Tuesday, February 28, 2012

House Changes DEP Budget Hearing To March 6

The House Appropriations Committee has rescheduled the budget hearing for the Department of Environmental Protection to March 6 at 3:00.

DCNR Secretary: Elimination Of Keystone Funds Is Permanent

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan told the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday the transfer of $38 million from the Keystone, Parks and Conservation Fund to the General Fund is not just a one-time transfer, but is proposed to be permanent.
            Here are some key questions asked during the hearing--
More Drilling Leases: Secretary Allan said there is a moratorium in place on further State Forest leasing for drilling.  There are no plans to lease additional State Forest Land, but he said if they would, they would follow the recommendations of the Governor's Marcellus Shale Commission to only do leases where they leave little or no surface impact.

            DCNR anticipates receiving a little over $56 million in FY 2012-13, the FY 2011-12 revenues in royalties and rents from drilling, Secretary Allan said.
            He said another 50 to 100 or so new Marcellus wells should be coming into production on State Forest land during the coming year, however, there may be some decrease in drilling revenues in the next year or so with lower natural gas prices.
            Of the 812 well permits have been approved by DCNR on State Forest land, 778 Marcellus Shale wells have been permitted by DEP, 442 wells have been drilled and there are now 152 producing wells.
            In response to a question, Secretary Allan said the agency professionals are constantly monitoring drilling companies to make sure they comply with their leases and agency best management practices, including encouraging the use of existing access roads and right-of-ways.  He said so far, the drillers have been good stewards and have minimized their impacts on State Forest lands.
Keystone Fund: The proposed transfer of $38 million of revenues earmarked for DCNR from the Keystone, Parks and Conservation Fund to the General Fund generated many questions.  Secretary Allan said the transfer is proposed to be permanent, not a one-time transfer.
            He said he advised the Governor's Office the reduction in funding will require the agency to put off some maintenance projects and reduce the funding going for grants.
            He said the transfer will require the agency to look to other sources of monies to support their operations, like the Oil and Gas Fund, the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund and the new drilling fee revenue.
            Secretary Allan said he believes in the future there will be more revenue in the Oil and Gas Fund and from the new drilling fee to replace at least some of the Keystone Fund monies.  He estimated DCNR could see up to $1.8 million from the new impact fee, 1 percent of the revenue from the drilling fee.
Maintenance Wishlist: Secretary Allan said a "wishlist" of State Parks and State Forest maintenance and improvement projects totaling about $1 billion.  He said they prioritize projects based on health and safety issues and projects which preserve the recreational value of State Parks and State Forests.
State Parks:  In spite of budget constraints, Secretary Allan said, DCNR anticipates being able to keep all State Parks open and available for residents, but acknowledged there may be some changes in some services offered, such as the hours in some parks.
            Secretary Allan repeated the results of an updated economic study showing for every dollar invested, State Parks bring in $12 for a total of $1.1 billion of economic activity annually and they support over 13,000 jobs in and around the parks.
Drilling In State Parks: DCNR has a policy that there will be no drilling in State Parks where the state owns the mineral rights, Secretary Allan said.  Unfortunately, he said, the state owns mineral rights on only 20 percent of the land in State Parks and on 80 percent in State Forests.  He said DCNR will look to enforce their guidelines and best management practices on drillers on State Park land and other areas where they don't own mineral rights to make sure any surface impacts are minimized.
Heritage Parks: In response to a question about again zeroing out of the Heritage Parks Program, Secretary Allan said they are still eligible to apply for grants under the agency's Community Conservation Partnership Grants. 
Privatizing More State Park Services: Asked about leasing State Park land for the development of private recreational facilities, including hotels, golf courses and lakes, Secretary Allan noted DCNR has developed the The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park which gives visitors a higher end visitor overnight accommodations.
Flood Damage: DCNR had about $6 million in damage from flooding last fall.  Secretary Allan said they submitted those damages to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for potential reimbursement.  He complemented DCNR staff for providing help to their local communities and pre and post-flooding aerial photography for helping to assess flood damage.
Friends Groups: Secretary Allan noted many State Parks and State Forests have "Friends" groups that can accept monitory and in-kind donations to help do maintenance and other improvements to DCNR's facilities, within certain rules.
Lifeguards: In response to questions about not having lifeguards at State Parks, Secretary Allan said DCNR will continue the open swim policy at State Parks.  He said visitors said they appreciate the longer swimming hours the program offers.
            A copy of Secretary Allan's written opening statement is available online.

Tuesday NewsClips

Bradford Commissioner May End Up Supporting Impact Fee
Western PA Wells Had Casing Failures In Complaint Area
Company Assessing Damage Of Well Leak
First Sampling Completed In National Fracking Study
Poultry Farm Proposal Prompts DEP Hearing
Agencies Clean Up Milk Spilled Into Creek In Somerset
Trucking Firm Fined For Detergent Spill Into Stream
Eagles May Be Harming Hawks In Lancaster
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Monday, February 27, 2012

DEP Citizens’ Advisory Council Appoints New Executive Director

The Citizens’ Advisory Council to the Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday the appointment of Marjorie Hughes as its executive director.
           Hughes, who most recently served as chief of DEP’s Conservation District Support Division in the Bureau of Waterways and Wetlands, starts her new position today. She succeeds Sue Wilson, who retired in December 2011 after serving as executive director for 19 years.
           “As a former member of the Citizens’ Advisory Council myself, I can say that the council’s service is invaluable,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “Marge’s vast experience will be a tremendous asset, and I look forward to working with her in this capacity.”
           Hughes has more than 35 years of state and local government experience in environmental and transportation public policy development and program implementation. She has served as DEP’s regulatory coordinator as well as an executive assistant and special assistant to several deputy secretaries and chief of several programs at DEP and the Department of Transportation.
          Hughes is a graduate of Slippery Rock University with a multi-disciplinary bachelor’s degree in physical sciences, planning and conservation. She earned a master’s degree in public management from Carnegie Mellon University.
          The Citizens’ Advisory Council was established by the law that created DEP’s predecessor, the Department of Environmental Resources, in 1971. Its 18 appointed members review the agency’s work and key environmental issues facing the commonwealth, then make recommendations to the DEP secretary, governor and General Assembly. The council’s office is in the Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg.

Monday NewsClips

Industries, Drillers Aid Police In River Security
Farmer Ratchets Up Battle Against Shale Gas Industry
Tioga County Lands Growing Greener Grant
Study Targets Pollution By Small Power Plants
Sunoco, PA Officials Clash Over Marcus Hook Refinery
Sunoco Chief Meets With Local Officials
Op-Ed: On Climate Change, Society Trails Science
Middle Creek: Honk If You Love Geese
Editorial: Bat Fungus, Few Clues
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feb. 27 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Feb 27 PA Environment Digest now available.  Click Here to print this entire Digest.

DEP Secretary: I'm Bullish About This Budget And In Our Ability To Deliver
Secretary of Environmental Protection Michael Krancer told the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday DEP has the resources and personnel to properly regulate and protect pubic health and safety and the environment in all areas of the department, including Marcellus Shale.  "I'm bullish about this budget and in our ability to deliver."
            A copy of Secretary Krancer's formal budget statement is available online and a summary appears below.  Video of the Senate budget hearings for the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Protection are available online.

Friday NewsClips

New Law Tightens Oversight Of Natural Gas Pipelines
Op-Ed: Eminent Domain For Pipelines A Problem
PUC: Commission Will Be Agressive About Impact Fee Spending
Drilling Feeds Washington County's Development
Closer Look At PSU's Drilling/Crime Study
The Fracking Landscape, A Tale Of Two Pennsylvanias
State Funds Rail Work At Potential Cracker Site In Beaver
NE Rail Projects Receive Funding
Range Resources' Walker Named Engineer Of The Year
PSS Adds Strategic Marcellus Shale Location With Acquisition
State Agencies Updates Fish Consumption Warnings
Where Not To Eat The Fish
Rex Energy To Stop Supplying Water To Butler County Homes
Protecting Watersheds Goal Of Schuylkill River Congress
Lawn Service Firm Agrees To Settlement Over Discharge
Harrisburg Gasoline Prices Likely To Rise
Gasoline Expected to Rise This Weekend
Lehigh Valley Group Names Brownfields Director
Westmoreland Agency Borrows $4 Million For Energy Efficiency
Column: Climate Scientist Accused Of Stealing Documents
Court Denies Centralia Property Owners From Keeping Homes
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewClips

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Video Of Senate Budget Hearings For DEP, DCNR Now Available

Video of the Senate budget hearings for the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Protection are available online.

PUC Provides Direction On Implementation Of Drilling Impact Fee

The Public Utility Commission Wednesday provided direction for local governments and other interested parties on the PUC’s implementation of the Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee Act (Act 13).
            In a Secretarial Letter issued Wednesday, the PUC provided information regarding the filing of documents with the Commission. The PUC also has established a page on its website to provide information and answer questions about Act 13.
            “We understand that dealing with the PUC is new for many of those impacted by Act 13,” said Commission Chairman Robert F. Powelson. “As we move through the implementation steps, we will work to keep interested parties informed and help them meet their obligations under the Act.”
            The Commission has created an email address – ra-Act13@pa.gov – in order to create an electronic distribution list for interested parties and to receive information regarding implementation of Act 13. Those wishing to be on the official service list for this docket should send their name and mailing address to that email address.
            All Implementation Orders and other official information on Act 13 will be docketed at M-2012-2288561. Interested parties can use the Search for Public Documents function on the PUC’s website and enter the docket number to view all of the documents connected with the ongoing implementation of the Act.
            In the coming weeks, the Commission plans to issue a Tentative Implementation Order that will address various issues and proposed procedures related to the Commission’s duties under the Act. The PUC will provide an opportunity for comment on the implementation plans before they become final.
            The guidance provided by the Tentative Implementation Order will include additional information that must be filed with requests for advisory opinions and reviews of local ordinances.
            Counties and municipalities also should use the docket number to file notices that they plan to implement an impact fee and/or municipal resolutions to compel the imposition of an impact fee.
            Requests from municipalities for advisory opinions regarding proposed local ordinances regulating oil and natural gas operations should be filed with no docket number. The Commission will assign a separate docket number for each of those requests.
            For more information, visit the PUC's Act 13 webpage.

Help Wanted: Berks Conservation District Agricultural Conservationist, West Nile Technician

The Berks County Conservation District is seeking candidates for an Agricultural Resource Conservationist position.  An Agricultural Resource Conservationist provides technical and financial assistance to local landowners in order to conserve soil, and to protect and enhance Berks County's natural resources.
            The District is also seeking candidates for a West Nile Virus Seasonal Technician to be responsible for implementing mosquito control and Integrated Mosquito Management throughout Berks County. Duties include field work, data collection, data entry, mosquito control activities and coordination with neighboring counties and Department of Environmental Protection staff.
            All applicants should be able to identify larval, pupal and adult mosquitoes, transport and set up equipment in isolated areas, read and understand label directions for the application on insect eradication agents, walk and work in heavily wooded and wet areas.
            All applicants are required to have a B.S. in Entomology, Environmental Resource Management, Biology or a closely related field is required; all applicants are required to possess or be able to acquire a PA Department of Agriculture Pesticide Applicator’s License.
            Interested applicants should submit a resume to the Berks County Conservation District either by mail to 1238 County Welfare Road, Suite 200, Leesport, PA 19533 or send email to tammy.bartsch@berkscd.com, no phone calls, please.  Additional information will be posted on the District website.

DEP Secretary: I'm Bullish About This Budget And In Our Ability To Deliver

Secretary of Environmental Protection Michael Krancer told the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday DEP has the resources and personnel to properly regulate and protect pubic health and safety and the environment in all areas of the department, including Marcellus Shale.  "I'm bullish about this budget and in our ability to deliver."
            A copy of Secretary Krancer's formal budget statement is available online and a summary appears below.
            Here are some highlights of the Committee's two hours of questioning on DEP's proposed budget--
Drilling Wastewater Treatment: Drilling companies have complied with the request to not send their wastewater to public wastewater treatment facilities without the ability to properly treat the water.  He said it is one of the real success stories that happened without the need to issue orders.  90 percent or more of the wastewater is being recycled and about 10 percent is being sent for disposal.   He also said there are facilities being developed in-state specifically for treating drilling wastewater.
            He added DEP is continuing to monitor rivers like the Monongahela River for the impact of the drilling wastewater policy, but it is too early to draw any conclusions from the information.
            This issue was also addressed in Secretary Krancer's written opening statement (below).
County Option Marcellus Fee: In response to a question about what happens if counties like Bradford do not adopt the new impact fee, Secretary Krancer said the funds DEP expects are supplementing the funding they have now.  The revenue from the impact fee is not "backfilling" funding that is not there.
Coordination With PUC On Impact Fee: Secretary Krancer said he has a good personal relationship with the Chair of the PUC Robert Powelson and talks to him almost every day so coordination on implementing the new impact fee should not be a problem.
Marcellus Shale Air Inventory: In answer to a question about the Marcellus Shale air emission inventory DEP is working on, Secretary Krancer said it will yield important data about the nature and extent of emissions related to the industry.
            This issue was also addressed in Secretary Krancer's written opening statement (below).
Uniform State vs. Local Regulation: Asked whether the limits on local regulation of Marcellus Shale drilling would be replicated for other industries, Secretary Krancer said he had no way to predict whether it will be expanded to other industries.  He noted a similar concept was applied to farming.
Marcellus Well Inventory: In response to a question about a newspaper report that 495 Marcellus wells were not in the DEP database, Secretary Krancer said DEP is working on its data management system which is always an issue.  He said the agency does not make decisions based on newspaper articles.
            This issue was also addressed in Secretary Krancer's written opening statement (below).
Encourage Natural Gas Use: Secretary Krancer agreed there should be more end use of natural gas and its byproducts, but decisions about its use should be left up to the market to decide.
DRBC Drilling Regulation: Secretary Krancer said he does not know when the Delaware River Basin Commission will finalize its drilling regulations.  He said it should have been done last year.  He noted other states have reduced their funding to DRBC by 70 percent (Delaware) when Pennsylvania only reduced it by 5 percent.
Drinking Water Well Standards: In response to a question about the need to set drinking water well construction standards, Secretary Krancer said the Center for Rural Pennsylvania documented the many issues with private water wells and that DEP has testified in favor of legislation setting water well standards.
Permit Review Times/Consistency: The reorganization of the agency last year was aimed in part at making improvements in the consistency of permit reviews between regions Secretary Krancer said.  He also said an enforcement and permit process review in the agency found different ways of doing the same things and those are in the process of being corrected.
            He said permit processing time depends on the quality of the applications coming in the door.  Applicants need to give the department a good product to work with, said Secretary Krancer.  He also noted the agency is developing an e-permitting application process for certain programs.
            This issue was also addressed in Secretary Krancer's written opening statement (below).
Hazardous Sites Cleanup: Secretary Krancer said with the phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax there will need to be a conversation on how to fund the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, although the new Marcellus impact fee does provide some funding for the program.
Flood Recovery Funding: Secretary Krancer said the cuts to the flood control and stormwater funding line items will not have a bearing on funding projects related to last year's flood damage.   It was noted the House is getting signals from the Corbett Administration they do not think any more needs to be done on flood control projects, part of the six bill bipartisan package passed by the Senate last September.  Secretary Krancer said he would be happy to talk about the issue.
            This issue was also addressed in Secretary Krancer's written opening statement (below).
Delaware River Flooding: In response to a question about New York reservoir releases contributing to flooding along the Delaware River, Secretary Krancer said Pennsylvania has been working with New York under the flexible flow management agreement to provide better control of Delaware River levels.
Riparian Buffers: Secretary Krancer said they are looking to see how the requirement included in Chapter 102 regulations requiring riparian buffers works in practice before he considers changes.
Federal Mine Reclamation: DEP expects about $67 million in federal mine reclamation funds in FY 2012-13, up from $47 million in the current year.
Sewage Facilities/Operating Grants: Secretary Krancer said the reality is the sewage related line items have been going down for some time.  He noted local governments could support these with fees.  This issue was also addressed in Secretary Krancer's written opening statement (below).
Expanding Recycling: In response to a question about whether the state should expand the recycling program, Secretary Krancer said he would like to take that as a homework assignment.
            Formal Opening Statement
            In his formal budget statement, Secretary Krancer highlighted many different initiatives undertaken in the agency over the last year to improve operations and address major issues in the department--
DEP Reorganization: The objective of the reorganization was aimed a recasting DEP to reflect Gov. Corbett's and his policy priorities of, among other things, getting DEP back to its basic mission, consistency in the application of rules and regulations and emphasizing brownfields redevelopment.            
Flood Response: The budget request includes the necessary state funding needed to trigger matching funds from the federal government for flood recovery.  Secretary Krancer noted DEP had a major role in flood recovery in response to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, including issuing over 1,000 emergency permits for flood debris cleanup, distributed about 3,000 drinking water well test kits, enhanced vector control programs to monitor and spray in 18 counties, helped facilitate county-centralized debris collection centers and secured a gasoline shortage declaration for Western PA.
Drilling Wastewater: Secretary Krancer said the call to drillers to cease delivering wastewater to 15 water treatment facilities previously exempted from Total Dissolved Solids regulations was a success and a "dramatic sea change" from what has occurred in Pennsylvania in prior years.

Enforcement Activities: He highlighted the largest penalty ever assessed against a drilling operation as evidence of tough enforcement which agency staff worked very hard to accomplish as well as other major enforcement actions.
Permit Backlog Review/Analysis: He said DEP undertook "business-like steps" to examine the permit backlog problem, diagnose it and resolve it noting improvements to the way drilling operations are regulated under Chapters 78 (well construction standards) and 102 (erosion and sedimentation), web-based training for the new Chapter 102 regulations agency-wide and they initiated several projects to create additional general permits where appropriate to simplify the permitting process to drastically reduce the agency's workload, without negatively impact the environment.
Comprehensive Regulation/Policy Review: As promised during Gov. Corbett's campaign, the agency completed its review of DEP's 5,500 pages of regulations and over 530 technical guidance documents during the first 90 days of the Administration for necessity, clarity, administrative efficiency, economic competitiveness and federal consistency.  That review, he said, was ongoing in a staged manner in coordination with the Governor's Policy Office.
DEP's Enforcement Consistency Study: An internal team of DEP staff reviewed the agency's oil and gas enforcement policies, the violations issued and enforcement actions taken and announced recommended program changes aimed at achieving more consistency last November.  DEP has already implemented a more detailed electronic inspection form and developed additional training for inspectors and water quality specialists.
Marcellus Shale Well Numbers: DEP has been working diligently to address data quality issues both internally and with the regulated community regarding the way information on wells is reported.  It is not true, he said, the lack of any information from DEP delayed the consideration of Marcellus Shale legislation.

Marcellus Drilling-Related Air Emissions: He noted air quality has improved across the state, even in areas with drilling and burning more natural gas will further improve air quality.  In 2010 and 2011 short-term air assessments where drilling is happening does not identify concentrations of air contaminates likely to trigger air-related health issues.  He said without legislation, DEP is undertaking an inventory of air emissions from Marcellus Shale operations which he said the agency will publish by the end of this year.
Southeast Refineries: DEP stands ready to work with the seller and any buyers of the Southeast Pennsylvania refineries recently shutdown to transfer permits or on any new required permits.  DEP is also "on watch" to make sure there are no public safety concerns during this process.
Spending Reductions: He said spending reductions over the last two years were achieved without the furlough of any DEP employees and with "no reduction in the delivery of environmental oversight and protection."  The budget reduction did result in the elimination of 51 positions in the agency that were vacant.
Sewage Facilities Enforcement & Planning Grants: He noted applications for enforcement grants have decreased since 2008 and local governments have the ability to raise fees and have budgeted for the reductions in reimbursements.  He said there is currently a backlog of several years worth of sewage facilities grants which will not receive reimbursement until 2015-16.  As a result, there should be minimal impact on local sewage planning activities.  In addition, the new Marcellus Shale law will provide more funding for water and sewer projects through PennVEST and the H20 Program.
Marcellus Shale Law: Secretary Krancer said the new Marcellus Shale law is a balanced, multilateral approach to responsible domestic energy development in Pennsylvania and fulfills his major goals for the program, including providing additional protection for the environment and public health.  He also noted the impact fee will provide significant additional funding for Oil and Gas Operations, as well as water infrastructure programs and the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund.

Wednesday NewsClips

Wyoming County To Approve Drilling Impact Fee
Fish Commission Probes Pipeline Leak Into Butler County Creek
Inside PA's New Drilling Production Numbers
Transco Natural Gas Pipeline Worked Discussed
Study: Crime Rates Unsettled In Marcellus Shale Drilling Areas
Cabot, Williams Announces New Marcellus Pipeline
Clean Air Council Says DEP Lax In Drilling Air Pollution
Book Reviews: Why Not Frack?
DEP: No Fines In Tunkhannock Service Station Leak
Power Price To Drop March1 For PPL Customers
Sticker Shock: Electricity Rates Keep Falling
PPL Bills Go Lower Thanks To Cheap Natural Gas
Editorial: Gasoline Prices May Fuel Changes
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Help Wanted: Chester County Conservation District Agricultural Conservationist

The Chester County Conservation District is seeking candidates for an Agricultural Resource Conservationist position.  An Agricultural Resource Conservationist provides technical and financial assistance to local landowners in order to conserve soil, and to protect and enhance Chester County's natural resources.  Click Here for instructions on how to apply.

Growing Greener Coalition: Corbett Budget Cuts Undermine New Shale Law

The Renew Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations in the Commonwealth, Tuesday urged the General Assembly to reject cuts to environmental, conservation and recreation programs in the Governor’s proposed 2012-2013 budget.
            “With Pennsylvania’s land, water and air facing significant threats and impacts due to Marcellus Shale development, we should be increasing, not decreasing, funding for the programs that protect these vital resources,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition. “The funding contained in the Marcellus Shale legislation was meant to help address the environmental impacts of natural gas drilling, but there would actually be less funding available for these purposes if the Legislature approves the cuts to environmental, conservation and recreation programs proposed in the Governor’s budget.” 
            Under the proposed budget, the Corbett administration has recommended: 
-- Using more than $37.5 from the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay for debt service, leaving just $23 million available for Growing Greener programs and projects, the lowest amount of funding in recent decades. 
-- Transferring $30 million from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund to the general fund, and permanently eliminating this popular and important conservation and recreation program. This is the largest cut in conservation funding in state history. 
-- Diverting $20.5 million in dedicated farmland preservation funding from the cigarette tax to the general fund for 2012 and beyond. 
            “These cuts undermine the progress made in the Marcellus Shale legislation to increase investments in these programs,” said Heath. “We are calling on our legislative champions who support Growing Greener to prevent this from happening.” 
            Together, these programs have supported thousands of park and trail projects throughout the Commonwealth,preserved thousands of acres of family farmland, conserved thousands of acres of threatened open space and protected hundreds of miles of streams and waterways. In addition, they have contributed and leveraged billions of dollars to the Pennsylvania economy by helping to boost tourism, create jobs and generate revenue. 
            The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations in the Commonwealth, representing nearly 350 organizations and government entities from across the state.
            More than 140 government entities, including 35 counties, representing more than seven million Pennsylvanians, have passed resolutions calling for a dedicated source of funding for the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund.

CBF Comments On EPA Review Of Pennsylvania's Chesapeake Watershed Plan

Matthew J. Ehrhart, PA Executive Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Monday issued the following statement in conjunction with the EPA’s evaluation of the draft Pennsylvania Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), recently submitted by the Department of Environmental Protection.
            EPA’s evaluation of the recently submitted PA WIP and milestones identifies both key strengths and needed improvements in order to meet Pennsylvania’s water quality goals.
            Overall, EPA summarizes that while PA’s draft Phase II WIP provides updates on progress to date, it does not provide clear next steps and reasonable assurance that the objectives will be met.  So significant are some of the deficiencies that if improvements aren’t made in the final document, Pennsylvania may face ramifications to federally delegated regulatory and enforcement programs and related federal grants. 
            “CBF joins EPA in commending DEP for strengths highlighted in the draft plan, including the development of a plan to ensure that farmers comply with current laws and regulations; an increased commitment to the Conservation Districts; enabling on-farm visits to ensure awareness of Erosion Control and the newly updated Pennsylvania Manure Management Manual; performing compliance inspections on agricultural operators; and increased training and permitting procedures related to General Permit for stormwater discharges for local communities," said Ehrhart.
            “Additionally, EPA commends PA for taking strides to coordinate with federal agencies to reduce pollution entering our waterways and the Bay. CBF, as a working partner with DEP, agrees, and cites updates to compliance tools, such as the Manure Management Manual, as important advances to assist communities in meeting state water quality goals.
            “At the same time, this plan is weak in several key areas. Overall, the draft Phase II WIP is too vague regarding the strategies, programs, resources, legislation, and timing to be employed to meet our water quality obligations. Nor does it provide reasonable assurance that our goals will be met.
            “One critical shortcoming with the draft Phase II WIP is the lack of specific information regarding the expectations of counties to plan for and facilitate pollution reductions.  For decades, Pennsylvania’s effort to restore the Bay has failed in large part due to the large-scale focus that disconnected farmers, citizens, and local governments and others from the process and responsibility.  One of EPA’s central goals of the Phase II WIPs was to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past by making the effort more localized and, therefore, more relevant.  This plan does not adequately do that.
            “Providing communities with the information, tools, and guidance they need to achieve our water quality goals will be a challenge, but CBF is confident that DEP and EPA can do so. And with the increased funding to water infrastructure and the environmental stewardship fund through recent Marcellus Shale legislation provides Pennsylvania, a unique opportunity to address staffing and resource shortfalls, and to help DEP implement a plan, and meet our water quality goals. Counties receiving direct funding from the impact fee should also prioritize efforts toward meeting these key concerns.
            “CBF looks to the Commonwealth to provide a detailed WIP that outlines the required steps, provides for the needed programs and resources, establishes expectations and compliance mechanisms for all sectors, and provides reasonable assurance that Pennsylvania will, by 2025, meet federal clean water requirements.”

Expedition Chesapeake Launches Student Essay Contest

Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts is inviting students in 7th and 8th grades who live in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York, West Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia to participate in a new essay contest as part of the Expedition Chesapeake Initiative at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg.
            Students are asked in 500 words or less to discuss their favorite science teacher and how this teacher has had an impact on his or her learning. 
            The deadline for essay submissions is May 31, and the winning essay will be chosen before June 25.
            The winner of a new essay contest to spend a day with international conservationist and educator Jeff Corwin on the set of Expedition Chesapeake during the 2012-2013 school year.  Jeff Corwin will serve as the host for the 42-minute Large Format film that is the center of Expedition Chesapeake.
            Corwin is perhaps the world's best known celebrity scientist and has worked for the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems around the world. He recently launched the ABC television series Ocean Mysteries.
            He has also hosted a variety of popular television shows, including Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin Experience, Corwin's Quest and Giant Monsters; Disney's Going Wild with Jeff Corwin; Investigation Earth with the Discovery Networks; and NBC's Jeff Corwin Unleashed, which was nominated four times for an Emmy and won an Emmy for Outstanding Host.
            Complete contest rules and requirements are available by sending email to: essaycontest@expeditionchesapeake.org or by calling 717-234-1295. One winning essay will be chosen by a committee from the Expedition Chesapeake Advisory Panel. 
            "Whitaker Center aims to educate the next generation about important watershed issues and the environment around them. We understand the critical role that teachers play in the education of our youth, and this is an opportunity to recognize the efforts of the area's best science teachers while also reconnecting students with their writing skills," says Dr. Michael Hanes, President and CEO of Whitaker Center.
            Expedition Chesapeake includes four related components headlined by a 42-minute Large Format film. The educational components include a television documentary, a hands-on, 4D science exhibit that will travel to science centers, and a set of online learning experiences designed to engage students throughout the six states of the watershed. The Chesapeake Bay watershed supports 17 million residents and is the largest estuary in the nation.

Tuesday NewsClips

Water Discharge Near Butler Gas Well Site Probed
DEP  Investigating Gas Spill Near Washington County Well
State Probing 2nd Spill At Washington Well
Luzerne County May Adopt Gas Impact Fee
First Shale Health Center Now Open
Marcellus Development Continues In Western PA
Range Resources Could Be Takeover Target
Cabot Oil & Gas Provides Operations Update
Expedition Chesapeake Launches Student Essay Contest
Report: Lake Wallenpaupack Water Quality Up
Casey Calls On Corps To Work On Damaged Levees
Idled Refineries Contribute To Rising Gasoline Prices
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