Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sen. Scarnati Plans To Reintroduce Marcellus Shale Health Advisory Panel Bill

Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) is circulating a co-sponsor memo on legislation he plans to reintroduce creating a Marcellus Shale Health Advisory Panel he said “similar to” Senate Bill 555 of last session.
The panel would be tasked with thoroughly investigating and studying advancements in science, technology and public health data in order to provide Pennsylvania elected officials, regulators and the general public with information, analysis and recommendations regarding the safe, efficient and environmentally responsible extraction and use of unconventional natural gas reserves in the Commonwealth.
“There has been much discussion regarding the potential effects of Marcellus Shale drilling on public health and safety,” said Sen. Scarnati.  “The creation of an advisory panel composed of experts from a wide range of fields including doctors, scientists, academics and industry leaders will provide Pennsylvania with a critical asset in addressing any current or future impacts arising from the development of the Marcellus Shale.”
The creation of a permanent health advisory panel was a suggestion of the Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.  
The panel would consist of nine members including the Secretaries of Health and Environmental Protection, as well as individuals to be appointed by the Governor, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and the House and Senate Minority Leaders.

PUC To Host PA Statewide Sustainable Energy Board Meeting Jan. 15

The PA Sustainable Energy Board, in conjunction with the Public Utility Commission, will hold its annual meeting at 11 a.m., January 15 in Hearing Room 1 of the Commonwealth Keystone Building, Harrisburg.
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 the funds' activities.
Some of the projects being discussed at the meeting will include the following:
— The Metropolitan-Edison Co. (Met-Ed) and Pennsylvania Electric Co. (Penelec) Sustainable Energy Fund will highlight its mapping project that was completed last year and shows funding allocations since inception of the funds.
— The West Penn Power Co. Sustainable Energy Fund will provide an overview of programs and projects which it helped to co-fund. The PennSEF bond finance program, a recently launched program with the PA Treasury Department, will be discussed in detail.
— The Sustainable Energy Fund, operating in the PPL Electric Utilities Inc. service territory, will highlight an LED lighting project at the Harrisburg International Airport.
— The Sustainable Development Fund, operating in the PECO service territory, will present information on a new financing model where third party providers are financed instead of the building owner or borrower.
Representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Department of Community and Economic Development, and the PA Environmental Council have been invited to attend.
The PASEB was originally established by the Commission in 1999 to provide oversight, guidance and technical assistance to the regional sustainable energy boards that fund projects such as wind farms, solar power systems, smart thermostat programs and the construction of buildings using energy efficient technologies.
On Aug. 7, 2003, the Commission issued an order further defining the role of the PASEB. That order charged the PASEB with holding an annual meeting; enhancing communications among the four funds and state agencies; and establishing bylaws and a "best business practices" model.
In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held January 29 at the same location and time.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

PA Housing Authority Opens Comments On Housing Program Funded By Drilling Fees

The PA Housing Finance Agency Tuesday announced it is inviting public comment on its plan for overseeing the annual allocation of money from the PA Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund.
The PHARE fund was established by Act 105 of 2010 (the "PHARE Act") to provide the mechanism by which certain allocated state or federal funds, as well as funds from other outside sources, would be used to assist with the creation, rehabilitation and support of affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth.
The PHARE Act did not allocate any funding for housing initiatives. But the Marcellus Shale impact fee legislation, Act 13 of 2012 (the "Impact Fee Act"), specifically allocates certain amounts from the impact fees on natural gas drilling companies into the PHARE fund.
"PHARE funding is helping to address housing shortages in Marcellus Shale counties of the state," said Brian A. Hudson Sr., PHFA executive director and CEO. "We're inviting public comment on our PHARE plan because we want to make sure investments of this funding are properly guided by local perspectives about housing challenges and the best solutions."
Since 2012, the PHARE fund has distributed $26 million supporting 104 local housing proposals in 32 counties. That capital has been used to leverage additional funding of $165 million to be invested in new housing construction and the rehabilitation of existing housing.
The request for public comments will also be published in the PA Bulletin. The comment period will end on March 1, 2015.
Comments about the 2015 PHARE draft plan should be sent to Bryce Maretzki at PHFA either by mail at: PO Box 8029, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8029; or by email to:
For more information and a copy of the draft plan, visit the PHARE webpage.

Trout Unlimited Raises Concerns About Shale Drilling Hurting Lake Erie

Trout Unlimited is featuring the Lake Erie watershed in a new report highlighting outstanding public fishing and hunting areas in the Central Appalachian region that are at risk from shale gas drilling-related activities.
The organization’s 10 Special Places report focuses on areas that are rich in fish, game and natural beauty, and that have for generations provided abundant opportunities for hunters and anglers. It covers threats to the specific regions and offers recommendations for the best approaches sportsmen and women can use to protect these areas from potential risks.
The Lake Erie watershed is the ninth of the “10 Special Places” to be announced. Trout Unlimited will announce a new place weekly this fall, releasing the full report in December.
“We need to proceed cautiously,” said Jerry Darkes, a fly fishing guide who operates Angling Consulting Services in Strongsville, Ohio. “It doesn’t have to be a race to pull everything out as fast as we can get it out.
“The steelhead fishery has developed to a point where it really is very important to the economics of not only northeast Ohio, but northwest Pennsylvania.”
Lake Erie and its tributaries in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York are home to large commercial and recreational fisheries. An estimated 450,000 people fish the Ohio waters of Lake Erie annually, targeting species including steelhead, trout, walleye, bass and perch, and contributing $680 million to the state’s economy.
A recent survey of steelhead anglers in Erie County, Pa., found that they spent nearly $9.5 million on trip-related expenditures in a single year.
“The Lake Erie watershed is a unique place and an angler’s paradise,” said Katy Dunlap, Eastern Water Project Director for Trout Unlimited. “It is imperative that any shale gas-related development -- including Utica Shale gas drilling, water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing and wastewater management -- is done in a way that avoids or minimizes impacts to these ecologically and economically valuable fisheries.”
Trout Unlimited promotes responsible energy development and, in collaboration with others, seeks to ensure that all reasonable efforts are made to avoid or mitigate the impacts such development may have on important coldwater resources, such as Lake Erie and its watershed.
Most of the Lake Erie watershed that overlies the Utica shale gas formation is found in Ohio, where a law adopted in 2012 allows companies to withdraw an average of 2.5 million gallons of water per day out of the lake over three months, without a permit.
The law also allows up to 1 million gallons per day to be pulled from streams that feed Lake Erie. Such withdrawals could adversely impact streamflows and steelhead fishing, and also could increase the risk of invasive species introductions.
While Utica shale gas drilling is just getting underway in Ohio, the state has been receiving wastewater from drilling operations in Pennsylvania, and disposing of the water in deep injection wells.
Trout Unlimited is urging anglers and hunters to call on the state and the gas industry to: develop rules to manage water withdrawals to protect streams, wetlands and other bodies of water in the watershed; ensure that comprehensive invasive species control programs are in place; and to also study the cumulative impacts of shale gas wastewater disposal in underground injection wells in Ohio.
The report and related content are available online.

UPDATED: DEP Report: 40% Of Streams Show Adverse Impacts Of Underground Coal Mining

[Note: This post was updated after the Act 54 report was posted on DEP's website late Tuesday afternoon.]
The Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday released the fourth in a series of ongoing reports detailing the effects of surface subsidence related to underground bituminous coal mining in Pennsylvania covering the period between 2008-2013.
The report addresses the effects of underground mining in Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Clearfield, Elk, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Somerset and Washington counties.
Forty percent of the streams undermined by deep coal mining (39 of 96 miles) suffered flow loss or pooling that had adverse impacts on aquatic life, pH and conductivity in the streams.
Eight of the 55 stream segments identified as being affected in the 2003-2008 report have yet to recover from the impacts of mining.
There were 855 reported impacts to water supplies from longwall mining: 393 were found to be from longwall mining, 384 from room-and-pillar deep mining, 54 from inactive deep mines and 24 from pillar recovery mining.
In one-third of the cases, the mining company was not found liable for the water loss or contamination.
Despite an 18 percent drop in the number of acres undermined, the number of water supply reported effects has increased by approximately 25 percent (855 from 683).
It took an average of 220 days to resolve water loss/water contamination issues either through permanent replacement water supplies, repair of the water well or agreements for compensation with landowners.
A total of 201 water loss/water contamination cases were not resolved by the end of the 2008-2013 reporting period.
There were 389 cases of reported damage to surface structures of which 238 were determined to be caused by mining: 315 from longwall mining, 48 from room-and-pillar, 19 from inactive deep mines and 7 from pillar recovery mining.
It took an average of 169 days to resolve cases of surface structure damage.
The report also included sections on impacts to wetlands and groundwater.
“This report provides vital information about the significance of bituminous mining on Pennsylvania’s landscape,” DEP Deputy Secretary for Active and Abandoned Mine Operations John Stefanko said. “We will use this information to evaluate the effectiveness of our mining program and consider ways to enhance the program in the future.”
The report, mandated by Act 54, details the amount of structures, water supplies and streams undermined during a five-year assessment period. It also provides an overview of the type of effects to surface structures and surface features, as well as information on how long it took to resolve those issues. Three previous Act 54 reports covered 1993 through 2008.
According to the report, there were 46 underground coal mines active during the reporting period beneath 31,343 acres of land, an 18 percent decline in the amount of land undermined during the previous five-year assessment period.
In total, there were approximately 1,250 different “effects,” or incidents reported to DEP during this most recent five-year period by its staff, coal companies or landowners.
Other Findings
Other findings of the report include:
— Since the last assessment, DEP has been able to identify more than double the amount of pre-mining wetland acreage due to improved techniques
— Continued study is warranted to assess wetland mitigation sites, if required, to make sure that the sites achieve proposed functionality.
— Total biological scores, a measure of the insect life, show improvement over time at sites impacted by flow loss.
— Gate cut mitigation, a method of leveling-out land that has experienced subsidence, has emerged as a successful tool to restore streams to their pre-mining condition.
— A technical guidance document, titled Surface Water Protection – Underground Bituminous Coal Mining Operations, which was put in place in 2007, has improved the way DEP quantifies and interprets impacts to surface waters.
— DEP has increased the amount and type of data required to make permit decisions related to mining activities
— Data management and storage must be enhanced and standardized in order to efficiently enforce the requirements of Act 54 and its implementing regulations.
The report was prepared by the University of Pittsburgh’s Departments of Biological Sciences, Geology and Planetary Science, Civil and Environmental Engineering. The University was selected to conduct the study because it employs faculty and research staff with the expertise to review all aspects of the effects of mining-related subsidence.
Representatives from the university will present their findings to DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council during an upcoming meeting. The meeting is public, and a date will be posted to DEP’s online calendar in the near future.
Act 54 was passed in 1994 and requires DEP to assess the impacts of underground bituminous coal mining on surface features. It expanded the list of structures for which mine operators were liable and held deep mine operators legally responsible for mining-related impacts to water supplies for the first time in Pennsylvania’s history.
The report illustrates the subsidence potential for active mines. Abandoned mines also pose a danger, so it is important for those owning property above abandoned underground mines to insure themselves and their belongings against subsidence-related damage.
DEP offers Mine Subsidence Insurance to residents owning property above abandoned mines. Mine subsidence insurance is as affordable as ever, costing about 26 cents a day to insure homes, businesses and other structures.
Currently, there are 58,146 MSI policies that cover approximately $10.34 billion in property.
The report is posted on DEP’s Act 54 webpage along with previous reports.

Advisory: Chesapeake Bay Foundation To Release Report On Bay Health January 5

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation will release the 2014 State of the Bay report on  January 5 at a 10:30 a.m. press conference at CBF headquarters in Annapolis.
The biennial State of the Bay Report is a comprehensive measure of the Bay's health, evaluating the following indicators: oysters, shad, crabs, striped bass (rockfish), underwater grasses, wetlands, forested buffers, resource lands, toxics, water clarity, dissolved oxygen, and phosphorus and nitrogen pollution.
CBF scientists compile and examine the best available historical and up-to-date information for each indicator and assign it an index score, between 1 and 100. Taken together, these indicators offer an assessment of Bay health.
CBF will also discuss priorities for 2015. In Pennsylvania, CBF’s priorities include:
— Ensuring Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, County Conservation Districts, and local partners work to assure robust outreach and education, technical and financial assistance, and compliance with state water quality laws and regulations by farmers in the Commonwealth.  It is estimated that a substantial percentage of farms still are lacking required pollution prevention and reduction plans and have long waits for assistance.
— Promoting new efforts to accelerate the planting of forest buffers and other core pollution reducing practices. In Pennsylvania forested stream buffers were established at a rate of six acres per day from 2009 to 2013, but must increase to a rate of fifty acres per day through 2017 to meet the goal the Commonwealth set.
— Updating Pennsylvania’s Phosphorus Index to reduce over-application of phosphorus fertilizer on farm fields that can pollute streams and the Bay.

DEP Awards Grant To Clinton Conservation District To Install Farm Conservation Practices

The Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday announced it has awarded a $315,000 grant to the Clinton County Conservation District so it can assist local farmers in the development of agricultural best management practices (BMPs) to prevent future pollution in the Antes Creek Watershed.
“The department is pleased to provide this funding to the conservation district to assist with the development or improvement of agricultural plans, engineering evaluations, and the implementation of BMPs in this high risk watershed to prevent future surface and groundwater pollution,” Northcentral Regional Director Marcus Kohl said. “We also believe this funding is important to prevent the long-term degradation of this watershed as a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.”
Land use within the watershed is mostly agriculture and the watershed is at high risk for pollution incidents due to a large number of sinkholes in the area, especially those near or within farm fields, and inadequate manure storage for local farmers during high risk periods.
One such incident occurred in March, where manure was applied on partially snow-covered ground over an unidentified sinkhole. Heavy snow melt transported applied manure into the regional groundwater table. About 12 local residents contacted DEP because their well water appeared and smelled like manure.
The department responded to these complaints, and assisted the residents by providing potable water until the groundwater cleared, which occurred several weeks later.
The Clinton County Commissioners later requested the department conduct an evaluation of all agricultural operations within the western half of the Nippenose Valley to locate open sinkholes, identify high risk practices, and identify best management practices that could be implemented by local farmers to prevent a future pollution incident.
A preliminary watershed assessment completed by DEP’s Waterways and Wetlands program staff has identified of number of additional BMPs that could prevent future pollution in the watershed, including manure storage facilities, roof gutter systems, fencing, milk house waste, agricultural erosion and sedimentation plans, and updated manure management plans.
DEP awarded the grant to the conservation district based on an immediate need for the work to be completed as soon as possible and the district’s history and experience with this type of work.
For more information call 570-327-3636.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Gov.-Elect Wolf Adds To DEP Transition Agency Review Team

Gov.-Elect Wolf Monday added three new members to his Agency Review Team for DEP: David Masur, PennEnvironment, Josh McNeil, PA League of Conservation Voters and Charlie Schliebs, Managing Director, Stone Pier Capital Advisors, LP.  Click Here for the complete agency-by-agency Team members.

PA Celebrates Winter Trails Day With Get Outdoors PA Events Jan. 10

Outdoor recreation areas across Pennsylvania will be hosting special events and activities January 10 as part of Get Outdoors PA's celebration of Winter Trails Day, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Ellen Ferretti said Monday.
"Winter is no time to hibernate when there is plenty to do outside," Ferretti said. "Get Outdoors PA keeps the activities going all year, and the national Winter Trails celebration is the perfect excuse to step outside and participate in a guided recreation program hosted by our Get Outdoors PA partners."
Several locations are hosting hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and wildlife watching events on January 10. Numerous other Get Outdoors PA winter events are scheduled throughout January, including First Day Hikes scheduled January 1 at 22 state parks in cooperation with the National Association of State Park Directors.
Winter Trails Day is an attempt to interest people in trying snow sports – particularly snowshoeing and cross-country skiing – through guided events and demonstrations across the country.
Get Outdoors PA is a partnership of state agencies and local community organizations and recreation departments who have committed to providing outdoor recreation learning events for the citizens they serve.
Hundreds of events are offered year round to help promote interest in hiking, biking, target shooting, fishing, hunting, paddling, bird/wildlife watching, wilderness survival, backpacking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, camping, rock climbing, geocaching, nature photography and orienteering.
For a listing of all events, visit the Get Outdoors PA website or visit the DCNR Calendar of Events webpage.

EPA OKs DEP 2014 Water Quality Report, Status Of Lower Susquehanna, Monongahela

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Pennsylvania’s 2014 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, the Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday.
Required every two years by the federal Clean Water Act, the report describes the water quality of the state’s many streams, rivers, lakes and waterways. The report takes more than 8,700 staff hours to complete and includes a list of waterways that are impaired.
As of this report, 83,438 miles of streams and rivers are assessed for aquatic life use with 67,556 miles listed as attaining that water use, which means there are 15,882 miles of streams with impaired water quality in Pennsylvania.
Of the impaired miles, 9,031 require development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to reduce pollutant inputs and 6,851 have an approved TMDL. An additional 72 miles are under compliance agreements and expected to improve within a reasonable amount of time.
The two largest problems are agriculture and abandoned mine drainage. The largest stressors are siltation and metals.
However, other problems should not be minimized because in local areas they may impact a relatively large percentage of waters. For example, urban runoff/storm sewers is a minor problem in rural areas but major in metropolitan regions.
Since the last report in 2012, a total of 333 miles of previously impaired flowing waters and 853 lake acres were restored. In addition, the fish consumption advisories were removed from 11,592 lake acres.
This year there are two major listing changes. The Monongahela River, which was impaired for potable water use, was removed from the impairment list because the in-stream level of sulfates now meets Pennsylvania’s water quality standards.
The lower main stem of the Susquehanna River will be added to the fish consumption impairment list for channel catfish larger than 20 inches due to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The recommended consumption rate is no more than one meal per month.
In its letter approving the report, EPA commended DEP’s ongoing study of the Susquehanna River and tributaries. It also recognized DEP’s recent efforts to bring together a panel of experts from Fish and Boat Commission, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA and members of the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies.
This diverse group has been working together to gather and evaluate data related to the Susquehanna River and its tributaries for the Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS). The CADDIS panel is tasked with determining the attainment status of the Lower Susquehanna and Juniata rivers for the 2016 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment.
DEP will continue and expand its intense studies of the river and tributaries through 2015.
A copy of the complete 2014 Integrated Water Quality Report is available online.  
For more information, visit DEP’s 2014 Integrated Water Quality Report webpage and for copies of all TMDLs, visit DEP’s TMDL webpage.

December Environmental Synopsis Now Available From Joint Conservation Committee

-- Rolling Coal - Black Clouds From Diesel Engines
-- Ranking The Walkability Of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh
-- Audubon: Climate Change To Impact Bird Population
-- Global Shift To Mass Transit Could Save $100 Trillion
-- Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Operations Dropping
-- Summary Of Nov. 20 Tour Of Penn Waste Recycling Facility
-- Sign Up for your own copy by sending an email to:

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