Saturday, February 28, 2015

PA Outdoor Writers Spring Conference May 14-17 In Seven Springs

The PA Outdoor Writers Association will hold its Spring Conference May 14-17 at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County.
Acting DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn will be a keynote speaker at the Conference to share her vision of the conservation agency and take questions.
For more information, contact Dennis Scharadin, POWA Executive Director, by calling 570-739-2085 or send email to: info@paoutdoorwriters.com.

Save The Date: Scranton To Host National Trout Unlimited Meeting Sept. 16-20

For the first time in 25 years, Pennsylvania, specifically Scranton, will host the National Meeting of Trout Unlimited from September 16 to 20 at the Center City Hilton Hotel and Convention Center.
In 2014, Trout Unlimited named the Lackawanna River one of its 100 Best Trout Streams, citing its abundance of wild brown trout.  It credited the Lackawanna River Corridor Association and the Lackawanna Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited with helping the river heal in the face of coal, industry and blight.
More information will be available on the Trout Unlimited website.

PennLive.com: Brace Your Wallets, Wolf’s Budget Expected To Include Large Income Tax, Sale Tax Increases

PennLive.com reported Saturday the proposed budget Gov. Wolf will unveil Tuesday are expected to include “double-digit increases in the state’s personal income tax and sale tax rates; large cuts in school property taxes and a key business tax rate; and significant new boosts in state funding for public schools and colleges.”
           PennLive.com reported the personal income tax may be increased 20 percent from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent; the sales tax from 6 percent to 6.6 percent, a 10 percent increase with possible changes to the items now exempt from the sale tax.  At least part of these revenues, PennLive.com said, would go toward school property tax reductions.
           Gov. Wolf said last week he would drop the Corporate Net Income Tax from 9.99 to 4.99 percent, close the so-called Delaware tax loophole and eliminate the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax on businesses.
           He also proposed a 5 percent severance tax and fee on natural gas production.
           Click Here to read the article.

AP: Wolf Administration To Show How It Will Challenge Drilling Industry

The Associated Press reported late Saturday the Department of Environmental Protection will release an updated set of Chapter 78 drilling regulations next week that may include a ban on surface impoundments for drilling wastewater and steps the industry must take to prevent methane leaks.
           The article also said the Wolf Administration is expected to push for a public health registry for drilling-related health problems.
           Click Here to read the full article.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

March 2 PA Environment Digest Now Available

March 2 PA Environment Digest Now Available.  Click Here To Print Entire Digest

Analysis: 5 Things To Look For In Gov. Wolf’s Budget Address Next Week
When Gov. Tom Wolf presents his first budget to the General Assembly March 3, environmental advocates will be looking to see if he will at least make a downpayment on reversing the 12 year almost steady decline in state environmental funding which has so far claimed over $2.4 billion.
Given the $2.3 billion General Fund deficit, no one is expecting miracles, but will there be some steps in the right direction?
Here are five things to look for-- hope for-- in the Governor’s budget proposal--

IFO Estimates Act 13 Drilling Fee Revenue Down In 2014 To $220.4 Million
The Independent Fiscal Office this week released an update on the Act 13 drilling impact fee revenue saying in 2014 the fee is estimated to generate $220.5 million, down slightly from $225.7 million in 2013.  IFO said that equates to a 2.1 percent effective tax rate.
The effective tax rate, calculated by IFO, has been decreasing steadily since the fee was first imposed from an effective rate of 5.3 percent in 2011, 4.6 percent in 2012, 2.5 percent in 2013 to 2.1 percent in 2014.

Wolf Sends Obama Letter Asking For Federal Action To Prevent Oil Train Accidents
Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday wrote a letter to President Barack Obama to express concern and call for action to improve the safety of transportation of crude oil by rail in Pennsylvania.  Each week, roughly sixty to seventy trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region travel through the Commonwealth destined for Philadelphia or another East Coast refinery.

CBF, Stroud Water Center Applaud Introduction Of New Stream Buffer Bill
On Wednesday, Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) introduced Senate Bill 560 which would authorize municipalities to adopt regulations requiring riparian buffers and the Department of Environmental Protection to enforce a 100 foot stream buffer requirement.

WPCAMR: Film About Operation Scarlift Mine Reclamation Program Now Online
The Western Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation made available at film on YouTube produced by the Department of Environmental Resources in 1970 to describe the impact of Operation Scarlift in cleaning up Pennsylvania’s abandoned mines, putting out mine fires and deal with mine subsidence damage.

DEP Citizens Advisory Council Hearing March 27 On Act 54 Mining Impact Report
The Citizens Advisory Council to the Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday it will hold an additional public hearing to accept testimony on the 2008-2013 Underground Coal Mining Impact Report required by the state’s Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act (Act 54).
The hearing will take place on March 27, 2015, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at DEP’s California District Mining Office, Monongahela Conference Room, 25 Technology Drive, California Technology Park, Coal Center, PA 15423.

PA Parks & Forests Award Winners Announced, Awards Banquet May 5
The PA Parks and Forests Foundation Thursday recognized the outstanding service, programs and exemplary work being done in state parks and forests with the announcement of its 2015 award winners.

PEC Blog: Avoiding Future Pollution Legacies

An article in the Wall Street Journal this week underscored the reality that any boom in natural resource development – including natural gas – ultimately recedes. Too frequently, the end of the boom results in tremendous environmental and financial burdens for states.
Pennsylvania knows this burden all too well. Our state has thousands of miles of rivers and streams devastated by abandoned mine drainage, with public remediation costs projected to exceed several billion dollars.
Right now, more than a 100,000 abandoned, and often unidentified, natural gas and oil wells are situated across the Commonwealth. There is no current estimate for what the remediation costs for those wells will be, but they unquestionably vastly exceed resources on hand.
But production continues to grow, and with it do concerns about Pennsylvania’s ability to deal with the costs of remediation down the road – whether next week or several decades from now.
While Act 13 of 2012 made substantial changes to bonding requirements for unconventional natural gas wells, it allowed operators to secure “blanket bonds” for their wells. This was opposed by PEC before passage of the Act (see also: PEC’s review of Act 13).
Nonetheless, Act 13 provided at least a measure of improvement on previously inadequate standards. The Department of Environmental Protection is now tasked with utmost vigilance in inspection and enforcement to ensure that problems are addressed before it’s too late.
Part of that effort will be guided in large part by new regulations still under review, but an equal challenge falls to the General Assembly and Governor to provide the Department with adequate funding to perform these critical functions to prevent unwarranted costs down the road.
This challenge is complicated by the tens of thousands of existing conventional wells currently in operation across Pennsylvania, which are “grandfathered” under prior, insufficient bonding requirements.
These wells pose significant risk to the Commonwealth, as experience shows they are the likeliest candidates to become abandoned and left to the public to remediate. The Commonwealth must take steps to prevent this from happening.
The Department has announced the formation of a new Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee. One of the Committee’s immediate priorities must be identification of sufficient, long-term financial assurance for plugging and restoration of both active and abandoned conventional wells.
Industry associations like the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (PIOGA) and the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers (PIPP), who have been determinedly engaged in regulatory debates concerning conventional operations, must step up to the plate and work with the Department to find the means to meet this challenge.
Benjamin Franklin said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The Commonwealth must assure the industry’s responsibility and ability to pay for the prevention, before the citizens of Pennsylvania are once again stuck with the price tag for the cure.
(Written By: John Walliser, PEC Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs, reprinted from the PEC Blog.  Walliser can be contacted by sending email to: jwalliser@pecpa.org.)

WPCAMR Makes Film Available Online About The Operation Scarlift Mine Reclamation Program

The Western Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation made available at film on YouTube produced by the Department of Environmental Resources in 1970 to describe the impact of Operation Scarlift in cleaning up Pennsylvania’s abandoned mines, putting out mine fires and deal with mine subsidence damage.
On May 16, 1967, Pennsylvania voters approved a $500 million environmental bond issue. A portion of this program was to be expended for the elimination of stream pollution from abandoned coal operations, air pollution from burning coal refuse banks, alleviation of subsidence from abandoned mining operations and elimination of underground mine fires.
On January 19, 1968, the legislature enacted the "Land and Water Conservation and Reclamation Act" (1968 P.L.996, No.443) which directed $200 million of that bond issue toward abandoned mine reclamation and mine drainage abatement within the Commonwealth.
The abandoned mine reclamation portion of the act, known as "Project 500," "Operation Scarlift," or "The Bond Issue Program," was administered initially by the Department of Mines and Mineral Industries and subsequently by the Department Environmental Resources (now Department of Environmental Protection).
In 1976, Department Environmental Resources staff prepared the paper Operation Scarlift - Mine Drainage Abatement and presented it at the ASCE Annual Convention and Exposition.
Utilizing Operation Scarlift bond funding, between 1968 and 1981 the department spent $78,000,000 to complete 500 stream pollution abatement projects, and an additional $64,000,000 to extinguish 76 underground mine fires, stabilize 156 areas subjected to mine subsidence and prevent air pollution at 28 burning refuse banks. The list of projects completed under Operation Scarlift is contained in the Bond Issue Report.
            Click Here to learn more about this part of Pennsylvania’s environmental restoration heritage.  Click Here to watch the film.

Center For Sustainable Shale Development Expands Wastewater Treatment Standard

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a collaboration of environmental organizations and energy companies to encourage prudent and responsible development of shale gas resources in the Appalachian region, announced Friday it has expanded its wastewater Performance Standard 1 to address the treatment of shale wastewater at permitted facilities.   
The expanded standard represents the culmination of a year-long effort by a working group of stakeholders from industry and NGO participating organizations to address conditions necessary for safe surface discharge of treated shale wastewater.
The original performance standard identified recycling and underground injection as acceptable methods of managing produced water and recognized that there was also a need to address methods of wastewater treatment and discharge.  For this reason, it contained a commitment that the group would address wastewater treatment by the Fall of 2014.  
In evaluating water management options, the working group took into account risks associated with long distance trucking, and the fact that outlets for recycling grow more limited as operations mature and begin to produce more water than they can recycle. After examining current federal and state regulatory frameworks, EPA guidance, and available technologies, CSSD’s working group determined that discharge through regulated Centralized Waste Treatment facilities would be the most appropriate expansion of wastewater disposal options.
Some wastewater treatment facilities designed specifically to treat shale wastewater are now capable of treating shale gas wastewater to levels at or better than receiving stream standards, which makes them an acceptable alternative to zero discharge.
Based on a review of existing permits and technologies, CSSD determined that the best available treatment technology currently in operation involves a combination of distillation and biological treatment and, as necessary, reverse osmosis.   
Because technology in this area is quickly evolving, the expanded standard allows operators to use CWT facilities that utilize technologies or combinations of technologies other than those identified on the condition that they demonstrate they can  achieve equivalent or superior treatment.  
“This expansion is ambitious in that it marks the first CSSD performance standard that goes beyond producer-controlled operations,” said Susan LeGros, President of CSSD.  
“Our standards to date have focused on activities at an operator’s site; this expanded standard addresses what happens to an operator’s wastewater when it leaves the site and goes to a treatment facility. By requiring operators to incorporate rigorous due diligence and ongoing monitoring in choosing the facilities they use, we are helping to raise the performance bar across the industry.”  
CSSD anticipates that, over time, with operational, technological and scientific advancements, additional revisions  may be necessary.  The organization plans to work with its industry and NGO participants to continue the ongoing scientific inquiry and refine the testing programs as necessary.
LeGros emphasized that “The goals of any wastewater treatment standard should be to minimize potential environmental and human health impacts, immediate as well as cumulative, while providing operational flexibility that meets an achievable but high standard of performance.”  
A copy of the new standard is available online.
For more information on this and other standards, visit the Center’s Performance Standards webpage.

Wolf Sends Obama Letter Asking For Federal Action To Prevent Oil Train Accidents

Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday wrote a letter to President Barack Obama to express concern and call for action to improve the safety of transportation of crude oil by rail in Pennsylvania.  Each week, roughly sixty to seventy trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region travel through the Commonwealth destined for Philadelphia or another East Coast refinery.
“As you know, Pennsylvania is blessed with abundant natural resources, including shale gas,” said Gov. Wolf. “The transport of some shale energy resources, and particularly Bakkan shale oil, however, raises particularly significant safety concerns. Pennsylvania sees some of the largest volume of Bakken crude oil transportation by rail in the United States, and I am asking for the federal government’s assistance to make sure that transportation of oil by train is safe.
“I have already taken actions to address this issue including holding emergency trainings, participating in meetings with executives, and tasking my administration to put plans in place to both prevent accidents and mitigate impacts.
“We also need expedited federal regulatory action in several areas along with a greater commitment to funding inspection and enforcement. We cannot afford to wait for a major incident before taking action.”
The text of the letter follows--
Dear Mr. President,
As you know, Pennsylvania is blessed with abundant natural resources, including shale gas. I am eager to attract good paying jobs to our state as we responsibly develop the gas. Expanding our manufacturing base and building new advanced manufacturing enterprises is a key goal as we cleanly use our shale gas for energy and for feedstock purposes
The transport of some shale energy resources, and particularly Bakkan shale oil, however, raises particularly significant safety concerns. Addressing those concerns is the subject of this letter.
I am writing to express concern and respectfully ask for your help to improve the transportation of crude oil in Pennsylvania. Each week, roughly sixty to seventy trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region travel through the Commonwealth destined for Philadelphia or another East Coast refinery.  
Pennsylvania sees some of the largest volume of Bakken crude oil transportation by rail in the United States.
Unfortunately, there already is a long history of incidents involving trains and tank cars carrying the especially volatile Bakken crude oil.  Among the tragic accidents-to-date is the derailment that occurred in Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec, when a train derailed and exploded, killing forty-seven people and destroying most of the town.  
There have also been train derailments and explosions in the United States, including recent disasters in Virginia and West Virginia, where both fires were managed by allowing them to burn out over several days.  
In the case of Pennsylvania, there have been four train derailments since January, 2014, including 2 within the city of Philadelphia.  
Furthermore, the United States Department of Transportation just released an analysis regarding transportation of crude oil and ethanol across the nation.  This analysis indicates that, under current conditions, over the next two decades these trains may derail some ten times per year and potentially fifteen times in 2015.  
It also indicates that an accident in a high-population area could kill more than two-hundred people and cause some six-billion dollars in damages.
The potential for disaster is too great to ignore.  In my first weeks in office, I have made it a top priority to address this issue. My administration has begun to take steps to increase safety and response capability regarding trains traveling through Pennsylvania.  These steps include:
— In our first full week in office we conducted an emergency table-top planning exercise to model the state’s response in the event of a crude oil train derailment in an urban area. I participated personally in this multi-hour exercise.
— I have met with executives from Norfolk Southern and have a meeting scheduled with CSX Corporation, the two top transporters of crude oil in Pennsylvania, to discuss safety measures that could lower the risk of derailments.
— I have directed the Pennsylvania Office of the Fire Commissioner to examine how an oil train fire could be extinguished if needed to protect public safety.
— We have undertaken a review of the frequency and the procedures associated with rail infrastructure inspections by federal and state inspectors.
I will continue to take these and other steps to ensure the safety of Pennsylvania’s citizens. But, the tools and options available to me are limited. I am therefore respectfully asking for your assistance in this vital matter. Expedited federal regulatory action in several areas is essential in better ensuring safety.
First, consistent national standards to reduce the volatility of crude oil prior to transportation are a must.  North Dakota currently is taking steps in this regard. But we have to ensure all Bakken crude has been treated to remove dangerous volatiles and is transported under the appropriate pressure and other relevant conditions
Second, current federal standards have reduced speeds to forty miles-per-hour in high-density urban areas. It is instructive to note that recent derailments and explosions have occurred at speeds less than this limit. I therefore respectfully request further review of this matter and revisions to the speed limit as necessary to ensure against explosive derailments.
Third, inspections by government inspectors of rail infrastructure must be enhanced.  In Pennsylvania we have only six inspectors trained with the support of federal resources, even though we have some five thousand miles of track, among the highest in the nation. I request additional federal assistance to assist us in hiring and training an adequate number of rail safety inspectors.
Fourth, the current standards for tank cars and braking systems are not sufficient.  Recent accidents in West Virginia and Ontario both led to large oil fires, even though the tank cars were of new and more stringent design.  Braking systems and tank car standards must be enhanced to reduce risk.
Finally, the pace of federal rulemaking on rail safety is too slow.  We urge that new federal safety rules be developed and implemented with a sense of urgency appropriate to the risk presented.
Now is the time for action in order to increase safety and reduce risk.
Thank you Mr. President for your personal attention to this critical matter.
Respectfully and sincerely yours,
Tom Wolf
NewsClip: Wolf Asks Obama To Strengthen Oil Train Safety

Explore The World Of Salamanders, Frogs With The Nature Conservancy March 20-21

The Pennsylvania Chapter of The Nature Conservancy is offering three public walks at The Forest Pools Preserve at Kings Gap Environmental Center in Cumberland County to celebrate the first days of spring and to explore forested vernal pools – nurseries for amphibians – to catch a glimpse of salamanders and frogs as they emerge from their subterranean slumber to lay their eggs.
The walks will start from the Forest Pools Preserve at Kings Gap Pine Plantation Parking Lot-—
— March 20 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
— March 21 from 1:00 to 2:00 and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
These family-friendly walks are free and open to the community, but space is limited, so reservations are required. Groups will walk approximately 2.5 miles into the forest along marked trails at Kings Gap State Park. Two of the walks take place in the early evening, so a flashlight is recommended in order to see the amphibians in action.
Participants will learn about the important role of vernal pools for amphibians and other wildlife, and enjoy seeing these incredible creatures as they congregate after the long, cold winter. Vernal pools are shallow, temporary pools of water found in forested areas. Each spring they are transformed into wildlife nurseries - teeming with activity.
The Nature Conservancy hopes to share their magic and foster appreciation for these special places in the forest.
Participants should bring a flashlight and/or a headlamp for the evening walks. Hiking boots are recommended, or sturdy shoes than can get muddy.
Questions or to R.S.V.P. contact Molly Anderson, Volunteer Program Manager, The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania, by email to: molly_anderson@tnc.org or call 717-418-9518.

Inaugural Meeting Of DEP Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee March 26

The first meeting of DEP’s Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee will be held on March 26 in Room 105 Rachel Carson Building starting at 10:00. (formal notice)
DEP is accepting nominations to be on the Committee until March 3.
For more information, visit the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee webpage or contact Kurt Klapkowski by calling 717-772-2199 or send email to: kklapkowsk@pa.gov.

April 23 DEP Hearing On Proposed PPL West Pocono-North Pocono Transmission Line

The Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled a public hearing on April 23 on water obstruction and encroachment permits for the proposed PPL West Pocono-North Pocono 230kV electric transmission line in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.  (PA Bulletin page 1023)
The hearing will be held at the Thornhurst Township Volunteer Fire Company, 125 River Road, Thornhurst, Lackawanna County starting at  6:00.
The Department requests that individuals wishing to testify at the hearing submit a written notice of intent to West Pocono-North Pocono 230kV Transmission Line Hearing, Department of Environmental Protection, Waterways & Wetlands Program, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701-1915.
The Department will accept notices up to the day of the hearing. The Department requests that individuals limit their testimony to 5 minutes so that all individuals have the opportunity to testify.
The Department can only review comments made with regard to the NPDES Permit Application No. PAI023514002 and Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit Application Nos. E35-456 and E40-761 documentation and plans.
Written copies of oral testimony are requested. Relinquishing time to others will not be allowed. Individuals attending the hearing will have the opportunity to testify if they so desire; however, individuals who pre-register to testify will be given priority on the agenda.
Persons with a disability who wish to testify and require an auxiliary aid, service or other accommodation should contact Dawn Panek at 570-826-2511 or the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at (800) 654-5984 (TDD) to discuss how the Department can meet their needs.
For more information, contact Colleen Connolly of the Department’s Northeast Regional Office at 570-826-2511.

DEP Now Accepting Applications For Clean Diesel Grants

The Department of Environmental Protection published notice it is now accepting applications for Clean Diesel Grants until March 31.
The Department is seeking applications for projects that will replace, repower or retrofit fleet diesel-powered highway and nonroad vehicles and equipment. Funding is available for public and private entities that operate diesel-powered fleets throughout this Commonwealth.
These entities may include school districts, municipal authorities, political subdivisions, other State agencies, nonprofit entities, corporations, limited liability companies, or partnerships incorporated or registered in this Commonwealth.
Projects must use technologies certified or verified by the EPA or the California Air Resources Board to lower diesel emissions. The technology may be a single technology or a combination of available technologies. The majority of the fleet's annual operation time must occur within this Commonwealth.
More information will be posted on DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality webpage.

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