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Friday, May 30, 2014
PEC Opposes Bill Mandating Different Environmental Safeguards For Conventional Wells
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council Tuesday sent a communication to the Pennsylvania State Senate to express its opposition to the recently introduced Senate Bill 1378 (Scrantai-R- Jefferson, Hutchinson-R-Venango) (P.N. 2053).
Former Rendell Officials Now Say Marcellus Natural Gas Drilling Exploited State Forests
StateImpact, the Patriot-News, Post-Gazette and the Citizens Voice Thursday reported former DCNR officals in the Rendell Administration now say the leasing of 137,000 acres of State Forest land for drilling exploited State Forests as a “cash cow.”
Budget Preview: 28 Days Before State Budget Deadline, Will Zack And Miri Get A Raise?
The deadline to have a state General Fund budget in place is July 1. When the Senate and House return to session on June 2 they will have 28 days left before a budget should be done.
The Independent Fiscal Office said in its most recent estimates state revenues are projected to be down $608 million for FY 2013-14 and another $990 million for FY 2014-15 totaling a nearly $1.6 billion budget hole.
Delaware County High School Team Claims State Envirothon Honors
Students of Penncrest High School in Delaware County walked off with first-place honors after competing May 20 and 21 in the 31st Pennsylvania State Envirothon at Susquehanna University and PPL Montour Preserve.
Schuylkill River Celebration Highlights PA Rivers Month Activities
Plans for fun on the Schuylkill River -- from canoes and kayaks slicing through headwaters to leisurely tube floats in urban environs -- is expected to draw hundreds of paddlers, campers and other outdoors enthusiasts to a rebounding waterway named River of the Year for 2014.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority’s LEED Gold Norris Apartments has been recognized for outstanding achievement by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials.
The council includes housing and community development agencies in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington DC.
Norris Apartments, located adjacent to Temple University’s main campus, is PHA’s first-ever LEED certified ‘development, and meets nationally accepted standards for planning, design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings.
Energy savings for the apartment units are projected at 29 to 39 percent, while the townhomes are projected to save 38 to 45 percent, compared to conventionally-built units.
The density of the new development is much lower as well. PHA replaced 179 units, with 51 units in a mix of walkups and townhomes on the same block. The design includes a small pocket park in the center courtyard that provides green space for residents while limiting rainwater runoff into the city sewer system.
“We are thrilled to receive this recognition from our peers,” said Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA President and CEO. “The housing authority has made a long-term commitment to sustainable development. Our design at Norris is in sync with Temple University and other private developers in the North-Central neighborhood, where, in partnership with the City and others, we hope to win a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to complete the transformation of the Norris neighborhood.”
Norris Apartments is also in line to win a national Award of Merit from NAHRO. The United States Green Building Council certified the new development as LEED Gold in February 2013.
PHA used locally made materials as much as possible to reduce its carbon footprint. Besides saving energy, the goals for the new development included improved aesthetics, safety, health, and reducing stormwater runoff.
Norris Apartments is a transit-oriented development. It is near the Temple University Station, a hub for all of SEPTA’s regional rail lines. Residents also have easy access to the Broad Street subway and the 23 and C bus lines. Bus routes 4, 47, and 16 are just three to four blocks away.The award-winning development is ideally located near a variety of educational services and the commercial corridor of Broad Street. The development complements ongoing public and private development in the neighborhood and has attracted positive attention from students and private citizens who have inquired as to whether they could live at the new development.
Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery)
Majority Chair House Consumer Affairs Committee
When politics gets in the way of good public policy, citizens inevitably lose. That is precisely what happened to electric ratepayers when the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) met May 22 and, by a 3-2 vote, approved regulations put forth by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) that fail to adequately protect the public against electric rate price gouging.
In fact, the PUC regulations even go so far as to block the citizens’ right to provide public input when the PUC determines a decision must be expedited.
Following severe weather in January thousands of variable electric rate customers were hit with electric bills as much as 600 percent higher than normal. While variable rates are subject to change based on fluctuations in the wholesale electric market and at the will of the electric supplier, one cannot reasonably be expected to accept rate increases as high as 600 percent!
As chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee, it is my job to examine and put forth legislation that will protect consumers from harm. I held hearings after my office and many of my House colleagues were slammed with phone calls and letters from constituents complaining about exorbitant electric bills. Many of these calls were emotional – even desperate. For some, the rate shock represented certain default.
About 10 years ago, Pennsylvania deregulated its electric market and consumers were urged to shop for more favorable rates. I fully support the concept of electric competition, but the process must be improved to protect consumers and mitigate future occurrences of “rate shock.”
The problem with deregulation is that it led to a dramatic rise in the number of new electric service providers, more than 355, and oversight became more challenging. Many providers are little more than marketing operations that offer low introductory rates to lure consumers away from their local default supplier, then collect handsomely when the low rate expires. Many electric customers never realized they were committing to a variable rate contract − many not even receiving a hard copy of the agreement.
The hearings before my committee demonstrated that consumers were not being provided with information that clearly spelled out the nature of their variable rate contracts. Then, once a customer gets hit with a high bill, it can take one or more billing cycles before they are able to change electric suppliers.
In March, I introduced House Bill 2104, which was passed by the House Consumer Affairs Committee and is now before the full House. This legislation would protect consumers by limiting the amount variable rates can rise in a 30-day period, shortening the time necessary for consumers to switch electric providers, and requiring electric companies to fully disclose, in plain language, the terms of their variable rate plans. My bill would also require the PUC to post current and historic electric rates on the PA Power Switch website.
On May 22, I testified against the regulations proposed by the PUC as I firmly believe it is in the public’s interest for the PUC to provide proper public notice and a public comment period before rules and regulations are adopted.
Pennsylvania law pertaining to “final-omitted rulemaking” permits exceptions to the public notice/public comment law only in the following circumstances:
-- When comments from the public are not appropriate, necessary or beneficial.
-- When all persons subject to the regulation are named and given personal notice.
-- When notice is impractical, unnecessary or contrary to the public interest.
I remain at a loss to understand how the PUC regulations met the threshold that would preclude the public from weighing in on matters that impact them directly. The public, who in some cases reportedly suffered exponential increases in electric rates, should have a voice.The recent unprecedented electric rate hikes demonstrated that the public is at substantial risk. This is no time for the public to be silenced. House Bill 2104 is the only guarantee that consumers have to be assured that never again will they be slammed with electric rate increases of up to 600 percent in a single month.
The PA Infrastructure Investment Authority and DEP published notice of an opportunity to comment and a June 10 public hearing on the 2014 Intended Use Plans for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Programs.
The hearing will be held at the DEP Headquarters Building, 2nd Floor Auditorium, 400 Market St., Harrisburg. 1:00.The 2014 Intended Use Plans will be posted on the DEP Intended Use Plans webpage.
The PA Energy Development Authority is inviting comments on a proposed PA Energy Development Plan outlining the Authority’s policy goals, general operating principles and investment priorities. (formal notice)
The original plan was published in 1984 and last updated in 2008 and is required to be updated every three years.The proposed plan will be posted on the PEDA webpage and will be available for public comment for 60 days.
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Thursday, May 29, 2014
Schools might soon be letting out, but educators and others who work with youth have a chance to continue their learning through wildlife-focused workshops.
Formal educators and nonformal educators such as Scout leaders, afterschool educators and youth-group leaders are welcome to attend these workshops.
Project WILD aims to provide a wildlife-based conservation education that fosters responsible action. It’s one of the most widely used conservation and environmental-education programs among educators, and the activities easily can be incorporated into almost any classroom curriculum.
Theresa Alberici, who coordinates the program in Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said Project WILD benefits educators and students alike.
“Educators leave Project WILD with a renewed appreciation of wildlife and are excited about how they’re going to share what they’ve learned with their students,” Alberici said. “Project WILD isn’t about teaching kids what to think about wildlife; it’s about teaching kids how to think about wildlife and giving them the skills they need to become responsibly active citizens who recognize the importance of wildlife and the environment.”
More than 1 million educators have been trained in the program since Project WILD originated in 1983.
Those who are looking for more information on Project WILD workshops offered this year can visit the homepage of the Game Commission’s website.
Following is a listing of scheduled workshops for educators. All workshops are approved for Act 48 hours:
-- WILD about Elk (2-day workshop, June 11-12): Participants will work with Game Commission wildlife biologists, wildlife conservation officers, wildlife-habitat managers and wildlife educators to explore elk history, elk biology, habitat management, telemetry and research. This training session includes a field study examining habitat management and several opportunities to view elk, and maybe even their calves. This workshop is designed for upper elementary/middle/high school classroom teachers and non‐formal educators who work with a variety of audiences including students and teachers. It is scheduled to be held Wednesday, June 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday, June 12, from 7 a.m. to noon at the Elk Country Visitor Center, 134 Homestead Drive, Benezette, PA 15821. Lunch and dinner are provided on June 11 and a snack is provided on June 12.There is no cost for the course and educators are offered a $50 stipend to offset cost of lodging and travel. ACT 48 hours are provided. To register, please obtain a registration form and return it to Theresa Alberici at the Game Commission. Forms can be emailed to: email@example.com, or sent by fax to 717‐772‐0542. Deadline to register is June 5, but it could close sooner if all seats are filled.
-- Pennsylvania Songbirds (1- or 2-day workshop, June 19-20): This is a hands‐on, interdisciplinary resource and activity guide for educators, offered through a joint project of the Game Commission, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Audubon Pennsylvania. This workshop is for K‐12 educators. It is scheduled to be held Thursday, June 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Kings Gap Environmental Education Center in Carlisle. Additionally, an optional session is scheduled for Friday, June 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area on the border of Lebanon and Lancaster counties. The cost is $20 each day, and includes the PA Songbirds Guide and transportation for the optional field trip to Middle Creek. ACT 48 hours approved. To register, contact Kings Gap at 717‐486‐5031, or send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Pennsylvania Biodiversity (1-day workshop, June 30): The importance of this seldom-talked-about issue is addressed through the use of resource materials and hands‐on activities. Session participants will investigate the concepts of biodiversity, explore Pennsylvania’s biodiversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, and examine local and global issues relating to biodiversity. Participating teachers will receive the Pennsylvania Biodiversity guide. The workshop is scheduled to be held Monday, June 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project, Charles Brightbill Center, Box 97, 4881 Fort Loudon Road, Mercersburg. The activities in this training are designed for upper elementary, middle and high school, however the background information about Pennsylvania’s ecosystem and wildlife provided in this workshop is appropriate for teachers of all grade levels.
The workshop will be held both indoors and outdoors, and those attending the workshop are urged to dress appropriately and to pack a lunch. The cost of the workshop is $10, payable to TWEP. ACT 48 hours provided. To register, please obtain a registration form and return it to Theresa Alberici at the Game Commission. Forms can be emailed to: email@example.com, or sent by fax to 717‐772‐0542. Those with questions can call 717‐787‐1434 or 717‐328‐2126, or send questions by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for registration is June 20.
-- WILD about Raptors: Hawks, Harriers, Falcons, Ospreys, Eagles (1-day workshop, July 16): This workshop, for K‐12 educators, will explore the world of Pennsylvania’s diurnal raptors. Resources will include Wildlife Notes for each species and a review of additional materials used and/or available from the Game Commission. Activities for the day are designed to address topics including: adaptation, natural history and current status of species. A significant portion of the day will be a field experience designed to further develop raptor watching and identification. The workshop is scheduled to be held Wednesday, July 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, on the border of Lebanon and Lancaster counties. There is no cost to attend the workshop. Those attending are asked to dress for the indoors and outdoors, bring binoculars if possible, and pack water, snacks and a lunch. Act 48 hours provided. To register, contact Bert Myers at: email@example.com, or call 717‐733‐1525. Deadline for registration is June 30.
-- WILD about Mammals (2-day workshop, July 21-22): Designed for teachers at the elementary level, this workshop is designed to enhance the participants’ knowledge about the diverse wild mammals that live in our state. Each day will feature natural history, activities and field experience. The workshop is scheduled to be held on Monday, July 21 and Tuesday July 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. both days. It will be held at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, on the border of Lebanon and Lancaster counties. There is no charge to attend, and those attending are urged to dress for the indoors and outdoors, and pack water and a lunch. Act 48 hours provided. To register, contact Bert Myers at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 717‐733‐1525. Deadline to register is July 7.
-- WILD about Bears (1-day workshop, July 31): During this workshop, Game Commission personnel, along with workshop participants, will explore the world of the black bear, focusing on natural history, management practices, research and interactions between bears and people. Examine a culvert trap used to trap bears for research or to remove nuisance bears. Explore the habits and habitat of the black bear, and maybe have the chance for a close‐up view. The workshop is scheduled to be held Wednesday, July 31 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Monroe County Environmental Education Center, 8050 Running Valley Road, Stroudsburg. There is no charge to attend, and those attending are urged to dress for the indoors and outdoors, and pack water and a lunch. Act 48 hours provided. To register, obtain and complete a registration form and return to Theresa Alberici. Forms can be sent by email to email@example.com, or faxed to 717‐772‐0542. Deadline to register is July 7, or sooner if all seats for the workshop are filled. Questions can be phoned in to 717‐787‐1434.
-- Pennsylvania Biodiversity (1-day workshop, Aug. 12): The importance of this seldom-talked-about issue is addressed through the use of resource materials and hands‐on activities. Session participants will investigate the concepts of biodiversity, explore Pennsylvania’s biodiversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, and examine local and global issues relating to biodiversity. Participating teachers will receive the Pennsylvania Biodiversity guide. The workshop is scheduled to be held Tuesday, Aug. 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wildwood Park, 100 Wildwood Way, Harrisburg. Meet at the Nature Center. The activities in this training are designed for upper elementary, middle and high school, however, the background information about Pennsylvania’s ecosystems and wildlife provided in this workshop is appropriate for teachers of all grade levels. The workshop will be held both indoors and outdoors, and those attending the workshop are urged to dress appropriately and to pack a lunch. The cost of the workshop is $10. ACT 48 hours provided. To register, contact Wildwood Park at 717‐221‐0292. Registration deadline is July 25.
-- Biodiversity on the Susquehanna River (1-day workshop, Aug. 13 ): Join the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Wildwood Park for a canoe trip on the Susquehanna River. Explore the biodiversity of this aquatic ecosystem between Fort Hunter and West Fairview. This trip will include a stop near Wade Island to view Pennsylvania’s largest nesting site for great egrets and black‐crowned night‐herons, both of which are state-endangered species in Pennsylvania. The program also includes discussions of some of the challenges facing plants and animals of the river. The workshop will be held Wednesday, Aug. 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The meeting site will be near Fort Hunter Park in Harrisburg, with the exact location being sent to those who register. The cost of the workshop is $10, and those attending are encouraged to pack water, a hat, sunscreen, lunch and binoculars. Act 48 hours provided. To register, contact Wildwood Park at 717‐221‐0292. The deadline to register is July 25, and space is limited.
-- WILD about Reading: Reading to Learn the Content – Wildlife and their Habitats (1-day workshop, Aug. 14): This hands‐on professional-development workshop for teachers of grades 1 through 3, special-education teachers and elementary-reading specialists addresses the Pennsylvania Environment and Ecology and Science Standards, as well as the Science, Technology and Environment and Ecology Assessment Anchors. Participating teachers will receive 15 nonfiction reading books, puppets, and a full-color forest habitat silk mat. They also will receive the Reading to the Content Curriculum Guide and the newly developed national early childhood activity guide from the Game Commission’s “Growing Up Wild” program. In total, each teacher will take back to his/her classroom over $350 worth of materials for students. The workshop is scheduled to be held on Thursday, Aug. 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Wildwood Park Nature Center, 100 Wildwood Way, Harrisburg. There is no cost for the workshop. Those attending are asked to pack a lunch. Snacks are provided. Six Act 48 hours are available upon successful completion of the workshop. To register, please obtain and complete a registration form and return to Theresa Alberici. Forms can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxed to 717‐772‐0542. The deadline to register is Aug. 1. Questions can be phoned in to 717‐787‐1434.-- WILD About Waterfowl (1-day workshop, Aug. 19): This workshop will help educators of grades 5 through 12 learn about waterfowl species and the importance of their wetland habitats. Topics include human impacts on waterfowl and migration habits of waterfowl within the Atlantic Flyway. Field activities include observation of duck banding (conditions permitting), waterfowl identification and a guided field experience. The workshop is scheduled to be held Tuesday, Aug. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, on the border of Lebanon and Lancaster counties. There is no cost to attend. ACT 48 hours provided. To register, contact Bert Myers at: email@example.com, or 717‐733‐1512. Registration deadline is July 30.
Civic, religious and environmental groups Thursday called on Gov. Tom Corbett to reverse his decision to permit additional leasing of mineral rights in state parks and forests for natural gas drilling during a news conference organized by Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
"This is bad public policy," said rep. Vitali. "If Gov. Corbett wants to raise additional revenues from gas drilling he should impose a severance tax instead."
The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss from the Pennsylvania Council of Churches said the governor's decision violates the Pennsylvania constitution, which calls for the land to be preserved for all -- now and into the future – and notes that public natural resources are common property.
"Our children and grandchildren will inherit the environmental problems we leave behind," Strauss said. "Future generations already face tremendous debts. It's up to us to speak up, reminding our governor and our General Assembly of their duty to uphold Pennsylvania's Constitution, and raising our faith voices to call for a halt to the governor's disgraceful action."
Pennsylvania Sierra Club Chapter Director Joanne Kilgour said the impacts of drilling are already being felt on state lands, and she noted that from 2008 to 2012, more than 300 notices of violations were issued to gas drilling-related companies for incidents such as brine spills and residual waste discharges. An expansion of drilling, she said, would make matters worse.
"This summer, as you are hiking with your spouse, teaching your children to fish, and picnicking along the banks of a clean trout stream, imagine the loud, polluting noise of a compressor station or hundreds of large, industrial trucks passing by on the way to a nearby well pad," Kilgour said.
Delaware Riverkeeper Maya Von Rossum said the governor's order will invite, inspire and spawn industrial development along state parks and forests, and eventually pave the way for the state to open parks entirely for drilling.
Also speaking were PennFuture Policy Director Steve Stroman, PennEnvironment Advocate Kristen Cevoli, Clean Water Action Central Pennsylvania Campaign Coordinator Nathan Sooy, Pennsylvania League of Women Voters President Susan Carty and Ralph Kisberg from the Responsible Drilling Alliance.
Forty-four percent of state forestland, or 673,000 acres, already is subject to Marcellus shale drilling.
Meanwhile, Rep. Vitali is awaiting details from the Corbett administration about plans for expanded gas drilling. The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records last week granted Rep. Vitali's appeal seeking details about Corbett’s plan to raise the $75 million through the additional leasing of mineral rights.
Rep. Vitali sought information about what parks and forests are under consideration for drilling, how many acres would be leased, which companies will be doing the drilling and how the $75 million figure was calculated.
He has yet to hear from the administration, and said the information is needed to properly consider the budget that General Assembly will vote on next month.
Gov. Corbett issued an Executive Order last week laying out the ground rules for any new drilling on State Forest or State Park lands.
Click Here for a fact sheet on the Executive Order and Non-surface Disturbance Leasing of DCNR Lands. For more information, visit DCNR’s Natural Gas Development and State Forests webpage.
On June 7 ten high school students from communities throughout the headwaters of the Schuylkill River to its terminus in Philadelphia will embark on a weeklong expedition throughout the 2,000-square-mile Schuylkill River watershed.
This intensive, applied service-learning program, Schuylkill Acts & Impacts: An Expedition to Inspire Watershed Action, is being piloted by the Schuylkill Headwaters Association located in Pottsville, PA in collaboration with Outward Bound Philadelphia and over 25 partners and sponsoring organizations from throughout the watershed.
Student participants representing the five counties (Schuylkill, Berks, Montgomery, Chester, and Philadelphia) located within the Schuylkill River watershed will travel by canoe, van, and foot along the 120-mile Schuylkill River from its source in the anthracite coal lands of Schuylkill County to its confluence with the Delaware River in Philadelphia.
For eight days and seven nights, participants will sleep under the stars and learn in a classroom without walls. Each night, participants will camp or stay in basic accommodations at various parks and preserves.
Team leaders from the Schuylkill Headwaters Association and Outward Bound Philadelphia will guide students downriver, illustrating an array of issues impacting water quality in the Schuylkill River through guided tours, programming, and applied service work designed to highlight issues in the watershed, encourage critical thinking and problem solving skills, and offer hands-on solutions to these problems.
Target issues include: 1) the legacy of coal mining on water quality; 2) agricultural impacts including erosion and manure management; 3) the role of land preservation in watershed health; and 4) the impacts of stormwater and impervious surfaces on water resources.
For example, students will paddle stretches of the river with biologists and conduct basic water quality monitoring, tour abandoned and active coal mines, visit farms to examine stream bank erosion, and walk the streets of Philadelphia to witness pioneering work at mitigating stormwater.
Daily reflections will challenge participants to consider their own use of water and provide them with tools to take action in their own stretch of the watershed.
A Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship awarded by the National Audubon Society was used to leverage support —both financial and in-kind—from more than 25 organizations, agencies and businesses within the Schuylkill River Watershed to make Schuylkill Acts and Impacts’ inaugural year possible.For more information, a complete schedule, or to join the expedition please contact Sierra Gladfelter, Schuylkill Headwaters Association at 570-573-2093 or send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to meet June 3 to consider legislation to increase nuclear power plant fees, establishing the Heritage Areas Program in law and to fund private lateral sewage line repairs. The bills include--
-- Senate Bill 1262 (Fontana-D-Allegheny) providing for private lateral sewage line repair funding- sponsor summary;
-- Senate Bill 1256 (Ward-R-Westmoreland) establishing the Heritage Areas Program in law- sponsor summary; and
The meeting will be in Room 8E-B of the East Wing starting at 9:30.Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), serves as Majority Chair and Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair.