines specifically what is expected of Pennsylvania and outlines a series of steps EPA could take if Pennsylvania does not live up to these expectations.
“The Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans will provide clear roadmaps for how federal, state, and local partners will work together to achieve their Bay TMDL nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reduction goals,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio. “EPA worked hand in hand with the seven Bay jurisdictions in developing the expectations for these plans.”
The expectations included in the letters were developed to support the goal of having all the practices and controls in place by 2025 to achieve the nutrient and sediment reductions necessary to meet water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal tributaries.
They also build on the jurisdictions’ earlier Water Implementation Plan (WIP) strategies by:
-- Further optimizing their choices of pollution reduction practices;
-- Incorporating lessons learned from previous efforts, new science and information from the mid-point assessment;
-- Developing comprehensive local engagement strategies; and
-- Building and sustaining the necessary programmatic and funding capacity to achieve the 2025 goals.
These expectations also incorporate recent decisions made by the Chesapeake Bay Partnership Principals Staff Committee, which includes the seven Bay jurisdictions, EPA, and the Chesapeake Bay Commission.  
To date, the states and the District of Columbia have made progress on their phase I and II goals, and that progress is having a measurable impact.
For example, in 2017, scientists recorded the highest number of acres of underwater grasses ever seen in the watershed and the first time in the history of monitoring that total abundance surpassed 100,000 acres.
In addition, over 40 percent of our tidal waters are now meeting water quality standards, which is the highest recorded in the history of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Click Here for a copy of the EPA expectations statement.
Reaction
Following release of the letter, Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker issued this statement:
“These expectations provide a sound framework for the Bay jurisdictions to develop plans to achieve the 2025 goals. As we have seen in the past, however, the success of the plans will depend on how well they are implemented.
“The EPA letter recognizes what we found in our assessment—the states need to accelerate efforts to reduce polluted runoff from agricultural and urban/suburban areas.
“The letter specifically details where Pennsylvania has fallen short in the past. It outlines actions EPA may take to hold the Commonwealth accountable. Now, Pennsylvania must develop a plan to close the gap and meet its 2025 commitments. If the plan does not, EPA must compel action.”
Background
In December 2010, EPA established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). The Bay TMDL is the largest ever developed by EPA, encompassing a 64,000-square-mile watershed.
The Bay TMDL identifies the necessary pollution reductions from major sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment across the Bay jurisdictions necessary to meet water quality standards.
Based on a 2009 baseline, the Bay TMDL calls for watershed-wide reductions of 25 percent for nitrogen, 24 percent for phosphorus, and 20 percent for sediment to meet these standards.
The Bay TMDL is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures needed to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025. The Phase III WIPs will outline the jurisdictions’ pollution reduction strategies for the time period from 2018-2025.
For more information, visit EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program webpage.
Visit DEP’s Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Plan webpage for more information on the steps being taken to develop Phase 3 of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implement Plan.
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Penn State Extension Watershed Winds Newsletter Now Available

The latest edition of the Watershed Winds newsletter is now available from Penn State Extension featuring stories on--
-- Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)

Wolf Administration Recognizes PA's 2 Green Ribbon Schools From Allegheny County

Several members of the Wolf Administration joined environmental and educational advocates at the Capitol Wednesday to honor Mt. Lebanon High School and Wexford Elementary School for being selected by the U.S. Department of Education as 2018 Green Ribbon Schools.
“Pennsylvania’s Green Ribbon Schools serve as a model for teaching the value of environmental stewardship through the infusion of real-world experiences into the classroom,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “I applaud Mt. Lebanon High School and Wexford Elementary School for their innovative efforts to promote conservation and environmental awareness, and thank them for their contributions to their communities.”
Rivera was joined by Secretary Patrick McDonnell from the Department of Environmental Protection; Deputy Secretary John W. Norbeck from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Nick Semon, President of PA Green & Healthy Schools Partnership; John Armstead, EPA Region 3 Deputy Regional Administrator; and lawmakers and advocates at the event to offer their congratulations to the schools.
“The teachers, students, administrators, and staff of Mt. Lebanon High School and Wexford Elementary School demonstrate the highest levels of excellence in K-12 environmental education and sustainability,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Everyone can learn from their comprehensive programs, incorporating green practices into all aspects of daily life. More important, from these model programs may come sustainability innovators of the future, fueled by knowledge of how environmental protection, economic benefits, and quality of life are intertwined.”
At Mt. Lebanon High School, a variety of green initiatives have enabled the campus to reduce energy consumption and conserve resources.
The cafeteria uses biodegradable plates, bowls and cups to enable composting through Pittsburgh Garden Company. The science department runs a student-led energy saving campaign and has dramatically reduced the amount of hazardous waste generated each year.
A perennial garden was developed with an emphasis on plants that will best help to sustain pollinators, and a seating area in the garden is used as an outdoor learning space for students. All students also take a full year of environmental geoscience.
Wexford Elementary School, in the Pine-Richland School District, was recognized for several interconnected programs which provide students with the knowledge and opportunities to have a healthy body, mind and environment.
The school has a half-mile nature trail and outside classrooms for students to learn within the environment, and its cafeteria recycling program has recycled over 100,000 milk and water containers.
In conjunction with a vegetable garden, the school this year initiated a composting program to collect leftover waste food and educate students on returning nutrients to the soil sustainably.
“DCNR salutes both these schools for demonstrating a strong commitment to promoting conservation, and to improving the health and wellness of their students and staff through outdoor activities,” Norbeck said. “Their goals and accomplishments are models for other schools to follow across Pennsylvania.”
Since 2011, the ED-GRS program has nominated schools, districts, and institutions of higher education across the country for their dedication to reducing environmental impact and cost, improving health and wellness of schools, and providing environmental education to students.
Nationally, 46 schools, six districts, and six postsecondary institutions were named 2018 Green Ribbon Schools.
For more information on U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, visit the U.S. Dept. of Education’s website.
More information on a similar Pennsylvania program to encourage green schools is available by visiting the PA Green & Healthy Schools website.

Lehigh/Northampton Master Watershed Steward Trainees Complete Training

Penn State Extension Wednesday announced the 2018 Class of Lehigh/Northampton County Master Watershed Stewards completed their 40 hours of training last month.
Their training included classroom sessions on water quality, geology, native plants, phenology and more, along with field trips to the Bethlehem Wastewater Treatment Plant, and introduction to environmental education at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and tour of stream restoration and green infrastructure sites in the region.
The 18 trainees will now be focusing on three group projects:
-- Homeowners Association Outreach: Many communities have homeowner’s associations that prescribe how residents carry out all types of outdoor activities. These are not always environmentally friendly, and, in fact, many practices, such as mandating manicured lawns, are environmental determinants.
The trainees will gather existing resources and publication relating to environmentally friendly residential care, and will collate these.
They will also create a presentation based upon these materials and lastly, create an inventory of the HOA’s in the Lehigh Valley and reach out to each of them, inviting them to one or more presentations. The content will focus on alternatives to lawns, water conservation, and native plants.
-- Demonstration Meadow: This project addresses the overuse and misuse of home herbicides and pesticides, as this can be a major source of water pollution.
Vast expanses of lawn in suburban areas can be time-consuming and expensive to maintain. There has been a growing interest in using wildflower meadows as an alternative to turf grass.
While large-scale, multi-acre meadow establishment projects have huge impact, the conversion process is daunting to homeowners.
To address this challenge, trainees will install a quarter acre demonstration native plant meadow at the Trexler Environmental Center using a kill-and-seed method to illustrate an attainable result for a homeowner with limited means and resources. This project will over-winter into 2019.
-- Monofilament recycling: The proposed project involves the construction, placement, and monitoring of monofilament fishing line disposal canisters at popular fishing sites in the Lehigh Valley.
The danger to fish, birds, and wildlife, and the environmental hazards from improperly discarded monofilament line is well known. Providing an accessible and effective disposal site will not only help decrease improperly discarded line, but also be visible, including signage and serving as an education/outreach opportunity.
The trainees will construct and place 24 canisters at sites along streams and the Lehigh River with informational signage. The volunteers will monitor and maintain the containers for a three-year period to determine public acceptance and usage.
The funding for these projects was secured by the Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley, through the Lehigh Valley Greenways Partnership. The Lehigh and Northampton County Conservation District Watershed Specialists will be overseeing these projects.
Once the trainees reach 50 hours of volunteer service, they’ll become official Master Watershed Stewards.
Penn State Extension, the Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley, and the County Conservations districts look forward to working with these individuals as they work on these group projects and become more involved in environmental conservation efforts.
If you are interested in becoming a Master Watershed Steward in Lehigh and Northampton counties, contact Erin Frederick by sending email to: elf145@psu.edu.
There are Master Watershed Stewards Programs in Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Wyoming and York Counties.
Interested in becoming a Master Watershed Steward in your area?  Visit Penn State Extension’s Master Watershed Steward Program webpage.  Questions should be directed to Erin Frederick at 610-391-9840 or send email to: elf145@psu.edu.
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(Reprinted from Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletter. Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)

FERC Gives OK For Several Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Projects To Proceed Without Federal Power Licenses, Other Projects Move Forward

Renewable Energy Aggregators [formerly Merchant Hydro Developers, LLC] Wednesday announced the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission disclaimed licensing jurisdiction over three pumped storage hydroelectric projects allowing them to proceed without the need to secure a federal license under the Federal Power Act.
The projects include--
-- Pennsylvania Pump Storage Project in Borough of Shenandoah, Schuylkill County.  The project is a 500 megawatt hydro project with a 470 acre upper reservoir and 135 acre lower reservoir using water from an underground abandoned mine.
-- Old Forge Bore Hole Reclamation Pumped Storage Project in Duryea Borough, Luzerne County and Lackawanna County.  The project is a 450 megawatt hydro project with a 300 acre upper reservoir and 300 acre lower reservoir with the source of water being an underground abandoned mine near the Old Forge Borehole.
-- Vandling Drift Reclamation Pumped Storage Project in Vandling, Wayne County.  The project is a 200 megawatt hydro project with a 300 acre upper reservoir and 140 acre lower reservoir using groundwater from an underground abandoned mine to fill and refill the reservoirs.
FERC was able to issue a favorable order because REA's unique design uses no surface or otherwise navigable waters.
In April, FERC issued a preliminary permit and authority to file a licence application for a fourth project--
-- Preckle Pumped Storage Hydro Project Duryea Borough, Luzerne County and Ransom Township, Lackawanna County.  The project is a 450 megawatt hydro project with a 300 acre upper reservoir and 200 acre lower reservoir with the source of water possibly being the Old Forge Borehole.
Click Here for full announcement.
There are two pump storage hydroelectric projects now in Pennsylvania with a generating capacity of 1,583 megawatts-- FirstEnergy Seneca, 513 MW in Kinzua Township, Warren County using 3.4 million gallons and Exelon’s Muddy Run, 1,070 MW in Drumore, Lancaster County using water from a 11.4 billion gallon lake.
There are now 5,718.3 megawatts of all types of hydroelectric power generation in the state or 3.1 percent of all electric generation capacity in Pennsylvania.
For more information, visit the Renewable Energy Aggregators website.
(Photo: FirstEnergy Seneca Facility.)
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