Friday, November 25, 2011

Nov. 28 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Nov. 28 PA Environment Digest now available. Click Here to print this Digest.

Analysis: Should Taxpayers Spend $75 M A Year To Subsidize Zack & Miri Make A Porno?

There is no doubt the public and therefore politicians are in a "no tax increase,""cut the size of government" mood these days. They want every dollar spent to go to a valid public purpose and to create some lasting public value.
So, many taxpayers are surprised when they learn $75 million a year of their tax money has gone to support the production of movies like Zack and Miri Make a Porno ($5.7 million in 2008), has subsidized Danzel Washington in Unstoppable ($20.8 million) and supports TV productions like the QVC home shopping network ($3.7 million).
Since the PA Film Production Tax Credit Program was adopted in 2007 at the urging of Gov. Rendell, some $242.5 million in taxpayer dollars have gone to subsidize productions like Russell Crowe in The Next Three Days ($7.3 million), Sigourney Weaver and Twilight's Laylor Lautner in Abduction ($8.9 million) and the Restaurant Impossible TV show on the Food Network ($1.3 million).

Friday NewsClips

Editorial: Drillers Can Afford Real Tax
Editorial: Gather Facts First On Delaware Gas Drilling
Marcellus Shale Gas Boom Mirrors Gold Rush In WV
Rain Doesn't Cut Down Supply Of Christmas Trees
Editorial: Scientists See More Disaster From Climate Change
Food, Fellowship To Flood-Ravaged West Pittston
A Tale Of Two Watersheds
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Analysis: Should Taxpayers Spend $75 Million A Year To Subsidize Zack & Miri Make A Porno?

There is no doubt the public and therefore politicians are in a "no tax increase,""cut the size of government" mood these days. They want every dollar spent to go to a valid public purpose and to create some lasting public value.
So, many taxpayers are surprised when they learn $75 million a year of their tax money has gone to support the production of movies like Zack and Miri Make a Porno ($5.7 million), has subsidized Danzel Washington in Unstoppable ($20.8 million) and supports TV productions like the QVC home shopping network ($3.7 million).
Since the PA Film Production Tax Credit Program was adopted in 2007 at the urging of Gov. Rendell, some $242.5 million in taxpayer dollars have gone to subsidize productions like Russell Crowe in The Next Three Days ($7.3 million), Sigourney Weaver and Twilight's Laylor Lautner in Abduction ($8.9 million) and the Restaurant Impossible TV show on the Food Network ($1.3 million).
The most recent report by the Department of Community and Economic Development for FY 2010-11 said the $242.5 million in tax credits issued so far has "injected over $1 billion directly into Pennsylvania's economy, generated an estimated $1.8 billion in total economic activity, and supported nearly 14,500 jobs."
To qualify for the tax credit, at least 60 percent of the total production budget must be spent in Pennsylvania, therefore movies like Batman: The Dark Knight, which filmed in Pittsburgh this summer, do not qualify.
Even though a 2009 Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report found "there is a net fiscal loss" when comparing the taxes generated by productions and the cost of the tax credits in the first years of the program, Gov. Rendell was an avid supporter of the program.
The report also noted film and television production is going on in Pennsylvania without the tax credit program, but concedes some of that production would be at risk without the credit program.
The main economic beneficiaries of the productions, the report said, were to transportation, lodging, car and truck rentals, gas stations, food and beverage establishments, construction and other personal services.
The economic benefits lasted as long as the film or television show was in local production.
Other state tax credit programs have been enacted to support Educational Improvement, Homeowners' Emergency Mortgage Assistance, Economic Development Districts, Neighborhood Assistance, Research and Development and Coal Waste Removal, most with some sort of lasting value to show for their public investment.
This is especially true of the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Tax Credit Program which was increased to $10 million by Gov. Corbett and the General Assembly in July to help farmers install permanent best management practices.
Even fiscally conservative Gov. Corbett, like most legislators, is a fan of the film tax credit.
In a recent news article, he was quoted as saying, "There was never a doubt in my mind that we need to have the film tax credit. And I would like to see, at some point in time, that we be able to grow the film tax credit. A lot of that is going to depend on the economy. But rest assured that we will work to do our best to keep this industry going."
The question is, in these tight budget times, can state government afford to be star-struck?
Should we continue to spend $75 million a year of taxpayer money on Zack and Miri and the QVC home shopping channel, or should we provide more support to programs (PA Environment Digest is showing its bias here) like REAP and Growing Greener which have real, lasting environmental and economic value for the public?
So far the answer has been to support One for the Money ($7.7 million), Love and Other Drugs ($6.4 million) and Kitchen Impossible on the DIY Network ($686,765).
If legislators and the Governor can come up with a scheme to spend $75 million a year to give temporary jobs to Russell Crowe and Sigourney Weaver, surely they can also come up with a Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee that makes sense?
If not, then taxpayers should at least score some free tickets out of the deal!

Here are just a few of the film and television productions benefitting from Pennsylvania's Film Production Tax Credit in FY 2010-11--
-- Unstoppable: about a runaway freight train starring Danzel Washington and Chris Pine (Star Trek) - $20.8 million tax credit
-- I Am Number 4: a sci-fi thriller about an alien trying to save his species from other evil aliens - $8.1 million tax credit
-- One For The Money: An unemployed lingerie buyer convinces her bail bondsman cousin to give her a shot as a bounty hunter - $7.7 million tax credit
-- The Next Three Days: thriller staring Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks - $7.3 million tax credit
-- Abduction: starring Twilight's Laylor Lautner and Sigourney Weaver - $8.9 million tax credit
-- Love and Other Drugs: a romantic comedy about a pharmaceutical salesman - $6.4 million tax credit
-- Dark Fields (Limitless): starring Robert DeNiro - $4.8 million tax credit
-- Still I Rise: An inspirational drama about education - $3.9 million tax credit
-- The Perks of Being A Wallflower: About an introvert freshman taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world - $2.8 million tax credit.
-- The North Star Movie: Produced by North Star Movie LLC but A Google search turned up no information on the film - $1.1 million tax credit
-- The Genesis Project: Produced by Genesis Film Productions LLC but a Google search turned up no information on the film - $862,151 tax credit.
-- The Sibling: a horror film - $329,000 tax credit
--Backwards: A sports romance - $317,900 tax credit
-- The Discoverers: a movie about a dysfunctional family who embark on a Lewis & Clark reenactment trek - $276,728 tax credit
-- The Fields: A thriller staring Cloris Leachman - $145,278 tax credit
-- Future Weather: a character-driven drama about three generations of women navigating responsibility and self-fulfillment - $136,590 tax credit
-- 99 Percent Sure: a romantic comedy - $10,412 tax credit
Other movies include: The Lovely Bones, The Last Airbender, My Bloody Valentine, Zack and Miri Make A Poro
Television Shows
QVC Network Shows - Around the House, Beauty Beat, By Popular Demand, Cooking on Q, Denim & Co, Diamonique Jewelry, Easy Solutions, Electronics Today Kitchen Ideas, PM Style, Problems Solved, Q Check, QVC Morning Show, Savings on Style, Susan Graver Style: $3,760,933 in tax credits
Outlaw: Open 4 Business Productions - $1.6 million tax credit
Restaurant Impossible, Food Network: $1,356,6113 tax credit
Lindsey's Way, The Road Less Traveled: $703,625 tax credit
Kitchen Impossible, DIY Network - $686,765 tax credit
The Drill Team Series: A& E Network - $685,481 tax credit
Dinner Impossible, Food Network: $636,238 tax credit
The Best Sports Legends: Steve Rotfield Productions, Inc. - $267,387 tax credit
Whaddyathink: Steve Rotfield Productions, Inc. - $300,190 tax credit
Noodle and Doodle, Sprout Network: $479,403 tax credit
Staten Island Cakes: $426,632 tax credit
Locke & Key: produced by Steven Spielberg for Fox Television - $1,813,045 tax credit
Twisted Justice, Justice Project LLC - No information turned up in Google search - $247,378 tax credit.
Weekends with Luis, HGTV Network: $175,440 tax credit
Extreme Makeover Home Edition: $160,412 tax credit
Them Idiots: starring Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall - $66,548 tax credit
UPMC Community Benefits Video: $63,386

Source: Film Tax Credit Report FY 2010-11, FY 2009-10, FY 2008-09

Lab Error In Center For PA Study Negates Well Water Pollution Finding From Drilling

The Tribune Review reported Thursday a Center for Rural Pennsylvania study of water well contamination from Marcellus Shale drilling had yet another problem. This time Penn State researchers said a lab error showing increases in bromide levels in seven water wells were wrong.
When the report was originally released in October, the authors of the report had to correct charts showing data collected in the report.
A notice about the study posted on the Center for Rural PA's website says, "According to the University, these updated results show that the occurrence of bromide in water wells after gas drilling or drilling and fracking is not as prevalent as first reported (in 7 wells), but did occur in a single case (1 well). In this case, the increase in bromide was accompanied by increases in chloride, hardness, and other indicators after drilling and fracking had occurred, as documented in the report.
"At this time, all research findings are being reviewed. Upon completion of the review, the researchers will develop an errata sheet to reflect all corrected data and analyses. Based on the errata, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania will issue a revised report, which should be available in the coming weeks."
Based on the original sampling results, the study recommended increasing the zone of presumptive liability and private water well testing from 1,000 to 3,000 feet from Marcellus Shale gas wells due to increased levels of bromide, sediment and metals found by the study.

Thursday NewsClips

Corbett Still Pushing To Preempt Local Drilling Ordinances
Lab Error Negates Center For Rural PA Well Water Findings
DE Lawmaker Creates Online Petition Against DRBC Rules
EPA To Weigh Rules On Fracking Chemical Disclosure
For Flood Victims, Holiday Cheer From Charities
Insurance Companies Frustrate Flood Victims
Ohio River Trail Proposal Due For Hearing
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Marcellus Shale Industry Offers Tips On Safe Deer Hunting Around Drilling Facilities

The Marcellus Shale Coalition wants to remind its neighbors and sportsmen of some basic yet very important tips for hunting in areas where natural gas development may be underway.
As sportsmen take to the woods, they should be aware that the development of natural gas in many regions across Pennsylvania may have resulted in changes to the landscape. Although the edge habitat and additional access to your hunting areas will likely improve hunting in coming years, there may be some temporary disruptions and precautions to take near active gas operations.
Recognizing this, the MSC’s Land Affairs Committee has developed the following tips for sportsmen and women when hunting or fishing near areas where Marcellus exploration or pipeline activities are underway.
-- Always ask permission prior to hunting or fishing on private property.
With the exception of public lands, all lands are privately owned and subject to trespass laws. Asking permission before entering private property is always the right thing to do, and the landowner may be able to provide you with information about ongoing and planned gas industry activities on their property, so that you are aware prior to going afield.
Likewise, local Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Game Commission regional offices may be able to alert you to gas industry operations on their lands.
-- Always be alert when driving and park well off the traveled portion of the roadway.
Vehicle safety is critically important to the gas industry. Operators work with DCNR and PGC to minimize traffic on key season opening days and holidays, but not all truck traffic ceases and many hunting and fishing seasons span several weeks. In many areas, large trucks will be sharing the roadway, so be sure to park well off the roadway.
-- Drill sites typically have temporary housing, office trailers, control rooms and restrooms which are occupied structures with associated safety zones.
The Game Law establishes a 150-yard safety zone around occupied structures during firearms hunting seasons, and 50-yards in some cases for bow hunters. Remember that you cannot hunt for, shoot at, or disturb wildlife in safety zones without specific permission from the landowner(s).
-- Do not hunt near, around or from atop production equipment including storage tanks.
Restricted areas should be respected as a safety concern and should not be trespassed upon.
-- Always identify your target and what is beyond it.
In addition to construction and drilling activity on and near operational locations, foresters, surveyors, environmental and other industry or contract personnel may be in the field doing planning work for future operations.
MSC member companies will try to minimize these activities on season opening days and Saturdays, but you may encounter such personnel during your hunts. They may not be wearing fluorescent orange, so as always, be absolutely sure of your target and what is beyond.
-- Do not shoot at random.
The game law prohibits random shooting during big game seasons. Random shooting near gas drilling sites, compressor stations, processing facilities and pipelines is dangerous and unlawful.
-- If you see something that looks unusual or suspicious on or near a well site or other facilities, please let us know.
Emergency phone numbers are posted at the entrance to all well sites, and many are patrolled by security guards who are present on site.
-- If you become lost or injured in the woods, and can see or hear an occupied well site, we encourage you to seek a representative’s attention, as we would be pleased to help.
For your personal safety, please remember to always notify a representative of the well site before walking onto the pad, as it is an active industrial work site.
A copy of these tips is available online.

Wednesday NewsClips

White House Will Determine What's Next On DRBC Vote
PA DEP Head Lobbies For Gas Drilling
Gas Firm, Residents Settle Suit Over Pipeline In Dallas
Dec. 6 Penn State Webinar On Marcellus Municipal Experiences
Blog: Lehigh Valley Activist Quits State Planning Board
Texas Tries To Fend Off PA's Energy Push
Energy Company's Deal Aids Schools
PPL Electric Rates To Drop 7.6 Percent
Park Service Advises Against PPL Power Line Project
Wind Mill Blades Sign Of Energy To Come
FEMA To Close Lebanon Valley Disaster Center
Flood Warning In Effect In Parts Of PA
Squirreling Away Acorns Less Likely
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Monday, November 21, 2011

Penn State Extension Offers New Online Tool To Help Interpret Water Test Results

Penn State Extension is now offering a new online tool to help Pennsylvanians interpret water test results called DWIT-- Drinking Water Interpretation Tool.
You recently had your private water supply tested, hoping to gain valuable information about the quality and condition of your water. Upon receiving the water analysis report, you find yourself looking at confusing columns of decimal numbers, abbreviations, and contaminants that are difficult to pronounce. What does this all mean?
This scenario happens all too often to those with private water supplies, and if that person is unsure as to what the water analysis report means, it will be difficult to make any changes to improve or protect their water supply.
While reports will differ depending on the lab doing the analysis, most will contain some of the same basic features: a list of contaminants tested, their concentrations, and, in some cases, highlight any problem contaminants.
An important feature of the report is the units used to measure the contaminant level in your water. Milligrams per liter (mg/l) of water are used for substances like metals and nitrates. A milligram per liter is also equal to one part per million (ppm) - that is one part contaminant to one million parts water.
About 0.03 of a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a bathtub of water is an approximation of one ppm. For extremely toxic substances like pesticides, the units used are even smaller. In these cases, parts per billion (ppb) are used.
Another unit found on some test reports is that used to measure radon - picocuries per liter. Some values like pH, hardness, conductance, and turbidity are reported in units specific to that test.
Results of the water analysis report are compared to Department of Environmental Protection’s drinking water standards. Each contaminant that was tested for, have acceptable limits or standards in drinking water. These standards are categorized into Health-based (primary) standards, and Aesthetic (secondary) standards.
Health Based Standards include those contaminants that have known health effects. Examples include total coliform bacteria, E.coli bacteria, barium, lead and mercury.
Aesthetic standards include contaminants that affect the taste, odor or color of the water. While these have no adverse health effects, they may make water unpalatable, reduce the effectiveness of soaps and detergents, or cause staining. Aesthetic contaminants may include iron bacteria, hydrogen sulfide, and hardness.
Depending on the lab, the analysis report may indicate which of the standards were not met by your water supply and give suggestions or resources for remediation of the problem.
Whether your water is causing illness, stains on plumbing, scaly deposits, or has a bad taste, a water analysis report identifies the problem and enables you to make knowledgeable decisions about water treatment.
Retain your copy of the report in a safe place as a record of the quality of your water supply. If potentially polluting activities occur in your area, you may need a record of past water quality to prove that your supply has been damaged.
Penn State Extension also offers a tool on its website to help with water test result interpretation. The tool is called DWIT (Drinking Water Interpretation Tool) and can be accessed online. Simply type in the results that you received on a water analysis report to the online form, click submit, and recommendations will be given based on those results.
The Penn State publication, "Water Tests: What do the Numbers Mean?" is also available on the Water Resources website to aid in reading and understanding your water analysis report.
Some information taken from the Penn State Extension Fact Sheet F103-- How to Interpret a Water Analysis Report.

(Written By: Susan M. Boser, Water Quality Educator, Penn State Extension/Beaver Co. Conservation District and reprinted from the Penn State Extension Watershed Winds online newsletter.)

DCNR: Vote Now For PA's 2012 River Of The Year

The public is invited to vote online for the 2012 Pennsylvania River of the Year, choosing among the Kiskiminetas River, Middle Monongahela River, Upper Juniata River and Stonycreek River.
“This is the second year that our selection process is through a public vote,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard J. Allan said. “We think the spirit of competition rallies community support for our waterways and helps to highlight the many great rivers we are fortunate to have in Pennsylvania.”
Visit the River of the Year webpage to read the nomination statement for each river and to vote. Voting ends December 31.
DCNR and the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, or POWR, administer the River of the Year program. Nominations were made by local groups.
Pennsylvania’s River of the Year is an honor designed to elevate public awareness of specific rivers and recognize important conservation needs and achievements. River of the Year designations have been presented annually since 1983.
“We are excited to once again partner with DCNR on this exciting effort,” POWR Board Chair Mel Zimmerman said. “The River of the Year program is one way that we can highlight the opportunities and challenges facing the state’s waterways. This also is part of the larger annual river sojourn program that gets thousands of Pennsylvanians out on the water.”
After a waterway is chosen, local groups implement a year-round slate of activities and events to celebrate the river, including a special extended paddling trip known as a sojourn. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers.
The Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, jointly run by DCNR and POWR, is a unique series of a dozen such trips on the state’s rivers. POWR and DCNR also work with the local organization to create a free commemorative poster celebrating the River of the Year.
Pennsylvania’s 2011 River of the Year is the Delaware River, the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi that serves the water needs of more than 15 million people from four different states.
Visit DCNR's Rivers Program webpage to learn more about Pennsylvania's major rivers and river programs.

Whitaker Center Expedition Chesapeake Project Goes Live On The Web

Expedition Chesapeake is making waves on the web. Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg Monday unveiled a new website for the Center's $10 million initiative to entertain, educate and engage the 17 million residents of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The website adds to the project's Facebook, Twitter and You Tube presence and includes a host of features designed to bring the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the project to life.
A promo video which highlights Emmy winner Jeff Corwin is featured, as well as information about the watershed and the bay itself and updates on the key elements of the project.
Expedition Chesapeake includes four related components headlined by a 42-minute giant screen film. The educational components include a television documentary, a hands-on, traveling science exhibit, and a set of online learning experiences designed to engage students from Cooperstown, New York to Virginia Beach, Virginia.
"This website will serve as a crossroads for every element of Expedition Chesapeake and it will be the primary way we deliver educational materials and interact with students," said Dr. Michael L. Hanes, President and CEO of Whitaker Center.
Visitors to the site can click on the "Get Involved" button to learn how to become an active participant in the initiative as a donor or an Expedition Chesapeake ambassador by following updates on Chesapeake's various social media channels.
"The issues affecting the vitality of the Chesapeake Bay can not be corrected overnight or with just a handful of informed residents. Through the Expedition Chesapeake website we can connect with the 17 million stakeholders," Hanes said.
In recent weeks, Whitaker Center announced the addition of Jeff Corwin to the project and will partner with producer David Lickley to make the film. Corwin is perhaps the world's best known celebrity scientist and Animal Planet star. He recently launched the ABC television series Ocean Mysteries.
Lickley has won virtually every award in the giant screen film industry in his 25-year career as producer, director and writer. He has directed some of the most successful giant screen nature films of all time, including "Born to Be Wild," "Bears," and "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees."
Lickley is Director of Large Format Films for Science North, one of Canada's leading science education centers.
The television documentary will be made in partnership with Penn State Public Broadcasting. It will focus on the making of the giant screen film, the first of its kind for the watershed. PSPB can include the Emmy-award winning Courtside with Coquese and videos for the Geospatial Revolution project and collaborations with NASA in their gallery of work.
For more information, visit the new Expedition Chesapeake website.

Southwestern PA Smart Growth Conference Set For Dec. 13 In Pittsburgh

The 11th Annual Southwestern PA Smart Growth Conference will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh on December 13 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The theme of this year's conference is "Smart Growth is Smart Business."
Businesses are on a fast uptake in integrating sustainability in their operations. It's paying off in savings, talent attraction, new markets, and more. However, the sustainability-minded business also engages outside its operations to improve the larger regional systems in which it operates—that is, systems that can make or break a sustainable economy conducive to prosperity.
For example, how is business performance affected by our region's investments in infrastructure? Do existing growth and development patterns serve a sustainable business economy? What are tax and cost implications? How do housing choices and health of communities and the environment impact your ability to hire qualified workers? What are the economic ramifications of growing numbers of vacant properties? Why is smart growth planning and management material to protecting and enhancing business investments?
The Smart Growth Conference is an invitation for businesses to explore and influence the regional systems connected to these questions. Be part of determining your business's success by engaging in how Southwester Pennsylvania can grow smarter to become a more economically robust region.
The Conference is presented by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Green Building Alliance, NAIOP Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Technology Council, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Sustainable Pittsburgh, and ULI Pittsburgh.
For more information on the conference agenda and registration, visit the Smart Growth Conference webpage.

Monday NewsClips

View From The Middle Of Marcellus Shale Debate
DEP Hopes To Enhance Enforcement Of Gas Drilling
Ohio's Gas Fields Could Be An Issue For PA
Allegheny Port Authority Looks At Switching To Gas
Watershed Assn. Capacity Building Assistance Available
Pittsburgh Ranks In Top Green Cities
Doylestown Audubon Bird Town Initiated
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Watershed Association Capacity Building Assistance Now Available For Western PA

The Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management and the Western PA Conservancy are again teaming up to provide watershed associations with capacity building services in Western Pennsylvania.
Applications for the services are due December 21.
This year the sponsors are looking for community watershed organizations who want to improve their internal governance and leadership, community partnerships, financial and human resources, and other organizational issues.
For this third year of the program, the sponsors are considering offering a spectrum of services tailored to the needs of each organization, rather than a year-long, full-service consultation.
This means that if you think your group is in need of any organizational development, you should fill out and return the application. More detailed information will be provided after all applications are reviewed. The groups expect to begin consultation work in April 2012, contingent upon funding.
A copy of the application and more details are available online. For more information, contact Gwen Johnson, Project Coordinator, FPW, by calling 814-669-4244 or send email to:

Sunday NewsClips

House OKs An Impact Fee Bill For Shale
Pickett Endorses Marcellus Drilling Standards Bill

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nov. 21 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Nov. 21 PA Environment Digest now available. Click Here to print this Digest.

Senate, House Send Each Other Marcellus Shale Drilling Fee Bills, Now What? While a series of competing press events this week for and against school vouchers echoed in the Capitol Rotunda, the Senate and House spent most of their time debating competing proposals for a Marcellus Shale drilling fee and additional environmental protection measures. The Senate Tuesday voted 29 to 20 to pass Senate Bill 1100 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson), which includes a uniform, statewide Marcellus Shale drilling fee that would raise $154.6 million in 2012 and a laundry list of additional environmental protection measures.
House Republicans Thursday voted 107 to 76 to pass their version of a Marcellus Shale bill-- House Bill 1950 (Ellis-R-Butler)-- which includes a county-optional drilling fee and a dozen provisions strengthening environmental protection measures on Marcellus Shale drilling.
Even though both bills were passed almost exclusively by Republicans in both the Senate and House, they are significantly different in fundamental ways, like on the drilling fee, but in some cases the environmental protection provisions overlap.
The Gov. Corbett and members of the Senate and House have all said they want to pass a final bill by the time the General Assembly adjourns for the year.

DRBC Postpones November 21 Meeting On Drilling Rules, No New Date Set

The Delaware River Basin Commission today announced that the special meeting scheduled for Nov. 21 to consider draft natural gas development regulations has been postponed to allow additional time for review by the five commission members. No additional information is available at this time. Click Here for the notice.

Analysis: Senate, House Each Passed Marcellus Bills, Where Do We Go From Here? Easy!

Senate and House Republicans each passed bills this week that would impose a Marcellus Shale drilling fee and enact the most sweeping measures the state has ever adopted to protect the Commonwealth's land and water from the potential impact of natural gas drilling.
The bills, in particular their approaches to imposing a drilling fee, are significantly different. The provisions relating to protecting the environment are different, but do overlap in many areas. And House Bill 1950 (Ellis-R-Butler) has several major provisions Senate Bill 1100 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) does not, including major support for the Growing Greener Program through a transfer from DCNR's Oil and Gas Fund.
On the surface it would seem reconciling these differences would be a heavy lift, but if you look more closely, there is a path forward.
Drilling Fee/Program Funding
There are two parts to resolving the drilling fee and funding issues between the bills-- what to do with the fee and whether to use the Oil and Gas Fund to support Growing Greener and other programs.
Thanks to Grover Norquist's pronouncement that the fee in House Bill 1950 is indeed a tax and with the overwhelming vote of House Republicans and Senate Republicans for drilling fees in both bills, the issue of how to avoid the fee being called a tax is completely off the table.
House and Senate Republicans have said with their votes, "so what if it's a tax, we need it anyway."
Once relieved of that burden, members are free to design a fee system that is clean, simple and easy to administer and that argues for the Senate version of the fee-- a uniform fee, collected by the state, not an optional, county-adopted fee which was only proposed originally in such a convoluted form to avoid the "no-tax" label.
The House bill uses DCNR's Oil and Gas Fund to support the all-but-bankrupt Growing Greener Program that is critical to Pennsylvania meeting its obligations under the federal Clean Water Act and restoring the state's green infrastructure.
This proposal is supported by the Renew Growing Greener Coalition and a great way of investing the drilling royalties now coming in from State Forest lands in restoring the environment.
This transfer should be in the final bill, but it should not go to support the version of Growing Greener expanded by Gov. Rendell to include alternative energy and economic development projects like parking garages. It should be focused on the original priorities of the program-- mine reclamation, watershed restoration, farmland preservation and wastewater and drinking water projects.
There are some issues to resolve between specific items and amounts the Senate fee and the House fee and the Oil and Gas Fund support, but those could be worked out once this broader framework is set.
Environmental Protection
Both bills include a laundry list of measures to protect the environment from the potential impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling. The problem is they overlap, use different setback numbers and one bill has provisions the other does not.
Solution? Pick the most stringent provision covering each issue in the bills.
There are several tweaks and additions to these provisions needed based on the Governor's Marcellus Shale Commission report and recommended by the PA Environmental Council and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation--
-- Strengthen Permit Reviews: The permitting process must be enhanced to ensure that all appropriate site data is collected and assessed to be certain that all conditions have been properly addressed before drilling activity begins.
-- Identify Areas Where Drilling Is Prohibited: The Act should grant DEP greater ability to identify areas where drilling may be further restricted or prohibited; including areas of recognized high ecological value, floodplains, or in close proximity to public water supplies.
-- Track Water Use, Disposal: DEP should also be given clear authority for more robust water resource management, such as water withdrawal review and public reporting of wastewater reuse or disposal.
-- Real Well Setbacks: Meaningful setbacks must be created for well sites and should require best management practices when site conditions warrant. The act should set a floor, not a ceiling, of what is required of operators.
-- Spill Containment: DEP should be tasked to implement a review of spill containment systems at Marcellus Shale well sites. This analysis will lead to the new containment practices, structures, and procedures to safeguard the public and environmental quality.
-- Bonding/Financial Guarantees: Financial assurance for well site operations must, at an absolute minimum, match the potential costs associated with well site accidents or other impacts. Blanket bonds are insufficient.
Land Use And Other Provisions
With the local government associations now in apparent agreement on provisions in both bills relating to local regulation of drilling operations, this major issue has been taken off the table for most groups.
Another provision of concern to the environmental community-- private reviews of permit applications, the so-called expedited permit review-- was taken out of the House bill, resolving another concern.
This all sounds easy, right? In reality, everyone knows it won't be easy to resolve the differences between the Senate and House in a bill the Governor will sign, but if you look at it, it isn't overwhelming.
The Senate and House are now scheduled to adjourn for the year December 14.
Get busy!

Friday NewsClips

House Passes Its Version Of Marcellus Shale Rules, Fees
Gas Impact Fee Bill Wins In House
PA Senate, House Must Resolve Shale Tax Bills
PA Gas Drilling Fees Hold A Variety Of Conflicts
House Approves Impact Fee Bill
Norquist Calls House Marcellus Fee Tax
Monday DRBC Meeting On Drilling Rules In Doubt
Delaware Set To Vote No On DRBC Regulations
Drilling Halted After Spill Into NW PA Reservoir
Tests Show Dimock Water Still Fouled
Sunoco Ethane Pipeline Plan Faces Hurdles
Marcellus Shale Coalition Elects New Board
NRDC Report Says Philadelphia Tops For Green Infrastructure
Lower Marion Workshop On Homeowner Stormwater Management
Toomey Targeted For Slacking On Environment
Editorial: DEP And Monsour Medical Center Cleanup
Local Officials Tout Smart Growth As Lancaster's Model
Barn Owl Seen In Southwest PA For First Time In Decade
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest

Thursday, November 17, 2011

House Cancels Voting Days Next Week, Committee Meetings

Speaker Sam Smith just announced the House is canceling voting session for next week. The House will return to session December 5. The Speaker said the House will add voting days in December. Details will be announced.

As a result of the announcement, there was a flurry of announcements canceling committee meetings next week in response to the schedule change, including the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee meeting.

House Republicans Send Optional, County-Adopted Drilling Fee Bill To Senate

After more than 15 hours of debate over three days, House Republicans voted 107 to 76 to pass their version of a Marcellus Shale bill-- House Bill 1950 (Ellis-R-Butler)-- which includes an optional, county-adopted drilling fee, transfers from DCNR's Oil and Gas Fund and provisions strengthening environmental protection measures on Marcellus Shale drilling.
This follows action by the Senate Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 1100 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson), their version of Marcellus legislation which includes a uniform, statewide Marcellus Shale drilling fee and a slightly different list of additional environmental protection measures.
Even though both bills were passed almost exclusively by Republicans in both the Senate and House, they are significantly different in fundamental ways, like on the drilling fee, but in many cases the environmental protection provisions overlap.
The Gov. Corbett and members of the Senate and House have all said they want to pass a final bill by the time the General Assembly adjourns for the year on December 14.
Amendments Added
After considering 51 of the more than 100 amendments proposed to the bill, House Republicans cut off debate and more amendments by making a motion for the previous question and voting 105 to 88 to move the bill to Second Consideration.
The motion ended the ability of members to offer amendments to the bill without suspending the rules. Suspending the rules requires a two-thirds vote.
While House Republicans defeated most of the amendments offered to the bill or declared them unconstitutional before a substantive vote, several were approved, including a change to the provision wanted by Gov. Corbett to preempt local regulation of drilling as a land use.
Local Regulation
Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga) offered a gut and replace amendment that included only one change in the language. It replaced the blanket preemption of local regulation of drilling sought by Gov. Corbett with an approach used by the Senate in Senate Bill 1100 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) loosely based on the ACRE Program which offers a process to challenge local ordinances limiting agricultural operations.
The language would allow drilling companies to request the Attorney General to review local ordinances to determine whether the ordinance allows for the reasonable development of oil and gas mineral rights.
Optional Drilling Fee
No changes were made to the optional county-adopted drilling fee advocated by Gov. Corbett and included in House Bill 1950.
If any counties adopt the drilling fee, money raised would be split between the local communities in which the fee is enacted and the Commonwealth, with 25 percent of the revenues going to the state and 75 percent remaining at the local level.
Of the state’s share, 70 percent would be used to fund road and bridge repairs related to well impacts. The remaining 30 percent would be split up among environmental programs, health initiatives and state emergency response activities.
Of the 75 percent of revenues that would go to the local governments, 36 percent would go to the county in which the well is located, 37 percent would go to the municipality in which the well is located, and 27 percent would be distributed to all municipalities within the host county using a formula based on miles of highway and population.
Oil & Gas Fund Transfers
Another provision in House Bill 1950 would transfer funds out of DCNR's Oil and Gas Fund to provide the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund with $1.2 billion over 10 years, but it is the version of Growing Greener as expanded by Gov. Rendell to include alternative energy and economic development projects like parking garages.
These are not the narrowly focused priorities established in the original Growing Greener Program proposed by Gov. Ridge-- mine reclamation, watershed restoration, farmland preservation and wastewater and drinking water projects.
Transfers would also be used to fund county conservation districts, the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund and to increase in-lieu of tax payments for state owned land.
Other Amendments
Three amendments by Rep. Bud George (D-Clearfield), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which further provides for affect of pre-drilling surveys, another giving residents living between 2,500 to 5,500 feet of a well the right to a pre-drilling survey and a change removing expedited permit reviews through private third-party consultants.
Amendments were added by Rep. John Mahr (R-Allegheny) to make certain reports required by the Oil and Gas Act public records, requiring the soundproofing of compressor stations within 2,500 feet of a dwelling, requiring the drilling fee to be paid whether a Marcellus well is producing or not and several technical amendments.
Another amendment by Rep. Mahr to increase the bonding amount for the reconstruction of roads from $6,000 to $250,000 per mile was defeated 151 to 42.
Amendments by Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford) requiring further notification of landowners and water companies on pre-drilling surveys and two amendments offered by Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) creating a $5 million and a $7.5 million natural gas vehicle conversion grant and loan programs funded by the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund for certain transit systems were also adopted.
An amendment offered by Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) to require DEP to adopt protocols for air contamination emissions was also adopted.
Summary Of Bill
An updated summary and fiscal note on the bill by the House Republican Appropriations Committee is available online. A House Democratic staff summary of the bill is also available.
A summary of the county-optional drilling fee in House Bill 1950 is available online (fee only). The environmental protection provisions in House Bill 1950 mirror the measures the Governor announced in October.
Reaction (Updated)
“This is about private sector job growth and protecting our citizens and our environment, pure and simple,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). “The natural gas industry is the fastest-growing industry in the Commonwealth. The legislation passed today is a balanced approach to protecting Pennsylvania’s residents and resources and continuing the growth of this job-creating industry.”
Gov. Corbett thanked members of the House for passing House Bill 1950 saying the bill "promotes job growth, protects the environmental, includes a responsible impact fee and incorporates many of the recommendations of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.
"I look forward to continuing to work with the members of the General Assembly to enact a fair and comprehensive Marcellus Shale package this session," Corbett said.
"Essentially, this bill ensures strong and consistent environmental standards across the state that includes revisions to the Oil and Gas Act through additional well bonding, setbacks, drinking water protections, permit reviews and new standards relating to lighting, noise, odor and security," said Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga). "With my amendment, we substantially raised the bar of what we expect of natural gas operators. Pennsylvania has a long and distinguished history of regulating the oil and gas industry. The standards now outlined in House Bill 1950 build upon that history and will help make Pennsylvania a national leader in energy policy, production of natural gas and job creation."
"House Bill 1950 contains significant changes in setbacks and other environmental safeguards," said Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming). "The local government restrictions have been substantially modified and this bill contains funding for environmental programs like Growing Greener and the Environmental Stewardship Fund, in addition to requiring a comprehensive study of the cumulative effects on air quality. I am pleased that this bill keeps the majority of the impact fee in local areas such as ours, rather than having it turn into a state general fund money grab."
"While I am unhappy that the House chose not to consider my legislation that would dedicate funds from Marcellus Shale drilling to education and programs to help those with special needs, this bill remains a solid first step," said Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery). "I'm pleased that House Bill 1950 gives the Environmental Stewardship Fund a dedicated source of funding. This program has been key to saving park land and open space.
"While this particular impact fee was not my first choice, it marks a very significant step forward in my ongoing effort to ensure the natural gas industry is held responsible and accountable for any impacts it may have on both drilling communities and the environment statewide," said Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery). "The highlight of the legislation by far is that it provides a dedicated, reliable, long-term source of funding for the Environmental Stewardship Fund, also known as Growing Greener.
"As the architect of the Growing Greener II program, I have seen the vast, positive difference that $625 million in funding has made for farmland preservation, open space, parks and recreation, acid mine drainage cleanup and more across the state. Continued funding for this program is absolutely vital to the protection of our environment for future generations."
"This Corbett-Republican tax bill does not force these huge, out-of-state drilling companies to pay their fair share – and it fails to address the many statewide impacts of drilling activity, including environmental threats," said House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny). "This bill is more than just a gift to the oil and gas industry – It's a reckless abandonment of our responsibility to protect and defend the welfare of this Commonwealth."
"This bill would benefit only a select few – namely the drilling companies – while leaving the vast majority of Pennsylvanians with zero benefit from the development of this rich natural resource," said Democratic Whip Mike Hanna (D-Clinton). "If we are serious about protecting our environment, then we should enact a robust severance tax, not this sham of a bill."
"This bill is an absolute embarrassment," said Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny). "It has an obscenely low tax rate, inadequate environmental regulations and pitifully low bonding requirements. This is not what Pennsylvanians want. They want a serious bill that protects the interests of Pennsylvanians over the interests of the oil and gas industry."
“There are some good provisions in this bill, including providing some revenue to the Environmental Stewardship Fund, but the bill held improved environmental regulations and funding for environmental programs hostage in return for an embarrassingly low impact fee,” said Jan Jarrett PennFuture President and CEO. “Worse, the fee may vary from county to county, and it takes away the ability of local governments to manage the impact of drilling through local ordinances. Pennsylvanians want – and deserve – better."
“House Bill 1950 reflects recommendations that were carefully and thoughtfully developed by the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission after months of research, discussion and input on how to responsibly grow and regulate the industry, and bring jobs, business opportunities and additional revenue to the Commonwealth,” said PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr, who served on the commission as vice chairman of its Economic and Workforce Development Subcommittee.
NOTE: This story will be updated as members release press statements.

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