Thursday, June 30, 2011

Senate, House Pass On-Time, No Tax State Budget

The Senate and House gave final approval tonight, voting along party lines, to approve the General Fund budget bill-- House Bill 1485 (Adolph-R-Delaware)-- which contains $27.1 billion in spending and a 4.1 percent reduction from the FY 2010-11 General Fund budget. They also passed all the accompanying implementing bills, including a school tax referendum badly wanted by Gov. Corbett.

Gov. Corbett is expected to sign the budget before the midnight deadline.

Some General Fund Highlights

-- FY 2010-11 will end with about $750 million in surplus revenue;

-- About $150 million in surplus revenue from FY 2010-11 is used in the FY 2011-12;

-- $50 million in state surplus revenue and $50 million in legislative reserve funds booked last year and next fiscal year will go for public schools;

-- $70 million in payments to nursing homes put off until FY 2012-13;

-- Continuation of the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax which drops from 2.89 to 1.89 mills;

-- 100 percent accelerated depreciation on business expenses at a cost of $200 million;

-- No tax on Marcellus Shale drilling;

-- $200 million reduction, about 19 percent, in support for higher education;

-- 10 percent decrease in funding for community colleges;

-- $10.6 billion decrease for the Department of Public Welfare, 0.5 percent;

-- 7 percent increase in debt service payments;

-- 110 percent increase in school employee pension payments;

-- 35 percent decrease in the Department of Community and Economic Development;

-- No change in the Department of Corrections; and

-- Does not include Gov. Corbett's proposed Liberty Loan Fund.

House Republicans put out a summary of the General Fund budget as well as a line item summary of appropriations. House Democrats put together their own view of the Republican General Fund budget and a separate fact sheet on public welfare issues.

The related bills include:

-- Senate Bill 907 (Browne-R-Lehigh) the Fiscal Code;

-- House Bill 1352 (Stephens-R-Montgomery) the Education Code;

-- House Bill 960 (Gringrich-R-Lebanon) the Welfare Code;

-- Senate Bill 330 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) school tax referendum;

-- Senate Bill 1062 (Corman-R-Centre) Gaming Board funding; and

-- Non-Preferred funding for Penn State, Pitt, Temple, Lincoln, University of Pennsylvania in House Bills 1727, 1728, 1729, 1730, 1731.

Note: more tomorrow in the PA Environment Digest.

Air Quality Action Day Forecast In Pittsburgh For July 1

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Southwest Pennsylvania Air Quality Partnership have forecast an air quality action day for Friday, July 1, in the Pittsburgh forecasting region.
On air quality action days, young children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems, such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution and should limit outdoor activities.
The air quality forecast predicts Friday to be code ORANGE for ozone in the Pittsburgh region. The Pittsburgh region includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's standardized air quality index uses colors to report daily air quality. Green signifies good; yellow means moderate; orange represents unhealthy pollution levels for sensitive people; and red warns of unhealthy pollution levels for all.
Ground-level ozone, a key component of smog, forms during warm weather when pollution from vehicles, industry, households and power plants "bakes" in the hot sun, making it hard for some people to breathe.
To help keep the air healthy, residents and businesses are encouraged to voluntarily limit certain pollution-producing activities by taking the following steps: Ride the bus or carpool to work; Wash dishes and clothes only with full loads; and Save energy by turning off unused lights in your home.
These forecasts are provided in conjunction with the Southwest Pennsylvania Air Quality Partnership.

Help Wanted: PA Council Of Trout Unlimited AmeriCorps Position

PA Council of Trout Unlimited is seeking a full-time AmeriCorps service position, managed through the Pennsylvania Mountain Service Corps. Applications are due July 22.
This position will begin August 22 and go through August 17, 2011. The AmeriCorps member receives a living stipend of $12,100 and health care benefits. Upon completion of service, Americorps members earn an Education Award of $5,550 that can be used to pay for college, graduate school or to repay qualified student loans. Current student loans will be placed in forbearance during the year of service to the AmeriCorps program.
The position is based out of the Fish and Boat Commission office in Pleasant Gap, Pa.
Click Here for the complete announcement.

KPB: Applications Now Being Accepted For Fresh Paint Days PA

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful announced their new program, Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania, and is currently accepting applications. Applications must be received by July 31.
Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania is designed to provide community groups with paint and painting supplies enabling them to renew a community structure in need into something beautiful through the application of fresh paint and a lot of elbow grease.
This annual event is held in partnership with support from PPG PITTSBURGH Paints and The Home Depot.
The 2011 Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania will take place in September. During this month-long period, ten grant awardees along with their volunteers will be eligible for up to 40 gallons of exterior paint and $200 in painting supplies.
The Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania grant is available to any tax-exempt group within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Private property owners or individual applicants cannot apply.
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will select the ten winning projects from among applications submitted.
Applications must meet the following requirements to be considered – only one building per application, proof of liability insurance, signed permission to paint from the building owner, and two before photos of the intended project. Selected awardees must also agree to provide a final report with during and after photos.
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will also provide two of the awardees an additional $500 from PPG Pittsburgh Paints and The Home Depot at the end of the project for community improvement projects, based on reporting and the winner of two criteria; best visual impact and best community revitalization story.
“We are proud supporters of Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania,” said Dori Marks, senior marketing manager, PPG Industries. “It is a valuable new program and I really want to encourage community groups in Pennsylvania to take full advantage of this great opportunity.”
“Through our partnership with PPG Pittsburgh Paints and The Home Depot, Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania empowers community groups to take a direct role in community revitalization efforts,” explains Shannon Reiter, President of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. “Something as simple as a fresh coat of paint on a public library or community center sends a strong message that we care about our communities.”
Grants will be awarded mid-August 2011.
For more information or to download the application or contact Michelle Dunn, Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania Program Coordinator, at 1-877-772-3673 ext. 113 or send email to:

Thursday NewsClips

State Budget Defines Losers, Winners
Budget Sent To Governor, Continues Severe Rendell Cuts To Environmental Protection
Re-Funding Growing Greener - Rep. Kate Harper
With Funding Cut, PSU Expects To Curtail Agriculture Research
Op-Ed: Marcellus Shale Commission Wants What's Best For PA
Op-Ed: Unbiased Research Needed For Gas Drilling Industry
New Jersey Passes Ban On Gas Well Fracking
Altmire Leads Discussion On Marcellus Shale
Feds Accuse PA Rig Worker Of Damaging Pipeline
Lake Wallenpaupack Drawdown Coming This Fall
Casey Asks Probe Of Evac Plans For Nukes
Berks County Gets $170,00 Growing Greener Grant For Lake Development
Lower Dauphin's School Goes Green As It Grows
Kistler 5th Graders Complete Watershed Field Project
A Stream, A Local And A President And Fly Fishing
PPL Seeks Public Comment On Power Line
State Study Details Turbine Bat And Bird Deaths
CONSOL Takes Charge To Shutter PA Mine
New Trail Is In Planning Stage In Wilkes-Barre
Column: PA Hawk Mountain Is Now A Safe Haven
Coalition Applauds Legislation To End Sunday Hunting Ban In PA
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

FY 2011-12 General Fund Budget To Governor, Continuing Severe Rendell Cuts To Environmental Protection Programs

After five and a half hours of debate, the House voted 109 to 92 to send the General Fund budget bill- -House Bill 1485 (Adolph-R-Delaware)-- to the Governor for his signature. The House continues marching through other legislation.

Funding for both the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources were slight below the proposal made in March by Gov. Corbett: DEP- $4.5 million less and DCNR- $3.1 million less. Click Here for more details on environmental funding changes.

On the Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee issue, efforts in the House and Senate by both Republican and Democratic members fell apart after Gov. Corbett specifically threatened to veto any impact fee bill sent to his desk before the Governor's Marcellus Shale Commission submits its report in July.

There were no steps taken to renew the nationally recognized Growing Greener Program.

During the last eight years of the Rendell Administration, DEP's General Fund budget has been cut by 40.9 percent ($245.6 million to $147 million), DCNR by 23.7 percent ($108.8 million to $82.4 million) and the Department of Agriculture by 35.2 percent ($76.1 million to $62.8 million) from the FY 2010-11 to FY 2002-03 budget.

The Rendell Administration did finalize permit fee increases totaling about $27.7 million to in-part to offset some of these cuts, but they in no way made up for them.

Complement levels at DEP were reduced from 3,211 in FY 2002-03 to 2,776 now, even less if you take out the 105 positions DEP added for the Marcellus Shale drilling inspection and permit program.
In addition, over 100 DEP Air, Waste and Water Quality field staff use all or part of their time to act as managers for federal stimulus projects, projects funded by the Energy Harvest and PA Energy Development Authority programs taking time away from permit reviews, inspections and compliance activities.
The FY 2009-10 budget cuts alone required DEP and DCNR to furlough or eliminate 333 full time positions. DCNR had to eliminate or reduce hours for 1,131 seasonal workers, putting appropriations for DEP at 1994 levels and for DCNR at 1995-96 levels.
The new budget will further reduce DEP complement levels by 69 positions.
One result of all these cuts is the permit review backlog DEP said was already building in 2009 and in truth the last 7 years, delaying hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development projects across the state.
Complement levels at DCNR were 1,391 in FY 2002-03 to 1,389 positions of which 1,289 positions are filled.
House Republicans put out a summary of the General Fund budget as well as a line item summary of appropriations.

Call For Presentations: 2012 Keystone Coldwater Conference Feb. 24-25 In State College

The 10th Keystone Coldwater conference will be held in State College on February 24-25 with the theme, "Responsible Land use: Protecting Habitat and Native Species."
The Coldwater Heritage Partnership and other conference organizers are now accepting proposals for presentations and posters for this special event through September 2.
Proposals are welcome on topics related to the protection of coldwater resources as Pennsylvania continues to develop. Priority will be give to the following 7 topics: landscape fragmentation, buffer maintenance, stormwater management, access to waterways, invasive species, development (pervious/ impervious) and agriculture.
Organizers want to hear about your ideas, projects and success stories. Presentations should highlight research, case studies, proactive community action, policy and regulations, or targeted outreach and advocacy that have played a part in ensuring environmental protection.
More information and guidelines for presentations are available online.
Submit presentations to: PA Council of Trout Unlimited, PO Box 5148, Bellefonte, PA 16823, Attn: Coldwater Conference Committee, send email to: Samantha Kutskel at or call 814-359-5233

Wednesday NewsClips

Senate Puts Corbett's Budget On Track To Passage
Senate Passes $27.1 Billion Budget
Corbett Says He Would Veto Impact Fee Sent Now
Shale Drilling Fee Again Off Table In Budget Talks
Debate On Gas Drillers' Impact Fee Put Off
Natural Gas Levy Vote Pulled From House Agenda
No Go On Natural Gas Drilling Impact Fee
State Official Argues For More Funds To Keep Eye On Drilling
How A Natural Gas Tycoon Tapped Into Corbett
New Lease Guide Available For Landowners
New Natural Gas Lease Guide Available For Landowners
DEP Fines Gas Company For Somerset County Spill
Drilling Firm Pays $180,000 For Oil Spill
EPA Proposes $157,500 Fine For Allegheny Forest Brine Dumping
Shale Drilling Forum Produces Heat, Light
Natural Gas Data Needs More Scrutiny
Lawmakers Seek Inquiry Of Natural Gas Industry
Radnor-Based Driller Posts Disappointing Marcellus Production
Op-Ed: Texas Shale Lessons
Editorial: Stop Dithering Over Gas Drilling
Editorial: Marcellus Boom, Bust At Same Time?
Home Builders Sues EPA Over New Chesapeake Bay Pollution Rules
Up The Raccoon Creek With A Net
SRBC Explains Possible Draw Down Of Curwensville Lake
Disc Golf Plan Moves Forward In Strasburg Township
Wissahickon Watershed Assn Featured In Rep. Harper's TV Program
Robinson Twp. Power Plant Plan Faces Battle
Waste Management Stint Trashed From Guv's Bio
Foundry To Reactivate Furnace, Pollution Curbed
Exelon Reviewing Shoreline Management Plan For Muddy Run
Game Commission Asks State To Remove Ban On Sunday Hunting
Bad Bug Imperils State's Ash Trees
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Senate Passes On-Time, No-Tax $27.1 Billion General Fund Budget, House Next Stop

The Senate tonight voted along party lines to approve the General Fund budget bill-- House Bill 1485 (Adolph-R-Delaware)-- which contains $27.1 billion in spending and a 4.1 percent reduction from the FY 2010-11 General Fund budget. The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.

A summary of the environmental provisions in the budget is available on this Blog.

At the same time, House Republicans amended and moved a Fiscal Code bill to implement the Republican budget agreement-- Senate Bill 907 (Browne-R-Lehigh). The bill include language related to taking over the City of Harrisburg's financial problems. The Senate did end up passing Senate Bill 1151 (Piccola-R-Dauphin) on taking over Harrisburg after it was delayed by extensive Senate debate. The Fiscal Code bill was then referred back to the House Appropriations Committee for more work.

The House Republicans also recovered from yesterday's votes on the non-preferred appropriations bills for Pitt, Penn State, Temple, Lincoln and the University of Pennsylvania by passing House Bills 1727, 1728, 1729, 1730 and 1731 by the necessary two-thirds votes.

The Senate then moved the non-preferred House bills through Senate Appropriations and onto the Senate Floor in record time. At the same time, the Senate passed their own companion non-preferred funding bills-- Senate Bills 1122, 1123, 1124, 1125, and 1126-- this time unanimously and sent them to the House. Clearly there is more work to do on whose bills will go to the Governor's desk.

The Senate adopted an omnibus Education Code amendment to House Bill 1352 (Stephens-R-Montgomery), which is to be the vehicle for a variety of education program changes, and passed the bill and returned it to the House for a concurrence vote. The bill originally provided for additional background checks of prospective school employees.

The Senate Education Committee is due to consider House Bill 1330 (Quigley-R-Montgomery) providing an increase in the Education Improvement Tax Credit Program tomorrow.

On Welfare Code issues, the Senate passed House Bill 960 (Gringrich-R-Lebanon) which provides for verifying income eligibility for welfare programs and for inmate medical costs. The bill is on the Senate Calendar for action.

On gaming issues, the Senate today returned Senate Bill 1062 (Corman-R-Centre) to the House containing the Gaming Board appropriations for a concurrence vote, but without the transfer of the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement to the Attorney General added by the House.

Marcellus Shale Fee

On the Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee issue, efforts in the House by both Republican and Democratic members, including Rep. David Reed (R-Indiana), the Chair of the Republican Policy Committee, fell apart to consider impact fee amendments after Gov. Corbett specifically threatened to veto any impact fee bill sent to his desk before the Governor's Marcellus Shale Commission submits its report at the end of July.

General Fund Budget

The entire budget was negotiated by Senate and House Republicans and the Corbett Administration without input from the Democratic minorities in each chamber, a point speakers in the Senate made over and over, and over, again.

Senate and House Republicans touted the fact the budget contains no new taxes and matches expenditures and state revenues.

"This bill represents a fiscally responsible, sustainable budget with no tax increases," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi's (R-Delaware). "This is a transitional year for state government. Over the past 3 years Pennsylvania has received $7 billion in budget assistance from the federal government. Those days are over. This year marks a return to a state budget paid for with state revenue. It is difficult and necessary to reset state spending to reflect that new reality."

"We are very pleased to be voting today on a general budget bill that meets the Governor's parameters," said Sen. Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson), President Pro Tempore. "It spends less than last year, it spends without our revenues. The bill has no tax increases. There are no WAMs (legislative walking around money). And it has a significant tax decrease for job creators. And this budget will be on time, the first time in 8 years on time and signed by the Governor."

House Fails To Take Up Marcellus Impact Fee Amendments

The House failed to take up any of the Marcellus Shale impact fee amendments filed to several bills on the House Calendar.
Shale Drilling Fee Again Off Table In Budget Talks
Corbett Says He Would Veto Impact Fee Sent Now

Sen. Baker's Gas Wellsite Safety Bill Passes Senate

The Senate today passed Senate Bill 995 (Baker-R-Luzerne) designed to maximize wellsite safety and improve community protections.
The changes will reduce the risk for workers, first responders and the community when things go wrong at drilling sites, according to Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), who sponsored the measure.
"At its heart, this bill requires well operators to meet the most basic rules of public safety," Sen. Baker said. "Plan ahead. Tell us where your wells are. Give us clear directions to each site. Call at the first sign of trouble."
Sen. Baker's legislation requires gas well operators to post signs bearing their GPS coordinates and other emergency response information at all wellsites and to share those coordinates with appropriate state, county and local officials. Emergency response plans must also be developed and shared with state, county and local officials.
Currently, firefighters, ambulance crews, and haz-mat teams may not be told where wells are being planned, or where the access roads to those sites begin. Sen. Baker's measure requires that notification be triggered in the earliest stages of planning, rather than after waste is discharged or chemicals are brought on-site.
"This bill ensures the development of a complete emergency plan, covering every stage from road clearing and well-pad preparation through well closure," Sen. Baker added.

House To Consider Shale Drilling Fee This Afternoon

State House To Consider Shale Drilling Fee This Afternoon
Blog: House To Begin Shale Impact Fee Debate This Afternoon
Corbett Says He'll Veto Whatever Marcellus Fee Passes
Click Here to watch the House session live online.

DEP Fines Chief Oil & Gas $180,000 for Oil Spill, Waste Violations

The Department of Environmental Protection announced today that Chief Oil & Gas LLC has paid $180,000 in civil penalties for a hydraulic oil spill and for failing to properly maintain a drill pit at a Marcellus Shale natural gas well in Jefferson Township, Somerset County.
A June 10, 2010 site inspection by DEP found evidence of the discharge of hydraulic oil onto the ground. Operators are required to notify DEP of any spills of that nature because the oil is classified as a residual waste. Chief did not notify DEP of the spill and was not permitted to discharge residual waste at the site.
Chief Oil & Gas has since successfully remediated the site.

House GOP Releases Revised General Fund Budget Spreadsheet

House Republicans just released a revised FY 2011-12 General Fund budget spreadsheet correcting some minor errors. A summary of the General Fund budget proposal was also made available.

Commissioners Welcome Pam Witmer To Public Utility Commission

The Public Utility Commission today welcomed Pamela A. Witmer of Dauphin County to the Commission and thanked the Senate for its unanimous confirmation vote in support of her nomination.
"My colleagues and I are very pleased to welcome Pam to the Commission," Chairman Robert F. Powelson said. "Pam possesses the character, drive, knowledge of the issues and aptitude to be a vital part of the Commission. In my view, Gov. Corbett has made a wise choice in Pam Witmer."
On June 23, the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee unanimously approved Gov. Tom Corbett's June 7 nomination of Witmer as PUC Commissioner.
In her confirmation hearing remarks, Witmer promised she would be a "strong, independent Commissioner, thinker and decision-maker on behalf of Pennsylvania's consumers."
Witmer most recently led the energy and environment practice for Harrisburg-based Bravo Group, a governmental and public relations firm. From 2000 to 2007, she was President and CEO of the PA Chemical Industry Council, a trade association.
She formerly served in the Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Tom Ridge as the lead legislative liaison, where she successfully steered legislation through the General Assembly to create the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. She also served on the Corbett Transition Team's Energy & Environment Committee.
Witmer earned a bachelor's degree in public service from the Pennsylvania State University. She lives in Hummelstown, Dauphin County.
Witmer will succeed Commissioner Tyrone J. Christy, whose term on the PUC has expired and whose last Public Meeting will be June 30.

PEC: New Marcellus Shale Conservation Guide Designed To Help In Gas Leasing

Property owners faced with a decision about leasing the mineral rights beneath their land for Marcellus Shale gas drilling have a new tool to help them understand their options and make more informed choices.
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide is a set of lease guidelines and principles that property owners can use with the help of an attorney to understand the environmental risks and rewards of mineral rights leasing. Homeowners, farm owners and private landowners throughout Western Pennsylvania now face decisions about the use of their land from drilling companies and many more will soon face similar challenges.
Developed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the Marcellus Shale Lease Guide is intended as a helpful resource for Pennsylvania residents who are considering leasing their property for Marcellus Shale gas production, or who have decided to lease and are beginning the negotiating process.
It identifies key environmental issues that can be addressed in a lease, summarizes the types of approaches that have been used to address these issues in other Marcellus Shale gas leases in Pennsylvania, and offers options for handling these issues in a more protective lease, using best management practices employed in oil and gas leasing both in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
The Lease Guide is also available online where individuals can weigh in with additional suggestions for protective lease provisions.
“The perfect Marcellus Shale gas lease doesn’t exist,” says John Walliser, vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. “The drilling companies have standard lease agreements that they prefer to use, but those standard leases aren’t always designed to meet the specific interests of the property owner or to protect the unique features of the property. The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide provides a menu of approaches for the property owner to use with their attorney in crafting lease language for that best suits their own individual circumstances.“
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide was developed to help property owners navigate the complex and constantly-changing issues related to natural gas drilling and extraction. The scale of the Marcellus Shale play throughout Pennsylvania is vast and the race among drillers to secure mineral rights in hundreds of communities is already going strong. But in many cases, property owners lack the experience, resources or expertise to engage gas companies in negotiations that will ultimately lead to mutually beneficial agreements.
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide is not meant to replace the expertise of qualified professionals, but simply to help citizens and their lawyers alike understand the various environmental issues associated with a new industry and its practices in their negotiations with gas industry representatives pursuing the mineral rights. Users should still do their own research, talk to other property owners who have had similar experience, and retain the services of an oil and gas attorney before signing any documents related to the mineral rights associated with their property.
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide is publicly available online free of charge and is based on feedback from landowners and other conservation interests. “We created the Marcellus Shale Lease Guide to help landowners become better informed about the wide range of potential environmental and conservation issues associated with Marcellus Shale development” said PEC’s Walliser. “We intend to continually update the guide as new information or new management practices arise.”
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide provides a wealth of useful information that property owners can use to do their own research, including other resources and research tools that are readily available online or in print. It also explains how Marcellus Shale gas well development is different from Pennsylvania’s existing laws and regulations governing oil and gas extraction.
Additionally, it provides specific advice for landowners to incorporate into their lease agreements on such issues as farmland use, erosion control, emergency response plans, impacts to existing structures, fencing, noise control, pollution prevention, seismic testing, property access rights by gas company personnel, impact on wildlife and timber, and many other issues.
The complete document is available online.

House Republican Leader To Offer Marcellus Impact Fee, Oil And Gas Fund Proposal

Rep. David Reed (R-Indiana), Chair of the Republican Policy Committee, has filed an amendment to Senate Bill 303 (MJ White-R-Venango) now on the House Calendar which would allocate monies from the Oil and Gas Fund to support the Growing Greener Program and establish a per well Marcellus Shale impact fee
The proposal has two parts--
-- Transfers from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund:
-- 25 percent of the available yearly ending balance to the Environmental Stewardship Fund;
-- 7.5 percent of the available yearly ending balance up to $7.5 million to payment in lieu of taxes to communities with State Forest land;
-- 1 percent of the available yearly ending balance up to $3 million to a Catastrophic Fund associated with unconventional wells;
-- $40 million to the Hazardous Site Clean Up Fund. This transfer will be updated annually based on the CPI (inflation rate).
-- Marcellus Shale Per Well Impact Fee:
-- Fee Schedule: Year 1: $50,000; Year 2: $25,000; Year 3: $25,000; Year 4: $10,000; Year 5: $10,000; Year 6: $10,000; Year 7: $10,000; Year 8: $10,000; Year 9: $10,000; Year 10: $10,000;
-- In cased when a well is re-stimulated (re-fracked) the fee rate reverts back to $10,000 per year for 5 additional years. If an existing well is used to drill to a different strata (Utica) then the impact fee structure resets at year 2 ($25,000).
-- Revenues collected under this fee are distributed as follows: 37.5 percent to host counties; 10 percent to host counties dedicated to EMS and first responders; 25 percent to host municipalities on a per well basis; 17.5 percent to all municipalities within a host county; 10 percent to Conservation Districts.

Tuesday NewsClips

Senate Vote Expected As Budget Unfolds
No Raises Appear To Be In The Cards For Management Employees
House Leader Sees Vote On Gas Impact Fee Before Recess
Marcellus Fee Plans Largely Benefit 8 Drilling Counties
Editorial: Tax The Frack
Op-Ed: Refunding Growing Greener
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Wins Award For Cleaning Up Farms, Streams
Friend Of The Lehigh River Awards Announced
Illegal Immigrants Found Working In Natural Gas Industry
EPA Briefs Homeowners Near Blown Out Gas Well
Editorial: Gassroots Or Astroturf? DOE Gas Well Hearing
Marcellus Gas Boom A Mixed Blessing For PA Banks
Op-Ed: Sun Shines On Taxpayers, Measuring Solar Performance
Penn Hills Native To Head Range Resources
Atlas Energy Increases Borrowing Base To $160 Million
A Tiny Step Forward For Green Roofs In Philadelphia
Editorial: Don't Let Your Trash Go To Waste
Heinz Rolling Out Plant-Based Bottles Used By Coke
EPA Rules Could Cost Cement Companies Billions, Force Closures
Two Men Trespass At Three Mile Island, Only Sightseeing
FirstEnergy's Emergency Center to Be Far From Nukes
Wyoming Valley Levee Passes Federal Inspection
Invasive Algae Targets, Endangers Fishing Streams
Audubon Festival July 16-17 In Hawley
Audubon Benefit Held At Beechwood Farms
Flight 93 Memorial Design Drawings Released
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Monday, June 27, 2011

Senate Confirms Pamela Witmer As PUC Commissioner

The Senate tonight confirmed Pamela Witmer to be a member of the board of the Public Utility Commission.

Senate, House Republicans Release Proposed FY 2011-12 General Fund Spending Plan

The details of the FY 2011-12 General Fund spending plan were released by Senate and House Republicans this afternoon, with no major surprises.
The overall General Fund spending level is $27.1 billion, representing a 4.1 percent reduction in spending from the FY 2010-11 funding levels and there are not tax increases.
Funding for both the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources were slight below the proposal made in March by Gov. Corbett: DEP- $4.5 million less and DCNR- $3.1 million less
House Republicans released a budget spreadsheet showing current and planned General Fund spending by major line items. More details will be available later.
Budget Highlights

Environmental Protection
Total General Fund Appropriations: $135.4 million, decrease of $10 million
General Government Operations: $10.7 million, decrease of $2.3 million
Environmental Program Management: $28 million, decrease of $1.4 million
Environmental Protection Operations: $78.1 million, decrease of $1.3 million
Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Source Abatement: $2.7 million, decrease of $76,000
Flood Control Projects: zeroed out, decrease of $3.4 million
Sewage Facilities Planning Grants: $779,000, decrease of $87,000
Sewage Facilities Enforcement Grants: $2.5 million, decrease of $49,000
Conservation Districts: $2.8 million, decrease of $29,000

Conservation & Natural Resources
General Government Operations: $17.1 million, decrease of $1.5 million
Heritage and Other Parks: zeroed out, $350,000
Note: Decreases of $19.1 million in State Parks Operations, and $6.1 million in State Forest Operations were offset by transfers from the Oil and Gas Fund from Marcellus Shale production revenues. Total State General Fund Appropriations: $55.2 million, were 82.4 million.

General Government Operations: $26.4 million, decrease of $472,000
Conservation Districts: $1 million, decrease of $10,000
Nutrient Management Administration: zeroed out, decrease of $300,000
Nutrient Management Fund: $2.74 million, no change
Note: funding for Penn State Extension and other line items were transferred into the Agriculture budget raising the overall General Fund Appropriation from $62.8 million to $133 million

State System Of Higher Education
PA Center for Environmental Education: zeroed out, $368,000
McKeever Environmental Center: zeroed out, $213,000

Community & Economic Development
Land Use Planning & Technical Assistance: zeroed out, decrease of $358,000
Floodplain Management: zeroed out, decrease of $56,000

Monday NewsClips

GOP Expected To Air Budget Plan Today
Natural Gas Tax, College Funds Take Spotlight In Budget Talks
Editorial: Marcellus Shale Tax Makes Sense For PA
Gushers Highlight Potential Of PA's Marcellus Shale
Is PA Gas Boom Not All It's Fracked Up To Be?
Prank Signs On Drinking Fountains Target Gas Drilling
Marcellus Advocate Will Lead Range Resources
Work On Wyoming Valley Levee Never Ends
Op-Ed: Electricity Customers Should Shop Around
Editorial: EPA, Courts And CO2
Editorial: Allegheny Parks Naming Rights Worth Study
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Senate/House Democrats Say Fee On Drillers Must Be Part Of Budget Agreement

Senate and House Democrats joined today to urge Republican leaders to “do the right thing” and pass a responsible severance fee on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Lawmakers from both chambers have continuously called for a fee to be a part of the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget discussions.
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), House Democratic Whip Mike Hanna (D-Clinton/Centre), and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Democratic Chairman John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) were joined by House and Senate colleagues and vowed to continue pushing for a fee to be passed before the legislature adjourns for its summer recess. Lawmakers were in Harrisburg for a Sunday session to begin moving budget bills for passage before the June 30th deadline.
As members of the legislature prepare to learn more about the budget drafted in secret by House and Senate Republicans and the governor, Democratic leaders expressed concern over the fact that Marcellus Shale drillers appear be absent from the shared pain and sacrifice demanded by Gov. Corbett as part of the austere budget framework which is close to becoming a reality.
“It is unconscionable that everybody is being asked to sacrifice and absorb some of the pain created by the Republicans’ budget plan except for an industry that is raking in profits at Pennsylvania’s expense,” said Sen. Costa. “Clearly, these companies are having an impact on the environment and local communities, yet some of our colleagues here in Harrisburg refuse to acknowledge the need to assist those communities in dealing with the after-effects.”
“The development of the natural gas resource in Marcellus Shale already brought many jobs to Pennsylvania, but it also creates many costs across the state,” Rep. Dermody said. “It is up to us to ensure that this booming industry pays its fair share and is properly regulated. Let’s do what’s right for Pennsylvania, not what’s most convenient for the big oil and gas corporations.”
“We must institute a responsible natural gas extraction fee and environmental safeguards to provide for our residents and to protect the environment. The time is now to do the responsible thing and implement a severance tax on the gas drillers here,” said Rep. Hanna.
“This is the third year in a row we have talked but not acted on the issue of Marcellus Shale. We can’t allow this to be one more year where drillers are let off the hook,” said Rep. Yudichak. “The majority of Pennsylvanians and legislators on both sides of the aisle support a reasonable fee. The industry expects to be asked to do their part, yet Pennsylvania remains the only state that year after year gives this multi-billion dollar industry a free pass.”
The amendment being proposed would:
-- increase the base impact fee from $10,000 to $17,000 and restore the price and volume adjustment factors for natural gas;
-- raise the effective tax rate to 5 percent. Based on a price of gas of $4.50 per mcf, this would raise an estimated $200 million in 2011-2012 and $260 million in 2012-2013;
-- provide $2 million to support training programs and equipment purchases to areas where there is shale drilling and areas that are involved in the transportation and distribution of natural gas;
-- restore the Growing Greener type projects as an eligible use of funds; and
-- add weatherization, energy efficiency and energy conservation measures to the list of projects that are eligible for funding under statewide environmental initiatives.
Lawmakers closed by warning that if a Marcellus Shale impact fee is not passed, Pennsylvania communities, already feeling the impact of unnecessary budget cuts, will struggle to address the serious infrastructure and environmental impacts which drilling is having statewide.

Sunday NewsClips

Corbett May Get Most Budget Items On His Wish List
Senate, House Scramble In Final Days
Sportsmen Monitor Water In Marcellus Shale Areas
Impact Fees, Somewhat New Idea
DOE Reps Get The Local Word On Drilling
Penn Researchers Develop A Better Fracking Fluid
Op-Ed: Government Intervention Not Needed On Natural Gas
Insiders Sound An Alarm Amid A Natural Gas Rush
Phillies Host Red Goes Green Ecycle Event
Scranton Residents Recall 2006 Floods
Last Breaker Standing
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 27 PA Environment Digest Now Available

June 27 PA Environment Digest now available. Click hereto print this Digest.

CBF, Partners Celebrate EPA Award For Conservation Improvements To PA Farms

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation this week celebrated receiving the 6th annual Performance and Innovation in the SRF Creating Environmental Success award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizing projects that set an example of innovative and sustainable water quality financing.
CBF received the 2010 PISCES award for conservation improvements completed on 43 Pennsylvania farms to improve water quality and farm viability. The award reflects the broad, committed work of many partners across the watershed.
“We are honored to receive this award and celebrate the work completed with the many partners who made it possible,” said William Baker, CBF President. “What we have achieved is more than success and more than an award – we have achieved significant reductions to the agricultural pollutants entering Pennsylvania’s streams, and of that, we are all proud.” Click Here to read more...

Friday NewsClips

Senate Leaders Claim Framework Deal On State Budget
State Worker Contract Provides 10.75 Percent Raises Over 4 Years
Tentative Agreement Reached With SEIU State Worker Union
Sen. Yudichak Spearheads Impact Fee Proposal
Budget Deadline Week Away, Marcellus Tax Still In Question
Editorial: Legislature Should Pass Budget With Drilling Impact Fees
Op-Ed: Ask Corbett To Ensure Everyone Benefits From Drilling
Wells In Western PA Part Of EPA Fracking Study
3 PA Counties Chosen For EPA Fracking Study
EPA To Study Washington County Fracking
Susquehanna, Bradford Selected For Federal Fracking Study
Political Tussle Develops Over Marcellus Shale Jobs Data
Aqua America Chief Backs More Gas Drilling Regs
Marcellus Violations Drop In Pittsburgh Region
Shale Waste Prompts Keystone Landfill To Increase Capacity
New Milford Objects To Landfill Gas Drilling
Keystone Center Response To Criticism On Marcellus Job Numbers
Wayne Scholarship Selects Rebecca Harvey To Focus On Environment
Clarks Summit Receives Watershed Grant
Easton Reports Recycling Progress
Innovation: Solar Drives Roofing Advances In PA
PPL Selects Possible Routes For NE-Pocono Power Line
EPA Grants $1 Million To University Of Pittsburgh For Asthma Study
DEP OKs Draft Approval For Erie Tires-To Energy Plant
Purple Prism Traps Used In Ash Borer Battle
Unique Oyster Race In Pittsburgh This Weekend
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wildlife For Everyone Foundation Dedicates Gov. Tom Ridge Wetlands Preserve

The Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation today dedicated 135 acres along Route 220 between Julian and Martha Furnace as the Gov. Tom Ridge Wetlands Preserve.
The site includes about 55 acres of wetlands created by The WHM Group; 15 acres of upland woodland; a quarter-mile of frontage on Bald Eagle Creek, which is a multi-use recreational stream stocked with trout; about 1.5 miles of trails along the wetlands; off-street parking; and 35-40 acres that could be developed by WFEEF in the future.
WHM, based in State College with offices in Harrisburg, Delaware Valley and Western Pennsylvania, acquired and developed the site beginning in 2002, under contract with the Department of Transportation, as wetlands mitigation for environmental disruption caused by the relocation of Interstate 99, and as a Federal Highway Administration demonstration site.
In accepting the honor, Gov. Ridge noted that The WHM Group “to advance the public good… designed and secured regulatory permits, constructed the wetlands, with its private sector expertise, including its scientists and environmentalist and constructionist engineers, to create the environmental credits necessary to offset similar functioning wetlands taken by I 99 construction…thus providing a private sector solution for the public sector…and further demonstrating the opportunity to secure credits in advance for those private and public organizations and companies pursuing construction in wetland areas.”
“It’s a very, very unique combination, a very unique preservation of what is critical habitat to Penns Woods. I’m grateful to be associated with a project that not only preserves, but also enhances, Penns Woods.”
Ridge, who was governor of Pennsylvania from 1995-2001, explained, “When I was a young man I worked at Presque Isle State Park (at Erie) and there are a lot of wetlands up there. I’ve had this great privilege of understanding the value of wetlands, even as a young man. I’ve learned to appreciate the natural purification that wetlands provide. I’ve learned to appreciate the habitat. I’ve learned to appreciate the waterfowl. I’ve learned to appreciate all the wonderful ecological things associated with wetlands.
“Then,” he continued, “in government, you find that you’re trying to build the state, you’re trying to grow the economy and you’re trying to take advantage of the potential that this great commonwealth has, and every once in a while, development clashes with the need to preserve Penns Woods. What you’ve got to do is figure out a way that you don’t compromise either one. You’ve got to figure out a way that you can develop your state and still protect the beauty that is Penns Woods.”
In the wetlands mitigation project in the Bald Eagle Valley, he noted, PennDOT “has worked with the private sector to balance those needs.”
Michael Schaul, President of The WHM Group, noted, “The WHM science and business goal for the Bald Eagle project was to avoid any and all long-term mechanical support systems for the project, while creating a fully functioning ecosystem capable of sustaining a habitat to host the return of Pennsylvania’s indigenous species as overseen by Mother Nature.”
The site has attracted an increasingly diverse wildlife population, including species from aquatic mammals to birds to reptiles and amphibians.
Mal Gilbert, a WHM Senior Wetlands Scientist, noted that members of the State College Bird Club have reported that “several species of birds that haven’t been recorded in the State College area for about five decades are now occurring down in these pools.” Among those species are the Virginia rail, American bittern, moorhen, pied-billed grebe, the golden eagle, the bald eagle, and the Northern Harrier.
Janet Nyce, President of the WFEEF Board, described the wetlands as “a signature piece of property that can go on in perpetuity to teach the citizens from young to old about the jewels that are in this commonwealth.”
As part of the contract with PennDOT, Schaul explained, the ultimate goal was to turn the site over to a non-profit organization that would act as steward of the property and the habitat into the future.
“We looked at lot of different places for a non-profit to serve as a caretaker for the property, and there are a lot of good non-profits out there,” he explained. “But we settled on WFEEF because of it’s future view of things, of teaching kids the kinds of things that are necessary to continuing the stewardship of our wildlife and our environment.”
Noting that The WHM Group also established for the Foundation a $50,000 maintenance account for the wetlands, WFEEF Board Chairman Russ Schleiden said, “We’re only 5-years-old, but people are noticing what we’re doing.”
Introducing Gov. Ridge at the dedication ceremony, WFEEF Executive Director Vern Ross, who worked with the former governor as Pennsylvania’s first Governor’s Sportsman Advisor and later at executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said, “He’s a very special man. He was our governor. He’s a friend to every one of us.”
Among Ridge’s conservation accomplishments while governor, Ross noted that he was the first governor to buy and use his own hunting and fishing licenses. Ridge created the Governor’s Sportsmen’s Advisory Council and Youth Advisory Council. He signed into law the state’s first elk hunting license in 73 years and the second spring gobbler tag. He participated in outdoor activities from turkey hunting to bear tagging to elk viewing. He supported the youth mentored hunting and Families Afield initiatives. He led the revitalization of the nearly defunct North American Hunting Symposium.
For more information, visit the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation website.

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