Tuesday, August 22, 2017

EQB Approves Redesignation Of Mill Creek, Schuylkill Watershed To Exceptional Value

On August 15 the  Environmental Quality Board approved redesignation of Mill Creek in the Schuylkill River Watershed as an Exceptional Value stream. The redesignation request was originally submitted to the Board in 2011.
The multi-year effort to upgrade this stream began in 2009 when the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Berks County Conservation District sampled this tributary to the Schuylkill River and determined it had healthy stream life indicative of other Exceptional Value streams in the region.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network submitted a petition and this data to DEP in February 2011 for the re-designation of Mill Creek from Warm Water Fishery, Migratory Fishery (WWF, MF) to Exceptional Value, Migratory Fishery (EV, MF).  
At that time the DRN petition had support from 65 residents and co-petitioners that included the Berks County Conservation District, the Township of Union Environmental Advisory Council, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Berks Conservancy.
The new EV designation provides additional protections to the stream, although the new designation falls short of the complete upgrade DRN was seeking – it applies to 5.6 miles of the 7.7 stream miles.
DRN petitioned for EV status of the Mill Creek in its entirety and submitted subsequent data to the DEP by volunteer monitors and others to support including the excluded Snyder’s Run tributary, but DEP did not grant EV protection to that tributary.
DRN will continue to work with interested landowners to enhance and improve riparian buffers along the remaining WWF, MF segment to advocate for it receiving a higher designation in future years.
“Mill Creek is a source of clean, fresh and healthy water. We must preserve our exceptional waterways and protect them from pollution and harm so we can honor our commitment to present future generations a resource that is healthy and thriving. We are pleased that Pennsylvania's Exceptional Value status is given to Mill Creek as we have petitioned for, as it is an important step to ensure all of our communities can continue to benefit from these waterways," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.
“A stream re-designation upgrade, often spurred by local volunteer community monitors, takes years to work through the regulatory process, but it’s a great week for Mill Creek and a few other tributaries in the Delaware River Basin that got the green light from the PA Environmental Quality Board this week, including Sobers Run and Swiftwater Creek that also received upgrades. On the downside, Pickering Creek and Dwarfskille Creek did not receive the upgrades community groups were seeking,” Faith Zerbe, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said.
The final regulation making the redesignation will now go to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the House and Senate environmental committees for review as required by the state Regulatory Review Act.
Click Here for a copy of the final redesignation package.

Hundreds To Hit The Delaware Estuary For Pennsylvania Coast Day Sept. 9

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary will entertain hundreds of families at Pennsylvania Coast Day on September 9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Walnut Plaza on Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.
A limited number of visitors will enjoy free cruises on the yachts Patriot and Liberty. Other excursions include free kayaking, pedal boating, and rowboating at Penn’s Landing Marina. Families can also enjoy free crafts, face painting, prizes, model boat races, and hands-on exhibits.
“Pennsylvania Coast Day is a fun way to experience Philadelphia’s best comeback story: the Delaware River,” said RenĂ©e Brecht, director of outreach at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. “Just last year we helped more than 450 people explore the river by boat and rewarded 350 people with prizes.”
The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary founded Pennsylvania Coast Day in 2002. This year it will help raise awareness about the upcoming National Estuaries Week on September 16-23.
The Delaware Estuary is where fresh water in the Delaware River and Bay mixes with salt water from the ocean.
Within steps of Pennsylvania Coast Day, visitors can also pay to tour the Independence Seaport Museum. Its related attractions include a Patriots & Pirates exhibit and a Citizen Science Lab, among others.
Sponsors for Pennsylvania Coast Day include the Department of Environmental Protection and Coastal Resources Management Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Philadelphia Water Department, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, Fairmount Water Works, and Independence Seaport Museum.
Pennsylvania Coast Day is a rain-or-shine event.
For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Coast Day webpage or call 800-445-4935, extension 100.

Keep PA Beautiful Encourages PA Schools To Participate In Keep America Beautiful’s Recycle-Bowl

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is encouraging Pennsylvania schools to get their students involved in Keep America Beautiful’s Recycle-Bowl, the national competition designed to invigorate students in grades K-12 to participate in recycling.
The objectives of the competition include: new recycling programs established within schools, the increase of recycling rates in schools that currently recycle and the provision of teacher/student educational opportunities about recycling and waste reduction.
The Recycle-Bowl competition begins October 16 and runs through November 15-- America Recycles Day.
“The Recycle Bowl provides a means to introduce or expand recycling programs within our schools and encourages students to take responsibility to protect our natural resources by making recycling part of their way of life,” said Shannon Reiter, President of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. “We are grateful to Keep America Beautiful for providing this resource to our local schools.”
More than 1,200 schools across the nation competed in the 2016 Recycle-Bowl.
Recyclables recovered during the competition totaled 2.2 million pounds, which prevented the release of 3,150 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or reducing the annual emissions from 655 passenger cars.
To register or for more information, visit the Recycle-Bowl website.
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful website. Click Here to become a member.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from KPB, Like them on Facebook, Follow on Twitter, Discover them on Pinterest and visit their YouTube Channel.
Also visit the Illegal Dump Free PA website for more ideas on how to clean up communities and keep them clean and KPB’s new Electronics Waste website.

Gov. Wolf: House Rs Have To Finish The Budget, Sept. 15 State Will Run Out Of Money, Again

In remarks to the media Tuesday broadcast by PLS Reporter via Periscope, Gov. Wolf said the state will run out of money again on or about September 15 and said it is not a “responsible business plan” to continue to borrow money to keep the state going.
In response to a question about how dire the state’s fiscal condition is, Gov. Wolf said it isn’t dire if you think you can borrow unlimited amounts of money, but that isn’t responsible, “it’s not right.”
He said he takes his cues from the State Treasurer Joe Torsella and he said we should not assume Treasury will continue to backstop the General Fund unless a responsible revenue package is enacted.
Wolf also pointed to remarks made by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) Monday about not depending on borrowing. Sen. Scarnati also suggested the Governor put a freeze on state spending.
Wolf reiterated several times House Republicans need to come back to Harrisburg and finish the job, but he is not optimistic about them returning before the scheduled resumption of session on September 11.
“We’ve got to do the right thing and the right thing for taxpayers is to have the House Republicans to come back and get the job done,” Wolf said.
Wolf said again, “The other 4 of the 5 parties have agreed on what’s needed and now it’s up to House Republicans to finish the job.”  
Questioned about freezing spending on September 15, Gov. Wolf said he will do whatever he needs to do to deal with the budget.  Pressed, he said he doesn’t “want to alarm anybody” by announcing an amount of money he will freeze, in part, because that number changes from day to day.
With respect to permit “reforms” included in the Senate-passed budget package, Gov. Wolf said we need strict environmental regulations and businesses aren’t against environmental regulation.  I want DEP to consistently enforce environmental regulations.  If DEP can’t do it’s job, the way I interpret these reforms, they expect DEP will do its job.”
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EPA Announces Grant For Freshwater Mussel Research To DEP, Other States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday announced a new project to develop innovative methods to improve our understanding of the distribution of freshwater mussels through a grant awarded to the Department of Environmental Protection and other states.
EPA said it will partner with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in this effort.
The project is one of 14 research projects announced by EPA addressing priority environmental and human health problems through partnerships among EPA’s research office, regional offices, and states.
“EPA encourages the use of innovative scientific approaches to help solve important environmental problems,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “By working with our state partners and engaging the public we can foster creative solutions to these challenges.”
Freshwater mussels improve water quality by filtering and sequestering pollutants and suspended particulates, nutrient cycling, and removing harmful toxins and pathogens that are threats to public health.
Currently, it takes extensive time, effort, and money to assess mussel populations, but now it is possible to monitor mussels by collecting water and/or sediment samples and analyze for their DNA.
This new method of detecting mussel populations lowers the level of effort in traditional freshwater mussel assessments and will help provide an early warning system for water quality changes, act as sensors for drinking water, and help promote mussel restoration and management in regional watersheds.
The research is designed to address pressing environmental issues faced by the states. EPA is uniquely equipped to provide scientific expertise to help tackle these problems.
The selected projects focus on nonpoint source nitrogen pollution, volatile organic compounds, harmful algal blooms, roadway air pollution, and other environmental and human health issues across the country.
The projects will employ innovative approaches including citizen science, crowdsourcing, a challenge competition, and advanced monitoring technologies.
Click Here for more on the project.
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Environmental Funds At More Risk As House Republicans Fill Out New Budget Proposal

As House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) said last week-- it’s no secret House Republicans do not like the Senate-passed revenue package, in particular all the proposed taxes and the proposal to borrow up to $1.3 billion securitized by tobacco settlement monies.
House Republicans are apparently poised to replace a large chunk of that $1.3 billion in borrowing by diverting taxes that would normally go to special funds to the General Fund.
They are also looking to raid any special fund with an available balance.  As noted previously, some members are not concerned that those available balances are needed to pay off the cost of grants and contracts issued two and three years before to local governments, communities, nonprofit groups and contractors.
Again, no secret, except there is now more urgency because of the need to respond to the Senate-passed revenue package.
Among the revenue streams, funds and tax credits at particular risk dealing with the environment are--
-- Cigarette taxes now going to support farmland preservation;
-- Realty Transfer Tax now going to support the Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund;
-- Waste Fee and other funding going to the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund;
-- Drilling Impact Fee going to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund;
-- $2 Recycling Fee going to support Recycling Program;
-- ANY special fund with an available balance;
-- REAP Farm Conservation Tax Credit - $10 Million; and the
Lists of special funds can be viewed in the Governor’s FY 2017-18 Executive Budget document-- Agriculture - page E7-1, Conservation and Natural Resources - page E11-1 and Environmental Protection - page E17-1.
The complete list can be found starting on Section H3.
Keep in mind four additional points--
-- The Senate, House and Gov. Wolf agreed on and passed a budget in June that fails to address ANY environmental funding shortfalls, in-fact, it makes more cuts despite federal agencies saying key DEP programs do not meet minimum federal standards.
-- House Republicans in April passed their budget with significant across-the-board cuts to all agencies and again to Agriculture, DCNR and DEP.
-- DEP in particular has already had its General Fund budget cut 40 percent and lost nearly 25 percent of its staff in the last 13 years and has had to raise permit fees significantly to make up for some of that loss.
-- The Trump Administration proposed 40 percent or more in cuts to grants to states, including Pennsylvania, to administer federal environmental programs.  If those cuts are enacted, on top of state funding cuts, the impact will be to cripple these programs.
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7th Annual Lehigh Valley Watershed Conference Oct. 17 In Bethlehem

The 7th Annual Lehigh Valley Watershed Conference will be held at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Lehigh and Northampton counties on October 17.
The theme of the Conference is Confluence: Changing Communities and Changing Waters.
The Conference brings together professionals, citizens, watershed groups, municipal officials, professors and students by offering up-to-date engaging and timely information on a variety of water resource topics.
This year’s conference will feature two half-day workshops on invasive species (both plants and insects).
There will be a full-day of continuing education credits available for the professional landscaping community, and a MS4 stormwater pollution prevention track for municipal staff and consultants charged with implementing stormwater regulations.
The Conference’s keynote speaker will be Gary Walters, Assessment Section Chief of the DEP, presenting on the historical water quality data for the Lehigh River and how things have changed over the last century.
Click Here for a detailed agenda.
The Conference will be held in the Lehigh University STEPS Building, 1 W. Packer Avenue in Bethlehem from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
For more information and to register, visit the Lehigh Valley Watershed Conference event page.

Sen. Martin's Bill Could Impose The Public Costs Of Any Protest On The Protesters

Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) has introduced Senate Bill 754 that could impose any public costs for dealing with any “public assembly, meeting or gathering” entirely on the individuals doing the protesting if they are convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in connection with that demonstration.
The introductory findings of the bill point to the costs incurred by public agencies during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests as justification for the bill.
“Dakota Access Pipeline protesters created an environment that was so dangerous, the National Guard was called in and school buses could not travel through the area without a police escort. Nobody benefits from a situation like that,” Sen. Martin said. “I appreciate the fact that local protesters [in Lancaster County against the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline] have remained generally peaceful and respectful of others and have committed to a non-violent approach. They deserve a great deal of credit for that.
“However, if the situation deteriorates to a point similar to the violent and destructive Dakota Access Pipeline protests, then protesters should not be able to walk away from the damage they cause without consequence and expect first responders and taxpayers to deal with the fallout,” said Sen. Martin.
The legislation defines a “demonstration” as, “A public assembly, a meeting or gathering, a rally or protest event, a political rally or event, a demonstration, speech making, marching, the holding of vigils or religious services, and all other like forms of conduct the primary purpose of which is expressive activity or the communication or expression of views or grievances, which has the effect, intent or propensity to draw a crowd or onlookers.”
The legislation continues, “A person is responsible for public safety response costs incurred by a State agency or political subdivision as a result of the State agency's or political subdivision's response to a demonstration if, in connection with the demonstration, the person is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense.”
The costs of the public response could be imposed by state or local officials through the courts.
Click Here to read the co-sponsor memo Sen. Martin circulated to invite colleagues asking them to endorse his legislation.  
Senators Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Ward (R-Westmoreland), Hutchinson (R-Venango), Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny), Bartolotta (R-Washington) and Regan (R-Cumberland) are listed as co-sponsors on the bill.
The bill was referred to the Senate State Government Committee for consideration.  Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) serves as Majority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-5708 and sending email to: mfolmer@pasen.gov.  Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) serves as Minority Chair and can be contracted by calling 717-787-5970 and sending email to: williams@pasenate.com.
State Has Protected Citizens From Intimidation In Other Circumstances
Since 2000, when the Pennsylvania Environmental Immunity Act or anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law was passed, any person that “files an action in the courts of this Commonwealth to enforce an environmental law or regulation or that makes an oral or written communication to a government agency relating to enforcement or implementation of an environmental law or regulation shall be immune from civil liability in any resulting legal proceeding for damages where the action or communication is aimed at procuring favorable governmental action.”
On April 25 the Senate voted 42 to 8 to pass Senate Bill 95 (Farnese-D-Philadelphia) that would expand the anti-SLAPP lawsuit protection law to cover a broader class of actions.  Sen. Martin voted against the bill.  The bill is now in the House for action.  Click Here for a sponsor summary of the bill.
While imposing additional damages on individuals and groups protesting government actions through additional damages imposed by a court is not the same as SLAPP lawsuits, Pennsylvania lawmakers have for the last 17 years protected the right of citizens to make their opinions known about issues before the government.
Like SLAPP suits, which illegally seek to impose legal and other costs on individuals and groups opposing projects to discourage protests and opposition, imposing additional damages would do the same thing, but only with the government imposing the damages, not a private company through a SLAPP suit and court action.
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