Friday, February 21, 2014

DEP Citizens Advisory Council Hears Overview Of Draft Chesapeake Bay Agreement

DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday heard a presentation on the draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement now out for public review.  The Council could not complete its full agenda because bad weather kept several members from attending.
Andrew Zemba, Director of DEP’s Interstate Waters Office, said the new draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement updates the 2000 agreement in several ways-- it includes the headwaters states of Delaware, New York and West Virginia; is focused on measurable outcomes and gives jurisdictions flexibility in choosing which outcomes they participate in.
Zemba also noted there are still several issues that have not been resolved, among them: how to include toxic contaminants, climate change and issues related to the re-licensing of the Conowingo Dam.
Public comments are due by March 17.  The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council expects to finalize the Agreement at its Spring meeting.   Click Here for a link to Zemba’s presentation.
Hayley Book, Director of DEP’s Office of Policy, provided the Council with updates on several issues--
-- DEP Budget: Book provided a brief overview of the agency’s proposed FY 2014-15 budget request, explaining that although the budget proposes to eliminate 66 positions, there will be no furloughs.   She also said some of those positions may be transferred to special funds, like the Oil and Gas Program, and not lost to the Department.
-- Oil and Gas Regulations: Nine hearings have just been complete on proposed changes to the Chapter 78 drilling regulations and final comments are due from the public by March 14.  300 people testified at the hearings attended by over 1,200 people.  A total of 11,000 comments have been received so far.
Among issues raised most frequently by the public were: eliminating water storage pits, on-site burial of drill cutting and concerns about radioactivity in drilling wastes.  Issues raised by industry included an overly strict water supply replacement requirement and a suggestion to separate requirements applying to conventional and unconventional (Marcellus Shale) wells.
-- Public Participation In Permit Reviews: DEP expects to publish the final version of its Public Participation Policy for the Permit Review Process in the March 1 PA Bulletin.  Book noted the agency received 1,800 comments on the draft policy.  She asked Council to become involved in reviewing the draft plan for educating the public and DEP staff on the changes.
Public Comments
During the public comment portion of the Council’s agenda, Bonita Hoke, PA League of Women Voters, said her group is concerned about whether water withdrawals, especially from special protection watersheds, are being evaluated properly by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.  She cited as one example a withdrawal request from Lycoming Creek in Tioga and Lycoming counties.
Hoke also said the League is concerned by a recent change in law on how DEP evaluates on-lot septic system sewage modules in special protection watersheds since they are a significant source of nitrate pollution in ground and surface water.
DEP Monthly Report
The 16-page February Monthly Report submitted to Council by DEP includes a variety of topics, including these items of special note--
-- Nutrient Credit Trading Program: During 2013, wastewater treatment plans sold 142,209 nitrogen and 16,881 phosphorus credits, 380,757 nitrogen capacity credits and 57,398 phosphorous capacity credits; nonpoint source agricultural BMP resulted in selling 106,653 nitrogen credits; nonpoint source manure hauling sold 143,344 nitrogen credits and 27,337 phosphorous credits and other nonpoint source treatment sold 30,000 nitrogen credits.
-- PA Sunshine Program: The Program is now closed after awarding nearly $113 million to help deploy solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems resulting in the development of nearly 100 MW of electric generation.
-- Oil and Gas Well Permits/Drilled: As of January 17, the total number of unconventional (Marcellus Shale) permits issued is 15,564, the total number of wells drilled is 7,523 and the total number of active permits is 10,164.  The total number of conventional well permits issued is 194,351, the total number of wells drilled is 195,406 and the total number of active permits is 108,278.
Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Council is scheduled for March 18 starting at 10:00 in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg.
For more information, visit the DEP Citizens Advisory Council webpage.

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