Thursday, May 30, 2013

CBF: Legislation Should Not Mandate Costly Nutrient Reduction Technology

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation- PA Office this week issued a policy statement saying it does not endorse legislation and a proposal developed by BION Environmental Technologies to promote large-scale, capital intensive projects to reduce nutrients going into Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
At the same time, CBF said it supports market-based approaches to nutrient reduction like the PA Infrastructure Investment Authority and the Department of Environmental Protection have been doing for the last three years which have resulted in a 5.1 million pound reduction in nitrogen and a 390,000 pounds cut in phosphorus.
“Technology can play a vital role in helping us get there. In doing so, CBF fully encourages the continued advancement of existing technologies along with the development of new technologies that may help Pennsylvania meet our clean water goals.
“CBF does not, however, endorse any one specific technology, nor do we endorse any specific corporations. We do not endorse BION Environmental Technologies, Inc. (BION), their partners, or the Coalition for an Affordable Bay Solution.
“While CBF supports competition in the process for reducing nutrient pollution to help lower the costs for meeting required pollution reductions required in Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Blueprint, the fact that some nutrient reduction approaches are too costly and economically uncompetitive does not mean that a competitive bidding process is currently nonexistent.
“In fact, since 2006, Pennsylvania has had a market-based program to provide incentives for entities to create nutrient reduction credits by going beyond statutory, regulatory or voluntary obligations and goals to remove nutrients from a watershed. And beginning in 2010, PennVEST has held quarterly nutrient credits auctions.
“As of March 2013, DEP has certified over 5.1 million pounds of nitrogen credits and nearly 390,000 pounds of phosphorus credits.
“Given limited resources and thousands of Pennsylvania impaired streams, we believe that emphasis on established clean water programs and pollution reduction practices provide ancillary benefits like reduced flooding, drinking water protection and improvement, improved herd health, and community revitalization must be the Commonwealth’s core focus.
“The place for new technologies and approaches is best left to the private sector to develop and finance.”
A copy of the policy statement is available online.
Joint Committee Report
The Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released a report in January which took a very general look at how competition might help reduce the cost of eliminating pollution from Pennsylvania going to the Chesapeake Bay without looking at many of the logistical and legal details involved or the potential impact on individual farmers.
The report also only covered nutrient reductions and not sediment reductions.
The report said DEP estimated in 2004 its Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy the capital cost to meet the Chesapeake Bay TMDL at $8.2 billion for all sectors, with an additional $665 million in annual costs for operations and maintenance.  
Agricultural BMPs account for 75 percent of the nitrogen reductions, but only about 7.2 percent of the capital costs ($592 million).  Publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and industrial dischargers are estimated to generate about 11 percent of the nitrogen reductions and account for about 4.6 percent of the estimated capital costs ($376 million).  
Urban BMPs account for about 9 percent of the nitrogen reductions, but 68.5 percent of the capital costs ($5.6 billion).  Finally, septic system denitrification accounts for 2.6 percent of the nitrogen reductions and 19.5 percent of the capital costs ($1.6 billion).
To help lower these costs, the Joint Committee was directed by a provision added to the Fiscal Code last year-- Act 87 of 2012- to determine if a competitive bidding process would lead to a more cost-effective approach to paying for the nutrient reduction required to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
The concept evaluated in the Committee’s report had a state agency-- possibly the PA Infrastructure Investment Authority-- issue a Request for Proposal to buy nutrient credits across the Pennsylvania portion of the Bay watershed and across all sectors-- agricultural, wastewater, stormwater, etc.
The primary source of the credits, the report concluded, would probably be from the agricultural sector because it has the opportunity to install more cost-effective best management practices to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff.
The Committee found using a competitive RFP program would lower overall compliance costs to the state by 80 percent or more for the agriculture and urban stormwater sectors based on a very broad-brush analysis.
The report did not look at the logistics or scope of an RFP-type process.  For example, would the RFP be county-based or by smaller watersheds or for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed in Pennsylvania.  
With millions of pounds of reductions required, any county-wide or larger RFP would mean only large-scale, capital intensive solutions could deliver the needed reductions.  Individual farmers could be left out of the initiative altogether.
The report said, “We estimate achieving the required nitrogen reductions for nonpoint source agricultural and urban runoff through best management practices (BMPs) will cost about $628 million in 2015 and about $1.77 billion in 2025.  We estimate a competitive RFP program could achieve these same levels of reductions at a cost of about $110 million in 2015 and $255 million in 2025.”
However, the reported noted a source of funding would need to be found for the competitive RFP program.  In 2010, only about $187 million was spent statewide (federal and state dollars) on nonpoint source pollution management.  While the report said some of these funds could be diverted to fund an RFP program, it does not deal with the issue of how this potential diversion of funds would leave individual farmers without funding to install best management practices.
The PA Infrastructure Investment Authority and DEP already hold competitive Nutrient Credit Auctions as a vehicle for purchasing credits towards Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments.
A new “flush tax” imposed on individual homeowners such as Maryland imposes ($60 annually) would be another possible source of funds the report said.
In addition to needing a major source of funding, the report did not mention major changes were needed to DEP’s existing nutrient credit trading program based on concerns expressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other groups.
The significant limitations of the report make it of limited value in guiding state policy decisions.
The full report and an executive summary are available online.

DEP Issues Air Quality Alert for Friday In 2 Areas

The Department of Environmental Protection and its regional air quality partnerships have forecast an orange air quality action day for ozone for Friday, May 31, in the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia areas.
          The Lehigh Valley region is Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.  The Philadelphia region is Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. 
          Click Here for more information.

Thursday NewsClips

House Republicans Trim Governor’s Budget Plan
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

DEP Issues Air Quality Action Alert For Thursday In 5 Regions

The Department of Environmental Protection and its regional air quality partnerships have forecast an orange air quality action day for ozone for Thursday, May 30, in the Lehigh Valley, Liberty-Clairton, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Susquehanna Valley areas.
          The Lehigh Valley region is Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties. The Susquehanna Valley region is Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties. The Philadelphia region is Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. The Pittsburgh region is Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties. The Liberty-Clairton region is the municipalities of Clairton, Glassport, Liberty, Lincoln and Port Vue, all in southeastern Allegheny County.
          Click Here for more information.

House Republican Budget Restores Conservation District, Heritage Parks Funding

The state budget proposed by House Republicans Wednesday restored $3.8 million in funding for conservation districts, adds $2 million for the Heritage Parks Program, restores $400,000 in funding for Sewage Facilities Planning Grants and provides a $4.4 million increase to the Department of Environmental Protection personnel line items.
The budget also cuts Commonwealth Financing Authority funding by $2.7 million and makes a 42.7 percent decrease to funding for the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee.
Differences with FY 2012-13 (Governor’s proposal)
Environmental Protection
General Fund - $129.2 million, 3.5 percent increase - $4.4 million (Governor's $127.6 million)
Conservation Districts - $2.8 million restored
Sewage Facilities Planning Grants - $400,000
Conservation and Natural Resources   
General Fund - $54.9 million, 4.2 percent increase - $2.2 million (Governor's $52.7 million)
Heritage Parks Grants - $2 million restored
General Fund - $123.1 million, 4.9 percent decrease - $6.3 million (Governor's $117.8 million)
Animal Health Commission costs transferred to Race Horse Fund - $4.3 million
General Government Operations - cut $3.1 million
Conservation Districts - $1 million restored
In announcing the proposal Wednesday, House Appropriations Committee Majority Chair Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) introduced House Bill 1437, the House Republican budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013-14. The proposal spends $28.3 billion, which is a $578 million or 2.1 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
The Governor proposed a budget of $28.4 billion General Fund budget, but included some $175 million in projected savings through pension reform.  The current FY 2012-13 budget is $27.7 billion.
The proposal includes none of the proposed business tax cuts proposed by the Governor.
The budget contained in House Bill 1437 was based on current law and does not factor in any policy proposals currently being considered by the legislature.  It does not include pension reform proposal, any revenue from liquor privatization or the pending transportation funding proposals.
Click Here for the House Republican budget spreadsheet. Click Here for a highlights presentation on the proposal.

PROP Extends Nominations For 2013 Waste Watcher Awards To June 14

The Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania extended the deadline for nominations for the 2013 Waste Watcher Awards until June 14. The awards recognize recycling, waste reduction, reuse and composting programs in the Commonwealth.

Wednesday NewsClips

House Republican Leadership will introduce a $28.3 billion state budget bill Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol Media Center.  The event will be streamed live online.
Tornado Damages Edinboro Buildings
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

DEP Considers Expansion Of The Current Lake Erie Coastal Zone, Listening Meetings Set

The Department of Environmental Protection is considering an expansion of the current Lake Erie coastal zone to a larger, watershed-based area to encompass all Pennsylvania watersheds that flow into Lake Erie.
This June, DEP will seek public input on the proposed expansion during several public listening sessions in the Lake Erie watershed.
There are three listening sessions scheduled: June 18 at 9 a.m. in the Springboro Community Center, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Girard Township Building, and June 19 at 3:00 p.m. in the Blasco Library in Erie.
“Expanding Lake Erie’s coastal zone would create new opportunities for grant-funded improvements in the Lake Erie watershed,” DEP Northwest Regional Director Kelly Burch said. “We are pleased to offer an opportunity for residents to comment on this important proposal.”
In 2011, the local Lake Erie Advisory Committee asked DEP’s Coastal Resources Management Program to study and consider an expanded watershed boundary. Since then, CRMP has been weighing the possibility of expanding the coastal zone.
Expansion of the coastal zone would allow grant funds to be used throughout the Lake Erie watershed. Currently, grant funds are restricted to smaller areas along the coastline and used for minor construction projects like fishing access areas, or for planning, research, public education and restoration projects.
The CRMP serves to protect and manage Pennsylvania’s two established coastal areas along Lake Erie and the Delaware Estuary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides federal funding to the program under the Coastal Zone Management Act. The CRMP offers grant funding opportunities to Pennsylvania’s coastal communities to manage coastal resources and balance economic development with resource protection and conservation.
For more information, visit DEP’s Coastal Zone Management Program webpage.

York County Homeschool Wins 30th Pennsylvania Envirothon

The 30th annual Pennsylvania State Envirothon champions, scoring 550.67 points of a possible 600, are from the York County Homeschool located in York County.  The York County team earned the honor to represent Pennsylvania at the North American Envirothon.
Rounding out the top 10 winners, with scores are:
Second Place – MMI Preparatory School, Luzerne County, with a score of 550.33;
Third Place – Penncrest High School, Delaware County, with a score of 543;
Fourth Place – Palmyra Area High School, Lebanon County, with a score of 498.67;
Fifth Place – Carmichaels Area High School, Greene County, with a score of 494.67;
Sixth Place – Sugar Valley Rural Charter School, Clinton County, with a score of 472;
Seventh Place – United Jr. Sr. High School, Indiana County, with a score of 470.67;
Eighth Place – Oley Valley High School, Berks County, with a score of 454.33;
Ninth Place – Redbank Valley High School, Clarion County, with a score of 453.33;
Tenth Place –  Parkland High School, Lehigh County, with a score of 452.67.
The PA Envirothon awarded scholarships to the first, second, and third place teams.  The scholarships were sponsored by Pennsylvania’s County Conservation Districts and PA Envirothon.  Each of the top ten teams received a plaque and other prizes.
Top 10 Oral Component winners, with scores include:
First Place – General McLane High School, Erie County, with a score of 97.33;
Second Place – Palmyra Area High School, Lebanon County, with a score of 96.67;
Third Place – York Homeschool, York County, with a score of 96.67;
Fourth Place – MMI Preparatory School, Luzerne County, with a score of 92.33;
Fifth Place – Penncrest High School, Delaware County, with a score of 92;
Sixth Place – Carmichaels Area High School, Greene County, with a score of 90.67;
Seventh Place – Cumberland Valley High School, Cumberland County, with a score of 89.67;
Eighth Place – Oley Valley High School, Berks County, with a score of 89.33;
Ninth Place – Central Columbia High School, Columbia County, with a score of 88.67;
Tenth Place – Warren Area High School, Warren County, with a score of 88.33.
The PA Envirothon was held at Juniata College on May 21 and 22.  High school students from 61 Pennsylvania counties participated in this year’s event.
At the Envirothon, five-member teams participate in a series of field-oriented tests that focus on five topic areas – soils and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and environmental issues.  
The 2013 current environmental issue focused on Grazing and Pastureland Management.  The teams also prepare and deliver oral presentations to panels of judges who evaluate each team on its problem-solving capabilities, oral presentation skills and recommendations to help solve the specific environmental challenge, which relates to the current environmental issue.
Teams participating represent the best and the brightest of the thousands of high school teens who have competed in county Envirothon competitions sponsored by conservation districts across the state.  
At the state level, the Envirothon is sponsored by Pennsylvania’s sixty-six conservation districts, the State Conservation Commission, and the PA Association of Conservation Districts.  The program is managed by a board of directors representing those sponsors.  
Technical expertise is provided by the following agency partners:  Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commission, and the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service.  
Sponsors of the 2013 Envirothon are PPL Corporation, Marcellus Shale Coalition, Shell Oil Co., Air Products Foundation, Bayer HealthCare, North American Envirothon, Department of Environmental Protection Office Environmental Education, PA Association of Conservation Districts, and State Conservation Commission.  
The Hershey Company, Dwight Lewis Lumber, Lewis Lumber Products, PPL, and Cargill are “corporate station sponsors.”
The 2013 PA Envirothon champions will represent the Commonwealth at the 26th North American Envirothon competition planned for August 4–10 at Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana.  
Pennsylvania has won the North American event in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2009.  
More than 45 states, eight Canadian provinces, and one Canadian territory have initiated Envirothon contests based on the program that was originally developed by Pennsylvania’s conservation districts.
For more information on the Envirothon program, contact your county conservation district or contact the Pennsylvania Envirothon by phone 814-623-7900 ext. 111, send email to:, or visit the PA Envirothon website.

Tuesday NewsClips

CBF Highlights Importance Of Susquehanna Water Quality
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 27 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The May 27 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print entire Digest.

DEP Secretary: We Must Do A Better Job Communicating, Engaging Stakeholders

In a frank and open conversation this week at DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council, interim DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said his agency must do a much better job communicating with the public and engaging with all agency stakeholders saying, “we are sometimes our own worst enemy.”
Abruzzo said his agency in the past has been defensive about the work being done and he takes seriously the need to improve communication with the public and change how DEP has engaged with stakeholders.
Abruzzo noted he has already reached out to key partners and stakeholders like John Arway, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, local officials on onlot septic system review and Shawn Garvin,  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region III Administrator.
He specifically cited the agency’s Marcellus Shale regulatory program describing the agency’s attitude in the past as “overly defensive.”  He said the agency is doing good work and DEP has nothing to hide, but “we must do a better job communicating what we’re doing.”
“We have very high expectations on industry compliance (with environmental regulations), Abruzzo said, “Where good actors seek to be in compliance, we will help bring them into compliance. Where bad actors intentionally circumvent law or regulation, we will come down hard on those who don’t comply.”
Since coming to DEP six weeks ago from his position as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, Abruzzo said he has been impressed with the caliber of the programs and the professionalism of the people at DEP.
He noted as a township supervisor himself, he has been on the “good side” and the “not so good side” of DEP’s involvement in local issues.
Abruzzo also made a personal commitment to Council to do everything he could to attend every one of their meetings and said he valued Council’s input on issues facing the Department.
In response to questions on specific issues, Abruzzo said--
-- Agency Budget: He understands well, from his position in the Governor’s Office, about how Cabinet Secretaries lobby for increases in budget and staff.  He said DEP staff have been making the case for changes to him directly since he’s been there.  He noted DEP has been particularly hard hit by reductions in the past. [Note: The Rendell Administration cut $1.4 billion in environmental funding and nearly 20 percent of DEP’s staff and left an 11,000 permit review backlog.]
-- Lower Susquehanna River Impairment: Shortly after he came to DEP, Abruzzo said he reached out to John Arway at the Fish and Boat Commission to see how the agencies and their technical staffs could work together to identify the specific causes for the die-off of smallmouth bass in the Lower Susquehanna and the issue of designating the area as impaired.
The result of that contact was to form a focused group of staff from both agencies to work specifically on that issue and he welcomed the Commission’s participation in the effort.
He said the rhetoric going back and forth between the two agencies over the last few months has not been productive when there are real problems to solve.
He said he did not want studies of this problem to go on forever, but there were scientific questions about the specific causes of the problem.  The last thing, he said, any agency would want to do is impose restrictions that would have no impact on the problem.
-- Onlot Anti-degradation Rules: Addressing the controversy over proposed changes to onlot septic system module review requirements to incorporate anti-degradation reviews in High Quality and Exceptional Value watersheds, Abruzzo said DEP preferred a legislative fix to the problem.  He said DEP has provided language incorporated into House Bill 1325 (Maloney-R-Berks) and Senate Bill 946 (Baker-R-Luzerne) which would address the issue.
He said if the General Assembly does not act, DEP will take the comments it received on the proposed regulation during an extended comment period ending June 3, develop final language and then put that language out for additional public review.
He also said he directed agency staff to meet with local and county officials in the areas most affected by the change to sort “fact from fiction” about the proposal so everyone had the same understanding.
He noted there is no substitute for this personal approach to issues.
-- Appointing a Secretary: Abruzzo said he did not know when the final decision on a new Secretary for DEP would be made or whether he or someone else would fill that position.
Click Here for more background on Acting Secretary Abruzzo.

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