Friday, May 29, 2015

June 1 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The June 1 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Here are just a few of the headlines--

Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday announced the formation of a task force to help Commonwealth agencies, the natural gas industry, and communities across the state collaborate more effectively as thousands of miles of pipelines are being proposed to transport natural gas and related byproducts to markets from gas wells throughout the Commonwealth.

Despite the recent precipitation events, the Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday said it is maintaining a drought watch for 27 counties across Pennsylvania because parts of the state have below-average groundwater and in some areas surface water levels.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule Wednesday to clearly protect from pollution and degradation the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.
The Department of Environmental Protection told the Citizens Advisory Council on two occasions (May, June) last year the proposed EPA Waters of the U.S. rule would have little impact in Pennsylvania because state water quality programs already exceeded minimum federal requirements and use a similar regulatory definition.

On May 14, William John Caddy, 38, from Johnstown was found guilty of illegally dumping shingles, buckets, cement and other debris on Hohan Avenue/Kingston Lake Trail in Middle Taylor Township by the Honorable Mary Ann Zanghi.

Clean out the garage…the basement…the overflowing closets throughout the house because the region’s fourth annual large-scale collection of materials to be reused by local nonprofits will take place on June 13 in Allison Park, Allegheny County.

ClearWater Conservancy celebrated its 20,000th student visit to Millbrook Marsh Nature Center in Centre County under the conservancy’s Connections program this spring.

To read the Digest, visit:  Click Here to print the entire Digest.

PA Environment Digest is edited by David E. Hess, former Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and is published as a service of Crisci Associates.

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PA Parks & Forests Foundation: June Is Get Outdoors PA Month

The PA Parks and Forests Foundation wants you to know June is Get Outdoors PA Month and a good time to explore Pennsylvania’s many outdoor recreation opportunities and share your outdoor experiences, photos and more with PPFF.

DEP To Begin Drilling Work At Mine Fire In Carbon County

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation Friday announced work will begin next week to determine the extent and intensity of the Jeansville Mine fire; located on both active and abandoned mine lands in Banks Township, Carbon County and Hazle Township, Luzerne County.
A plan is also in place to do additional air monitoring in areas around the fire.
The work involves drilling 53 boreholes at the site to help determine the extent of the fire and provide ongoing monitoring.
BAMR received a Declaration of Emergency from the federal Office of Surface Mining. The emergency declaration was needed to work on portions of the observed fire area and surrounding areas that are also a protected long eared bat habitat.
“This work will give us a clearer picture of the extent of the fire and help to determine the most effective next steps,” said DEP Deputy Secretary for Active and Abandoned Mine Operations, John Stefanko.
Representatives from BAMR, the Pottsville District Mining Office, and DEP’s Air Quality Program met with residents on May 20 to discuss plans for exploration of the fire and for air monitoring at the site. Previously conducted air monitoring did not show indications of any dangerous levels of gases in the neighborhoods around the fire.
“When DEP representatives met with residents, one of their chief concerns was overnight air monitoring,” said Director of DEP’s Northeast Regional Office, Mike Bedrin. “Additional air monitoring will determine if any dangerous levels of gases are present.”
The property is owned by Pagnotti Enterprises of Wilkes-Barre. Hazleton Shaft Corporation, currently leasing the portion of the property that is actively being mined, has been extinguishing the fire within the permitted area since 2012.
DEP awarded the emergency drilling contract to Minichi Enterprises, Inc. of Dupont, Luzerne County; the company was the lowest bidder at $1,211,530.
The project is being funded by Pennsylvania’s federal abandoned mine land grant, which is subsidized by the coal industry via fees paid on each ton of coal mined. In 2015 Pennsylvania received $44 million from the federal program to support DEP’s abandoned mine land and acid mine drainage reclamation programs.

West Nile Virus-Carrying Samples Detected In York, Centre Counties

The Departments of Environmental Protection and Health Friday report the confirmation of the first 2015 detections of West Nile Virus from a mosquito sample that was collected on May 22 in Springettsbury Township, York County and a bird found May 26 in Harris Township, Centre County.
“DEP vigilantly monitors the mosquito population across Pennsylvania. When West Nile Virus is identified, DEP staff works quickly to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley. “Today’s announcement serves as a reminder that all Pennsylvanians should take precautions to protect against mosquitos.”
Pennsylvania began its integrated pest management program in 2004, and has since improved identification and control of mosquito populations. The program routinely surveys counties based on historical West Nile Virus presence. When necessary, DEP treats impacted areas using effective and safe control substances.
Certain mosquito species carry the virus, which may cause humans to contract West Nile fever or West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in inflammation of the brain. Last year, West Nile Virus was detected in 39 counties and resulted in 13 human cases, including one fatality.
Although most people do not become ill when infected with West Nile Virus, all are at risk. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of becoming ill and developing severe complications.
“The Department of Health will be following the incidence of the virus,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy. “We encourage all to use caution prior to spending time outdoors.”
The best defense against West Nile Virus is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around homes, weeds, tall grass, shrubbery, and discarded tires.
Homeowners should take precautionary measures including:
— Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar containers that hold water.
— Drill drainage holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
— Have roof gutters cleaned regularly, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to block drains.
— Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
— Turn over wheelbarrows and do not let water stagnate in birdbaths.
— Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
— Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
Homeowners can buy mosquito control substances, such as Bti products, at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, and other stores. Bti is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that kills mosquito larva but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life, and plants.
Additionally, these simple precautions can prevent mosquito bites, particularly for people who are most at risk:
— Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
— Consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when outdoors, particularly when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes.
— When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods.
— Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellent will contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician if you have questions about the use of repellent on children, as repellant is not recommended for children under the age of two months.
For more information about the state’s surveillance and control program, visit the West Nile Virus website.

TreeVitalize Watershed Grant Applications In Southeast PA Due Sept. 18

Applications for TreeVitalize Watershed Grants in five Southeastern PA counties are due September 18.  The grants may be used for planting trees along stream corridors, adjacent upland areas, headwaters and naturalized stormwater basins.
TreeVitalize Watersheds depends on collaboration with six organizations that funnel, guide, and help implement watershed restoration projects in their service areas: Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Conservation District offices in each of the four surrounding SEPA counties, and the Stroud Water Research Center in Chester County.
These six organizations provide technical assistance to a variety of smaller organizations and local watershed groups in their areas.
The program receives funding from the Department of Environmental Protection and corporate sponsor Aqua PA, as well as substantial in-kind contributions from various partners.
Since 2005, the PA Horticultural Society has lead the TreeVitalize Program in the five-county southeastern PA region including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
Click Here for all the details.  Read the Watersheds Grant Program announcement carefully.

PA Resources Council Reuse Fest June 13 In Allegheny County

Clean out the garage…the basement…the overflowing closets throughout the house because the region’s fourth annual large-scale collection of materials to be reused by local non-profits will take place on June 13 in  Allison Park, Allegheny County.
The PA Resources Council’s annual “ReuseFest” – a one-of-a-kind drop-off event for materials destined for reuse by numerous local non-profit organizations – will accept a wide variety of materials including bikes, medical supplies, usable building materials, clothing and household goods, gently used furniture and mattresses, art supplies, pet supplies, backpacks and much more.
PRC’s “ReuseFest” will take place on from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at UPMC Passavant employee TAN parking lot in McCandless, Cumberland Road near Peebles Road, Allison Park, PA.
“This one-of-a-kind collection event provides area residents with an opportunity to responsibly donate a variety of unwanted but still usable items to multiple local non-profits at one convenient location,” according to PRC Regional Director Justin Stockdale.  “All materials donated at ReuseFest will be reused in some fashion, whether resold, repurposed or given to those in need in our region and around the world.”
“During the past three events, PRC has collected and diverted tens of thousands of pounds of materials from local landfills,” said Stockdale.  “Items donated and reused to benefit the local community have included everything from canes, crutches and wheelchairs to cat carriers, light fixtures and literally the kitchen sink.”
The event is presented in association with UPMC, UPMC Passavant, UPMC Passavant Green Team and Passavant Hospital Foundation.
For a complete list of acceptable items and links to participating organizations, visit PRC’s ReuseFest webpage or call PRC at 412-488-7490 x236.

Nearly 100 Hikes Planned To Showcase PA’s Trails, Walkways May 30-June 7

New and experienced hikers can pick their pace and path through Pennsylvania’s bountiful outdoors in one of nearly 100 organized hikes across the state during Hiking Week 2015, which steps off May 30.
Special events planned by DCNR and the Keystone Trails Association will take place in parks, forests, cities and towns across the state.
“Thanks to the cooperative efforts of the co-sponsoring Keystone Trails Association and our bureaus of state parks and forestry, a wealth of healthy hiking activities is being offered to all ages and abilities,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Acting Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.
“For 13 years now, this event has become increasingly popular as we reach out to the uninitiated and offer a wide variety of highly organized hikes,” said Dunn. “The ‘welcome mat’ is out to novices and trail-hardened veterans alike, inviting them to hike in our state parks, forests and municipal greenways in this annual salute to healthy exercise and the serenity of those very special outdoors places.”
Dunn noted that outdoor recreation such as hiking invigorate citizens and communities, creating jobs that pay, encouraging healthy lifestyles and promoting environmental stewardship.
Recent economic impact studies of 11 of the state’s longer rail trails show they attract more than 3 million visitors a year, and generate more than $91 million in user-spending annually.
The nine-day Hiking Week concludes June 7, and encompasses National Trails Day on June 6.
“Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with 'woods' right in our name. Getting out in Penn's Woods during Hiking Week will reward hikers of all ages and ability levels,” said KTA President Wanda Shirk. “We have hundreds of miles of blazed and well-maintained trails, providing everything from the proverbial 'walk in the park' to strenuous hill climbs that can challenge the most fit of athletes.
“There's something for everyone, in an oxygen-charged environment with green trees, bird calls, spring flowers, wildlife, and rejuvenation for all. Your time can't be better spent anywhere else. Hiking is a great recharge for both mind and body," Shirk said.
All of the scheduled hikes have leaders and include a variety of lengths and terrain -- from easy strolls along urban greenways to strenuous treks in some of Pennsylvania’s rugged mountain areas. Special hikes include night hikes; wildflower walks; hikes for people with disabilities; and pet and geology walks.
Nearly 100 hikes and walks have been planned, with state forests and parks across the state being asked to schedule and oversee activities.
Organized in 1956, KTA is a 1,306-member umbrella organization made up of 44 hiking and outdoors organizations in and around Pennsylvania.
For more information, including hikes already planned, dates and locations, visit the PA Hiking Week webpage or for details on hiking clubs across the state, visit the Keystone Trails Association website.

UPDATED: DEP Revises Policy On Developing Technical Guidance, Invites Comments, Launches New Policy Comment Tool

The Department of Environmental Protection published notice in the May 30 PA Bulletin it has significantly revised a technical guidance describing how it will develop and invite public input into the development of all technical guidance published by the agency.
DEP is soliciting comments on the interim final guidance by July 14.
DEP said the policy has been substantively revised to clarify existing processes for development and publication of technical guidance documents, and to enhance public transparency surrounding this process.
“These revisions enhance the public’s participation in the development of our policies and increases transparency,” Quigley said. “That’s government that works.”
These changes do not affect the current policy for development, approval and distribution of regulations.
Technical Guidance Documents provide practical and specialized direction to DEP staff, the public and the regulated community. They typically:
— Summarize what statues or regulations require;
— Explain how DEP interprets a statue or regulation,
— Explain technical or administrative procedures that assist in compliance with statues or regulations; and
— Establish policies.
Included in the revisions is a new method to submit electronic comments online--  eComment for Policies.
eComment allows for more effective submission of comments by the public and management of those comments by the Department. As part of eComment for Policies, all public comments will be publicly available for view in eComment within 5 business days of their receipt, and will remain available until respective documents are finalized.
“By publishing technical guidance comments as we receive them, anyone interested in a proposed policy will be able to read the comments and concerns raised by others online while the comment period is still open,” DEP Acting Secretary John Quigley said. “This more open and upfront process will lead to more meaningful engagement with the public and result in more effective policies.”
Also included as a revision is establishment of a Non-Regulatory Agenda indicating technical guidance documents and other documents the Department intends to develop on an annual basis to provide additional transparency for the public.  DEP already publishes a similar agenda for regulations.
The policy also expands the role of advisory committees by requiring DEP staff to consult with members of the corresponding advisory committee(s) when developing technical guidance documents and to do so as early in the process as practicable.
Many of the proposed revisions were done in response to comments submitted to the agency by DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council.
DEP will be holding two webinars about the technical guidance changes at 10:00 a.m. June 10 (Click Here to register) and at 2:00 on June 30 (Click Here to register).  
Comments on the revised policy may be submitted through DEP’s new Environmental Policy Comment System.  A copy of the revised policy will be available on the Comment System webpage.

Final EPA Waters Of The U.S. Rule Issued, Little Impact In PA Expected

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule Wednesday to clearly protect from pollution and degradation the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.
The rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry.
The rule is grounded in law and the latest science, and is shaped by public input. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.
“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”
“Today's rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. “This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act. This rule responds to the public's demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdiction determinations. The result will be better public service nationwide."
Specifically, the Clean Water Rule:
— Clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters. The Clean Water Act protects navigable waterways and their tributaries. The rule says that a tributary must show physical features of flowing water – a bed, bank, and ordinary high water mark – to warrant protection. The rule provides protection for headwaters that have these features and science shows can have a significant connection to downstream waters.
— Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters. The rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries because science shows that they impact downstream waters. The rule sets boundaries on covering nearby waters for the first time that are physical and measurable.
— Protects the nation’s regional water treasures. Science shows that specific water features can function like a system and impact the health of downstream waters. The rule protects prairie potholes, Carolina and Delmarva bays, pocosins, western vernal pools in California, and Texas coastal prairie wetlands when they impact downstream waters.
— Focuses on streams, not ditches. The rule limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.
— Maintains the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. The rule does not change how those waters are treated and encourages the use of green infrastructure.
— Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters. Previously, almost any water could be put through a lengthy case-specific analysis, even if it would not be subject to the Clean Water Act. The rule significantly limits the use of case-specific analysis by creating clarity and certainty on protected waters and limiting the number of similarly situated water features.
Not Much Impact In PA
The Department of Environmental Protection told the Citizens Advisory Council on two occasions (May, June) last year the proposed EPA Waters of the U.S. rule would have little impact in Pennsylvania because state water quality programs already exceeded minimum federal requirements and use a similar regulatory definition.
In October, DEP submitted comments to EPA on the rule which said in part, “The rule as drafted creates more confusion than it clarifies, and is already subject to differing interpretations of EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff.  This confusion will delay permitting and could undermine strong state programs [like Pennsylvania].”
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker issued this statement on the final Waters of the U.S. rule— “The new rule is backed by the latest science documenting the connection between wetlands and headwater streams, and downstream waters. Now that the rule is in place, it is our hope that all of us working for healthy, safe water everywhere will have a common understanding and can work together to deliver what Congress promised us in 1972 when it passed the Clean Water Act--fishable, swimmable waters.”
For more information, visit EPA’s Clean Water Rule webpage.

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