Monday, December 30, 2013

PA Statewide Sustainable Energy Board To Meet Jan. 9

The PA Statewide Sustainable Energy Board, in conjunction with the Public Utility Commission, will hold its annual meeting at 11 a.m., January 9, in Hearing Room 1 of the Commonwealth Keystone Building, Harrisburg.
In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held January 23 in the same location.
The meeting will provide updates from the regional sustainable energy funds (SEFs) and is being held to update Commonwealth agencies and other interested groups on activities of the energy funds.
Some of the projects being discussed at the meeting will include the following:
— The Sustainable Energy Fund, operating in the PPL Electric Utilities Corp. service territory, will highlight EnergyPath 2013 and the Sustainable Energy Finance Program which is a new program that provides 0 percent loans to municipalities and nonprofit organizations.
— The Sustainable Development Fund, operating in the PECO service territory, will present information on lessons learned from energy lending, with special attention on various local projects.
— The Metropolitan-Edison Co. and Pennsylvania Electric Co. Sustainable Energy Fund will focus on its Energy and Education Plan, which is a comprehensive, education-based energy conservation program.
— The West Penn Power Co.’s Sustainable Energy Fund will provide an overview of the programs and projects which it helped co-fund, including efforts to support the use of biomass for thermally-driven, industrial and institutional applications.
Representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Consumer Advocate, the Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council have been invited to attend.
For more information, visit the PA Statewide Sustainable Energy Board webpage.

Registration Now Open For Schuylkill Watershed Congress On March 15

The Schuylkill Watershed Congress is a an annual gathering of citizens interested in watershed protection and restoration which this year will be held on March 15 at the Montgomery County Community College campus in Pottstown.
The 2014 Watershed Congress program kicks off with a keynote panel presented by staff of the William Penn Foundation who will be speaking about the Foundation's Delaware River Watershed Protection Grant Program.
Concurrent sessions for the upcoming program include presentations on the Schuylkill River water trail, abandoned mine drainage, invasive rock snot, habitat restoration, green construction, native meadow management, rain barrels and rain gardens, living with flood plains, watershed education, and much more.
Registration fees start at $40 (covers participation in Saturday’s program, Saturday morning’s refreshments, and lunch).
For more information and to register, visit the Schuylkill Watershed Congress webpage.

CBF Finds EPA Falling Short In Key Forested Stream Buffer Milestones

A Chesapeake Bay Foundation review of the federal government’s 2014-15 draft milestones and other recent actions released Monday has determined the federal government is falling short in its commitments to expand forest buffers, rein in air pollution, and comply with the Clean Water Act when approving permits to reduce stormwater pollution from urban/suburban runoff.
“While the Clean Water Blueprint is successfully reducing pollution from some sources, federal efforts in key areas are falling short,” said CBF Senior Water Quality Scientist Beth McGee. “Of even more concern is that important actions to achieve those commitments have not been included in the next two-year milestones. One of the things that distinguishes current efforts from past efforts that fell far short of the mark are these clear and transparent short-term commitments.”
President Obama’s Executive Order in 2009 required the federal government to develop and implement two-year milestones to support state pollution reduction efforts.
All the major Bay states rely heavily on forest buffers to achieve their water quality goals. In fact, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program, these buffers are the second most important practice to reduce nitrogen pollution.
State pollution reduction plans call for roughly an additional 185,000 acres of forest buffers by 2025, an average increase of 14,200 acres per year. Implementation progress in 2012 was roughly an additional 2,600 acres. This is less than 20 percent of the amount needed annually, and one of the lowest acreage gains since the late 1990s.
Funding for buffers, and the technical assistance to implement them, comes primarily from the Farm Bill. The 2008 Farm Bill prioritized buffer planting and provided additional assistance to the region’s farmers. Much of that funding expired this fall when Congress failed to pass an extension of the legislation.
“The lack of progress toward forest buffer goals is alarming given the importance of this practice to achieving clean water,” CBF’s McGee said. “Bay Program staff are aware of the shortfall and CBF calls on USDA to include milestone commitments that will accelerate implementation of forest buffers in the Bay states.”
As part of the Clean Water Blueprint, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committed to reducing nitrogen pollution from the air by an estimated three million pounds. That reduction was expected to be achieved by air pollution regulations that have now been tied up in court for years. And those regulations only cover coal-fired power plants.
Federal courts have ruled that sources of air pollution that are known to directly discharge pollutants into waters of the United States can be regulated not just under the Clean Air Act, but under the Clean Water Act as well.
CBF is calling on EPA to utilize its current authority to do just that. In addition to coal plants, major polluters like asphalt plants, cement kilns, and pulp and paper manufacturers within the Chesapeake Bay airshed could be forced to reduce pollution damaging local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Finally, CBF and the Choose Clean Water Coalition are concerned that many permits that reduce polluted runoff from urban and suburban areas are failing to comply with the Clean Water Act. They fail to set deadlines and regular benchmarks for reducing pollution from runoff, fail to promote the kinds of runoff control practices that would best protect water quality in the rivers and streams the runoff enters, and fail to require adequate monitoring of results. EPA is responsible for final review and approval of these permits.
In Pennsylvania, which has permits that don’t explain the kinds of implementation plans that are expected of localities, EPA has not exerted its authority sufficiently to ensure transparency and accountability, and that pollution is reduced and deadlines are met.
“Restoring local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay will only be achieved when all the partners do their fair share,” McGee said. “The federal government must step up its oversight and clearly define the actions it will take over the next two years to ensure progress. Meeting the milestones will not just benefit us today, but also our children and future generations.”
Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Fact Sheets
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation PA Office has issued a series of fact sheets outlining the water quality problems and solutions being implemented in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed--
-- A Primer On Pollutants Of Concern-- outlines the contributions Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed makes to nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution to the Bay.
-- Nearly 20,000 Miles Of PA Streams Are Polluted-- details the fact there are thousands of stream miles and hundreds of acres of lakes all across Pennsylvania that are considered “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act that either have or will require what is known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
-- Cost Effective Solutions Are Known, Documented For The Chesapeake Bay-- notes cost effective pollution solutions have already made significant progress in reducing pollution going to the Bay, particularly in Pennsylvania.
-- Lancaster County Plain Sect Farms As Clean Water Stewards-- provides a snapshot of the Buffer Bonus initiative from CBF to encourage the installation of stream buffers by Amish and Plain Sect farmers in Lancaster County.
-- Amish and Old Order Mennonite Farms Protect Streams And The Bay-- provides an overview of a CBF initiative to work with Plain Sect farmers in Lancaster and Chester counties to install best management practices under federal Farm Bill Programs like the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
In addition, Dr. Beth McGee, Senior Water Quality Scientist at CBF, gave a PowerPoint presentation October 16 on the status of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup in Pennsylvania and the challenges that remain.

Monday NewsClips

More Households Left Out In Cold This Winter
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dec. 30 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The Dec. 30 PA Environment Digest is now available.   Click Here to print entire Digest.

Pennsylvania’s Environment - 2013 Year In Review

2013 ended with a bang as the PA Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion on the Act 13 Marcellus Shale drilling law and the application of the Environmental Rights Amendment that is likely to have implications far beyond the oil and gas industry.
But there were other major milestones, anniversaries, changes and actions in 2013 as well covered by the PA Environment Digest.
2013 saw a change in leadership at the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources with the resignation of Richard Allan at DCNR and his replacement with Ellen Ferretti.  Chris Abruzzo replaced Michael Krancer at DEP in April.  Both Ferretti and Abruzzo were confirmed by the Senate in December.
The Executive Directors of both the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Delaware River Basin Commission also announced their retirements.  Long-time SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz retired and was replaced by Andrew Dehoff.  DRBC’s Executive Director Carol Collier announced her retirement in 2014.
Both Commissions have a significant role in regulating water withdrawals by the Marcellus Shale drilling industry and in the case of DRBC, managing the drilling moratorium that has been in place since December of 2011.
Carl Roe, who for 8 years served as Executive Director of the Game Commission, announced he would retire in January 2014.
Changes in leadership were also announced by several non-profit environmental groups, including Harry Campbell taking over at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA, Cindy Dunn at PennFuture and the retirement of David Mazza in the PA Resources Council’s Pittsburgh office.
In August, Caren Glotfelty, a long-time leader in Pennsylvania’s environmental community, announced her departure from the Heinz Endowments after serving 13 years as the head of environmental programs.  She has been a significant force in supporting Pennsylvania non-profit environmental groups.
Another long-time leader in state parks and forests, Patrick J. Solano, was honored for his lifetime of service by having the Environmental Education Center at Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County named after him.
Pennsylvania’s environmental community also lost a number of environmental pioneers including Dr. Ruth Patrick, William M. Heenan, Bruce Leavitt, Jim Holden and Walter Lyon.
Pennsylvania celebrated the 45th anniversary of Project Scarlift and mine reclamation in the Commonwealth, a York County homeschool group won with 30th Pennsylvania Envirothon and we celebrated the 25th anniversary of both the Recycling Program and the Farmland Preservation Program and the Keystone Fund marked its 20th anniversary.
Other anniversaries and milestones commemorated during 2013 include--
-- 11th anniversary of Quecreek Mine Rescue;
-- 100th anniversary of the 1913 flood in Sharon;
-- Titusville remembers 40th anniversary of oil embargo;
-- 80th anniversary of Civilian Conservation Corps;
-- Golden anniversary of Pine Grove Furnace State Park;
-- Pinchot Institute’s 50th anniversary; and
-- A century of elk in Pennsylvania.
Environmental Funding
2013 was the eleventh year in a row environmental funding has been cut, starting with the 2003-04 budget under Gov. Rendell.  So far $1.9 billion in environmental funding has been cut or diverted over the last 11 years to balance the general state budget or to support programs that could not get funding on their own.
On the positive side of the ledger, the $2.3 billion transportation funding plan signed into law in November included a $30 million increase in funding for the Dirt and Gravel Road Program and an increase in dedicated funding for the Fish and Boat Commission.
In addition, the Public Utility Commission distributed $102.6 million in drilling impact fees to local governments and another $94.7 million to state agency programs.
Program Initiatives/Changes/Actions
There were other significant environmental program milestones, changes and actions in 2013, some of which are outlined here.
DEP published a comprehensive update to Chapter 78 drilling regulations in December required by Act 13 laying out new environmental protection and permitting requirements and fundamentally changing the Marcellus Shale regulatory program.
DEP also announced the first comprehensive study in the country to look at the naturally occurring levels of radioactivity in by-products associated with oil and gas development.
The DEP Citizens Advisory Council made a series of recommendations to DEP on improving public participation in the agency, including asking the public directly for ideas on improving the process for developing regulations and policy development.
In response to the Council’s recommendations, DEP established an online Public Participation Center to make it easier for the public to learn about what issues are in front of the agency and how they can get involved.
DEP also started a biweekly online newsletter distributed by email, something the agency had not done for at least 8 years.
In another important court decision, Commonwealth Court ruled the City of Reading may no longer charge a recycling fee to support its city-run recycling program putting in doubt the fees charges by other municipalities and counties, including the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Other milestones, changes and actions of note--
-- A Federal Court turns back a challenge to Chesapeake Bay cleanup standards, but decision was appealed;
-- DEP finalizes air quality permit criteria for Marcellus gas well sites;
-- An Independent review of DEP’s Oil and Gas Program says the program well managed;
-- The Center For Sustainable Shale Development is  formed to provide independent certification of drilling best practices;
-- Drilling fees fund more than $28.5 million in environmental, recreation projects;
-- Attorney General files criminal charges against XTO Energy drilling company;
-- The William Penn Foundation announced the creation of a new vision for the Delaware Watershed.
-- The Academy Of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia leads regional watershed protection efforts;
-- REAP farm conservation tax credit reduces over half million pounds of nitrogen;
-- PA’s biggest Chesapeake Bay cleanup challenge: 609 million pounds of sediment;
-- EPA agrees Lower Susquehanna River is not impaired at this time;
-- Rediscovered technology makes mine drainage treatment more effective, less costly;
-- DEP Secretary takes steps to end 10-year information drought;
-- 18 States, PA: EPA cannot dictate greenhouse gas standards for existing power plants;
-- The update of Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Plan moves to completion;
-- EQB accepted a petition from a 19-year old on setting greenhouse gas reduction goals in PA;
-- Coal production is projected to drop 25 percent and gas production to increase 800 percent in Pennsylvania by 2017;
-- 95 percent of DEP permits reviewed on time, backlog of permits cleared;
-- Keep PA Beautiful completes statewide county illegal dump survey;
-- Lancaster County preserves 100,000th acre of farmland; and
-- Game Commission film celebrates Bald Eagle restoration success.
Analysis And Opinion In 2013
The PA Environment Digest published a number of articles and op-ed pieces on environmental issues in 2013.  Here is a sampling--
StateImpact: Top 10 Stories Of 2013 Part IV

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