Thursday, January 31, 2013

DEP: New Permit For Smaller Compressor Stations, Proposes Air Rules For Drill Sites

The Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday it has finalized revisions to a general permit for natural gas-fired engines and equipment at compressor stations, which help move gas from well sites into transmission pipelines.
The revised general permit includes significantly lower allowable emission limits than the previous general permit, called GP-5.
DEP also announced it will accept public comment on a proposed plan approval and operating permit exemption for air emission sources at well drilling sites. Well sites would only be eligible for the exemption for the air quality plan approval process if the wells will meet emission control and monitoring criteria that are stricter than federal air quality rules for controlling wellhead emissions. The plan approval authorizes construction of facilities that emit certain types and amounts of pollutants.
Formal notices announcing the final revised GP-5 and the proposed exemptions to air quality plan approval regulations will appear in the February 2 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. DEP will accept comments on the proposed changes until March 19.
“Pennsylvania has seen improved air quality over the past decade, and the United States led the world in greenhouse gas emission reductions over the past five years, in great part due to shale gas,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “This shift in the way we approach emissions will help us continue these trends.
“The steps we are taking now mean far lower emissions at well sites and more efficient compressor stations, resulting in cleaner air as development, production and transmission take place,” he said. “DEP’s effective and robust oversight will deliver on the promise of cleaner air from the increased use of natural gas.”
The final revisions to GP-5, which were developed after considering public comment, impose emissions limits that are 75 to 90 percent stricter than current limits for the largest, most common types of engines used at compressor stations. Notably, the revised permit also affords operators the ability to install controls to achieve even lower emissions, allowing for the use of additional engines.
“Essentially, we are doing much more by setting these limits as a line the operator cannot cross. This is an improvement in air quality protection,” Krancer said. “We are also determining compliance based on the facility’s actual emissions, instead of equating the permit’s limits with the facility’s emissions, as was previously done.”
Operators of facilities permitted by the GP-5 must demonstrate that their facilities continue to be minor sources as defined by the Clean Air Act, allowing for operational flexibility.
DEP is also proposing a revision to one section of its air quality permit exemption list that governs which types of facilities do need to obtain a plan approval prior to construction. The proposed exemption would apply to wellheads and their associated storage tanks.
The proposed exemption requires drillers to control emissions more stringently and conduct leak detection on the entire wellhead, which is more comprehensive than is currently required by federal air quality rules for oil and gas development. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released these rules, called New Source Performance Standards, in April 2012.
Operators of all newly drilled oil and gas wells would be required to decide between demonstrating eligibility for the exemption or applying for a plan approval after the proposed exemption regulations are finalized.

Lancaster, Chester Farmers Eligible For Special Nutrient Reduction Grants

Farmers in Chester and Lancaster counties are eligible for special Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) grants to reduce nutrient runoff.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service encourages eligible farmers to apply on or before February 15 to be considered for priority funding in this project in fiscal year 2013, although applications to participate in EQIP are accepted on a continual basis.
The funding is available to farmers interested in using enhanced nutrient management approaches (such as soil and plant testing) to  help them apply nutrients only where they are needed most.
The NRCS awarded special funding for a Chesapeake Bay Foundation partnership project to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases on farms in the two counties.
This funding will support a joint CBF-Environmental Defense Fund Conservation Innovation Grant initiative to more efficiently apply nutrients resulting in pollution reduction benefits to water and air. The grant is among nine projects nationally eligible for the $10 million of additional funding.
Resulting reductions of fertilizer will not only decrease potential nitrogen runoff into streams and rivers, but will cut air emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.  EQIP funding can be used to help offset farmers' costs to implement various enhanced nutrient management methods.
The purpose of the CIG project is to quantify these reductions and determine whether the greenhouse gas benefits could be sold as carbon offset credits.
"Enabling farmers to make better decisions about fertilizer use promises to take conservation to the next level with benefits for farmers and the environment," said Denise Coleman, State Conservationist for NRCS in Pennsylvania. "Applying the right amount of nitrogen in the right place at the right time will help producers increase their yields and reduce fertilizer costs while leading to water quality improvements.
Beth McGee, CBF Senior Water Quality scientist, said, "In addition to water quality benefits, we also expect reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. With possible shrinking federal support for conservation programs, we hope the project will ultimately facilitate Chesapeake region farmers' participation in and financial gain from the sale of carbon offset credits."
This project builds on a partnership between CBF, Washington Gas Energy Services and Sterling Planet in which WGES and Sterling Planet contribute to a Carbon Reduction Fund that CBF manages. Carbon Reduction Funding is triggered by the sale of WGES's green product, WGES CleanSteps Carbon offsets.
To date, WGES and Sterling Planet have contributed more than $400,000 to this Carbon Reduction Fund to implement projects, primarily with agricultural producers, which generate carbon offset credits while also reducing pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.
Chester and Lancaster County farmers who want more information about the overall project may contact Chris Sigmund of Team Ag at 717-721-6795, or send email to:
Chester county farmers who want more information about EQIP funding and application process may contact NRCS District Conservationist Beth Sassaman at the Chester County NRCS office at 610-696-0398 or send email to:  
Lancaster county farmers can call District Conservationist Heather Grove at the Lancaster NRCS office at 717-299-5361 or send email to:

CFA Accepting Act 13 Abandoned Mine, Watershed Restoration, Greenways Grant Applications

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is now accepting applications for grants under the Act 13 Marcellus Legacy Fund Programs covering abandoned mine drainage abatement and treatment, watershed restoration and protection, water quality data, greenways, trails and recreation and orphan and abandoned well plugging programs.
Applications are due July 31 and will be considered at the CFA’s November 13 meeting.
-- Abandoned Mine Drainage Abatement: Eligible applications cover projects to restore and maintain stream reaches impaired by abandoned mine drainage and ultimately, to remove these streams from the Department of Environmental Resources Impaired Waters list. Grants will not exceed $1 million and require a 15 percent match.  Click Here for program guidelines.
-- Watershed Restoration Protection: Grants to restore and maintain stream reaches impaired by the uncontrolled discharge of nonpoint source polluted runoff and ultimately to remove these streams from the Department of Environmental Protection’s Impaired Waters list. Grants will not exceed $300,000 and require a 15 percent match.  Click Here for program guidelines.
-- Baseline Water Quality Data Program: Grants to use the scientific principles and practices for water sample collection and analysis to document existing groundwater quality conditions on private water supplies. Grants will not exceed $250,000 and require a 15 percent match.  Click Here for program guidelines.
-- Greenways, Trails and Recreation: Grants for the planning, acquisition, development, rehabilitation and repair of greenways, recreational trails, open space, parks and beautification projects. Grants will not exceed $250,000 and require a 50 percent match, except for applications from municipalities with a population of less than 5,000 which requires a 20 percent match.  Click Here for program guidelines.
-- Orphan or Abandoned Well Plugging: grants to provide mechanisms to plug abandoned and orphaned wells that have the potential to cause health, safety or environmental concerns. Grants will not exceed $250,000.  Click Here for program guidelines.
Eligible applicants include local governments, watershed organizations, for-profit businesses (other than producers of natural gas), councils of governments or other authorized organizations (any entity involved in research, restoration, rehabilitation, planning, acquisition, development, education or other activities, which furthers the protection, enhancement, conservation, preservation or enjoyment of this Commonwealth's environmental, conservation, recreation or similar resources).
The CFA is scheduled to consider guidelines for two additional programs created under Act 13 at its March 20 meeting-- Flood Hazard Mitigation and Sewage Facilities funding.  There will be about $14 million available under the Act 13 programs announced this week and the programs to be considered in March.

Notify Your Legislators: If you plan to apply for funding under this program, PA Environment Digest strongly urges you to notify your local House and Senate member that you have applied and make sure they know how important it is to you.
For more information, contact Brian Eckert or Matthew Karnell at 717-787-6245 to discuss potential projects before commencing the application process.

CFA Accepting Applications For Water Supply, Wastewater Infrastructure Projects

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is now accepting applications for water supply and wastewater infrastructure projects under the PennWorks Program.  The deadline for applications is June 28 and the Authority is scheduled to act on the applications September 17.
Eligible applicants include local governments, industrial development corporations, municipal authorities, investor-owned water or wastewater enterprises.
Grants will not exceed $5 million and are limited to 75 percent of eligible costs.  Loans will not exceed $5 million with a 2 percent interest rate and a repayment term of 20 years.

Notify Your Legislators: If you plan to apply for funding under this program, PA Environment Digest strongly urges you to notify your local House and Senate member that you have applied and make sure they know how important it is to you.
Click Here for program guidelines and application procedures.  Eligible applicants are encouraged to contact Brian Eckert or Matthew Karnell at 717-787-6245 to discuss potential projects before commencing the application process.

CFA Accepting Applications For High Performance Building Funding

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is now accepting applications for funding under its High Performance Building Program to assist with the construction or renovation of high performance green buildings.
Eligible applicants include a small business or an individual.  About $25 million in funding is available under this program.
Applications are due 60 days before each CFA board meeting.  The application deadlines are: March 8, May 10, July 19 and September 15.

Notify Your Legislators: If you plan to apply for funding under this program, PA Environment Digest strongly urges you to notify your local House and Senate member that you have applied and make sure they know how important it is to you.
Click Here for program guidelines and application procedures. Eligible applicants are encouraged to contact Ryan Emerson at 717-787-6245 to discuss potential projects before commencing the application process.

Alternative, Clean Energy Program Funding Apps Now Being Accepted By CFA

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is now accepting applications under its Alternative and Clean Energy Program for activities to promote the utilization, development and construction of alternative and clean energy projects, infrastructure associated with compressed natural gas and liquified natural gas fueling stations, plus energy efficiency and energy conservation projects in the state.
Applications are due 60 days before each CFA board meeting.  The application deadlines are: March 8, May 10, July 19 and September 15.
Eligible applicants include a business, an economic development organization, or a political subdivision, includes municipalities, counties and school districts.  About $96 million is available under this program.

Notify Your Legislators: If you plan to apply for funding under this program, PA Environment Digest strongly urges you to notify your local House and Senate member that you have applied and make sure they know how important it is to you.
Click Here for program guidelines and application procedures. Eligible applicants are encouraged to contact Ryan Emerson at 717-787-6245 to discuss potential projects before commencing the application process.

DEP Sets Feb. 20 Oil And Gas Advisory Board Meeting On Updated Drilling Regulations

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board will hold a meeting on February 20 to consider proposed changes to Marcellus Shale drilling regulations required by Act 13 of 2012.
Also on the agenda is the agency’s final spill prevention and containment policy.
The meeting will be held in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg starting at 10:00.
For more information and copies of any posted handouts, visit the DEP Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board webpage.

Thursday NewsClips

Storm Might Push Susquehanna To Flood Stage
York City To Recycle Electronics For Free
Corbett Wants $1.9 Billion From Gas Tax To Fund Transportation
Corbett: Shell Tax Breaks To Expand Manufacturing
Corbett: Shell Not Consider Other Sites For Cracker
Shell Posts $5.6 Billion Quarterly Profit
Preservation Funding Divides Lancaster Commissioners
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Poll: Voter Concern About Fracking/Drilling In PA Far Down The List

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found concerns about fracking and drilling were far down the list of issues that worry Pennsylvania voters.  Just 2 percent thought it was the most important issue facing the state.  Just 1 percent felt energy and gasoline prices were a concern.
Concern about the economy was by far the most important issue at 37 percent with taxes and the size of the state budget at 8 and 7 percent respectively.
Here’s the entire list-- the economy- 37 percent, education- 10 percent, taxes- 8 percent, the size of the budget- 7 percent, politicians- 7 percent, crime- 4 percent, gun control- 3 percent, fracking and drilling 2 percent, environment/pollution- 2 percent, welfare 1 percent, senior issues- 1 percent, handicapped/ disability issues- 1 percent, poverty/homeless- 1 percent, energy crisis/gasoline prices- 1 percent.

Poll: PA Voters Concerned About Possible Gas Tax Shift
Poll: PA Voters Want Stricter Gun Control Measures

Wednesday NewsClips

2 Agencies Spar Over Susquehanna River Designation
Fish Commission, DEP Clash Over Susquehanna Designation
ALCOSAN Submits Stormwater Plan To EPA
Editorial: Good Start For DePasquale
Gas Driller Sues Washington County Over Permit Delay
Chesapeake Energy CEO To Retire
Electric Cars More Popular In Urban PA
DEP Reactivating Solar Rebate Program
When Lyme Disease Symptoms Stick Around
Couple Snaps Photo Of Bald Eagle By Lackawanna River
Poll Numbers Not Corbett’s Only Problem
Poll Finds Corbett’s Approval Rate Plummeting
Top Senate Republican Objects To Linking Budget Issues
Scarnati Urges Quick Approval Of Transportation Funding Plan
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

DEP Permit Public Participation Policy On Feb. 5 Environmental Justice Board Agenda

At the February 5 Environmental Justice Advisory Board meeting, Michelle Tate from DEP’s Policy Office is on the agenda to lead a discussion of the agency’s draft Permit Review Process Public Participation Policy.
This is one of three major public participation policies DEP is in the process of revising this year, according to comments made to DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council last week.
The Advisory Board meeting will be held in the 16th Floor Conference Room at the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg starting at 8:30 a.m.
For more information, visit DEP’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board webpage.

16,599 Miles Of PA Streams Do Not Meet Water Quality Standards

The final 2012 Integrated Waters report the Department of Environmental Protection submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Monday reported nearly 20 percent or 16,599 miles of streams in Pennsylvania do not meet water quality standards.  67,972 miles meet water quality standards.
This represents a slight increase in the number of miles of streams not meeting water quality standards since the 2010 report.  DEP reported 16,547 miles were impaired two years ago.  In 2008 DEP reported nearly 16,000 miles of impaired streams.
The three major causes of water quality impairment in the 2012 report were listed as: agricultural runoff-- 5,705 miles, abandoned mine drainage-- 5,596 and urban runoff/stormwater-- 3,482 miles.  3,482 miles are impaired from unknown sources.

Of the impaired miles, 9,801 require Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to reduce pollutant inputs and 6,490 have an approved TMDL and one-third-- 3,311 miles-- do not yet have approved TMDLs.
An additional 62 miles are under compliance agreements and expected to reasonable amount of time.
There are 80,525 acres of lakes assessed for aquatic life use and 43,194 acres are attaining that use, 37,331 acres of lakes do not.
Of the impaired acres, 5,420 require a TMDL, 11,366 have an approved TMDL, and 20,544 acres are impaired, but do not require a TMDL because they are not affected by pollutants. The largest problem source is agriculture and largest stressors are organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen.
Currently there are approximately 1,318 miles of streams with fish consumption advisories in need of TMDLs and 704 with 4 approved TMDLs.  Lake listings include 40,405 acres requiring TMDLs and an additional 5,664 with approved TMDLs.  
There is a statewide fish consumption advisory of no more than one meal per week for all waters to protect against the ingestion of unconfirmed contaminants.
The report on impaired streams and lakes is the result of a ten year program DEP completed in April 2007 to assess all wadeable utilized a biological assessment of the aquatic life use.
In addition to listing the impaired streams and lakes, the report outlines the programs and initiatives DEP intends to use to bring impaired waters up to federal water quality standards as required by the federal Clean Water Act.
Among other programs, the report notes in July 2009, due to budget constraints, DEP began limiting its direct technical and financial support for volunteer monitors to specific projects that result in the generation of quality assured data related to DEP’s highest priorities.  Prior to 2009, DEP helped over 11,000 citizen water monitors feed data into its assessment process making those assessments much more comprehensive.
A copy of the final 2012 Integrated Waters report is available online.

Tuesday NewsClips

Pension Reform Tops Governor’s Budget Priorities
Zogby To Retirees: No Pension  Cut Worries
Budget Battle Lines Drawn In Harrisburg
DEP Rejects Call For Susquehanna Impaired Designation
Susquehanna River Not On Impaired List
DEP Pulls Permit For Spreading Drilling Wastewater
Ain’t Gonna Frack On Maggie’s Farm No More
PUC Website Helps Natural Gas Shoppers Save
Oil, Gas Mergers Hit 10-Year High
Celebrating 25,000 Acres, Lancaster Farmland Trust
PEC RFP On East Coast Greenway Tyburn Road Obstruction
Poll: 51% Say Corbett Doesn't Deserve 2nd Term
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Monday, January 28, 2013

Save The Date: PA Watersheds Conference April 5 & 6

The Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds Monday announced the PA Watersheds Conference will be held April 5-6 at the Nittany Lion Inn, State College.
Is your group struggling to keep its volunteers invigorated and engaged?  Do you find it hard to get your message across to the community and your local legislators”  Do you wanted to be active within your community, but don’t know how to ACT-- Advocate, Communicate, Transform?  The PA Watersheds Conference is the place to be!

Reminder: Foundation For PA Watersheds Grant Applications Due Feb. 8

The Foundation for PA Watersheds is now accepting applications for watershed restoration grants.  Letters of interest are due on February 8.  Applications are due March 22.  Click Here for more information.

Coca-Cola, Keep America Beautiful Announce Recycling Bin Grant Program

Keep America Beautiful and The Coca-Cola Foundation Monday announced a call for applications for the 2013 Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program, a program designed to expand and support recycling in communities across America.
The deadline for applications is March 4.

The Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program is funded through a $300,000 grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company
Since 2010, more than 29,000 recycling bins have been distributed through the Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program. Three-hundred organizations have received bin grants and 4.3 million people have been reached through this program.
"Providing much-needed public space recycling infrastructure is a key component of a holistic approach to increasing the nation's recycling rates," said Brenda Pulley, Senior Vice President, Recycling, Keep America Beautiful. "The Coca-Cola Company's commitment to providing more local organizations with such a significant number of recycling bins is truly refreshing. We applaud them for being such a steadfast supporter of our recycling programs."
"We are pleased to support Keep America Beautiful and look forward to the continued community impact of this initiative," said Lori George Billingsley, Vice President, Community Relations, Coca-Cola Refreshments. "Studies have shown that recycling bins placed in convenient locations significantly improve the amount of material recycled. Through this program, thousands of bins will be placed where people live, work and play."
The bin grant program will include college and university focused grants as well as the traditional public space recycling bin grants.
Eligible recipients for the public space grant include government agencies, civic organizations, schools and nonprofit groups. All colleges and universities will be eligible for the college-specific grant. Successful applicants will be notified by Keep America Beautiful in April 2013 to offer guidance, confirm their needs and solidify bin selection. Suppliers will deliver bins directly to the recipients throughout the summer.
For more information, visit the Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program website.

PA Parks & Forests Foundation: Share Your Support For Your State Parks, Forests

The PA Parks and Forests Foundation Monday asked supporters of Pennsylvania’s State Parks and Forests to send a special message to legislators called For the Record, It Works! before the Governor’s February 5 budget address.
The record in question is a record album. (Come on, you remember those!) We'll take a wonderful piece of vinyl memorabilia and melt it into a bowl, like the one pictured here, and deliver one to each member of the House and Senate along with the message:  For the Record, It Works!
Investment in our state parks and forests, whether through dedicated funding or budget line items, is an investment in the future - through economic development, improved health of our fellow citizens and an enhanced quality of life for all of us.
Obviously, we want them to remember all of the great things state parks and forests do for the Commonwealth in their budget deliberations. We need your help to make that message stronger. The bowls have been posted in our online store.
For a $10 donation, we will customize a bowl with messages of support for your favorite park or forest and hand deliver it to your representative or senator. (Send a message to both of your legislators for $15.)
First, you'll send a message to Brittany Howell in our office specifying to whom your message should go and what message you want to convey. We respectfully request that you remain positive and upbeat! Let your elected officials know what your parks mean to YOU. They know PPFF loves our parks and forests, but do they know you do, too?
Then, you'll make your purchase.
Let's make a visible, visual statement of our support and have fun while doing it.
Deadline For Action
The window to make this happen is very small; we'll need to have your donation by February 1st in order to have the bowls made and customized by the 5th.
That's the campaign! We hope you agree it's a neat idea and that it is deserving of your support.  
If you do, please visit the PPFF store and buy a bowl (or two). Be sure to let Brittany know the name(s) of your legislator(s) (either before or after you place your order) and the message you want us to include.
If you'd rather not place the order online, here's a downloadable form to print out and mail in. But, of course, you must act quickly so we can get all the bowls done in time.

DEP Submits Impaired Waterways List To EPA, Provides Update On Susquehanna

DEP Secretary Mike Krancer announced Monday DEP has submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency its final 2012 Integrated Waters report, a biannual assessment of the state’s rivers and streams required by the federal Clean Water Act.
The report describes the health of various waterways in the state and, where needed, the state proposes listing waterways as impaired.
“Our final report is firmly grounded in sound science, and we expect that EPA will agree with it based on the science presented,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “Based on the science and law, we do not believe that the main stem of Susquehanna River should be proposed as impaired under the Clean Water Act. While we recognize that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and others had requested that DEP propose to impair a 98-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River, as we have pointed out on many occasions before, that view is based on very limited, piecemeal data and is not supported by the existing data or the law. But DEP takes the concerns expressed about the Susquehanna very seriously and we are doing something about it. We will be taking, separately, a comprehensive and strategic approach to ensure that the Susquehanna River is protected.
“My staff will be working with the Fish and Boat Commission, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the U.S. Geological Survey to ensure water quality and aquatic life are being protected in the Susquehanna River. In particular, we recognize that there are issues facing smallmouth bass, such as what is called young-of-year die-offs; lesions on adult bass; and inter-sexing of the species,” Krancer said. Inter-sexed fish are males with female characteristics, and young-of-year are recently hatched bass.
“The actual cause of these issues has not yet been determined or linked to any particular water quality issue, but DEP is dedicated to finding the answer through a disciplined scientific approach.”
DEP’s work in this area has been underway for some time. Last summer, agency staff spent 187 combined days on the river collecting hundreds of samples to characterize the water quality in the Susquehanna and its many tributaries. Samples collected included fish, macroinvertebrates, algae, chemistry and data on the river’s dissolved oxygen, pH and temperature.
“Our scientists report that there does not appear to be any demonstrated cause and effect between water quality and the young-of-year die-offs, which, is contrary to what the Fish and Boat Commission has suggested is happening in tributaries outside of the Susquehanna, including the Delaware and Ohio river basins,” Krancer said. “Within the Susquehanna River, this condition has appeared in a few tributaries and the impact is limited to smallmouth bass.
“Our scientists also tell me that no cause and effect can be established right now between water quality and the tumors and lesions found on adult bass. It is not at this point clear how prevalent the tumors and inter-sex conditions are throughout the river, nor if they are related to the young-of-year die-offs,” Krancer said. “It is important to note that the Fish and Boat Commission has not reported any diseased young-of-year in the lower Susquehanna this past summer.
“We plan on keeping our efforts up,” Krancer said. “We will continue sampling at 30 locations throughout the Susquehanna River basin to develop a very comprehensive set of data. We will continue to look at water quality issues facing the river, such as pesticide runoff; hormone-disrupting compounds and nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen.”
The agency will also continue to consult with Dr. Hunter Carrick of Central Michigan University, a respected algal expert, and Dr. Vicki Blazer of the U.S. Geological Survey, a respected fish pathologist.
Secretary Krancer also announced a veteran DEP staff member will serve as Susquehanna River Coordinator to ensure the continuing efforts with the river happen efficiently and with scientific rigor.
“Should the data indicate that a proposed impairment listing is called for in the Susquehanna or any waterway, we would do so,” Krancer said. “In addition to this, we continue to move forward with a very comprehensive federally mandated Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which is in part responsible for improved water quality across the Chesapeake Bay watershed that includes the Susquehanna.”
A copy of the report submitted by DEP is available online.

Budget Secretary Calls Pension Reform Top Corbett Priority

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby Monday told the Pennsylvania Press Club the Corbett Administration’s top priority for this year’s budget will be pension reform, but quickly listed transportation funding and liquor privatization as important.
He said the budget proposal will “continue to challenge us to think differently as to how best to meet the public’s needs and deliver on the core functions of state government.”  The Governor will unveil his proposal February 5.
Asked about the Governor keeping his no-tax increase pledge, Secretary Zogby said voters made it clear in electing Corbett they did not want to see an increase in taxes on Pennsylvania families.
He said the Corbett Administration did the tough work over the last two years of ringing out efficiencies, making cuts, sifting through choices of the must-haves and the nice-to-haves, saying it was a worthwhile exercise.
“Inheriting a mess, Gov. Corbett got to work getting our state’s fiscal house in order. We clearly have today a state budget this is leaner, more agile than when we found it a couple of years ago,” said Secretary Zogby.  “There’s a lot of things that have gone away in terms of funding that, frankly, I don’t think the world has missed too much.  The sun still rises in the morning, it sets in the evening and we go about our business.
“We’re at the point that with a healthy balance sheet we begin to look at where we can make investments, where we can grow state services in a way that’s sustainable going forward.”
On specific issues prompted by questions--
-- Liquor Privatization: The Governor should address the issue in next week’s budget address.
-- Pension Reform: If pension reform is not passed and with the Governor’s pledge not to raise taxes, that means $511 million this year and $550 million next year will have to be accommodated in the budget.  He clearly said the Governor has no plans to take benefits away from current retirees. Otherwise, the Governor is looking at everything being on the table.
-- Linking Pension Reform/Education Funding: The budget address will make it clear how pension costs will affect education funding if there is no reform.
-- Lottery Contract: There probably will not be an immediate need to raise taxes if the lottery privatization contract does not move forward, but with the state’s rapidly growing senior population and increasing program costs, something will have to give.
-- Transportation Funding: Good proposals take time (on the delay in the funding plan last week). Pennsylvania has chosen to fund transportation needs through a dedicated set of financing tools (like the Oil Company Franchise Tax) and the buying power of those tools have diminished over time.  The Governor is looking for ways to address infrastructure needs in a way that modernizes the system.
-- Medicaid Expansion: The Governor has not yet made a decision on expanding Medicaid.
-- Cyber/Charter School Funding: He doesn’t see a proposal coming out of the House (inspite of the fact House Republicans proposed a plan to increase funding last week).  It will be an issue discussed during the budget deliberations next Spring.
Pension Reform Tops Governor’s Budget Priorities

Monday NewsClips

Billions In Gas Drilling Royalties Transform Lives
Drilling Fees To Fund Green Projects In Lehigh
Activists Oppose Shale Drilling In Pittsburgh Region
Next Flood-Related Issue: Levee Protection
Birding From Boardroom To Beaches
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jan. 28 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The Jan. 28 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print entire Digest.

Growing Leaner: Shrinking Commitment To The Environment Over Last 10 Years

On February 5 Gov. Corbett will present his FY 2013-14 budget proposal to the General Assembly outlining how he would spend the $28 billion or so in General Fund tax revenue received by the Commonwealth.
In anticipation of the Governor’s budget address, here’s a yardstick readers of PA Environment Digest can use to better judge the impacts of Gov. Corbett’s budget proposals on environmental programs.
Shrinking Commitment

There is no doubt about it, Pennsylvania isn’t Growing Greener, it’s Growing Leaner.
The last 10 years have seen a steady shrinking of the commitment to provide adequate funding and staff and innovation for environmental protection and restoration programs.  
In fact, over $1.7 billion has been cut or diverted from environmental programs over the last decade to balance the state budget or to provide funding to other programs which could not get funding on their own.
It all started with the record budget and staff cuts in each and every year of the Rendell Administration.
          Gov. Rendell's share of these cuts/diversions is $1.4 billion.  Gov. Corbett's share is $314.7 million, so far.  (Click Here for an itemized list of cuts and diversions.)
The cuts included support for operating local wastewater treatment plants, environmental education programs, training programs for staff, citizen water monitoring programs, and staff for water quality and many other programs.
The diversions included hundreds of millions of dollars to balance the General Fund budget taken from the Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund,  Keystone Recreation, Parks and Conservation Fund, Oil and Gas Fund and the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund and the Recycling Fund to name a few.
Programs like Growing Greener set up originally to fund watershed restoration, farm conservation and other on-the-ground projects with real, measurable environmental benefits were first bankrupt by the Rendell Administration and then hijacked to fund windmills, parking garages and other non-environmental projects.
DEP Staff Cuts
Significant cuts in staff have also occurred.  The state’s PennWATCH website confirmed in December DEP lost 615 permanent positions--  nearly 20 percent-- since FY 2002-03, from 3,211 to 2,596.
DCNR's now has 1,300 salaried employees, down from 1,391 in FY 2002-03.
The DEP numbers, however, include over 105 positions added or reassigned by DEP internally to regulate Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.  With these are added in, DEP lost over 22 percent of its permanent positions over the last 10 years.
The FY 2009-10 budget cuts alone by Gov. Rendell required DEP and DCNR to furlough or eliminate 333 full time positions. DCNR had to eliminate or reduce hours for 1,131 seasonal workers, putting appropriations for DEP way below 1994 levels and for DCNR below 1995-96 levels.
The Rendell Administration also diverted staff time to non-environmental protection and restoration programs.
Over 100 DEP Air, Waste and Water Quality field staff  were used as managers for federal stimulus projects, projects funded by the Energy Harvest and PA Energy Development Authority programs taking time away from permit reviews, inspections and compliance activities.
General Fund Budget Slashed
The state's General Fund budget has always been a huge part of how environmental programs and agencies are funded, but that has changed dramatically over the last 10 years.
In most cases, General Fund cuts to DEP and Agriculture resulted in significant reductions in agency staff complement with only a small portion being made up in things like permit review fee increases.  
In the case of DCNR, monies from the Oil and Gas Fund fed by Marcellus Shale drilling revenues on State Forest land made up many of the losses.
Here's some perspective on General Fund appropriations since FY 20003--
-- Environmental Protection: FY 2002-03: $728.2 million; FY 2012-13: $124.8 million
-- Conservation & Natural Resources: FY 2002-03: $322.9 million; FY 2012-13: $52.7 million
-- Agriculture: FY 2002-03: $274.3 million; FY 2012-13: $129.5 million
Fee Increases/More Funding
Some funding has been restored through increases in permit review fees and the Marcellus Shale drilling fee enacted in 2012.
In an attempt to make up for drastic reductions in General Fund support for environmental protection efforts, DEP adopted a series of permit fee increases totalling about $26.5 million over the last four years.
Last February the General Assembly, under the leadership of Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and others, adopted Marcellus Shale drilling fees under Act 13 which restored over over $200 million in environmental project funding to programs like Growing Greener, conservation districts and other selected state environmental programs.
The Corbett Administration also restored the full $10 million in funding for the Resource Protection and Enhancement Program farm conservation tax credit program to help Pennsylvania meet its federal watershed and Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments.
The Rendell Administration did increase funding for alternative energy and energy conservation projects by passing the $625 million Growing Greener II program and an additional $650 million in funding, however, these initiatives actually diverted funding from real environmental protection and restoration projects.
The Growing Greener II bond issue put a cap on new project funding because annual revenues from the $4.25/ton municipal waste fee going to fund Growing Greener projects was actually used to pay off the bond issue collapsing the Growing Greener Program.
The result of a decade of budget and staff cuts has been a decrease in environmental compliance, an increase in the time between compliance inspections, permit review backlogs and few if any environmental and compliance education programs to improve compliance or our understanding of the environment.
There have also been no annual reports on DEP’s accomplishments or a detailed annual report on environmental compliance program by program to measure the agency’s progress and performance since 2003.
In addition, objective measures of indicators like acres of abandoned mine land reclaimed, miles of streams restored and miles of stream buffers installed are not being reported or measured.  In fact, there are still 16,599 miles of impaired streams in the state which do not meet water quality standards.
In December, the Budget Office released the general 2011-12 Report on State Performance which shows the percentage of sites in full compliance with DEP dropped significantly from 2001. (Click Here for full summary.)
The report said compliance dropped 12 percentage points since 2001, from 89.9 percent in 2001 to 77.71 percent in 2011-12 performance report and lower than in 2009-10 at 78.75 percent.
At the same time, the report said the percentage of inspections with violations increased by 0.6 percent-- 14.9 percent to 15.51 percent, and higher than in 2009-10 at 15.03 percent.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources reported a 10,428 acre drop in the number of land acquired through fee simple acquisition or easements for conservation purposes, from 17,405 last year to 6,977 in 2011-12 and less than in 2009-10 at 11,936 acres.
DCNR did see a $2.3 million increase in Community Conservation Partnership Grants awarded in 2011-12-- $29.1 million to $31.4 million, which was more than in 2009-10 at $25.3 million.
Another result of all these cuts is the permit review backlog DEP said was already building in 2009 and in truth the last 7 years, delaying hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development projects across the state.
For example, the Rendell Administration left a backlog of 5,000 permits and approvals in DEP’s Southwest Regional Office alone, according to the Regional Director.
The Ridge and Schweiker Administrations left office in 2003 with few backlogged permit applications as a result of the 1995 Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program created by Executive Order 1995-5.
The recent efforts by the Corbett Administration through its Permit Review Guarantee Program will certainly bring some order back to the permit review process, but the fact remains it will take staff time to clear the backlog and address new permits, staff DEP the agency has too little of.
Of course, overall, DEP and DCNR still have the same amount of work to do, the same laws to enforce and the same State Forests and State Parks to protect and manage.
Neither the General Assembly nor the Governor eliminated any of the responsibilities of DEP or DCNR like private industry would do when faced with these kinds of significant cuts in budgets and staff.
In the case of DEP, they face the further challenge of new programs to get up and running, like the electronics recycling program, and the continuing challenges of regulating Marcellus Shale drilling.
Support For Green Funding
Public opinion surveys have repeatedly found significant support for environmental funding.
In December, the Growing Greener Coalition pointed to a newly released statewide survey as clear evidence of strong public support for state funding to preserve farmland and open space, provide parks and trails and protect rivers and streams.
Overall, the survey found that more than 92 percent of the 608 Pennsylvanians surveyed think that state funds dedicated to preserving farmland and open space, providing parks and trails and protecting rivers and streams should continue to be used for these purposes.
In addition, the survey found that nearly 78 percent of respondents support increasing state funds to conserve and protect open space, clean water, natural areas, wildlife habitats, parks, historic sites, forests and farms even if would cost the average household $10 more annually. Further, these high levels of support are constant throughout every geographic region and every gender, ethnic, educational and economic demographic throughout the state.
Bottom Line
Given the drastic cuts in funding and staff over the last 10 years, we face three options: consider which programs should be eliminated to match its shrinking resources; find ways to fund those programs without stealing; or take drastic steps to restructure programs.
As Gov. Corbett said during his campaign, shouldn’t DEP be returning to its core functions?
Here are some steps to think about.
Are there federally mandated environmental programs Pennsylvania should be returning to the federal government to administer--  Air Quality, Mining, Waste, NPDES Water Quality, etc.?
Should DEP really be spending money and staff time on alternative energy and energy efficiency programs when it lacks funds to restore the water quality in our rivers and streams?  (You Can’t Go Fishing With A Solar Panel)
Is climate change a “must” issue for DEP to address like it is now, or is it a “nice to have?”  Or should state government actually pay for it.
Should some programs be turned over entirely to other agencies on a fee-for-service basis, for example, county conservation districts?  The Chapter 102 erosion and sedimentation control program comes to mind.
Another option is to centralize things like permit reviews rather than have each of DEP’s six major regional offices and six district mining offices.  In this age of advanced communications technology there is no reason for certain functions to be repeated a dozen times in the field.
It seems pretty basic, but the General Assembly should not give DEP any new responsibilities without providing full funding for those programs.  Unfunded mandates can be imposed on state agencies as well as local governments and they have been repeatedly in the past.
Pretending DEP is now doing everything it’s required to do by law defies common sense.  
It’s time for state government leaders to deal with that fact and try to dig environmental protection programs out of the hole they spent 10 years excavating by either cutting, funding and restructuring programs.
And as a start, why not take some of the $75 million devoted to giving tax breaks to movies like Zack and Miri Make A Porno that was filmed in Pennsylvania, and make that money do some good for a change.

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