Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wheels Are Coming Off The Budget Deal

Controversy over authorizing more natural gas drilling in State Forests and concerns about taxing small games of chance and arts/cultural attraction tickets have forced House Majority Leader Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne) tonight to admit the votes are not there in the House to pass the budget negotiated by the 3 Caucuses and Gov. Rendell.
A planned vote on House Bill 1489 (George-D-Clearfield) authorizing a natural gas severance tax was put on hold pending further budget discussions, but the bill was reported from the House Appropriations Committee and put in position for further action.
It is clear a letter to House Democratic Leadership from 31 House Democrats expressing concerns about more drilling in State Forests late Tuesday got the attention of Leadership, along with concerns about other elements of the negotiated budget package.
House Republicans have maintained they will vote as a block against the budget deal requiring the necessary 102 votes to pass the deal to come from virtually all of the House Democrats.
Senate Republicans, however, said renegotiating those elements of the budget deal would mean putting the process back to square one.
There is a meeting of the 3 Caucuses and Gov. Rendell set for Thursday morning to review the status of the budget deal and potentially talk about changes.
NOTE: One quarter of the fiscal year has now passed.

31 House Democrats Oppose Expanded Natural Gas Drilling

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported 31 House Democrats have signed on to a letter to House Democratic Leadership opposing leasing additional State Forest lands for natural gas drilling.
The maneuver prompted Leadership to schedule a vote today on House Bill 1489 (George-D-Clearfield) which would put a severance tax in place.
The letter, not released to the public, made these points--
1. Don't strip the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources of its power to decide how much, if any, additional State Forest land should be leased to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.
2. Don't permanently eliminate the agency's Oil and Gas Fund, so that lease payments for state land and from royalties paide on oil and gas taken from those lands would be shifted into the state's General Fund instead of being used to fix State Parks and Forests, as it has for the past 50 years.
3. Enact a severance tax on natural gas production coming from the Marcellus Shale.
Click here to read full article.

Wednesday NewsClips

It is likely the House will take a vote at some point this week on a natural gas severance tax proposal at the insistence of 31 Democrats. House Democratic Leadership says they still support the overall budget deal that calls for expanded leasing of State Forest land for natural gas drilling and there is no indication there will be a specific vote on cutting back the leasing proposal.
House Democrats Revive Severance Tax Idea
Blog: House Leaders Set Vote On Natural Gas Severance Tax
Op-Ed: It's Lawmakers' Obligation To Make PA's Environment Better
Environmental Groups Criticize Proposed Drilling In State Forests
Editorial: State Can't See Forest For Trees
31 House Dems Oppose Expanded Gas Drilling
Rep. George Lets His Colleagues Have It Over Budget
Final Budget By Sunday Unlikely
Lehigh Conservation District Presses For Funding
Impact Of Drilling Spill On Watershed Unknown
Gas Drilling Concerns To Be Aired In Tunkhannock
Acid Mine Drainage To Generate Electricity In Derry, Unity
State Taps Tech To Store Carbon Underground
Natural Gas Prices Are Going Down
Environmental Groups Buy Part Of Erie County Creek
Study Shows More Pollution From Livestock Operations In Local Waterways
Fish And Boat Commission Seeks Conservation Officer Applicants
Midstate's Gypsy Moth Population Decreases
Study: Octoraro Farmers Letting Chesapeake Bay Down

Monday, September 28, 2009

Recycling Fee Extension To Be Considered Wednesday

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee today scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to consider House Bill 1768 (Wansacz-D-Luzerne) that extends the definition of host community for landfills and an amendment to the bill to extend the sunset date for the $2/ton Recycling Fee.

PROP Announces New Executive Director

The Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania announced today that Mark Mehall of South Bend, Indiana, will be joining the organization as Executive Director. Mark will be responsible for fiduciary management and forecasting, funds expansion, program development, supervision of staff, and building consensus amongst PROP’s Board of Directors and a diverse membership represented by government, industry and other non-profit organizations.
“This is an exciting time for our organization and I am thrilled to have Mark join us as we move forward,” said Lori Robson, President and Interim Executive Director. “I believe his combination of experience in the industry and fiduciary management will take PROP in a great direction.”
Mark Mehall has twenty two years of experience in solid waste management which includes managing a municipal landfill, planning and implementing municipal recycling programs, creation of special waste programs, and operating a state agency promoting the advancement of commercial/industrial waste reduction programs and extended product/producer responsibility efforts. Mark most recently served as Executive Director of the St. Joseph County Solid Waste Management District.
A native of Michigan, Mr. Mehall graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Public Administration. He will relocate to Pennsylvania and be onboard in mid-October.

Monday NewsClips

Criticism Before Budget Deal, Criticism After
Marcellus Shale Brings Big Checks For Some Landowners
Marcellus Shale Drilling Stirs Concern
Cabot Ordered To Halt Drilling At 8 Sites After Chemical Spills
Conservationist: Mining Caused Damage To Landscape, Waterways
Philly Plan Uses Green Tech To Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Op-Ed: Budget Targets Environment
Editorial: The Green Bandwagon
Radon: Fact Or Fiction?
DEP: Areas In Berks Have Too Much Lead
Letter: Gas Drilling Raising Significant Environmental Concerns
Solar Tour Features Powerful Choices
Wind Turbine Spurs Debate
Trout Unlimited Applauds Game Commission Land Restoration
More State Land Gas Drilling At Issue

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Budget Deal Includes $450 Million Surplus For This Fiscal Year

Ironically, the budget agreement announced by the Senate Republicans, House Democrats, Senate Democrats and Gov. Rendell a week ago would result in a $450 million budget surplus at the end of this fiscal year reported today.

Vote To Support PA Projects In Tom's Of Maine Program

Tom's of Maine is now conducting online voting to pick 5 out of 50 environmental, health and community organizations for $20,000 scholarships.
Three Pennsylvania environmental projects are entered in the contest--
Uptown Education and Beautification Project
Pennsylvania Resources Council, Pittsburgh, PA
The Project: Clean Uptown! PRC's goal is to improve and expand community involvement in beautification and recycling efforts in Pittsburgh's Uptown neighborhood through a number of one day events. With vacant lot cleanups, recycling collections, and composting classes, participants will walk away with a take home tool for their own homes, enhancing where they live.
Grow South Side
United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Scranton, PA
The Project: Teach residents to grow their own food through locally produced earth boxes and raised beds by offering 2 workshops on growing produce in earth boxes and 2 workshops on constructing and gardening in raised beds; hold a neighborhood food event to display and share produce and demonstrate how food from the garden can be prepared nutritiously.
Eyesores to Assets: Reinventing a Vacant Lot
Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Philadelphia, PA
The Project: We will transform a 5,000 square foot vacant lot in an underserved Philadelphia neighborhood into a community meeting space, outdoor classroom and rain garden in order to reduce stormwater runoff, foster consciousness of watershed health, replace a dangerous eyesore with a vital community asset and inspire positive change in a developing neighborhood.
To vote for your favorite, go to the Toms of Maine Environment webpage and just click.

Boroughs Assn. Prefer Natural Gas Severance Tax

The PA State Association of Boroughs is puzzled by the Governor and legislative leaders decision to mandate the leasing more state forest land to multi-million dollar gas companies for a low lease dollar amount while allowing these same foreign companies to get out of paying their fair share in taxes via a severance tax thereby providing critical funding for the protection of state and local government infrastructure needs.
Earlier this month, one of these multi-million dollar companies Fortuna Energy, Inc. offered to pay $5,500 an acre and a 20 percent royalty to a coalition of landowners in Susquehanna County. On behalf of local government interest, PSAB cannot understand why the state is willing to lease state forest land for a fraction of what Fortuna is offering?
At a press conference held today at the capitol by a coalition of legislators who want to protect the state forest lands, Rep. David Levdansky, Majority Chairman of the House Finance Committee, said “We should not be raping the state forest, taking away DCNR’s authority, eliminating the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, while simultaneously allowing the big, rich natural gas companies get off without paying their fair share to deal with impacts to the environment and in local communities.”
The Boroughs agree and support legislators who are advocating that a more practical approach to creating sustaining revenue to deal with the impacts of natural gas drilling is to impose a severance tax on natural gas. Local officials are also speaking up and asking that the severance tax remain on the table during continued budget discussions.
“Under the agreed upon budget by the Governor and legislative leaders, DCNR would be forced to lease more state forest land to natural gas companies in order to fill a budget hole,” said Ed Troxell, Director of PSAB Government Affairs. “Boroughs have continued to ask for support of PSAB’s plan to provide an adequate funding mechanism which will provide sustaining revenues for communities to deal with impacts from natural gas drilling.” A severance tax imposed on natural gas companies makes the most sense.
Troxell further stated that, “local government officials and the taxpayers who elected them to serve are in jeopardy as rumors afloat that the Governor and legislative leaders are trying to keep any and all revenue from natural gas for themselves.”
“We understand the state government’s need to balance a state budget, local governments need to do the same,” said association President Robert “Doc” Orr. “Damage done by drillers will not simply disappear until the industry becomes a mature one. Conversely, it is during exploration and expansion that communities will face the most impacts.” A severance tax will continue to provide revenue to both state and local governments for the foreseeable future.
PSAB understands every budget has winners and losers, but this time around the citizens of the Commonwealth are the biggest losers while the natural gas companies are the winners.
We The People will pay increases in taxes to local governments and the state in order to have vital services provided, while some of these foreign gas companies avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Our volunteer firemen who spend thousands of hours fundraising to provide emergency services to their local communities are the losers as they will see 20 percent of the funds generated from small games of chance go to the state budget, all while these multi-million dollar gas companies avoid paying a severance tax.
Make no mistake natural gas companies continue to thrive even during the economic downturn. For example, Seneca Resources Corporation recently announced that one Marcellus Shale horizontal well located in Tioga County has tested at an average rate of 5.8 million cubic feet per day over a period of six days and has exceeded their expectations.
In a press release issued by the company, David F. Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, added, “With this well test and our continued progress in the EOG joint-venture, I am confident that we will meet or exceed our expectations of 20 to 30 Mmcfd of production in the Marcellus shale play by the end of our 2010 fiscal year. We have a great acreage position and a talented team that is proving we can execute the program for rapid growth in this region.”
Using the method of taxing natural gas under House Bill 1489, 5.8 million cubic feet per day (Mmcfd) would net a significant amount of money for state and local government needs. Assuming a very low price for natural gas of $2.035 MMBtu, the yearly severance tax revenue from this one well would be $316,728.75. Seneca’s yearly gross revenue from this one well is almost $4 million. This is only from ONE well for ONE year! This is what the taxpayers are missing out on!
The association says it wants to continue to be part of the discussions on how to hold their citizens harmless in any plans for the state to levy revenues from natural gas drilling.
The association has put forth a distribution plan which will provide additional revenue to both host and non-host municipalities in counties where natural gas is being extracted. It is essential that any revenues given to local governments must include a portion to go to NON-HOST municipalities as non-host communities face the same impacts as host communities.
In Bradford County, a well is being drilled in Athens Township, but all of the water trucks and equipment trucks travel through Athens Borough. Athens Borough is too small to be a host municipality but will feel the same impact as Athens Township.
Local governments will use the revenue to maintain infrastructure, parks and recreation, industrial and commercial development, preservation and reclamation of the surface waters, municipal waste and sewage systems, police and emergency services and other purposes related to the consequences of severing natural gas in the municipality.

Rep. Reed: Budget Deal Cuts Out Communities, Conservation Districts

Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) is concerned about the lack of details surrounding a state budget agreement among legislative leaders and Gov. Ed Rendell that includes the local lawmaker's plan to expand natural gas harvesting on state forest lands.
In March, Rep. Reed unveiled the "Energize PA" plan to expand natural gas harvesting on additional acres of state forest land in upcoming years. Reed's original proposal would have divided the revenues among the state, local governments and conservation districts.
Rep. Reed said he's now hearing rumors that Rendell and legislative leaders involved in the budget negotiations may try to take all the revenues for the state, cutting local governments and conservation districts out of the loop.
"I fear the governor and other budget negotiators see dollar signs and they're willing to push others out of the picture to get their hands on all of the money," Rep. Reed said. "I certainly hope that's not the case, but this is Harrisburg we are talking about."
Rep. Reed developed the proposal to share the proceeds with local communities and conservation districts in an effort to offset any increased costs that may accompany expanded natural gas harvesting on state forest lands.
"Our proposal may not be perfect, but I firmly believe that some money should go to local communities and conservation districts," Rep. Reed said. "I just hope that the budget negotiators don't cut them out of this. That could potentially be a deal breaker."
Rep. Reed is also concerned about a proposal to tap a special account that is used to protect state forests and parks. The Commonwealth currently sets aside revenues generated through the lease of state forest lands for energy harvesting into the Oil and Gas Lease Fund. Money from this fund has been used to purchase land for state parks and forests and maintain those assets.
Budget negotiators are currently proposing to take $143 million from the fund this year and an additional $125 million next year to balance the state budget.
"We should make sure the budget does not deplete this important fund," Rep. Reed said. "When all of the smoke clears and the budget details are made public, we should ensure that this fund maintains a similar level of support compared to what it has had in the past."

Thursday NewsClips

Budget Work Won't Be Done By End Of Next Week
State Budget Timetable Slipping
Budget Deal Reached, But Details Still Being Worked Out
Water Contamination Concerns Linger For Shale Gas
Pittsburgh Green Job Rally Seeks Climate Legislation
Editorial: Climate Lies
Solar Powered Water Purification Promoted
Editorial: Drilling Spills Raise Concerns
Carbon Offsets And The Bottom Line
Wyoming Commissioners Offer 648 Acres For Drilling
Drilling Halted After Leaks At Well
Editorial: Rendell's Mixed Energy Agenda
Cited For Chemical Spills, Cabot Oil Reports Another
DEP Cites Cabot For Spilling Chemical Drilling Gel
Spills Bring Violation Notice To Drilling Company
Letter: Drilling Spill Seen As Bad News For Fishermen

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

House Members, Environmental Groups Oppose Budget Deal

Members of the House and representatives of 30 environmental and sportsmens' groups held a press conference today opposing the budget deal agreed to by Senate and House leaders and Gov. Rendell which would lease up to 100,000 acres of State Forest land for natural gas drilling and significantly cut funding for environmental agencies.
"We cannot balance the budget on the back of the environment," Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) said. "First, the current agreement would require that far too much state forest land be open for Marcellus Shale drilling."
Rep. Vitali said the group also opposed the elimination of the Oil and Gas Lease Fund into which revenues from all mineral leasing are deposited for land owned by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, supports the adoption of a severance tax on natural gas production and restoring $56 million in cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Other speakers at the event--
Jan Jarrett, President & CEO of PennFuture,
Rep. David Levdansky, Majority Chair of the House Finance Committee
Jeff Saunders, PA Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs
Kathy Davis, Quality Deer Management
Judy Swank, 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania
Click here to read article on event. Click here to watch videos of speakers.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation: This Budget Is Not Done

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation wrote to all members of the General Assembly and Gov. Rendell saying the state budget is not done because it has not addressed significant outstanding funding issues to meet state and federal mandates. Here's the letter--

Dear Members of the General Assembly and Gov. Rendell:

The budget agreement announced Friday contains significant cuts in the budgets for environmental agencies and an unprecedented diversion of funds meant for environmental programs to balance the state budget, when options are still available to restore those cuts and divert fewer funds.
We are well aware of the economic and budget problems faced by the Commonwealth. However, we believe the budget agreement details announced so far mean a dramatic step backwards in Pennsylvania’s efforts to restore our environment and to meet federal and state mandates to improve water quality. Clean water is a responsibility. Without strong state water protection programs and funding in place, Pennsylvania citizens will be left to foot the bill alone.
As you consider the final details of this year’s budget, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation would strongly encourage you to:
--adopt a severance tax on natural gas production;
-- leave decisions regarding leasing of State forest lands to the discretion and stewardship of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources;
-- return the largest portion of any funds derived from the severance tax and from the leasing of State forest lands for natural gas drilling to programs to restore and protect our natural resources and to local governments that must bear the burdens of host drilling operations;
-- restore funding to the departments of Environmental Protection and Agriculture and county conservation districts to help meet the federal Clean Water Act mandates to cleanup the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Pennsylvania’s commitments to reduce nutrient pollution made in the Chesapeake Bay 2000 Agreement and most recently in the Chesapeake Executive Council's milestones, and to review and enforce permits;
-- restore full funding-- $10 million- to the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) farm conservation tax credit Program to help farmers install conservation practices.
You should also know the budget agreed to Friday does nothing to replace funding for the Growing Greener Program that will effectively end in 2010. This means projects to restore watersheds, reclaim abandoned mines, preserve farmland and open space and support State Park and recreation improvement projects can no longer be funded under this program.
We believe many of these budget holes can be filled through the adoption of a severance tax on natural gas production being developed by out-of-state companies in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas fields. Again, the largest portion of these funds should go to support environmental programs and to local governments.
While some say it is difficult to raise revenue during hard economic times, we remind you the General Assembly and Governor enacted a new $4.00 per ton fee on municipal waste disposal to support the Growing Greener Program during the economic downturn following September 11.
For the first time in modern Pennsylvania history, we face a huge erosion of financial support for environmental restoration and protection programs. This budget should not be considered done until adequate funds are provided to help the Commonwealth meet its environmental obligations and clean water mandates.
We would be happy to work with you to ensure the success of these initiatives.


Matt Ehrhart
Pennsylvania Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Click here for original of letter.

Groups Urge Governor, House Democratic Leaders To Oppose State Forest Natural Gas Drillilng

30 environmental and sportsmen groups wrote to Gov. Rendell and House Democratic Leaders Rep. McCall and Rep. Eachus to oppose plans to lease 90,000 of State Forest land for drilling to help balance the state budget. Here's the letter--

Dear Gov. Rendell, Rep. Keith McCall and Rep. Todd Eachus:

The undersigned organizations are dismayed by the sacrifice of Pennsylvania’s natural resources as the price of reaching a budget deal this year. We are sorely disappointed that under an Administration that previously had done much good for environmental protection, and with solid bi-partisan majorities in the House of Representatives committed to safeguarding our natural heritage, that we would be witnessing a budget that:
Fails to enact a severance tax on the extraction of natural gas, repeating the mistakes Pennsylvania made with coal in the previous century. If we fail to reinvest in our natural resources when taking from our natural resources, our descendants will be left with a diminished natural inheritance and messes to fix;
Sacrifices the integrity of our state forests by rushing to lease them for drilling, putting the pursuit of revenue ahead of science and responsible forest management;
Repeals the Oil and Gas Lease Fund that for 55 years has provided revenue for protection and sound management of our state forests and parks.
Over the past several years, the environmental and conservation community has gladly worked tirelessly with you to enact landmark environmental legislation including the Growing Greener bond. We have rallied support for your positions. The organizations that are able to provide political support in the form of endorsements have supported you in elections as well as supporting other candidates with strong environmental ethics from both parties to build the bi-partisan majorities we need to pass the legislation that ensures we can bequeath a good environment to our children and grand children.
This budget deal threatens to undo all of the good work of the last several years, and threatens to tarnish the environmental legacy that we together have fought so hard for. These extreme anti-environmental proposals - the short-sighted sacrifice of our public land and the wholesale concessions to the multi-national energy companies that want to drill here – should not be put in front of members of the House and ask them to vote for it. Many in good conscience may not.
You have a fundamental choice to make, and a solution at hand. Enact a severance tax to raise revenues; allow DCNR to manage the public forest in the public interest; and continue the 55-year commitment to the Oil and Gas Lease Fund.
We stand ready to provide full support for you if you make the right choice.


Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania
Allegheny Group Sierra Club
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
Appalachian Land and Conservation Services
Audubon Pennsylvania
Bucks County Birders
Citizens for Coal Field Justice
Clean Water Action
Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
Friends of Seem Seed Farm
Green Space Alliance
Group Against Smog and Pollution
Heritage Conservancy
Juniata Valley Audubon
Keystone Trails Association
Kiskiminetas Watershed Association
Montgomery County Lands Trust
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs
Pennsylvania Forest Coalition
Republicans for Environmental Protection
Pennsylvania Land Trust Association
Pennsylvania Parks and Recreation Society
The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Chapter
Roaring Run Watershed Association
Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter
Summit Lake Association for Preservation
United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania

Tuesday NewsClips

Budget Plan Would Open More Forests To Drilling
Envisioning The Possible Future Of Climate Change
Wind Farm Developer Chooses Pittsburgh
Research Called Key to Slicing Coal Emissions
States Can Sue Utilities Over Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Op-Ed: Coal Cannot Be Clean, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Editorial: Centralia May Never Rest In Peace
Editorial: Water Pollution Safeguards From Drilling Inadequate
Texas Firm Planning $1 Billion Coal Power Plant In Schuylkill
Rediscovering Natural Gas By Hitting Rock Bottom
Norwegian, U.S. Companies Partners In Wayne
Natural Gas Leased Acreage Closely Guarded Secret

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday NewsClips

Details are scarce from last night's budget deal, but some news reports say the revenue included from State Forest leasing for natural gas drilling in the final agreement is $65 million not $100 million. This change still means about 90,000 acres of State Forest will be put up for lease this fiscal year.
The same news reports have total withdrawals from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund at $208 million for FY 2009-10, rather than $143 million, and $180 million in FY 2010-11 rather than $125 million.
It's A Deal!
Where The Money Would Come From
Budget Agreement Reached
PA Budget Deal Reached
Water Quality Projects On Tap For Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed
Natural Gas Drilling May Start In Luzerne In 2010
Wind Farm Developer EverPower Establishes HQ In Pittsburgh
Consol May Receive $1 Million Grant For Carbon Capture
Coal Producers, Utilities Seek Zero Emissions Coal Power Plant
Coal Conference To Focus On Energy, Environment
Rendell To Join Green Jobs Rally At Point State Park

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Growing Greener In Northcentral Pennsylvania

Another Growing Greener Watershed Program success story was submitted by Frank Weeks, President of the Upper Allegheny Watershed Association, Potter and McKean counties, describing how the Association and the watershed has improved as a result of Growing Greener. The Association is now in the running for a $250 Growing Greener Anniversary grant. Click here to read the story and learn more.

PA Groups Win 6 Of 10 EPA Regional Environmental Awards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic region today announced 10 winners of its annual environmental achievement awards, six of those winners were from Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania winners include the Earth Conservancy Ashely, Healthy Food in Health Care, Philadelphia, Temple University, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Natural Energy Technology Laboratory, Pittsburgh and the Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown. Click here for more background on the winners.

2010 PA Environmental Educators Annual Conference

The PA Association of Environmental Educators annual conference will be held March 11-14 at the Normandy Farm, Blue Bell, Pa.
The keynote speaker for the event will be Dudley Edmondson authority of "Black and Brown Faces In America's Wild Places."
Watch the PAEE website for more information on the conference.

Call For Presenters For 2010 Schuylkill Watershed Congress, Sponsorships

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is now soliciting proposals for presentations at the 2010 Schuylkill Watershed Congress to be held on March 13 at the Montgomery County Community College in Pottstown.
Since 1998, the Schuylkill Watershed Congress has been providing watershed groups, municipalities, concerned citizens and others with the latest information on progressive watershed planning, model projects, and innovative watershed protection.
Are you ready to share what you know with an audience eager to learn? The Schuylkill Watershed Congress Organizers invite you to share your knowledge with a concurrent or poster session.
Consider becoming a sponsor of the 2010 Schuylkill Watershed Congress. Your sponsorship contribution will help to ensure that we can continue to offer the high-quality event that participants expect. Sponsorships help to support scholarships, acquire resources and grow the Congress program.
Congress organizers strive to keep this event accessible to a broad audience. Every effort is made to prevent registration fees–unchanged since 2003–from becoming a barrier to participation.
Click here to download full call to presenters/sponsorship announcement.
For more information, contact Chari Towne by sending email to: or calling 215-369-1188, ext. 109.

Pocono Forest, Waters Landscape Collaborate Accepting Grant Applications

The Pocono Forest and Waters Landscape Collaborative is now accepting applications for conservation assistance program grants through October 22.
Municipalities and nonprofit groups within the project area of Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties are eligible for grants of between $3,000 and $25,000. A one to one match is required for all applications.
All applications must meet the DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Program guidelines.
Click here for grant announcement. Click here for application.
For more information, contact Ellen Ferretti, Pocono Forest and Water Conservation Landscape Coordinator, PA Environmental Council, 175 Main St., Luzerne, PA 18709, send email to: or call 570-709-3143.

Wednesday NewsClips

Op-Ed: Budget Cuts Threaten PA Environment
Budget Negotiators Report Progress In Appeasing Rendell
Budget Deal Finally Close At Hand
Op-Ed: Make Gas Industry Pay Its Fair Share For Marcellus Shale
Natural Gas Lease Offer Excites Wyoming County Group
Chesapeake Bay Cleanup A Local Issue For PA
Wilkes-Barre Flood Protection Bills Due
Botanical Treasure Found In Girard
Editorial: Lessons From Gas Drilling
Inspecting Home Heating Oil Tanks Can Save Money
Rail Trail Committee Worries Gas Wells May Detract From Beauty
Expo To Connect Local Businesses With Gas Industry
Intermunicipal Agreement Moves Forward To Restore Oley Creek
Natural Gas Drilling Companies Upping Ante On Land Leases
Editorial: Do You Support Clean Water In The Poconos?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

State Park, Forest Groups Express Concern Over Budget Cuts, Natural Gas Leasing

Groups supporting State Parks, State Forests and recreation facilities around the state this week highlighted the damage proposed budget cuts would do to recreation resources and expressed concern about the accelerated leasing of State Forest land for Marcellus Shale drilling.
Marci Mowery, PA Parks and Forests Foundation, said the groups game to the Capitol to both celebrate the legacy of the State Park and Forest system and protest its proposed demise.
She said the budget cuts being proposed are equal to returning the size of the State Park system to what it was in 1965, before Maurice Goddard began his initiative to put parks within 25 miles of all Pennsylvanians.
"While closures have not yet happened, we are seeing a loss of services," said Mowery. "Almost 200 wage staff in the Bureau of Forestry are on leave without pay-- rangers, maintenance staff and forest fire suppression staff.
"The same thing is occurring in State Parks-- over 100 wage positions were not filled, parks are carrying 42 salaried staff vacancies, 100 wage staff were cut early and an anticipated 100 will be cut in the Spring. We are seeing campgrounds closing early, portions of parks closing and programs being reduced."
She noted since 1955 revenue from oil and gas leasing on State Forest lands has been dedicated to the maintenance and operation of State Parks and Forests. However, she said, this legacy from Maurice Goddard now stands threatened by taking revenue from Marcellus Shale leases in State Forest and using the funding to balance the budget.
Other speakers at the event include:
Professor Andy Mowen, Penn State University
Patricia Tomes, Rails-To-Trails Conservancy
Curt Ashenfelter, Keystone Trails Association
Judith Schwank, 10,000 Friends of PA
Cynthia Carrow, Western PA Conservancy
Donna Morelli, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
Robert Griffith, PA Recreation and Parks Society
Click here to see videos from the event. Click here for more information.

Legislative Budget Gas Leasing, Tax Credit Assumptions Released

Senate Republicans today released details on how they came up with revenue estimates for the 3 Caucus legislative budget proposal along with how they plan to cut tax credit programs.
-- the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credit would be cut by $1.5 million with $8.5 million available for FY 09-10;
-- the budget anticipates $100 million of additional revenue from leasing State Forest land for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. They estimate about 91,000 acres of forest land would have to be leased in FY 09-10 to yield that revenue ($1,100 per acre leased). The document points out Acting DCNR Secretary John Quigley has said the agency plans to lease 75,000-80,000 acres in FY 09-10.
Click here to view document.
Both the Senate and House convened and adjourned after only a few minutes today without taking any action.

Opinion-- Severe Budget Cuts Mean Erosion Of Our Right To A Clean Environment

By Donald S. Welsh, President & CEO, Pennsylvania Environmental Council

The debate surrounding a natural gas severance tax has become the latest political football in budget battles in Harrisburg; one that sidesteps a much deeper and more serious issue: the more than $385 million in additional budget cuts for environmental programs now being discussed in the State Capitol.
These cuts would not only set back Pennsylvania's cleanup efforts by more than a decade, they would erode the right of every Pennsylvanian to a clean environment uniquely guaranteed by our state constitution. Even in difficult economic times, there is a line between fiscal belt tightening and undermining the state's capacity to operate at levels sufficient to meet state and federal requirements.
The Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation & Natural Resources are being pushed past that brink now. The latest proposed budgetary cuts would be in addition to the $784 million in funding already diverted or cut from environmental programs this decade alone, including programs to support wastewater treatment plant operations, for staff that review permits and do inspections, insurance to cleanup storage tank spills, local recycling programs, support for watershed restoration and abandoned mine reclamation projects, and revenues diverted from State Parks and Forests and recreation programs.
And these are not just state revenues being lost. Several federal funding programs are provided on a match basis; meaning that for every dollar the state fails to invest in these programs, an addition federal dollar is lost as well. No matter how you look at this, it's lose-lose for Pennsylvania citizens. This risk now looms for Pennsylvania's share of the recently re-authorized Federal Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund - something that Governors Rendell and Ridge, members of the General Assembly, representatives of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, and countless community and environmental organizations fought for for more than two decades. Are we going to turn our back on this historic effort?
The bottom line is that we need sufficient revenue to support the very laws and regulations that are enacted every year by the General Assembly and Governor. It is simply irresponsible to underfund these programs, which protect public health, create jobs, revitalize communities, and generate additional economic opportunities.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has previously stated our support for a severance tax on natural gas with a percentage of those revenues being returned to the environmental stewardship fund. We support a severance tax not as a magic bullet for budget deficits, or as a roadblock to economic growth, but as a responsible provision for the protection of the environment. This type of tax is widely used in other gas-producing states and polls show that the public supports it as a way to provide support for environmental and conservation programs. If there are actual fundamental inequities or competitive disadvantages in the severance tax proposal let's get to work now to resolve those issues. Let's craft a solution that is workable and fair to communities, landowners, and industry and that provides assurance for protection of the environment.
The suggested budget framework just announced by leadership of the General Assembly would require the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to accelerate the leasing of additional state land for extraction. This proposal is unrealistic and presents serious problems.
First, artificially requiring the leasing of drilling rights on a set schedule without regard to market conditions will result in giving away the right to drill on public lands at bargain basement prices. Second, there is no guarantee the money generated from a lease program would end up supporting environmental programs, as was intended since the Oil & Gas Fund was created more than forty years ago. In fact, $174 million in Marcellus Shale lease revenue was taken from DCNR and used to balance last year's state budget and more is proposed to be diverted to balance the budget this year.
Third, a mandated leasing may force DCNR to lease lands that are wholly inappropriate for extraction - whether because of sensitive habitat, areas designated as ecotourism regions, or other conditions. Although 74,000 acres of state land have already been leased, because development to-date has been slow, we do not have even close to a reasonable understanding of what expanded drilling will mean for our terrestrial and aquatic resources or public infrastructure.
All Pennsylvania citizens are guaranteed by Article I, Section 27 of our constitution the "right to clean air, pure water and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment." And in particular, "Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."
It is the General Assembly and Governor's obligation to make the environment better, and adequate state funding is the first step in that effort. This right is guaranteed by our constitution. It's time to find real, fair, and lasting solutions to these funding challenges.

For more information visit the PA Environmental Council website.

Tuesday NewsClips

Rendell: Legislative Budget Proposal Phony
Rendell Reiterates Veto Threat, Warns Of Fiscal Tsunami
Environmental Groups Worry About Budget Impact
Op-Ed: Severe Budget Cuts Mean Erosion Of Our Right To Clean Environment
Heinz Farm Flying A Go Green Banner
Panel Probes How Environmental Initiatives Could Boost Workers
Marcellus Shale The Place To Be
Northeast E-Cycling Event A Success
Editorial: Landowners vs. Drillers Reaches Top PA Court
George School Building Lets The Sunshine In
The Power To Save On Energy Bills

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Northeast PA Environmental Partners Announce Award Recipients

Eight recipients of the Environmental Partnership Awards and the Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award will be honored by the Northeast PA Environmental Partners in Wilkes-Barre on October 22. The winners include:
-- Abington Area Joint Recreation Board, Lackawanna County
-- Alliance Landfill, Apex Waste Services & Beach Lake Transfer Station, Lackawanna County
-- Catawissa Creek Restoration Association, Columbia County
-- Delaware Highlands Conservancy, Wayne County
-- Palmira Gregory Miller, Luzerne County
-- Jamie Reeger, Wayne County
-- Trout Trails & Tales - Brodhead Watershed Association and Pocono Arts Council, Monroe County
-- Wildlands Conservancy, Lehigh County
-- Joseph G. DeMarco, Wyoming County: Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award
This year's Keynote address will be given by Mr. John Serrao, Naturalist and Writer-Photographer.
"An Evening for Pennsylvania's Environment" - The Nineteenth Annual Environmental Partnership Awards Dinner will be held on October 22 at 5:00 p.m. at the Woodlands Inn & Resort, Rte 315, Wilkes-Barre, PA. Please call the Pennsylvania Environmental Council at 570-718-6507.
Click here for more background on the winners and the event.''

Sunday NewsClips

Rendell Scorns What He Calls Get Out Of Town Spending Plan
PA Budget Deal Riles Rendell, House GOP
Rendell Threatens Budget Veto
Legislative Agreement On Budget, Includes Leasing More Lands For Drilling
Federal Reports On Chesapeake Bay Cleanup, CBF Reaction
Babb Creek Removal From Endangered Streams List Celebrated
River Of Muck: Keep The Muck At Bay
Landowners Vs. Natural Gas Drillers Comes To Top PA Court
Key PA Natural Gas Drill Case To Be Heard
Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, At A Cost In Human Suffering
Pittsburgh Beautification, Cleanup Campaign Readies City For G-20

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sept. 14 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The September 14 PA Environment Digest is now available. Click Here to print Digest. (Photo: Hawk Mountain 75th Anniversary)

Sen. Pileggi Responds To Governor's Veto Threat

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi issued the following statement after Gov. Rendell threatened to veto a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement announced earlier today by legislative leaders:
“For weeks, the governor has held near-daily press conferences criticizing the General Assembly for not acting on a budget. He has not been personally engaged in the budget discussions for more than a month. Now that a bipartisan agreement has been reached, he is attempting to derail it, 73 days after the budget was due.
“In 2008-09, when the governor wanted to spend more money, his revenue estimates were wildly inaccurate and the result was a $3.2 billion revenue shortfall.
“This year, the governor wants to raise taxes, and his revenue estimates are again inaccurate, but in the opposite direction.
“We intend to honor the budget agreement that has been reached, and we fully expect the House to do the same so that this budget will be passed to the governor.
“I’m confident that after some reflection, the governor will realize that Pennsylvanians have waited long enough for a budget, and he will be able to set aside his ideological differences and support this bipartisan, bicameral compromise.”

Rendell Vows To Veto Legislative Budget Agreement

Gov. Rendell this afternoon told reporters the legislative budget framework announced by three of the four caucuses does not meet his goals and he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk. "If they override my veto, they override," he said.
Meanwhile the environmental group PennFuture called provisions requiring the leasing of additional State Forest lands for natural gas drilling a "sweetheart" deal for the natural gas industry.
Rendell Rejects Legislative Budget Compromise
Rendell Says He Will Veto Bipartisan Budget Proposal
Rendell Vows To Veto Budget Proposal

Senate, House Leaders Announce Agreement On Budget Framework

Leaders from the Senate Republican, House Democratic, and Senate Democratic caucuses said they have reached an agreement on a budget framework that calls for the adoption of a $27.945 billion spending plan with no broad-based tax increases.
It uses a combination of one-time revenues and recurring revenues to produce a balanced budget for 2009-10 which maintains adequate funding for core government services and provides key investments in basic education.
The budget revenue projections include an anticipated $100 million by leasing more state land for Marcellus Shale drilling, specifically $143 million will be transferred from the DCNR Oil and Gas Lease Fund to fill the 2009-10 budget gap, plus an additional $125 million transfer for 2010-11.
Among the revenue sources included in the plan are a slowdown in the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax, the introduction of table games at Pennsylvania’s casinos, and a 25-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax.
The agreement also taps the state’s Rainy Day Fund and will transfer an existing surplus in the Health Care Provider Retention Account to the General Fund.
Work will continue through the weekend to draft the legislation necessary to enact this agreement and determine how specific line items will be funded. Leaders anticipate a meeting of the Budget Conference Committee on Monday to put the agreement in print. The plan could be voted on in both the House and the Senate as early as next week. Follow on bills to authorize table games and casinos will take more time.
Senate and House Leaders, when asked what if the Governor comes in with his own suggestions for changes or spending more money than the framework, said, "This is the agreement."
The key players attending included: Lt. Gov. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Speaker of the House Keith McCall (D-Carbon), Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), Senate Democratic Leader Robert Mellow (D-Lackawanna), House Majority Leader Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne), Senate Appropriations Majority Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre), Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), and House Majority Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia).
Gov. Rendell and House Republicans were not there.

DEP Accepting Applications For $5 Million In Biogas Energy Projects

The Department of Environmental published notice it will be accepting applications for $5 million in financial assistance for projects using biogas from animal manures, septage, food processing wastes and yard waste to generate electricity under the Green Energy Works! Program.
Applications will be accepted from September 21 to October 23. (formal notice)
All projects must create jobs, be able to start work within 6 months, and be completed within 24 months and prior to April 30, 2012.
Those eligible for the assistance include: orporations, partnerships, sole proprietorship, limited liability company, business trust, or other legal business entities; incorporated not for profit organizations; colleges or universities; nonprofit corporations or associations whose purpose is the enhancement of economic conditions in their community; municipalities or counties; municipal electric utilities; rural electric cooperatives; and municipal authorities. Direct recipients of ARRA-EECBG funds are not eligible to apply.
This is a competitive solicitation. Guidelines will be posted on the Recovery PA website.
Applications must be submitted via the online Environmental eGrants system.

Friday NewsClips

A press conference on the budget by Senate Republicans and House Democrats is expected at 11:00 this morning.
Agreement Is Near On Budget, Legislative Leaders Say
Budget Agreement May Be Near
State Lawmakers Reported Nearing Budget Agreement
Feds Issue Plan To Clean Chesapeake Bay
EPA Issues Warning On Chesapeake Bay Pollution
EPA Vows To Be Chesapeake Watchdog
Study To Track Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Building Energy Use
Commonwealth Energy Group Gets $1.2 Million Loan
June 17 Flood Victims Eligible For SBA Loans
Without A Budget, Philadelphia Parks And Rec Face Cuts
Coal History Exhibit At IUP Spotlights An Important Legacy
Bracelets' Sale Raises $1.1 Million For Memorial
Researcher Examines Cultural Development Around Flight 93
Editorial: Passengers Of Flight 93 Died For Us
Bald Eagle Schools Get Funds For Geothermal System
Natural Gas, Valley Business Park Operations Booming
Athens Area Schools Receive Environmental Excellence Award
Cracking Down On Dumping In Lackawanna County
Dam On Conewango Creek Coming Out
Chesapeake Bay Reports Call For More Livestock Regulations
Pike County Signs Recycling Contract

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rumors Of A Budget Agreement Of Sorts

Various sources are reporting there may be a budget agreement between Senate Republicans and House Democrats on an overall spending number of $27.9 billion. That's somewhat less than the $28.1 billion House Democrats put on the table at the Budget Conference Committee table on September 2 and more than the $27.5 billion Senate Republicans have been advocating.
It's not clear at this point where Gov. Rendell features in this agreement.
A press conference by the parties to the agreement is in the works for Friday morning and a Budget Conference Committee meeting is also rumored to be in the planning stages for Sunday.
Stay tuned......
Meanwhile House Democratic Leadership was forced to delay a vote today on the must have Philadelphia pension reform bill, but hope to have a vote tomorrow.
NewsClip: House Delays Vote On Pension Bill

Apply Now For USDA's Farm/Forest Conservation Stewardship Program

Farmers and foresters who want to participate in USDA's new Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, should apply by September 30 to be considered in the first contract approval cycle.
CSP provides an annual payment to landowners who maintain a high level of conservation and agree to implement at least one new conservation activity on cropland, pasture, or forestland.
CSP offers many different conservation activities from which to pick, covering a range of resource enhancing activities that help farmers improve their operations while protecting natural resources. A few examples are manure injection, filter strips, solar powered fence systems, and on-farm research and demonstrations.
Private forestland enhancements include forest stand improvement, establishment of pollinator habitat, and many more. Also, organic and specialty crop farms could transition to an organic cropping system, apply Integrated Pest Management, and more.
CSP can provide a supplemental payment for farmers who implement or upgrade a Resource Conserving Crop Rotation, such as cover crops, legumes in hay rotation, high residue producing crops, etc.
Estimated average payment ranges are $10-$22/acre for cropland, $7-$14/acre for pasture, and $6-$12/acre for forestland. Individual contracts may be more or less than these amounts. Contracts are for five years. The supplemental Resource Conserving Crop Rotation payment may range from $12 to $16/acre.
The CSP program relies heavily on the Farm Service Agency's Farm Record System, and applicants must be listed as the operator of record in this system.
When applying for this program, producers must bring their maps showing fields, crop rotations, and acreages of their farm or forestland operation. Applications should be submitted to their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office.
For more information, visit the NRCS-PA website or call NRCS at 717-237-2100.

Senate Moves Third Budget Bill

The Senate Republicans yesterday their third budget bill as a potential vehicle, they said, for a budget settlement, while the House was mired in discussions over the "must have" Philadelphia pension bill.
Senate Bill 1085 (Corman-R-Centre) was introduced, reported out of and then back into the Senate Appropriations Committee. The numbers in the bill are essentially the last Senate-amended version of the second budget bill they passed-- House Bill 1416 (D.Evans-D-Philadelphia)-- that has been sitting in a House Senate Conference Committee since July 27.
For those keeping score, Senate Bill 850 (Corman-R-Centre) was the first budget bill passed by the Senate Republicans back on May 6 and later signed into law, but heavily cut, by Gov. Rendell as the bridge budget on August 5.
The Senate also took the step of voting unanimously to reconsider the vote by which the budget veto overrides failed on August 19 setting up a re-vote when the Senate returns next week.

Thursday NewsClips

Budget Negotiators Have Two Things To Talk About
Group Appeals DEP's Expedited Permits For Gas Drilling
Groups Call For PA Tax On Natural Gas
Letter: Restore Natural Gas To State's Tax Rolls
Hill District Center Gets Green Funding Boost
Erie County Reports First West Nile Case
Jessup, DEP To Clean Illegal Dump
With Electric Rates Posed To Soar, Competition Grows For Business Customers
Aerial Seeding To Save Energy
Proposed Change To Clean And Green Better For Environment
Babb Creek May No Longer Be Endangered
Telford Official Testifies Before DEP
Transport Of River Dredge To Reclaim Mine Land Resumes
Monroe Twp. Signals Go All LED
Schuylkill County Approves Natural Gas Contract
Natural Gas Forum To Be Held In Forest City

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