Monday, November 30, 2009

Golden Algae Kills 32 Miles Of Dunkard Creek

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Bay Daily Blog posted this story about recent contamination in Dunkard Creek killing just about every living thing for 32 miles in Southwestern PA. Click here for an audio version of this story.
[Update NewsClips:
Feds: Mine Discharges Led To Algae That Killed Dunkard Creek Life
Dunkard Creek Still Has Carp Population]
Betty Wiley grew up here on Dunkard Creek in West Virginia.
She’s 68 now. But she’ll never forget when she was a kid, playing in this forested stream that runs between rocky hills along the Mason-Dixon line that separates West Virginia from Pennsylvania.
“I remember, going in where it was shallow, and picking up rocks and finding crawdads," Betty recalls, standing in the creek on a recent afternoon. "There were lots of mussels, and lots of little fish. We’d catch these little fish. And it was a part of our lives.”
Then one day this fall, she took a walk down the stream again, this time with her grandchildren, aged 11 and 7. The water didn’t look right. It was the color of copper; sort of greenish. And everywhere she looked, fish were floating or twitching – including a dead muskie, about 40 inches long.
“It was almost as though a family member had died," Betty said. "It was just unbelievable.”
Eventually, researchers concluded that what Betty was seeing was evidence of the worst fish kill in at least two decades in West Virginia. Just about every living creature in 32 miles of the creek had been wiped out, including rare freshwater mussels.
Ziemkiewicz, director of the Water Research Institute at nearby West Virginia University, investigated. He concluded that the usual suspect in Appalachian coal country – acidic water seeping out of coal mines – was not the likely killer, this time. For one thing, the water was the wrong color.
For another, monitoring found suspiciously high salt levels in the creek… and a peculiar toxic organism called golden algae normally found only in saltier waters – not freshwater streams.
"This is the first time that golden algae has been reported in this part of the world, at all," Ziemkiewicz said. "To my knowledge, it is the first golden algae kill in the Appalachians.”
Golden algae is a single-celled microscopic organism with two tentacle-like flagella that is native to Eurasia and needs salt to bloom. It caused massive fish kills in the Middle East in the 1950’s. Then, somehow, the algae hitched a ride across the ocean and – in 1985 -- popped up in the U.S. for the first time, killing millions of fish amid the oil and gas fields of Texas and Oklahoma.
Dr. Ziemkiewicz believes that the algae might have hitch-hiked from Texas to West Virginia inside water tank trucks used in natural gas drilling. There has been a boom in drilling in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and across the Chesapeake region the last four years using a process called hydraulic fracturing. Drilling companies – often based in Texas -- suck millions of gallons of water out of streams and rivers. They then inject the water at high pressure sometimes a mile into the earth, fracturing shale and releasing natural gas into a pipe. When this water is underground, it absorbs salt. And when it re-emerges onto the surface, it’s sometimes seven times saltier than the ocean.
Dr. Ziemkiewicz suspects that drilling waste water is turning Dunkard Creek, the Monongahela River downstream, and other fresh waterways in this region increasingly salty. And that saltiness could make them a welcoming home for the algae invader that has been haunting the gas fields of Texas. So not only might the drillers be bringing the algae in, they could also be creating the conditions in which the algae can flourish.
“Any truck that comes up here and is involved in the oil and gas industry in Texas and Oklahoma ought to be sterilized before it’s allowed to operate in this area," Ziemkiewicz said. "Trucks ought not to be able to move around from one contaminated watershed like this one now, take water out of here and then move it to another watershed. That is a recipe for disaster.”
State environmental officials caution that the investigation into Dr. Ziekiewicz's theory is just beginning. Authorities say that while both golden algae and salt are believed to be contributing factors in the fish kill, it is still not clear how they got into Dunkard Creek… or who exactly is to blame.
Meanwhile, researchers are now carefully watching streams across the drilling fields of West Virginia and Pennsylvania to see if the gold rush of gas drilling will spread this golden shadow in the streams.

Monday NewsClips

With 1 Year Left, Rendell's Legacy Is Already Set
Final DEP Staff Furloughs At 96 After 26 Percent Budget Cut
House To Focus On Drilling Issues Next Year
Laurel Hill Creek Moving Closer To Protected Status
Vandergrift Seeks Green Rebirth
Bethlehem Authority Weighs Wind Farm Plan
Cost-Effective Tips To Keep Your Home Warm
Editorial: Natural Gas Prices Highest Not By Chance
Editorial: Green Jobs, Dubious Future
PSU Investigates Climategate
PSU Power Plant Upgrade To Cost At Least $200 Million
Fish & Boat Commission To Inspect Marcellus Shale Drilling Sites
Public Will Help Luzerne, Lackawanna Counties Plan
Gas Drilling Summit Draws Experts
Montgomery Community College Gets Greener With Program Offered Next Year
Plans For Delaware Aim To Improve Water Quality, Recreation
Pottstown Receives Federal Grant For Efficient Sewer Project

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PA's Environment "Perfect" For Post-Apocalyptic Movie

Pennsylvania's unreclaimed abandoned mines and gob piles and abandoned city blocks in Pittsburgh became the "perfect" backdrop for the post-apocalyptic movie The Road due to open in theaters shortly. Here's what the Wikipedia entry has to say--
With a budget of $20 million, filming began in southwestern Pennsylvania in late February 2008 for eight weeks and moved on to Louisiana and Oregon. Pennsylvania, where most of the filming took place, was chosen for its tax breaks and its abundance of locations that looked post-apocalyptic: coalfields, dunes, and run-down parts of Pittsburgh. Filming was also done at the 1892 Amusement park (Conneaut Lake Park) after one of the parks buildings (the Dreamland Ballroom) was destroyed in a fire in February 2008. Hillcoat also said of using Pittsburgh as a practical location, "It's a beautiful place in fall with the colors changing, but in winter, it can be very bleak. There are city blocks that are abandoned. The woods can be brutal. We didn't want to go the CGI world." Filmmakers also shot scenes in parts of New Orleans that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and on Mount St. Helens in Washington.
Hillcoat sought to make the film faithful to the spirit of the book, creating "a world in severe trauma", although never explaining the circumstances of the apocalyptic event. According to Hillcoat, "That's what makes it more realistic, then it immediately becomes about survival and how you get through each day as opposed to what actually happened." Filmmakers took advantage of days with bad weather to portray the post-apocalyptic environment. Mark Forker, the director of special effects for the film, sought to make the landscape convincing, handling sky replacement and digitally removing greenery from scenes.
The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike was used for much of production, with evidence shown at the eastern portal of the Sideling Hill Tunnel. The exterior of the tunnel was somewhat restored for filming, with the doors to the ventilation shaft repainted as well as the white paint near the base of the tunnel entrance being painted tan to match the rest of the exterior of the tunnels. (When the property was still owned by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, vandalism took place on the abandoned tunnels sometime in the 1980s, with the white paint used to cover up graffiti.) The same was done with the western portal to Sideling Hill as well as the eastern portal of the Rays Hill Tunnel.
Filming Locations For The Road Movie
Environmentally Damaged PA Appears In The Road
At World's End, Honing A Father-Son Dynamic

Wednesday NewsClips

Environmentally Damaged PA Sites Appear In The Road Post-Apocalyptic Movie
Filming Locations For The Road Movie
Penn State Scientist In Hot Seat Over Emails Saying Climate Data Distorted
PA Ranks 5th For Most Global Warming Pollution
Competition To Replace PPL Service Ramping Up
License Extension For PPL Nukes OK'd
Stimulus Funds Help With Housing's Green Upgrades
Solar Panel Installation Complete In Pittsburgh
Unusual Event Reported At Beaver County Nuclear Plant
No Radioactive Release At Beaver Valley Power Station
Power Glitch, Natural Radon Caused TMI Alarm

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

PEC Seeking Proposals For Wetland Restoration Project Along Delaware River

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council seeks proposals from qualified engineering/environmental consulting firms to move forward a project to restore up to 9 acres of riparian upland; 2,000 linear feet of inter-tidal shoreline, and 6 acres of aquatic habitat along Philadelphia's Delaware riverfront, in the neighborhood of Bridesburg. Click here to view the full RFP. Click here for full announcement.

Penn State Marcellus Shale Webinar Series Continues On Dec. 17

An ongoing series of monthly, web-based seminars addressing issues surrounding Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale natural-gas boom will continue through the winter.
Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and Penn State Cooperative Extension, upcoming webinars will cover topics such as legal issues, post-leasing considerations for landowners, wastewater disposal options and economic impacts.
The one-hour webinars will be held at 1 p.m. on the following dates:
-- December 17: "Marcellus Shale Legislation and Litigation: A Year in Review." Presenter: Ross Pifer, director of the Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center, Penn State Dickinson School of Law.
-- January 21: "Post Leasing -- Considerations of What Happens Next, Lessons Learned to Date." Presenter: Thomas Murphy, Penn State Cooperative Extension energy-development educator.
-- February 18: "Underground Injection Wells as an Option for Disposal of Shale Gas Wastewaters: Policies and Practicality." Presenter: Karen Johnson, chief, Ground Water and Enforcement Branch, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 3.
-- March 18: "The Impact of Marcellus Shale: What Do the Economic Impact Studies Imply?" Presenter: Timothy Kelsey, Penn State Cooperative Extension state program leader for economic and community development.
Information about how to register for the free webinars is available online. Online participants will have the opportunity to ask the speaker questions during the webinar.
Previous webinars -- which covered topics such as water use and quality, gas leasing considerations for landowners, workforce issues and implications for local communities -- can be viewed online as well.
For more information, visit Penn State's Natural Gas Impacts webpage or contact Joann Kowalski, extension educator in Susquehanna County, at 570- 278-1158 or by sending email to:

Tuesday NewsClips

Candidate Gerlach Wary Of Tax On Gas Drillers
Gas Drilling And Drinking Water
Loyalhanna Watershed Assn. Finds Haulers, Restarts Recycling
Earth Conservancy Wants Mineral Rights Affirmed
Heritage Rail Trail Park Closer To Next Expansion
Groups Urging New Green Regulations For Pittsburgh Projects
State Seeks Court Order For Crawford Tire Pile Cleanup
Direct Energy Gives PPL Customers Another Option
Firm Offers Electric Competition For PPL Customers
Direct Energy Unveils Options For PPL Customers
Editorial: A Climate Change Smoking Gun Misfires
Rendell Hot Under Collar, TMI Back To Normal
Pipe Cutting Led To Radiation Incident At TMI
Blown Particles Triggered TMI Incident
Reaction To TMI Radiation Release Muted
Wind Farm Fans Local Debate In Centre County
Marcellus Shale Webinar Series Continues Dec. 19
PA Marcellus Summit Predicts Bright Marcellus Gas Future
Environmentalists, DEP Raise Issues With Wind Farm

Monday, November 23, 2009

Senate Committee Hearing On DCNR Budget Cuts, Drilling Changed

Because the Senate decided not to come back to voting session until December 14, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee has rescheduled its hearing on DCNR budget cuts and the leasing of State Forest Land for natural gas drilling to December 15 at 11:30 in Room 8E-B East Wing.

Montgomery County Community College Offers Sustainable Building Advisor Program

In keeping with the growing demand for green building technology and practices, Montgomery County Community College is offering a nine-month Sustainable Building Advisor Program starting January 2010.
The new program will provide the training and information for participants to become leaders in their careers, organizations and communities in the sustainable building field. The program is beneficial for a wide-range of building professionals and interested others.
The non-profit organization National Sustainable Building Advisor Program develops the comprehensive criteria for the program, which is offered at the College’s West Campus in Pottstown as part of its Continuing Education offerings. Click here to watch a NSBAP video.
Architect, David Hartke, MBA, AIA, a principal of the architectural and engineering firm Stampfl & Hartke Associates, LLC, of Bucks County, is the local administrator, in conjunction with the College, and is one of the teaching professionals for the program.
“The instructors are professionals and specialists in their fields, including geologists, engineers and designers,” Hartke said. “The program brings together, holistically, all of the concepts of sustainable building and design.”
Classes will be held monthly from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays and consecutive Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This type of class schedule allows for on-site visits and tours to complement the interactive classroom sessions, Hartke said.
During the nine months, the program will cover all aspects of sustainable building and design for both new and existing construction. Topics include site assessment and location, land usage, green communities, renewable energy options, investment costs and savings, indoor environmental quality and water conservation.
“We will be meeting with representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection,” Hartke said. “We will tour the DEP facility in Norristown, as well as other sites and projects.”
Participants will learn how to apply the practices and standards of sustainable building, including the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the National Green Building Standards.
They will also learn how to calculate the initial costs, determine long-term savings and utilize available financial incentives to offset investments. Working with fellow professionals, participants will learn how to implement a sustainable design goal and to train others in green building practices.
At the conclusion of the program and completion of its requirements, students are eligible to take the NaSBAP examination for national certification as a Sustainable Building Advisor.
The American Institute of Architects approved the SBA program this year for 100 learning units. In 2008, U.S. Green Building Council approved the NaSBAP course for its Continuing Education that is now required for LEED Accreditation of professionals.

Keystone Coldwater Conference Feb. 19-20

The 2010 Keystone Coldwater Conference will be held on February 19-20 in State College. This year the theme is, "Responsible Energy Development: Protecting Our Coldwater Resources."
Sponsors of the Conference include: PA Trout Unlimited, Coldwater Heritage Partnership, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Fish and Boat Commission, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, National Trout Unlimited, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the
Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
On Friday there is an optional workshop on the basics of wind energy development and gas exploration and extraction in Pennsylvania. The workshop is an additional $20. Information will include economic, regulatory and policy considerations, along with the basic processes used to explore, site and implement the development of wind farms and gas wells.
On Saturday, the program begins at 8:30 a.m. with several keynote speakers. Eight breakout sessions will round off the morning and afternoon, with topics related to oil and gas exploration, wind power generation, access and transmission corridors, and coal extraction.
Presentations will highlight research, case studies, proactive community action, policy and regulations, and targeted outreach and advocacy that have played a part in ensuring environmental protection. Guests will be treated to a buffet lunch. A Q&A session with all speakers will conclude the day.
Exhibitor registration materials will be mailed in early January. Table space (includes Responsible Energy Development: Protecting Our Coldwater Resources one complimentary registration): Nonprofits and government agencies, $75; For-profits, $200.
Display posters are invited from watershed organizations, TU chapters, students and any other groups that have projects to share with conference participants. There is no charge for posters, which should measure no larger than 4’ by 5’. Easels will be provided, but you must provide your own poster board. Poster presenters do not receive a free registration and must register for the conference. Email poster submissions to Deborah Nardone, Pa. Council of Trout Unlimited, at: or call 814-359-5233 by February 1.
The Conference will provide attendees the opportunity of sharing of ideas and concepts among diverse groups with common interests, such as nonprofit organizations, Trout Unlimited chapters, sportsmen’s groups and watershed associations, along with environmental professionals from conservation districts, agencies, consulting firms and academics.
The Conference will be held at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, in State College.
For program information: Call the Coldwater Heritage Partnership at 814-359-5233 or visit the Keystone Coldwater Conference webpage.
To register, visit the Conference registration webpage. Conference registration fee: $45 (until February 1); $60 (after February 1); $20 (optional workshop Friday).

Senate Committee Sets Hearing On DCNR State Forest Drilling, Budget Cuts

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee has scheduled a hearing for December 2 at 9:30 to hear from Acting DCNR Secretary John Quigley on the impact of budget cuts on the agency and for a status report on leasing State Forest Land for natural gas drilling. The hearing will be in Hearing Room 1, North Office Building.

PA Trout Unlimited Offers Marcellus Shale Perspectives

The just published Winter 2010 PA Trout newsletter from the PA Council of Trout Unlimited includes two very good articles about Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling-
-- A Marcellus Shale Call To Action
-- A Closer Look At How Marcellus Shale Drilling Affects Our Trout Waters
Click here to read the articles.

Monday NewsClips

NE Lawmakers Rack Up Per Diems During Budget Delay
Drilling Boom Digs Up Concerns
Op-Ed: Federal Bill Won't Let Water Quality Go Down The Drain
Export Flood Control Project To Begin In July
Editorial: Hold Utilities' Feet To Fire
TMI Criticized For Notification Lapse After Weekend Incident
TMI Incident Considered Minor, But Some Question Communication
NRC: Three Mile Island Radiation Not Significant
NRC Probes Radiation At TMI
Horse Logging Can Be Positive For Environment
Bethlehem Woman Rescues Waterlife Along Lehigh Canal

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nov. 23 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The Nov. 23 PA Environment Digest is now available. Click here to print this Digest.

The Rendell Administration this week announced it will furlough 147 employees from the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources and eliminate another 186 full time vacant positions for a total reduction of 333 positions.
In addition 1,131 seasonal workers at DCNR had their positions eliminated or hours reduced in State Park and Forestry operations-- 240 seasonal positions were eliminated over the last year and 891 seasonal workers had their hours reduced.
With the furlough announcement this week, DEP has lost 612 authorized positions since the 2002-03 budget* (3,211 then and now 2,599)-- nearly 19 percent of its staff positions, and DCNR has lost 95 full time positions (1,390 positions then and 1,295 now)-- just under 7 percent of its positions since 2002-03. Click here to read full story...

Friday NewsClips

Dimock Families Sue Natural Gas Driller
Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Mandates Set
Last State Furlough Notices Expected To Go Out Today
PPL Gets PUC OK For Rate Cap Transition

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

DEP Increasing Permit Fees By $23.4 Million To Offset Dramatic Budget Cuts

The Environmental Quality Board this week took the latest in a series of steps to adopt increases in permit review fees for the Department of Environmental Protection totaling about $23.4 million to help offset the dramatic cuts in the agency's General Fund budget.
The EQB adopted changes to Chapter 92 for comment which would result in increasing NPDES water quality permit fee revenue from about $750,000 annually to about $5 million. In addition to increasing permit review fees, the agency is also proposing an annual permit administration fee for the first time.
The new NPDES fees will have an impact on 5,000 industrial and public wastewater treatment systems across the state as well as about 5,000 applicants applying for NPDES General Permits.
In July the EQB finalized changes to permit fees for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling applications to increase revenue from about $935,000 a year to $8.4 million for FY 2009-10.
In June changes were proposed to Chapter 102 Erosion and Sedimentation regulations to increase application fees to yield about $7.3 million annually instead of about $635,000. Much of the increase-- about $5 million-- would go to county conservation districts which perform this permit review work.
Other fee changes proposed this year include--
-- Proposed Laboratory Accreditation fees increased from $500,000 to $1.3 million;
-- Proposed Air Quality fee increases from $20.2 million to $24.4 million; and
-- DEP's Mining and Reclamation Advisory Board is also now considering substantial fee increases for mining permits.
Only the Marcellus Shale fees have been finalized so far.

Wednesday NewsClips

Pay Raise Questions Loom For Lawmakers
Column: Natural Gas Industry's Free Pass Costs State, Residents
Early Warning system Could Identify Water Pollution Due To Gas Drilling
Environmental Agencies Check Streams For Golden Algae That Caused Fish Kill
Officials: Chesapeake Health Costly
Meetings To Help EPA Craft Chesapeake Bay Pollution Rules
Proposed Updated Flood Maps Received In Luzerne County
Gateway Energy To Bring 70 New Jobs, Electricity Choice To NE
PA Gets Federal Grant To Train For Green Jobs
DEP Sees Significant Cuts From Budget

Monday, November 16, 2009

DCNR 2009-10 Budget Cut Impact Statement

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources released these talking points on the impact of budget cuts including the fact that furloughs, the elimination of vacancies and the reduction of seasonal wage employees will mean a reduction of 367 positions at DCNR.

FY 2009-10 budget cuts DCNR’s General Fund budget by 25 percent, or $28 million.
-- Parks - cut $11.3 million, or 19 percent.
-- Forestry - overall budget cut $7.4 million or 13 percent
-- General Government Operations cut $4.2 million, or 20 percent
-- Forest Pest Management cut $3.2 million, or 62 percent
-- Heritage Areas, previously $8.2 million, was eliminated.

As a result of these reductions, we have been forced to:
-- Eliminate 66 unfilled salaried positions that had been subject to the hiring freeze: 23 in State Parks, 24 in Forestry, 19 in General Government Operations
-- Wage staff reductions:
-- Seasonal wage staff cut by 240 employees over the past year
-- Shortened the work season by several months this fall for an additional 891 seasonal employees
700 in Parks and 191 in Forestry.
-- Furlough a total of 9 full-time employees: 2 from State Parks, 5 from Forestry, 2 from General Government Operations
-- Vacancies + furloughs + FTE of wage staff reductions is equivalent to reducing staff by 367 full-time positions.

What will this mean?
-- The General Fund appropriation is not sufficient to support the state parks system. Governor Rendell has stepped in and ordered the use of Oil and Gas funds to keep all 117 state parks open..
-- Reduce service levels at remaining parks to minimum acceptable level
-- shorten swimming season at pools, beaches;
-- early closings of campgrounds;
-- more selective snow removal, mowing;
-- reduce environmental education, interpretive and recreational programming and teacher training.
-- Defer maintenance on state forest roads; potentially closing those roads as conditions warrant.
-- Eliminate program that raises/sells native seedlings to private forest landowners.
-- Eliminate gypsy moth spraying, curtail the surveillance of other forest pests.
-- Eliminate PAMAP.

How DCNR will maintain its core mission with reduced resources
-- The Bureau of Forestry will utilize every efficiency possible to continue to maintain the balance between different uses of our forests such as recreation, wildlife habitat and sustainable timber harvests, and ensure a healthy forest in the future.
-- Large infrastructure projects that either will generate additional revenues, or are important to the long term care and sustainability of the system, will continue with the funding provided by law specifically for those purposes. Examples are:
-- Stabilization of the early-1900s steel bridge damaged by a tornado at Kinzua Bridge State Park
-- Completing construction of the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park
-- Completing the rehabilitation of Point State Park in Pittsburgh
-- Completing construction of the Elk Country Visitors Center in the Pennsylvania Wilds
-- Repairing flood damaged areas at Delaware Canal State Park
-- Completing a wildlife viewing/visitor center at Sinnemahoning State Park
-- Although less money is available, DCNR will continue to make focused and strategic investments in conservation and recreation through its grants program with the dollars that have been provided by law specifically for those purposes.

DEP Releases Budget Impact Statement

The Department of Environmental Protection released this 2009-10 Budget Impact Statement late this afternoon--

FY 2009-10 Budget Impact Statement

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is the state agency largely responsible for administering Pennsylvania's environmental laws and regulations. Its responsibilities include: reducing air pollution; making sure drinking water is safe; protecting water quality in rivers and streams; making sure waste is handled properly; supporting community renewal and revitalization; promoting advanced energy technology; and helping citizens prevent pollution and comply with state environmental regulations. DEP is committed to general environmental education and encouraging effective public involvement in setting environmental policy.
Budgetary challenges have forced DEP to make tough choices to preserve the programs and initiatives that protect the health and safety of Pennsylvania's citizens and our environmental resources. Critical environmental inspection and enforcement efforts that are essential to protecting health, safety and the environment remain top priorities and will not be reduced.
The total 2008-2009 DEP budget from all funding sources was $719 million.
Historically about one-third of department funding comes from federal funds; onethird from special funds supported by fees and penalties; and one-third from the state general fund.
In fiscal year 2009-2010, the general fund budget was reduced from $217 million to $159 million, a difference of $58 million. The impacts of the reductions include:
Personnel: DEP will furlough 138 employees -- roughly 5 percent of its workforce - and will not fill 120 vacant positions.
Services and Programs: Affected services and programs include:
The elimination of some permitting staff in each region that may lengthen processing times for some permits; the department is in the process of raising any outdated fees to ensure effective permitting;
A reduction in planning and technical services for local governments and counties;
Elimination of funding for this year of the Consumer Energy Program;
Reduction in the period of time Black Fly spraying can continue with spraying likely to terminate by the end of July 2010; and
Elimination of West Nile Virus county grants in 36 counties; DEP staff will attempt to provide some lessened coverage in those counties where county programs do not operate.
Very importantly, the reduction in state funds will have no impact on the permitting and inspection operations performed by the Oil and Gas staff at DEP. Drilling companies - not taxpayers - pay for this critical environmental protection work. Fees for gas drilling permits were increased to make it possible for DEP to hire additional inspectors to oversee and make sure gas drilling in the state does not harm the environment.
Other important environmental also work continues, with significant levels of state funds not affected by the recently enacted state budget. For example, since April 2009, the state has invested $1.5 billion in new grants and loans for urgently needed repairs to local water, sewer, flood and dam infrastructure. That is more than four times the normal annual investment in these critical water project upgrades.
When it comes to energy, major electric utilities will invest $1 billion in electricity conservation over the next four years in their service territories, making Pennsylvania a top five energy conservation state. In addition $650 million will be released for alternative energy projects that will make Pennsylvania a top five solar state by the end of 2010. Pennsylvania now has enough wind farms to provide the electricity for 198,000 homes and ranked second nationally in the growth of wind energy during both the second and third quarters of 2009.

Fish & Boat Commission to Inspect Marcellus Shale Drilling Sites

Law enforcement officers and biologists with the Fish and Boat Commission will begin conducting field inspections of active drilling sites for Marcellus Shale gas wells beginning next month, the agency announced today.
“Until now our agency has only reacted to those drilling sites where a problem resulted in material entering a waterway or wetlands,” said Dr. Douglas Austen, PFBC executive director. “We are now taking a proactive approach to identify possible problems at a drilling site and to work with the company to ensure necessary measures are in place to minimize the possibility of damaging nearby waterways.”
The agency will focus on those well sites that are in close proximity to Commonwealth waterways, including wetlands. The inspections will determine if adequate measures are in place at the drilling site and access roads to prevent damage to the nearby aquatic resources. As part of the inspections, PFBC staff will also be obtaining water quality data from several locations in the nearby waterway.
“The commission recognizes the need for and importance of the development of the Marcellus Shale for gas production and believes in can be accomplished in a manner that provides protection to Pennsylvania’s valuable aquatic resources,” Austen added. “Because of the importance of this issue, waterways conservation officers and field staff have set aside other job duties and functions for a period of time in order to conduct these field inspections.”
More than 150 active well sites have been identified so far for inspections, which are expected to take place over the next several months.

Budget Cuts Force DEP To Layoff 5 Percent Of Workforce

The Rendell Administration this afternoon announced layoff notices were sent today to 319 state employees as a result of the budget cuts included in the 2009-10 budget.
The Department of Environmental Protection sustained 43 percent of these layoffs and will furlough 138 employees-- 5 percent of its workforce. In addition, DEP eliminated 120 vacant positions bringing the total affected positions to 258. The full programatic impact of the furloughs will not be known until Civil Service "bumping" rights are implemented by those being laid off.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will furlough 9 employees and the Department of Agriculture will layoff 8.
For DCNR, the total impact of the layoffs were to:
Eliminate 66 unfilled salaried positions that had been subject to the hiring freeze-- 23 in State Parks, 24 in Forestry, 19 in General Government Operations
Wage staff reductions: Seasonal wage staff cut by 240 employees over the past year, Shortened the work season by several months this fall for an additional 891 seasonal employees, 700 in Parks and 191 in Forestry.
Furlough a total of 9 full-time employees-- 2 from State Parks, 5 from Forestry, 2 from General Government Operations
Gov. Rendell has ordered the use of DCNR's Oil and Gas Fund to keep all 117 State Parks open, but it will also mean reduced service levels-- shorten swimming season at pools, beaches, early closings of campgrounds, more selective snow removal, mowing, reduce environmental education, interpretive and recreational programming and teacher training.
Defer maintenance on state forest roads; potentially closing those roads as conditions warrant.
Eliminate program that raises/sells native seedlings to private forest landowners.
Eliminate gypsy moth spraying, curtail the surveillance of other forest pests.
The complete press release and a table of layoffs is available online.

Monday NewsClips

Educator Helps Erie Students Explore Presque Isle's Aquatic Life
Mine Site Work Draws Concern
Solar Energy Project Will Be Largest In Lancaster County
Researchers At CMU Refining Electric Vehicle
Delaware Water Gap Adds 91.5 Acres
Debate Continues On Sale Of Doe Licenses
Regional Water discussions Continue In Lehigh Valley- Video
New PA Recreation Plan Focuses On Health, Outdoor Activities
Buried Mistake: Working Begins On Trout Stream Near Snow Shoe
3 Best Ways To Fight Energy Hikes: Conserve, Conserve, Conserve
Shopping Essential For Savvy Electricity Consumers
PPL Rolls Out Programs To Reduce Energy Use
Expired Rate Caps To Boost Electric Bills 30 Percent In January
Company Goes Off The Grid In Lansdale
Green Forum Feature's Phoenixville Recycling Program
Aqua PA Uses Solar To Clean Up Water
Darby Creek Assn. Honors Conservation Efforts
Ground-Breaking For $78 Million Solar Park

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nov. 16 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The November 16 PA Environment Digest is now available.

Click here to print this Digest.

In the Dimock area of Susquehanna County, the drinking water well of a 66-year-old retired nurse exploded earlier this year after methane seeped into her water supply and those of eight other homes. "The drilling company "made us think we were all going to get rich," said the Dimock resident, Norma Fiorentino. "But they didn't say anything about our land being ruined or my water being ruined." Click here for the story and video....

2010 Tri-State Environmental Community Service Award Applications Due

Now in its fifth year, the Annual Environmental Community Service Award will once again be presented by Wawa, NBC 10, and the environmental law firm Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, LLP.
Applications are due February 26. Winners will be announced just prior to the 40th anniversary of Earth Day April 22,.
The goal of the Environmental Community Service award is to raise awareness of environmental concerns and to recognize middle and high schools in the Delaware Valley for their efforts in environmental service projects that enhance and improve the quality of life in their communities.
Each year one high school and one middle school receive a $5,000 honorarium to further their environmental programs. Eight schools in the tri-state area have been recognized for their outstanding programs.
In 2009, Interboro High School in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania was recognized for its kindergarten student mentoring program revolving around the environment and St. Francis Xavier School in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia won for its creatively designed “art garden” reflecting themes from its neighbor, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Environmental Community Service Award application is available online. Applications should be sent electronically from an official school email address to: The application must be signed by a school official. It can also be mailed to Wawa, Public Relations Department, 260 Baltimore Pike, Wawa, PA 19063. For more information, schools can call Wawa’s Customer Call Center at 1-800-444-9292.

PennVEST Changes Meeting, Application Deadlines

The PA Infrastructure Investment Authority published notice of changes to its meeting and application deadline schedule. (formal notice)
The Authority has canceled its January 26 and April 20 meetings and will instead have one meetime on March 23.
The new application deadline is January 19. The February 16 application deadline is canceled. For more information, visit the PennVEST webpage.

Friday NewsClips

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall In State
Coalition Sees Jobs In Clean Energy
Old Electronics Find Vital New Role
Native Americans Will thank Nemacolin For Animal Sanctuary
Fallingwater Begins Fund Raise Selling Pieces Of Wright Gem
Railroads Hope To Deliver For Natural Gas Industry
Editorial: EU Wants U.S. To Take On Burden Of Climate Control
CAN DO: Wetlands Detracting Business
Butler Twp. Receives Loan To Buy Geothermal System For Center
Luzerne County Could Save $110K With Conservation District Help
Labor Leaders, Environmental Push For Union Works To Fill Green Jobs
Montco To Begin Work On $35 Million Open Space Plan
PPenn State Schuylkill Goes Green With Solar Panels

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2010 Wild Resource Conservation Calendar Now Available

The Wild Resource Conservation Program now has available a new calendar for 2010 featuring Pennsylvania animals at risk of becoming threatened, endangered or extinct for a variety of reasons.
As people pave over more land for their homes, shopping centers, and roads our animals lose their habitat. Pollution from cars, industrial plants, and farms end up in our waterways, making streams and rivers inhospitable for most plants and animals. The growing threat of hotter temperatures and stronger storms caused by climate change means that these animals must adapt, move, or die.
The animals in the 2010 Wild Resource Conservation Program online calendar are some that may face particular risks due to their limited habitat and sensitivity.
Download or print out a copy to learn more about these animals and how you can help protect them.

Thursday NewsClips

Drilling Expansion Stirs Environmental Fears
Op-Ed: Gas Drillers Aren't Paying Their Fair Share, Rep. George
SRBC Proposes Monitors For Streams In Marcellus Shale Region
Mon Wharf Riverfront Trail Nearly Complete
Penn State Students Protest Campus Coal Use
Architect Lectures On Green Building
Green Career Opportunities Available In Surprising Fields
Rep. Pickett C-Chairs Hearing On Gas Drilling
Milton Area School District Solar Project Discussed
Out-Of-State Drillers Worry Local Staff
League Of Women Voters Studies Effects Of Natural Gas Drilling
Range Resources Holds Safety Drill In Lycoming County
Eliminating Natural Hazards In Lycoming County
New Map Alters Luzerne County Flood Risk

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

DEP Proposes New Wastewater Standards For Drilling Operations, Wastewater Plants

The Environmental Quality Board published proposed regulations on November 7 for public comment outlining changes in Total Dissolved Solids discharge standards prompted by concerns over natural gas drilling wastewater. (formal notice)
The EQB is holding four public hearings on the new proposed limits in December--
-- December 14 - 5:00 p.m., Cranberry Township Municipal Building, Cranberry Twp.;
-- December 15 - 5:00 p.m., DEP Cambria District Office, Ebensburg;
-- December 16 - 5:00 p.m., DEP Northcentral Regional Office, Williamsport; and
-- December 17 - 5:00 p.m., Lehigh County Government Center, Allentown.
The Department of Environmental Protection made the announcement of the new limits at the Marcellus Shale Wastewater Technology Partnership and said they are designed tol protect aquatic life and drinking water supplies.
“High total dissolved solids in industrial wastewater have been a problem in the Monongahela River recently and are an impending problem on a statewide level,” DEP Secretary John Hanger said. “We are establishing base standards for this water so dischargers move towards actually treating TDS in industrial wastewater, rather than simply depending on dilution to protect water quality.
“DEP and the natural gas drilling industry created the wastewater technology partnership in 2008 to investigate and deploy new technologies for treating wastewater from natural gas drilling and production within two years. It is vital that new treatment methods are instituted so that public municipal drinking water supplies and other industrial uses are not disadvantaged by increased total dissolved solids and chlorides in our surface waters and that developing our natural gas reserves is not unduly constrained.”
Pennsylvania’s streams must assimilate total dissolved solids from a variety of wastewater sources besides oil and gas well drilling. The primary sources of these pollutants are stormwater runoff and pollutant discharges from industrial activities.
The state’s rivers and streams are also burdened by uncontrolled discharges from abandoned coal mines. Wastewater from certain industrial operations is high in chlorides (salt) and sulfates which affect the taste and odor of drinking water and, in high concentrations, can damage or destroy aquatic life.
Drinking water treatment facilities are not normally equipped to treat these contaminants and rely on normally low levels of chlorides and sulfates in surface waters used for drinking water supplies.
The deadline for comments on the proposed TSD limit change is February 5.
For more information, click here for the formal notice and visit the TDS Strategy webpage.
DEP Detects TDS Over Standards In Monongahela River
DEP Works To Address Increasing TDS Levels In Monongahela
Water Quality monitoring Network Formed - River Alert And Information Network
DEP To Set New Wastewater Standards For Drilling Operations Effective Jan. 2011

Tuesday NewsClips

State To Lease Forest Land For Gas Drilling
State To Lease 32,000 Acres For Gas Drilling
State Identifies 32,000 Acres Of Forest For Gas Drilling
PA Opens More Land To Lease For Drilling
Environmental Groups Not Happy With Chesapeake Bay Plan
Jacobs Creek Watershed Group Gets Director
Pitt Project Examining Environmental Threats In Region
Lancaster County Targeted In Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan
Roaring Run Trail Rolls Out Fifth, Final Mile

Monday, November 9, 2009

DCNR Offers 31,968 Acres Of State Forest For Gas Leasing

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acting Secretary John Quigley today unveiled a responsible plan for leasing state forest lands that, he said, balances the state's environmental and fiscal obligations on behalf of the public.
The department will open six tracts of land, totaling approximately 31,967 acres, for a lease sale of subsurface oil and gas rights. The tracks are located in the Elk, Moshannon, Sproul, Susquehannock and Tioga state forests in Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Potter and Tioga counties.
In announcing the plan, Quigley said the department was especially diligent in evaluating which tracts to make available and that the nearly 32,000 acres constituting the upcoming lease sale represent just a small fraction of the state's 2.1 million acres of state-owned forest land.
"Our approach to making state lands available for natural gas drilling has always been to limit the impact on the surface and on other uses of the land," said Acting Secretary Quigley. "We've been exceptionally mindful of our obligations as we developed this plan to balance our environmental responsibilities and the budget."
"For about a year, DCNR has been working to prepare a lease sale. We chose these tracts of land after extensive environmental reviews to protect the health of the forest now and in the future, to allow for gas and timber extraction and public recreation, and to keep ecosystems intact that support a diversity of wildlife and plants. In total, these tracts represent a little more than 1.5 percent of our total state forest land," Acting Secretary Quigley said.
Prospective bidders must provide to DCNR proof of registration to do business in Pennsylvania before 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12. Pre-qualified bidders may submit sealed bids for leases on each of the six tracts to DCNR until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12, 2010, at which time the bids will be opened publicly.
A list of bidders and the award decisions will be posted the DCNR Web site within 24 hours.
Leases will be awarded to the highest bidder based on the amount of the first year's land rental. A lease covers annual land rental amounts and possible royalties to be paid based on the volume of gas extracted.
This lease sale requires a minimum bid of $2,000 an acre and royalties of 18 percent.
Revenues generated from a lease sale go to the Oil and Gas Lease Fund. The fiscal year 2009-10 budget requires DCNR to raise $60 million from a lease sale on state forest lands.
"Only a small portion of the total acreage will be used for well site location," Acting Secretary Quigley said. "For each tract, we have identified the number of well pads that will be allowed and we will encourage developers to use existing roads. Additionally, there are portions of the tracts that cannot be developed on the surface in order to protect wild or natural areas, ecosystems, water bodies, recreational opportunities, and visual impacts from vistas and trails."
Lease sales are developed by first receiving recommendations from natural gas drillers on which tracts of land they are interested in developing to ensure there is interest in areas. DCNR then conducts a comprehensive environmental review to make certain no environmental risks are present.
Additional environmental reviews are done when developers apply for the permits necessary to drill a well.
Gas companies are required to submit competitive bids for the offered state forest acreage. Highest responsible bidders may then be issued contracts, but DCNR retains ownership and complete control of the land.
The primary lease term is 10 years, although that term may be extended based on the production of any wells on the tract. A gas well may produce for several decades or more.
Since 1947, the department has held 73 lease sales, the last of which was in 2008. Currently, about 660,000 acres of state forest are under lease for gas production, with about 750 wells in production. Click here for more information.

Fish And Boat Commission Seeking Applicants For Sporting/Aquatic Education Grants

The Fish and Boat Commission is encouraging local governments, community groups and sportsman’s clubs providing fishing, boating and water safety and aquatic resource education programs to apply for funding through the agency’s Sporting and Aquatic Education Grant Program. Applications are due January 30.
Grantees can receive up to $5,000 from the PFBC. This funding can be applied to the purchase of equipment, materials and costs associated with field trips.
“Re-engaging youth in outdoor activities is critical to the future of boating, sportfishing and building a more environmentally connected citizenry,” says PFBC Executive Director Doug Austen. “Research clearly shows that good, well-structured youth fishing and boating programs lead to kids increasing their interest in fishing and boating, improving their skills, and helping them build a greater sense of aquatic stewardship and outdoor ethics. It’s not enough for us as an agency to talk about wanting more and better programs to involve Pennsylvania’s youth in fishing, boating, and aquatic education. Funding must be made available for programs and services benefiting youth, and this grant program is a start.”
The education grant program started in June 2006. Since then, the Commission has received more than 161 applications requesting nearly $670,000. More than 50 organizations have received $230,000 through the Education Grant Program.
Successful applicants will be notified by April 15. Applications, program rules and eligibility information are available on the Commission’s website by calling 717-705-7842.

Monday NewsClips

The House returns to voting session today. There is no agreement yet on the remaining budget issues-- table games, casino reform and non-preferred funding for colleges like Penn State.
Mine Rehabilitation Touched Off Commercial Development Explosion
Going Green With Stimulus - Weatherization
Wissahickon Growing Greener Hosts Climate Change Workshop
Editorial: State On Right Track With Climate Plan
Deer-Vehicle Collisions Rise In PA
Interest Soars Across State In Marcellus Shale Drilling
Energy Key To Overall Security
Editorial: Strange, New Argument For Climate Change Initiative
Price Tag For Septic Oversight Rises As Agency Closes
Penn School Earns Energy Award
Anglers May Want To attend Gas Drilling Meeting
Sewer Rates To Rise In Hazleton Area
Natural Gas Quest: EPA To Review Safety Of Fracking Process
Editorial: Energy Key To Overall Security
Let The Sun Shine For Energy
Pipelines A Must For Marcellus Drilling To Take Place
Pike County/Region Develops Gas Lease Map
PA Tells Drilling Company To Clean Up Its Act
Schuylkill Officials See Savings With Energy Plan
Clarion County Mine Projects Receive Contracts
$58 Million Loss For Agency Responsible For Monitoring Gas-Drilling Boom

Friday, November 6, 2009

Nov. 9 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The Nov. 9 PA Environment Digest is now available. Click here to print this Digest.

The Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. have executed a consent order and agreement that will provide a long-term solution for migrating gas that has affected 13 water supplies in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County. The affected area covers nine square miles around Carter Road. Click here for full story...

Shawn M. Garvin Named EPA Region 3 Administrator

President Barack Obama this week selected Shawn M. Garvin to be the agency’s new Regional Administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region (Region 3). This region encompasses Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
"I look forward to working closely with Shawn on the range of urgent environmental issues we face, in region 3 and across the nation," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "At this moment of great challenge and even greater opportunity, I'm thrilled that Shawn will be part of our leadership team at EPA. He will certainly play an instrumental role in our agency's mission to protect our health and the environment."
Shawn M. Garvin has worked for EPA Region 3 for more than 10 years and currently serves as EPA Region 3’s Senior State and Congressional Liaison. In that position he serves as the primary contact to Congressional delegations and state and local officials throughout the region. He joined EPA in 1997, serving as Special Assistant to the Regional Administrator.
Prior to that, Garvin worked for then-Senator Joe Biden and County Executive Dennis Greenhouse. Garvin earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware.

December 3 Workshop On Dam Removal For Watershed Groups

American Rivers and the Fish and Boat Commission are sponsoring a workshop for watershed groups, local conservation organizations, land trusts and municipal environmental planners for dam removal project managers on December 3 in Harrisburg.
The workshop will be held at the Fish and Boat Commission headquarters on Elmerton Avenue. Space will be limited to 40 participants and reservations are required.
For more information send email to Sara Strassman, American Rivers at

DCNR Proposes 4,248 Acre Land Exchange In Northwest, Public Meetings Scheduled

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources published notice of a proposed exchange of 4,248 acres of land in Crawford, Jefferson, Clarion, McKean and Elk counties.
The Department is proposing to convey 4,248 acres in North Shenango, Sadsbury and Pine Townships, Crawford County and 2 acres in Heath Township, Jefferson County to the Commission. In return, the Commission proposes to convey 4,573 acres in Highland and Mill Creek Townships, Clarion County, 181 acres in Heath Township, Jefferson County, 10 acres in Hamlin Township, McKean County and 52 acres in Spring Creek Township, Elk County to the Department. All acreages are approximate.
Two public informational meetings have been scheduled to respond to any questions or concerns the general public may have regarding this exchange of lands.
A meeting in Crawford County has been scheduled for November 17 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Linesville High School Library, 302 West School Drive, Linesville, PA. For more information, call 724-932-3142.
A meeting in Clarion County has been scheduled for Thursday, November 19, 2009, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Clarion Holiday Inn, 45 Holiday Inn Road, Clarion, PA. For more information, call 814-744-8407.
There will be a 30-day period for public inquiry and/or comment starting November 14 and ending December 14.
Oral or written comments or questions concerning this proposed exchange may be addressed to John Norbeck, Director, Bureau of State Parks, P. O. Box 8551, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8551, telephone 717-787-6640. These oral and/or written comments will become part of the official document used in the final decision process.

Friday NewsClips

Marcellus Wastewater Treatment Bids Sought
Cabot OKs Remedies For Contamination
Drilling Company Vows It's Cautious
Water Quality Issues Surface At Conference
Bushkill Creek Trail Work to Begin Soon
Open Space Panel Needs Members In Upper Saucon
Get $35 From PPL For Junking Old Refrigerator, Freezer
Editorial: Appalachian Trail Could Be In Jeopardy
Hearing On PPL Rate Plan Draws Few
Blow Wind, Blow - Home Windmills
Op-Ed: Cap And Trade Vs. PA, Pat Toomey
Harrisburg Authority Lawsuit Blamed Barlow For Botched Retrofit
New Store Opens To Meet Demands Of Natural Gas Industry
Renovation Begins On Solar House In Delaware Water Gap
Editorial: Climate Changes Brings PA New Opportunities
Gas Company Slapped With Environmental Violations
Wyoming Valley Authority Eyes Treatment Of Marcellus Shale Wastewater
EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region Gets New Administrator
Borough Has Chance To Make Green History

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