Friday, January 18, 2019

PA Conservation Heritage: New Penn's Woods Cradle Of Conservation Documentary Now Online

The PA Conservation Heritage Project's newest documentary-- Penn's Woods: Cradle Of Conservation-- premiered on WITF-TV on January 17.  Now the documentary is available online.
The hour-long program weaves together the state's rich environmental history, highlighting accomplishments and challenges along the way.
When King Charles II granted William Penn his North American colony in 1681 Penn's Woods was lush with trees.
According to Mark Madison, Historian for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, "The forest canopy was so dense it's been said that a squirrel could travel across Pennsylvania branch to branch without ever touching the ground."  
But by 1900, the state had lost more than 60 percent of its forests. Dr. Joseph Rothrock, the father of Pennsylvania Forestry, called the vast wasteland the "Pennsylvania Desert."
During the height of the Industrial Revolution coal, iron and steel production voraciously gobbled up resources. Along with economic booms and revolutions in natural resource extraction, came an environmental price.
Pennsylvania found itself poised to become a pioneer in environmental protection. Professor of History & Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona Dr. Brian Black teaches his students about this legacy.  
"We have used the natural resources with all different kinds of ethics. And just like we have can say that we're the cradle of industrialization in the United States,” Dr. Black said.  “We can also say that we're the cradle of the conservation movement."
Pennsylvanians set about restoring the state's environmental riches and in the process helped shape the national conservation and environmental movements of the twentieth century.
"We had great conservationists totally transform how we look at the environment and how we protect it. Gifford Pinchot basically saved the nation's forests. Rachel Carson woke up the whole world to the dangers of toxins and pesticides. Anybody can make a difference," reflects Mark Madison.
Today Pennsylvania's ecosystem is in the midst of transformation. As we grapple with the environmental impact of the Marcellus Shale gas industry and come to grips with the growing challenges of global warming, there are lessons to be learned from the past.  
According to Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation President Marci Mowery, "Pennsylvania's conservation heritage is important. It defines who we are and defines the places where we grew up. It defines the places where we recreate. We can't be informed citizens if we don't understand and know our history and we can't keep an eye out for any red flags that might be arising because we're going down a similar path."
Click Here to watch this new documentary online.  Click Here to watch documentaries in this series.
Explore more information, watch this and other other documentaries in the Pennsylvania Conservation Heritage series and more online at the PA Conservation Heritage Project website.
(Reprinted from the WITF-TV website. Written by Heather Woolridge.)

PUC Releases Report On Home Energy Burdens For Low-Income Consumers For Comment; Stakeholder Meeting Feb. 6

On January 17, the Public Utility Commission issued a report on the results of a study regarding home energy burdens for low-income Pennsylvanians and opened a public comment period for interested parties.
The Commission voted 5-0 to release the report, “Home Energy Affordability for Low-Income Customers in Pennsylvania,” prepared by Commission staff.
This report is the Commission’s starting point for an evaluation of the effectiveness of customer assistance programs (CAPs) and other Universal Service programs that are intended to help low-income consumers maintain essential utility services.
A key factor of this review involves examination of the “energy burden,” which refers to the percentage of household income that is dedicated to paying energy-related utility bills.
“The energy burden for low-income customers in Pennsylvania is higher than most comparable states,” said Vice Chairman David W. Sweet, who issued a statement at the Commission’s public meeting.  “We now need to determine if there is sufficient funding for assistance programs and also whether there needs to be more efficient oversight of them.”
“There are questions that are yet to be answered before we can put forth a final recommendation,” said Commissioner Andrew G. Place in his statement.  “I look forward to the continued engagement with stakeholders as we progress. This continues to be an important and complex undertaking, a task to which we remain committed.”
Along with publication of the Home Energy Affordability report, the Commission requested additional information from the natural gas and electric utilities to be filed by Feb. 19, 2019.
After that additional utility information has been filed, interested parties will have a 20-day period to submit written comments for consideration by the Commission (until March 11, 2019), and another 15 days for reply comments (until March 26, 2019).
Comments and reply comments may be submitted using the Commission’s e-filing system or printed copies may be filed with the Secretary of the PUC, referencing Docket #M-2017-2587711, at the following address: Public Utility Commission, Commonwealth Keystone Building, 400 North Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120.
Click Here for a copy of the report.
Stakeholder Meeting Feb. 6
Also, as part of the review and comment process, the Commission will convene a stakeholder meeting on February 6, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., in Harrisburg, to allow discussion of the report among interested parties and Commission staff.
A Universal Service Reporting Working Group consisting of Commission staff, utilities, and stakeholders will be established to address inconsistencies and limitations in utility data.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Code requires that universal service and energy conservation programs be developed, maintained, and appropriately funded to serve low-income customers.
Affordability concerns have been raised in cases before the Commission – and the Commission has stated in the past that energy burden levels in Pennsylvania may be too high and that policies may need to be revised.  The Commission’s CAP Policy Statement was promulgated in 1992 and revised in 1999.
A 2017 Commission order directed staff to initiate a study to determine what constitutes an affordable energy burden for the state’s low-income households and, based on this analysis, whether any changes are needed to bring CAP and Universal Service programs into alignment with affordability recommendations.  
That study resulted in the report released this week.

Help Wanted: Berks Conservation District Urban Resource Conservationist

The Berks County Conservation District is now accepting applications for an Urban Resource Conservationist position to review NPDES water quality permits, Chapter 102 erosion and sedimentation control plans and Chapter 105 permits.
Click Here for all the details.  The deadline for applications is February 1.
For more job postings, visit the PA Association of Conservation Districts’ Jobs webpage.

Rep. Mehaffie Named One Of 4 Co-Chairs Of PA Nuclear Energy Caucus

On January 18, Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) announced he has been invited to serve as co-chair of Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Energy Caucus.
The Nuclear Energy Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral group which researches and holds discussions relating to nuclear energy’s economic and environmental value, as well as its electric power reliability, affordability and safety.
Formed in spring 2017, the Nuclear Energy Caucus has more than 70 members. Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) currently chairs the caucus, along with other co-chairs Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) and Rep. Rob Matzie (D-Beaver).
Pennsylvania is home to five nuclear stations, making it the second largest nuclear capacity state in America. The electricity produced from Pennsylvania’s nuclear sources represents nearly 37 percent of the Commonwealth’s total power production, helping make the state a top net exporter of electricity.
“Nuclear power is considered one of the cleanest, safest, most reliable sources of electricity today,” Rep. Mehaffie said. “In addition, our nuclear power stations, including Three Mile Island, employ thousands of Pennsylvanians and contribute millions to our communities. I’m excited to hit the ground running to help educate the General Assembly on the benefits of nuclear energy and develop inclusive energy policies that value the contributions of all of our resources.”
Rep. Mehaffie’s legislative district borders Three Mile Island, which announced it will close in fall 2019.
“The facility’s closure would have a very negative effect on our communities. The plant employs 675 people. It would also negatively impact many local businesses, and we would lose the more than $1 million in revenue that TMI pays in taxes, which goes to our local schools and social services,” Rep. Mehaffie said. “This isn’t an isolated issue. Plants across Pennsylvania are struggling and have limited time to do something about it.”
“I’ve been an active member of the caucus for the past two years, and I look forward to joining the other co-chairs and members of the caucus in searching for and supporting a solution that keeps these plants operational, because the positive impact they have on our communities is irreplaceable.”
Rep. Mehaffie can be contacted by calling 717-787-2684 or by sending email to:
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2 Pennsylvanians Receive International Emerging Trail Leaders Recognition By American Trails

American Trails has named 2 Pennsylvanians-- Alyssa Wentz from DCNR and Mark Rooney from Downtown Inc. In York-- international Emerging Trail Leaders.
Alyssa Wentz is a GIS specialist for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and lives in Mechanicsburg and Mark Rooney is a project administrator for Downtown Inc in York who lives in Red Lion.
They will attend the 2019 International Trails Symposium and Training Institute as part of the Hulet Hornbeck Emerging Trail Leaders Scholarship Program which brings together 16 young adults from across the United States, Canada and Panama at the Symposium.
Click Here to see the other individuals named.
Though the scholarship application period for 2019 is closed, interested young adults are encouraged to apply in 2020.  Click Here to learn more about the scholarship program
(Photo: Alyssa Wentz, Mark Rooney.)
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Jan. 18 Take Five Fridays With Pam, PA Parks & Forests Foundation

The January 18 Take Five Fridays With Pam is now available.  For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Parks & Forests Foundation website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Foundation,  Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.  Click Here to become a member of the Foundation.
(Photo: Pymatuning State Park, Crawford County, PA State Parks Facebook page.)

Game Commission Reminds Public Of Dangers In Attempting To Care For Wildlife

In response to the incident that took place at Gifford Pinchot State Park in York County, the Game Commission on January 18 reminded the public that wildlife cannot be taken from the wild.
Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal to take or possess wildlife. These laws were put in place to protect both wildlife and humans.
On January 12, several deer were seen stuck in a partially-frozen lake at Gifford Pinchot State Park. Personnel from the Game Commission, Wellsville Fire Department and state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources assisted in rescuing at least three deer from the ice.
One of the deer was removed from the area by a member of the public. The Game Commission officials who were on the scene were not made aware of the deer’s whereabouts until pictures appeared on social media later that night. The deer died at the home of the individual on Sunday morning.
The situation remains under investigation, and no charges have been filed at this time.
“People want to help wildlife that appears to be in trouble, but what they often don’t realize is that when they attempt to intervene they are making the situation worse through putting the wild animal under significant stress,” said Matthew Schnupp, the Game Commission’s wildlife management director. “Leaving such an animal alone is the best, most-caring thing you can do for it.”
Proper Wildlife Rehabilitation
Only trained, wildlife rehabilitators, who are licensed by the Game Commission, are permitted to care for injured wildlife for the purposes of eventual release back into the wild.
For those who find wildlife that truly is in need of assistance, a listing of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be found on the PA Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators website.
If you are unable to identify a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which the animal is found so that you can be referred to the appropriate licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
The Game Commission urges Pennsylvanians to resist the urge to interfere with wildlife or remove any wild animal from its natural setting. Such contact can be harmful to both people and wildlife. Wild animals can lose their natural fear of humans, making it difficult, even impossible, for them to ever again live normally in the wild.
Wildlife that becomes habituated to humans also can pose a public-safety risk. A few years ago, a yearling, six-point buck attacked and severely injured two people. The investigation into the incident revealed that a neighboring family had illegally taken the deer into their home and fed it as a fawn, and they continued to feed the deer right up until the time of the attack.
For more information on wildlife, visit the Game Commission website.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: DEP Says Energy Transfer LP Not Complying With Order To Stabilize Beaver County Pipeline Explosion Site

On January 18, Anya Litvak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Energy Transfer LP, the owner of the company that built and operates the new Revolution natural gas pipeline that exploded in Beaver County in September, is not complying with an order to stabilize the site of the explosion.
The company blames the explosion on a landslide in the area, but so far the company has not been able to show DEP the site is stable enough to run heavy machinery on.
In  October, DEP inspections along the length of the pipeline running through Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Washington counties in Pennsylvania found unreported landslides, soil flowing into streams and acid mine drainage where the pipeline cut through old reclaimed surface mines on the right-of-way.
On January 10, DEP wrote a letter to Energy Transfer LP saying, according to the Post-Gazette, the company has failed to stabilize the right-of-way and still has not submit acceptable plans for temporary and long-term step it plans to take to prevent damage to the pipeline.
The company did not comment for the article.
Click Here to read the complete article.
A landslide was blamed as the cause of another explosion of a newly constructed TransCanada natural gas pipeline in West Virginia in July.
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PUC Urges Residents To Prepare Now As Winter Storm Harper Approaches; Offers Safety Tips

On January 18, Public Utility Commission offered tips to residents as Winter Storm Harper approaches the Commonwealth as part of its ongoing Prepare Now utility awareness campaign.
“The combination of snow, ice, high winds and bitter cold temperatures has the potential to disrupt utility service,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “Time spent on planning and preparing before a storm can go a long way toward keeping yourself and your family safe when severe weather hits.”  
The Commission also highlighted a short video highlighting storm outage heating safety tips, available on the PUC YouTube channel.
During storm emergencies, the PUC continuously monitors utility issues and works closely with the Governor’s Office and the other state agencies involved in Pennsylvania’s coordinated storm response.
Across the state, there is extensive behind-the-scenes work when storms are forecast, focused on quickly addressing problems and restoring service as rapidly as possible. Utilities are putting their severe weather plans into motion; crews and equipment are being positioned for quick response to outages; and communication with emergency management coordinators is enhanced.
The Commission also encourages residents to monitor storm forecasts and official information as this storm approaches, and to take steps to safeguard themselves and their families before, during and after any severe weather.
Pre-Storm tips:
-- Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotlines for your electric utility and/or your natural gas utility, which are listed on your monthly bills and posted on the PUC website.
-- Save the website address for your utility’s outage reporting system, which can provide updates on repair and restoration efforts. Those electric utility outage sites and natural gas company websites are available on the PUC website.
-- Keep cell phones charged, so you can contact your utility, other emergency services and family members during any power outage.
-- Secure necessary food, medicine and other supplies, including batteries for flashlights.
Should you lose power during a storm, consider the following:
-- Call your utility hotline to report outages - Do not assume that the utility already knows about your outage or that others have already called.
-- Stay away from objects or puddles in contact with downed power lines.
-- Do NOT touch or approach any fallen lines.
-- Do NOT try to remove trees or limbs from power lines.
-- Do NOT call 9-1-1 to report power outages. Those calls take dispatchers away from other emergencies and can also slow a storm response because you're not talking directly to the utility.
-- SPECIAL NOTE: If you have a downed power line or another hazardous situation, call 9-1-1 and then contact your utility.
Tips to help stay safe until power is restored:
-- Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
-- If you use a generator, do NOT run it inside a home or garage. Also, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator, not your home's electrical system, which could shock or injure utility crews working on nearby power lines. Additional generator tips are available here.
-- Turn off lights and electrical appliances (except for the refrigerator and freezer). When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment.
-- After you turn the lights off, turn one lamp on so you will know when power is restored. Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances.
-- Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs who might need additional assistance.
Consumers using natural gas appliances can also be impacted by storms:
-- Electric power outages can affect gas furnaces and other appliances. If they do not function properly when power is restored, call a professional for service.
-- If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the building immediately.
-- Leave the door open and do NOT use phones, switch lights or turn appliances on or off, or take any other action while inside the building.
-- After you are safely outside, call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.
In addition to storm safety, the PUC’s Prepare Now campaign focuses on educating consumers about the availability of low-income programs; increasing consumer awareness of ways to reduce winter heating costs; educating consumers on energy conservation; encouraging consumers to check electric and natural gas bills and supplier contracts; and informing customers about and as resources to shop for energy suppliers and learn more about efficiency and conservation measures.
Gov. Wolf Declares Emergency Ahead Of Winter Storm

DEP Posted 51 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In Jan. 19 PA Bulletin

The Department of Environmental Protection published 51 pages of public notices related to proposed and final permit and approval/ disapproval actions in the January 19 PA Bulletin - pages 287 to 338.
Sign Up For DEP’s eNotice: Did you know DEP can send you email notices of permit applications submitted in your community?  Notice of new technical guidance documents and regulations? All through its eNotice system. Click Here to sign up.

DEP Receives 2 Proposed Good Samaritan Gas Well Plugging Project Requests

The Department of Environmental Protection has received 2 proposed Good Samaritan abandoned oil gas well plugging project requests for wells in Warren and Westmorland County.  (Jan. 19 PA Bulletin page 338)
DEP regularly receives proposals under the state Environmental Good Samaritan Act Program for both mine reclamation and oil and gas well plugging.
The Good Samaritan Program is for landowners, citizens, watershed associations, environmental organizations and, governmental entities who do not have a legal responsibility to reclaim abandoned lands, abate water pollution or plug abandoned wells, but are interested in addressing these problems.
In Warren County, Gas and Oil Management Association, Inc. is proposing to plug an abandoned oil and gas well in Pleasant Township.
In Westmoreland County, the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation is proposing to plug an abandoned oil and gas well in Sewickley Township.
Copies of the proposals are available for inspection at the Department’s Northwest Regional Office, 230 Chestnut Street, Meadville, PA 16335, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.  For more information call 814-332-6945.
Click Here to use DEP’s interactive GIS map to show Good Samaritan oil and gas well projects (orange squares).
Click Here for a map of mine reclamation projects. Click Here for a list of projects.
Visit DEP’s Abandoned & Orphan Well Program webpage for more information. Questions about well plugging through the Environmental Good Samaritan Act can be addressed by contacting the DEP Bureau of Oil and Gas Planning and Program Management or the district office where the project is located.
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