Sunday, November 30, 2014

December Water, Land, Life Newsletter Now Available From Western PA Conservancy

The December issue of the Water, Land, Life newsletter is now available from the Western PA Conservancy featuring articles on--
-- Click Here to sign up for your own WPC newsletter.

Video: Howard Zahniser Honored On 50th Anniversary Of Wilderness Act By His Son

Dr. Mathias Zahniser, son of Tionesta native and federal Wilderness Act author Howard Zahniser, spoke at the opening of the special photo exhibit at the Crary Art Gallery in Warren in August to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Act.  Click Here to watch a video his his remarks.
Sponsored by Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness, the exhibit is one of several special events organized for the 50th anniversary this year.
The show honored the author of the Wilderness Act and Tionesta native Howard Zahniser, with images of wild lands sent to the Crary by world-class nature photographers from around the country.
The two organizations worked hard to bring to Warren the photography of luminaries Craig Blacklock, Clyde Butcher, Robert Clements, Kevin Ebi, Robbie George, Stephen Gorman, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Scot Miller, David Muench, Marc Muench and Mark Muse.
In addition to featuring wilderness all around the nation, the show featured the winners of a photography contest run by the two non-profit organizations, profiling the two designated wilderness areas in nearby Allegheny National Forest, the Hickory Creek and Allegheny Islands Wilderness Areas. Two images from each of the two areas were selected.
The winning entries of Hickory Creek Wilderness were shot by Judy Cole Blank of Warren and Mark Hulings of Corry. Piper VanOrd of Irvine had two winning photos of Allegheny Islands. These winners, whose works were selected for their artistic merit from among 20 other very strong entries, were shown alongside some from the top photographers in the world.
The show ended on September 28.  Click Here to view a catalog of all the images included in the exhibit.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Center For Rural PA Study Documents Community Impacts Of Marcellus Drilling Boom

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania recently released the results of a two year study looking at the community impacts of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in Bradford, Greene, Lycoming and Washington counties from 2005 to mid-2013.
The study, completed by Penn State University, had four goals: (1) Identify and document indicators of economic, social, institutional and infrastructural change related to Marcellus Shale development; (2) Analyze collected data to understand and interpret trends in relation to drilling activity and in comparison to historical and current regional, state and national trends; (3) Describe the experiences of critical populations and institutions relative to activity level; and (4) Examine and evaluate strategies communities have used to effectively manage change.
The study results are contained in nine separate topical report summarized here briefly--
-- Report #1: Population Change and Marcellus Shale Development. The analysis indicated that patterns of population change varied across the study counties, and that the associations with Marcellus Shale development are not clear.
-- Report #2: The Impact of Marcellus Shale Development on Health and Health Care. Very few indicators in health or healthcare service delivery changed in relation to Marcellus Shale development, with the exception of increases in the number of complaints logged by responding emergency medical service personnel. Focus group data indicate increased demands on human service providers, including mental and behavioral health services. Many of the workers associated with the natural gas industry have employer-provided insurance, but that coverage is valid in other states and may not transfer to local areas.
-- Report #3: Marcellus Shale Gas Development and Impacts on Pennsylvania Schools and Education. The analyses indicated very little change in enrollment, student demographics, and student outcomes associated with Marcellus Shale development. Drop-out rates were not changed either, although focus group data suggest the potential that industry-associated opportunities may affect post-secondary educational aspirations of youth.
-- Report #4: Youth Perspectives on Marcellus Shale Gas Development: Community Change and Future Prospects. Youth described their views on the effects of the natural gas industry on their home communities; safety concerns about traffic and road conditions; destruction of natural areas; uncertainty about the impacts of the industry on their communities now and in the future; and relatively low interest in working for the industry. Most of the participants had at least ambivalent feelings about the changes they had seen taking place in their communities.
-- Report #5: Housing and Marcellus Shale Development. The share of housing that was owner- occupied, rental or vacant varied more in counties with smaller populations and more limited housing stocks prior to Marcellus development. The median value of owner-occupied housing increased in the study counties more than the state average during the period of Marcellus Shale development. Focus group participants described the use of temporary housing by both natural gas workers and low-income families, displacement of local people from existing housing, and increased homelessness among low-income individuals and families.
-- Report #6: Effects of Marcellus Shale Development on the Criminal Justice System. The analyses showed relatively little change in most indicators, with the exception of increased rates of calls for service for which the Pennsylvania State Police responded, arrests for driving under the influence, and traffic violations in counties with high levels of Marcellus Shale
-- Report #7: Local Government and Marcellus Shale Development. Analysis of the county audit data through 2011 did not show clear effects of natural gas development on local government budgets. Local officials raised concerns related to impacts on roads from truck traffic, housing problems, their lack of preparation for the growth of the industry, and a lack of transparency by the natural gas industry. They reported spending impact fee dollars on new equipment or new infrastructure to replace what has been damaged, directly or indirectly, by drilling.
-- Report #8: Local Economic Impacts Related to Marcellus Shale Development. Counties with the highest levels of drilling activity generally experienced increased business activity, employment, and wages. During the study period, the number of residents working increased only modestly, suggesting that many of the new jobs that had been created were going to non-residents who either commuted into the county or were living there temporarily.
-- Report #9: Establishing a Baseline for Measuring Agricultural Changes Related to Marcellus Shale Development. Focus group data with farmers and representatives of agricultural services and businesses brought out the following themes: shortages in some farm inputs (e.g., lime) and difficulty of retaining farm labor due to Marcellus development; the ability of farmers to use lease and royalty income to stay in business and reinvest in their operations; changes in the types of operations (such as dairy to beef); intergenerational property transfer; mistrust of natural gas companies; lack of monitoring and company accountability; uncertainty about environmental impacts; uncertainty about long-term impacts; and conflicting views about the impacts on quality of life.
Key Findings
Among the key findings of the report are--
-- Need To Collect Healthcare Use And Health Status Information. There is need for the collection of healthcare use and health status indicator data related to Marcellus Shale and other changes that occur.
This is required to establish a ‘baseline’ of the health of the population in Pennsylvania at a given time, but also to allow for comparison in the future. Identifying whether there are changes in health status associated with Marcellus Shale activity requires the collection of the same information over time. This includes health status of residents living near Marcellus activity as well as individuals who do not live near Marcellus activity.
The health status of workers in the industry also should be considered. If conceived of more broadly, such a data system would provide the ability to monitor changes in the health status of the residents of Pennsylvania over time, improving the ability to project changes in health and the need for health services.
-- Increase Coordination Among State Agencies. It would be useful if state agencies themselves provided clearer communication, coordination and collaboration on Marcellus Shale-related issues, such as between the state agencies of Environmental Protection, Conservation and Natural Resources, Community and Economic Development, Education, Transportation, Public Welfare, Labor and Industry, and Health.
Such coordination may already be occurring behind the scenes, yet there would be great value to enhanced visibility of such efforts. Policy decisions on this issue by one department can have clear implications and impact on other departments. In addition, greater communication can assist with responding appropriately to opportunities or challenges as they arise.
-- Need For Natural Gas Industry To Share Future Plans With Public Officials. There needs to be a means for timely communication between natural gas companies and local officials (at regional, county and local levels) so that natural gas companies can share what they know of their plans to enable local jurisdictions to prepare and respond more quickly and effectively.
For example, natural gas companies could be encouraged to work with local planning offices and those who work in various aspects of housing (e.g., realtors, hotel and motel managers, housing authorities) to detail needs for housing or other services in advance of the natural gas companies’ presence in the region.
Strategies to encourage regular communication, cooperation and coordination among those responding to changes resulting from Marcellus Shale development across the local area/region need to be identified and implemented. Areas affected most initially include roads and traffic management, law enforcement, housing, and water-related utilities and management organizations.
For example, local committees can be encouraged and supported with financial and technical resources to bring together key stakeholders (natural gas company representatives, local housing agencies and nonprofit organizations, private sector developers, environmental organizations, municipal governments) to identify reasonable short-term solutions to major concerns.
-- Water Monitoring & Farm Succession Planning. Based on the concerns expressed during the focus groups, and because of the importance of water for agricultural production, it seems reasonable to recommend policies to mandate more intensive water monitoring throughout the Marcellus region.
Because the Marcellus drilling development has increased property values, policies may be needed to facilitate intergenerational transfer of farmland to facilitate farming, such as legal and other services related to succession planning.
A copy of the summary report is available online.  The nine individual reports are available through the links provided above.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Dec. 1 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Dec. 1 PA Environment Digest now available.  Click Here To Print Entire Digest.

General Assembly Ends Legislative Session With Few Positive Environmental Bills
The General Assembly formally adjourned the 2013-14 legislative session November 12 and ended a legislative year with few positive environmental bills signed into law.  All bills not reaching the Governor’s desk start over on January 6 when the new General Assembly convenes. The environmental bills signed into law in 2014 included--

What Can We Expect For The Environment Next Legislative Session?
With the increase in the Republican majorities in both the Senate and House, in particular more conservative members, we can expect to see the reintroduction and consideration of several environmental bills from last session, including the bills to eliminate certain protections for endangered species, create an unaffordable scheme to fund unsustainable nutrient reduction technology, legislation to rollback the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards and a bill to focus more attention on developing the state’s oil industry.
Of course the priorities and dynamics will be a little different with Democrat Tom Wolf in the Governor’s Office.  

Gov.-Elect Wolf Names Budget Task Force Members, Inaugural Committee Chairs
Gov-elect Tom Wolf unveiled the members of his Budget Deficit and Fiscal Stabilization Task Force Tuesday.  The group is assigned to deal with the state’s budget deficit and will be Chaired by Mary Soderberg. Josh Shapiro will serve as Vice-Chair.  Click Here for a full membership list.
Wolf also announced Gov. Ed Rendell as Honorary Chair of his Inaugural Committee and Mary Isenhour, a senior advisor to his campaign, and Reid Walsh, Director of Operations for his campaign, as Co-Chairs.  Click Here for more background.

Senate GOP Leaders Announce Changes In Leadership Staff, No Decision On Session
Changes to Senate Republican Leadership senior staff will take place with the beginning of the 2015-16 legislative session, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre), Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia).  Click Here for the complete announcement.
There has been no decision yet by Senate and House Republicans on whether there will be a real voting session before Gov. Corbett leaves office January 20.

DEP Submits Comments On EPA’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas Regulation
On Wednesday the Department of Environmental Protection submitted its formal comments on EPA’s proposed Section 111(d) clean power greenhouse gas emission reduction regulations saying while it recognizes the authority for EPA to reduce carbon emissions, EPA’s proposed regulation does not do it it a lawful way and “inappropriately directs national energy policy.”  
A copy of DEP’s comments is available online.  Other background information is available on DEP’s Clean Power Plan Comments webpage.

4 PA Counties Would Violate New Ozone Standard Proposed By EPA
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday proposed to reduce the ozone pollution standard to within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) to better protect Americans’ health and the environment, while taking comment on a level as low as 60 ppb.

Now You Can Comment On PA Environment Digest Daily Blog Postings

Starting today, PA Environment Digest Daily Blog will offer you the opportunity to share your constructive comments on each of the blog postings.  Simply click on the "comments" (or "no comments" yet) link at the end of each story.

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DEP Makes Request To Implement Federal Medical Waste Incinerators Plan

The Department of Environmental Protection published notice of its request for delegation of authority to implement the federal hospital, medical and infectious waste incinerators plan and notice of a January 6 public hearing in the November 29 PA Bulletin.  Click Here for a copy of the request.

DEP Sets Dec. 3 Sewage Advisory Committee Workgroup Meeting

The Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled a meeting of the Sewage Advisory Committee Workgroup for December 3 starting at 9:00 in the 12th Floor Conference Room, Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg.  (formal notice)
No agenda for the meeting was posted.  Contact John Diehl, Bureau of Point and Non-Point Source Management at 717-783-2941 or send email to for more information.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What Can We Expect For The Environment Next Legislative Session?

With the increase in the Republican majorities in both the Senate and House, in particular more conservative members, we can expect to see the reintroduction and consideration of several environmental bills from last session, including the bills to eliminate certain protections for endangered species, create an unaffordable scheme to fund unsustainable nutrient reduction technology, legislation to rollback the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards and a bill to focus more attention on developing the state’s oil industry.
Of course the priorities and dynamics will be a little different with Democrat Tom Wolf in the Governor’s Office.  
Wolf promised to introduce a natural gas severance tax, expand the use of clean energy, accelerate investment in energy efficiency retrofits, take “responsible action” on climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set green building standards for state buildings.  Click Here for more background.
Committee Chairs
The Chairs of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee are likely to remain the same-- Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) as Majority Chair and Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) as Minority Chair.
There will be a new Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee with the retirement of Rep. Ron Miller (R-York).  Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) is expected to remain Minority Chair.
Republican Bills To Be Reintroduced
The conservative Republican bills expected to be reintroduced include --
-- Eliminating Protections For Endangered Species: Senate Bill 1047 (Scarnati-R- Jefferson) and House Bill 1576 (Pyle-R-Armstrong) that would eliminate some protections for endangered species and set additional requirements for adopting Wild Trout Streams.  The House Bill died on the House Calendar.  The Senate Bill remained in the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee.  Click Here for background on the bill.
-- Nutrient Reduction Watershed Scheme: Senate Bill 994 (Vogel-R-Beaver) would construct an unaffordable scheme to fund one technology that claims to reduce nutrients from manure. The bill died on the Senate Tabled Calendar.  Click Here for background on the bill.
-- PA Grade Crude Development Advisory Council: Senate Bill 1310 (Hutchinson-R- Venango) creating the PA Grade Crude Development Advisory Council within DEP died in the House State Government Committee.  Sponsor summary.
-- Rollback Of Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards: House Bill 1912 (Sankey-R- Clearfield) which would repeal the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards adopted in 2004 that requires electric companies to obtain 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2023.  Sponsor summary.
Natural Gas Severance Tax
With a natural gas severance tax high on the agenda of Gov.-Elect Wolf, proposals introduced in the past may serve as a model for the future.  They include--
-- Senate Bill 1370, introduced by now Lt. Gov.-Elect Michael Stack, is a comprehensive package making changes to the Marcellus Shale regulatory program as well as imposing a 5 percent severance tax.  Sponsor summary.
-- Senate Bill 1333 (Hughes-D-Philadelphia, Yudichak-D-Luzerne) would enact a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas production with the proceeds going to fund education, environmental and economic development.  Click Here for more background.
-- Senate Bill 1349 (Erickson-R-Delaware) imposing a four percent severance tax on natural gas production and devotes all of the revenue it generates to funding basic education.  Click Here for more background.
-- Senate Bill 1359 (Ferlo-D-Allegheny) the most comprehensive proposal to fund environmental and other conservation programs using a new severance tax on natural gas production.  Click Here for more background.
-- House Bill 2358 (DiGirolamo-R-Bucks) providing for the imposition of a 4.9 percent natural gas severance tax to replace the drilling impact fees.  Click Here for more background.
Legislation Likely To Be Reintroduced
Other legislation that didn’t make it through both the Senate and House will also likely be introduced--
-- Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards: House Bill 100 (Vitali-D-Delaware) would increase the solar mandate in the AEPS and make other changes.  Click Here for a sponsor summary.
-- Green State Buildings: House Bill 34 (Harper-R-Montgomery) [sponsor summary] and Senate Bill 1061 (Rafferty-R-Montgomery) [sponsor summary] setting green building standards for state owned or leased buildings both died in the Senate.
-- Backup Generators: House Bill 1699 (Ross-R-Chester) setting air quality standards for backup generators died in the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Click Here for House summary.
-- Shale Gas Health Advisory Panel: Senate Bill 555 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) establish a Health Advisory Panel on Shale Gas Extraction and Natural Gas Use.  Sponsor summary.
-- Leasing DCNR Land For Alternative Energy Development: Senate Bill 684 (Wozniak-D- Cambria) further providing for the leasing of DCNR lands for wind, solar and other energy projects died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Sponsor summary.
-- Leasing State Lands For Mineral Development: Senate Bill 1443 (White-R-Indiana) amending the Indigenous Mineral Resources Development Act to authorized state agencies (other than DCNR) to release mineral rights whether they owned the surface rights or not died in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
-- Natural Gas Royalties: Several bills dealing with natural gas royalty issues are also expected to be reintroduced--
-- House Bill 1684 (Everett-R-Lycoming) which seeks to clarify a minimum royalty payment in state law died on the House Calendar for action.  Click Here for more background.
-- Senate Bill 1236 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) would expand upon the Oil and Gas Lease Act by allowing royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of natural gas companies to verify proper payments.  In addition, the bill requires all royalty payments be made within 60 days of production unless otherwise stated in the contract.  Any delinquent payments are to be paid with interest.  The bill died in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Sponsor summary.
-- Senate Bill 1237 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against any royalty interest owner by terminating their lease agreement or ceasing development on leased property because a royalty interest owner questions the accuracy of current royalty payments.  Companies found to have violated the provisions of this act face civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day. The bill died in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. Sponsor summary.
-- Senate Bill 1238 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) would require a gas company to record a surrender document in the county Recorder of Deeds office where the oil and gas well is located within 30 days upon expiration, termination, or forfeiture of an oil and gas lease. The surrender document will release the gas company’s interests in the oil and gas. This is similar to what a mortgage company would be required to do after a mortgage was paid in full.  The bill died in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Sponsor summary.
-- Sewer/Water P2 Partnerships: House Bill 2239 (Evankovich-R-Armstrong) authorizing public-private partnerships for sewer, water, school district projects died on the House Tabled Calendar.  Sponsor summary.
-- Drinking Water Well Standards: Less certain is whether the legislation to set drinking water well standards will be reintroduced.  House Bill 343 (Miller-R-York) and another version of the legislation-- Senate Bill 1461(Vance-R-Cumberland)-- both died in the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Click Here for more background.
Other Stuff
As a result of the House adoption of House Resolution 925 (Rapp-R-Forest) in September, the Joint State Government Commission will be conducting a year-long study of the environmental impact of wind turbines, as compared to coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power, in Pennsylvania, in particular on migratory birds and of forest removal.
The factors to be analyzed include—
-- Number of wind turbines operating in Pennsylvania and their owners;
-- Agencies that oversee the operation of wind turbines;
-- Sources and amounts of subsidies for wind turbines;
-- Wind turbines’ imprint acreage and effects on wildlife; and
-- Wind turbines impact on the electric grid.

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