Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sen. Yaw Asks For Specific Plan On How Pennsylvania Will Meet Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Obligations

In comments at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Monday on the Department of Agriculture’s budget, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, expressed concerns about whether the state was doing enough to meets its obligations to cleanup the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
He asked Agriculture, and will ask DEP and DCNR, for a specific plan on how Pennsylvania is going to meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments.
Sen. Yaw noted a recent Penn State study found Pennsylvania should be spending more than $378 million a year to meet its federal mandate to cleanup the state’s rivers and streams flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, mostly in assistance to farmers.
Under the best circumstances, Sen. Yaw said, Pennsylvania is spending about $140 million a year to help meet Pennsylvania’s obligations.
Pennsylvania is way behind where we should be in meeting our Chesapeake Bay commitments, said Sen. Yaw, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now “breathing down our necks” to meet our commitments.
“If you don’t meet them, something bad’s going to happen,” said Sen. Yaw.
[In response to a question at the House budget hearing Monday, Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said the possible federal actions for not meeting Chesapeake Bay requirements include withholding federal funding, which EPA has done in some cases, having EPA overseeing individual permit actions and having EPA set its own permit requirements in Pennsylvania.]
In response to Sen. Yaw’s comments, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding explained the Governor’s budget has a 3-year, $45 million initiative in the proposed budget funded by a bond issue to address Pennsylvania’s water quality cleanup obligations, including $15 million over 3 years for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup specifically.
[Note: The bond funding initiative proposed by Gov. Wolf is not going over well with Senate and House Republicans.]
Sen. Yaw requested Secretary Redding to provided a list of specific things his agency and DEP and DCNR want to accomplish in terms of water quality improvement related to the Chesapeake Bay.  He said he wants to know what is being done over the next year, how Pennsylvania is going to do it and how many miles we’re going to cleanup and where.  
He said he will ask DEP Acting Secretary McDonnell the same question.
Sen. Yaw said Pennsylvania needs to tell EPA specifically what we’re doing, as well as other states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, like Maryland and Virginia.
Secretary Redding said he welcomed the discussion, because everyone recognizes Pennsylvania is behind and said Sen. Yaw’s suggestion was timely.
Redding reminded the Committee “we will need your help” in terms of funding.
In January, Sen. Yaw and the other House and Senate members representing Pennsylvania on the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission wrote to all members of the Pennsylvania Senate and House to outline the need to address the state’s water pollution cleanup problems and propose a potential solution - a dedicated Clean Water Fund for Pennsylvania.
The letter proposes, as one solution, a water use fee to finance Pennsylvania’s water pollution cleanup effort that would raise an estimated $245 million a year.  They note water fee proposals were introduced last session in Senate Bill 1401 (Alloway-R- Franklin) and House Bill 2114 (Sturla-D-Lancaster).
The letter to members was signed by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Franklin), Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) and Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster).
Click Here to watch the Senate budget hearing.  This exchange is at about 67 minutes into the hearing.
For information on Pennsylvania’s initiatives, visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office webpage.
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here for a copy of CBF-PA’s most recent newsletter.
Related Stories:
CBF-PA: Wolf’s Budget Lacks Adequate Investments To Meet PA’s Clean Water Commitments

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Monday, February 27, 2017

DEP Submits Plan To EPA Saying Safe Drinking Water Program Deficiencies May Not Be Made Up Until 2020

In a letter dated February 24, the Department of Environmental Protection submitted a plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on how it will address concerns EPA raised about staffing inadequacies in Pennsylvania’s Safe Drinking Water Program.
DEP’s proposal is to increase permit review fees and adopt a new annual permit administration fee to fund approximately 33 new positions no longer covered by state General Fund monies to make sure Pennsylvania continues to meet minimum Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.
Given the way DEP must go about adopting a fee increase and hire new staff, it may take until 2020 of any new staff to become fully effective.
DEP has been working on the $7.5 million fee increase package with its advisory committees since November.
Under the timetable laid out by DEP, accounting for the 18 to 24 months it takes to get the fee increases through the state’s regulatory review process, DEP estimates it could begin hiring new staff in September 2018, according to the letter.
“Until such time as the final rulemaking is promulgated and new staff is brought on board and gain adequate experience, DEP will continue to prioritize inspections over other work within the program.”
Again, according to the letter, new staff are not considered adequately trained until they have “at least two years of experience” (emphasis DEP’s), so it could be until late 2020 when the new staff could fully contribute to helping the Safe Drinking Water Program.
The letter points out, “It is important to note that these problems did not manifest abruptly.  Since 2009, DEP program staffing levels have steadily declined.  In 2009, the SDW [Safe Drinking Water] Program employed 84 sanitarians [field inspectors].  Today, the number of sanitarians is down by more than 25 percent at 61 [including 7 vacancies]”
DEP also points out each sanitarian now on staff has responsibility for 158 public water supplies.  The national average is 67, less than half the systems DEP sanitarians must oversee.
DEP said it will provide EPA with quarterly updates on its progress in adopting the fee increase package.
The letter was signed by Lisa Daniels, Director of DEP’s Bureau of Safe Drinking Water.
A copy of the letter is available online.
Related Stories:
House DEP Budget Hearing Focuses On Safe Drinking Water, Permitting, Pipelines, Chesapeake Bay

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Approves PA’s New Wildlife Action Plan

An updated Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan for continued management and protection of Pennsylvania’s fish and wildlife species of greatest conservation need has been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The plan offers insight and comprehensive guidance on how best to tackle the problems of Pennsylvania’s 664 species of greatest conservation need, a list comprised of including 90 birds, 19 mammals, 65 fishes, 22 reptiles, 18 amphibians and 450 terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.
The approved 2015-2025 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan, announced Monday, ensures that the Fish and Boat Commission and Game Commission remain eligible for federal funding through the State Wildlife Grant Program.
“The Service is confident that the plan will yield great benefits for the conservation of Pennsylvania’s fish and wildlife resources,” said James W. Kurth, USFWS Deputy Director for Operations. “We look forward to working with you as you implement it.”
Using the best available science, the PFBC and Game Commission coordinated the congressionally required 10-year update of the Commonwealth’s existing wildlife action.
Also contributing technical expertise to this reorganized and updated plan were federal and other state agencies, conservation organizations and several universities, including a small army of affiliated biologists and other professionals.
Administered by both commissions, this plan is a road map for all Pennsylvanians interested in wildlife conservation.
“Our new plan keeps us on the course we charted for wildlife conservation a decade ago,” emphasized R. Matthew Hough, Game Commission executive director. “But making progress and protecting imperiled species in the face of mounting development and environmental problems will not be easy. It will take a greater commitment from more Pennsylvanians and more funding for wildlife to stay the course.
“Pennsylvania now finds itself in a conservation conundrum: the state’s resource agencies are in trouble financially,” explained Hough. “Although this plan outlines how best to help our species of greatest conservation need and prevent species from becoming endangered, resource agencies will need teamwork from the public and legislative assistance to ensure we can stay as proactive as we must.”
PFBC Executive Director John Arway added that “this plan builds upon the strong foundation and many collaborative efforts under the first plan. Implementing this plan will continue to advance our knowledge of Pennsylvania’s species and their habitats so we can develop the most informed management recommendations to secure species now and for the future.
"The plan will produce benefits for all fish and wildlife species that occupy similar habitats,” he added. “For example, improving wetlands to support bog turtles will benefit base flows in adjacent streams which support native fish species like Brook Trout.
“We live in a dynamic environment and this plan is our guide for conservation in the years ahead,” said Arway.
In evaluating the Pennsylvania plan, reviewers noted it was a step forward for Pennsylvania.
“The end result is an improvement over Pennsylvania’s 2005 Plan, as the new plan will serve as an updated blueprint for implementing the conservation of Pennsylvania’s … fauna and natural habitats through the conservation actions of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Game Commission, their partners, and the communities and individuals of the state.”
The review team included Colleen Sculley, a regional chief in the USFWS’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program and David Whitehurst, director of the Bureau of Wildlife Resources in the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, with technical assistance from Dee Blanton (USFWS) and Chris Burkett (VADGIF).
Since 2000, when enacting legislation established the State Wildlife Grant Program, Pennsylvania has received about $29 million, matched by $17 million in non-federal funding, and invested it in more than 100 projects with conservation partners.
In recent years the Commonwealth has received about $1.5 million annually – shared equally between the Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission – to protect and recover imperiled species, such as bald eagles and ospreys, and their habitats.
Funds also have helped fund numerous projects providing crucial information on species distribution and populations for everything from northern flying squirrels to Atlantic sturgeon, contributing greatly to an improved understanding of their status and management needs.
It also has helped fund regional investigations of white-nose syndrome and development of the state’s second atlas of breeding birds.
The wildlife action plan, through its ongoing efforts to conserve species of greatest conservation need, also substantially influences the welfare of other wildlife.
It truly is helping to keep common native species common by guiding habitat management and other vital conservation actions. It plays a significant role in sustaining wildlife health and diversity.
The plan, which included public input during the revision process, outlines which wildlife species face a considerable uphill battle and what actions we can take to help them right their populations.
Some require government initiatives; others, local or property owner involvement. But there are plenty of species in need of help, and many recommendations on how people can get involved.
The plan offers its vision on how people who care about wildlife can advance conservation through local, state and national programs and projects, and works hard to raise awareness of the problems wildlife faces.
To learn more about the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan, and its significant role in conservation, as well as State and Tribal Wildlife Grant projects within Pennsylvania, visit the Game Commission’s website and the Fish and Boat Commission’s website.

WPX Energy Assessed $1.2 Million Civil Penalty For Groundwater, Water Supply Impacts

The Department of Environmental Protection Monday announced WPX Energy Appalachia has agreed to a $1.2 million civil penalty for oil and gas violations that affected groundwater and private water supplies in Westmoreland County.
“One of DEP’s top priorities is to ensure that natural gas development does not have a detrimental impact on water resources in Pennsylvania,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “When leaks and other impacts do occur, the responsible party must remediate the damage and restore the resource.”
In September 2012, testing of five private water supplies indicated that they were impacted by a leak from an on-site impoundment into the groundwater at the Kalp wellsite in Donegal Township, Westmoreland County.
The impoundment was drained within a week of the leak being discovered. Affected households were provided bottled water and treatment systems have been installed. DEP is regularly evaluating those systems to ensure they are providing safe drinking water.
Marking the culmination of an investigation by DEP, the $1.2 million penalty has been paid to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Well Plugging Fund and is based on the impacts to the water supplies and the severity of the leak.
In addition to the civil penalty, WPX is required to conclude the investigation into the extent of the impacts and remediate the site in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act. This will include remediation of the soil, groundwater, and any surface waters impacted by the leak.
Drilling Pays $1.2 Million Following Water Contamination In Westmoreland

Drilling On DCNR Lands, Privatization Topics Discussed At House DCNR Budget Hearing

DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Monday answered questions in front of the House Appropriations Committee for 90 minutes about the proposed FY 2017-18 budget requested for DCNR.
Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, expressed a concern about again using significant monies from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay personnel and operations costs.
With respect to privatization in state parks, Secretary Dunn said DCNR has involved private concessionaires and already has authority to pursue public-private partnership.  There are 145 agreements now in place, everything from food vendors to the recent agreement opening the Laurel Mountain ski area.  
She said she would welcome ideas for public-private partnerships that are compatible with the mission of state parks.
Other topics mentioned at the hearing were: the Outdoor Corps youth work experience program, the multi-use riparian buffer grant initiative and gypsy moth spraying.
Click Here for a summary of DCNR’s written budget testimony.
Here is a quick summary of issues raised by questions from House members at the budget hearing--
-- Using Oil & Gas Lease Fund For Operations: Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, expressed a concern about again using significant monies from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay personnel and operations costs.
-- Drilling On State Park Land: Dunn noted DCNR does not own the mineral rights under 85 percent of the land used for state parks.  There are no Marcellus Shale natural gas wells on state parks, but there are some conventional wells on state park land.  She noted there is a moratorium on additional drilling on DCNR land.  Dunn did point out only 20 percent of the leases already issued are now being developed by drillers.  She said there is not a single drilling rig on state forest land at the moment.
-- Recovering Royalties Owed To DCNR: Dunn said DCNR recovered nearly $1.5 million over the last year in mistakes made by drilling companies paying royalties to DCNR for the wells drilled on state forest land.  Dunn noted DCNR retained an accountant to help in this recovery process.
-- Ryerson Station/Coal Mining: Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, asked for the status of agreements with Consol mining needed to mine coal near Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County.  Dunn noted the Environmental Hearing Board issued a supercedeas preventing mining according to the agreement with DCNR and DEP.  Consol recently reached out to again pursue those discussions with the agency, Dunn said.
-- Privatization In State Parks: Dunn said from the very first state parks the agency has involved private concessionaires and already has authority to pursue those ideas.  There are 145 agreements now in place, everything from food vendors to the recent agreement opening the Laurel Mountain ski area.  She said she would welcome ideas for public-private partnerships that are compatible with the state parks mission.
-- Serving Urban Areas: Dunn said it is DCNR’s mission to serve all areas of the state and the Community Conservation Partnership Grants significantly support urban recreation opportunities.
-- Riparian Buffers: Rep. Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, asked about plans for funding riparian buffers to meet, in part, Pennsylvania’s obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Program.  Dunn outlined DCNR’s leadership role in helping to fund multi-use riparian buffer grant initiative to improve water quality.  Rep. Carroll expressed concerns about Gov. Wolf’s proposed plan to float a bond to fund its watershed cleanup obligations.
-- Performance Budgeting: In response to a question on whether DCNR uses performance budgeting, Dunn said DCNR uses a variety of measuring tools to evaluate the agency’s programs, including partnering with Penn State to develop an economic impact study of state parks.
Click Here for a summary of DCNR’s written budget testimony. Click Here to view a video of the hearing when it is posted.
The Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on DCNR’s budget is March 1 at 3:00 a.m. Click Here to watch the Senate hearing live.
Related Story:
DCNR Budget Testimony Outlines Economic Benefits Of Recreation, Accomplishments

PittsburghGreenStory.com Shares Pittsburgh’s Transformation To Sustainability, Green Innovation

Pittsburgh's ongoing physical, economic, and environmental transformation has propelled a surge in sustainable development, green innovation, and collaboration across multiple sectors – from municipal government, private business, nonprofit agencies, and university-based initiatives to major infrastructure projects, technology manufacturing, and equitable development.
To capture the region's collective efforts in sustainability, Green Building Alliance and its partners announce the launch of PittsburghGreenStory.com, a new resource for finding the latest news, data, stories, people, and places driving Pittsburgh's ongoing green evolution.
"PittsburghGreenStory.com will provide a regular feed of new and emerging story leads and background for reporters and others interested in learning more about the opportunities, achievements, and challenges facing Pittsburgh as it strives towards true sustainability," says Dr. Aurora Sharrard, executive director of Green Building Alliance. "Pittsburgh's legacy is as a manufacturing powerhouse – its success driven by the hard work and innovation of early industrialists, entrepreneurs and workers. Today, that same spirit continues to energize the remaking of a city, its riverfronts, neighborhoods, and economy. It is these deep and broad stories we are looking to share through PittsburghGreenStory.com."
Current story leads headlining PittsburghGreenStory.com include:
-- Growing a net zero, living building in the heart of the city. One of Pittsburgh's largest city parks now serves as a hub for immersive environmental education for Pittsburgh city school children and as a gathering place for community programs. The new Frick Environmental Center has been built to meet the rigorous standards of both LEED Platinum and the Living Building Challenge. When certified, will become the world's first municipally owned, free and open to the public, Living Building.
-- Abandoned coal mine cleanup at 460-acre Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. Coal mine cleanup efforts on 66 acres of land occupied by Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. Is funded by $716,000 in federal funds. Part of the 460 acres comprising the Garden, the land was deep mined through the 1920s and surfaced mined through the 1940s. Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is working to achieve a radical transformation of the land involving expanded use of a passive water treatment system to remove acid mine drainage; the removal of dangerous highwalls; filling subsidence holes and vertical mine shafts; removal of coal refuse piles; and installation of a sludge control system.
-- Transforming discarded plastic bottles from the streets of Haiti and Honduras into the most responsibly made fabric on the planet. Since 2012, Pittsburgh-based fabric manufacturer Thread has moved more than 1 million pounds of waste from Haiti and Honduras and provided dignified jobs supporting more than 6,000 income opportunities for their residents. Thread is committed to a carefully monitored, transparent fabric supply chain, from Ground to GoodTM; fabric is made in the United States with up to 50 percent recycled PET from plastic. Beyond income, employees benefit from job training, process improvements, and micro-loan programs.
-- Construction of petrochemical ethane cracker plant, Pittsburgh region's largest industrial project in three decades. Shell Chemical Appalachia has received approval to build the nation's newest petrochemical ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, near Pittsburgh. Located on a former zinc smelter site, the new facility will be the largest scale industrial project to be constructed in the tristate region in at least three decades, with expected job growth and an estimated $6 billion in economic development. Local citizens, environmental groups, and others have opposed the cracker plant, citing concerns over its impact on local communities, air quality, and water quality.
-- Sustainable redevelopment of Pittsburgh's last brownfield site. Foundation, civic, and community leaders are collaborating in the redevelopment of the 178-acre "Almono" urban riverfront brownfield formerly occupied by LTV Steel in Hazelwood, a Pittsburgh neighborhood that employed nearly 13,000 people at the height of the steel industry. The Almono master plan calls for a mixed use development comprising a blend of housing, offices, research and development, light manufacturing, retail, parks, trails and transportation, and employing a host of sustainable standards and infrastructure.
Visit www.pittsburghgreenstory.com for more on these and other emerging stories, as well as connections to Pittsburgh's green instigators, expert sources, and video and photography assets. Story leads will be updated regularly.
Pittsburgh Green Story is a collaborative and growing partnership of organizations who are champions of Pittsburgh's legacy, present day, and future green story; it is operating as a project of Green Building Alliance and is funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

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