Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday PA Environmental NewsClips

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Friday, April 29, 2016

May 2 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The May 2 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Here are just a few of the headlines--

A new publication by the American Water Resources Association highlights the Rock Lititz Floodplain Restoration Project in Lancaster County that uses an innovative private-public partnership to reduce sediment and nutrient loads going to the Chesapeake Bay without taxpayer money.

The PA Association of Environmental Professionals Thursday announced Carol Collier is the winner of the 2016 Karl Mason Award and the Natural Lands Trust is the winner of the Walter Lyon Award.

The Northeast Environmental Partners are seeking nominations for the 26th annual Northeast Environmental Partnership Awards.  Nominations are due June 25.

The Department of Environmental Protection Monday issued an order to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority requiring testing for lead at 100 sites in Pittsburgh’s water system because the Authority made changes to its water treatment process without approval by DEP that could have resulted in an increase in lead in drinking water.

A paper written by Penn State University student Michael Cavazza, a Schreyer Scholar majoring in petroleum and natural gas engineering, won first place in the Eastern North America regional Society of Petroleum Engineers student paper contest, held April 9 at Louisiana State University.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Wednesday announced the addition of two new members to its staff, Fred Siekkinen and Dana Rockwell, to help bolster its fight against illegal dumping across the state.

The PA Resources Council will hold the first of 6 Household Chemical Collection events in Western PA on May 7 at the swimming pool area of North Park in Allegheny County.

Gov. Tom Wolf Monday announced the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the highest-ranking state government user of green power on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Top 100 list of the largest green power users from the Green Power Partnership.

Staff from the Department of Environmental Protection’s  Oil and Gas and Air Quality programs this week kicked off a study to evaluate the integrity of plugged, abandoned, and orphan oil and gas wells across Pennsylvania, as well as provide insight into potential greenhouse gas implications associated with methane emissions from these wells.

Seventeen individuals and organizations are the recipients of a 2016 Arbor Day Award in honor of their outstanding contribution to tree planting, conservation and stewardship from the Arbor Day Foundation Wednesday.

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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Fish & Boat Commission Board Urges DEP To Rule On Susquehanna River Impairment

A delay on a critical decision about the health of the Susquehanna River has prompted the Board of Fish and Boat Commissioners to send a letter to DEP Secretary John Quigley reiterating their call that the river is sick and urging him to issue the agency’s decision.
“For over six years, we, the Board of Commissioners of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), have been speaking publicly about the need to take action to restore the Susquehanna River’s smallmouth bass fishery,” stated the April 27 letter to DEP Secretary John Quigley. “In January 2010 and September 2014, we unanimously passed resolutions to that effect.”
“We agree with PFBC Executive Director John Arway that the results of the Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS) initiative support an impairment determination and are concerned that it has taken so long for [DEP] to announce its decision. To that end, we are expecting that an announcement about the listing decision will be forthcoming in May.”
Since 2012, the PFBC has unsuccessfully petitioned DEP to add the river to the state’s bi-annual list of impaired waterways. The 2016 list was expected to be issued in February, but DEP acknowledged to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it was postponing the announcement of the list until May.
“The impairment designation is critical because it starts a timeline for developing a restoration plan,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “We’ve known the river has been sick since 2005, when we first started seeing sores and lesions on young bass. Now we have even more evidence to support the scientific argument for impairment.”
“If we do not act to address the water quality issues in the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania risks losing what is left of what was once considered a world-class smallmouth bass fishery,” he said. “DEP was expected to release its 2016 list of impaired waters in February. Now it’s been delayed. We are urging DEP once again to follow the science and add the Susquehanna River to the Commonwealth’s list of impaired waters.”
A copy of the letter is available online.
The PFBC first documented disease-related mortality of young-of-year smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River in 2005.
In May 2015, the PFBC announced that two independent laboratory tests had confirmed a malignant, or cancerous, tumor on a single smallmouth bass caught in the middle Susquehanna River by an angler in late 2014 and provided to the PFBC.
Since 2005, PFBC biologists have continued to find sores and lesions on young-of-year bass during late spring and early summer surveys at alarming rates. This has resulted in an overall population decline in the total number of smallmouth bass which can live and be caught from the Susquehanna River.
DEP said it expects to make available its latest report on streams recommended for impairment status sometime in May for public comment.
For more information, visit the Fish & Boat Commission’s Susquehanna River Impairment and DEP’s Susquehanna River Study Updates webpages.
Related Stories:
Op-Ed: Susquehanna: Time To Start Healing This Sick, Amazing River

House Environmental Committee Meets May 3 On IRRC Approval Of DEP Drilling Regs

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee announced late Friday it will meet on May 3 to consider a response to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approval of  DEP’s final Chapter 78 (conventional) and 78a (unconventional, Marcellus Shale) drilling regulations.
The House and Senate Committees both disapproved the drilling regulations, largely along party lines, prior to the April 21 approval.
Although the meeting notice does not say so, the most likely action by the Committee is to report out a House/Senate concurrent resolution disapproving the regulations.
The Senate and House would then have 30 calendar days or 10 voting session days, whichever is longer, from the date the resolution is reported out of Committee to pass the concurrent resolution and present it to the Governor for his action.
The Governor can then sign or veto the resolution.  His veto is subject to being overridden by both the Senate and House by two-thirds vote.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, issued a statement April 22 (Earth Day) calling for action on a House/Senate disapproval resolution on the drilling regulations.
The meeting will be held in the House Majority Caucus Room, Room 140 starting at 10:15 a.m.
Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to:  Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to:
Related Stories:
PA Supreme Court Denies Appeal Challenging DEP Drilling Regs
Related Stories This Week:
Penn State Webinar May 19 On Monitoring Seismic Activity In PA

OK, Election’s Over, Back To Work On Next Year’s State Budget!

The election provided an interesting diversion the last couple weeks, but the outcome was, by and large, anticipated-- Trump and Clinton for President and Shapiro for Attorney General, although that was a close call.  McGinty for U.S. Senate was a bit of a surprise, but late polls showed that race tightening.
One key to this year’s Senate and House races-- having 2 or more opponents in the Primary.  Lesson there.
Actual counted election results are available at the Department of State’s Election Results website.
Only four House incumbents-- Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia), a 38-year veteran, Rep. Tonyelle Cook-Artis (D-Philadelphia), Rep. Frank Farina (D-Lackawanna) and Rep. Lynwood Sava (D-Philadelphia)-- lost their bids for reelection in the Primary.
Indicted incumbent Rep. Vanessa Brown (D-Philadelphia) beat 5 other opponents for the Democratic nomination for this seat with 36.4 percent of the vote.
No incumbent Senators lost.  
Conservative Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) weighed in personally in two Senate races and won both-- the 15th in Dauphin County where Republican John DiSanto won over Andrew Lewis and in the 31st in Cumberland County where Rep. Mike Regan beat a candidate endorsed by retiring Sen. Pat Vance.
Sen. John Sabatina (D) in the 5th District in Philadelphia won his seat by less than 700 votes against a tough challenger Rep. Kevin Boyle.  There may be a challenge to this count.
Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia) beat indicted incumbent Congressman Chaka Fattah.  No other incumbent members of Congress lost.
State Budget
The House comes back to work May 2 and the Senate May 9.  Waiting for them is the FY 2016-17 state budget.
Rep. William Adolph (R-Delaware), Majority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, notified members of his Committee April 20, the first vote on the FY 2016-17 will take place when the House returns to voting session the week of May 2.
Amendments to the budget vehicle-- House Bill 1999-- are due in the Office of the Chief Clerk last Monday for Committee action.  Only 19 amendments were posted by late Friday, but that will change.
Welcome to FY 2016-17!
Related Story:
GOP Amendment Would Use DEP Personnel Money To Help Industry Review Drilling Regs

Insurance Commissioner Commends U.S. House Passage Of Private Flood Insurance Bill

Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller Friday lauded the U.S. House of Representatives for its unanimous passage of the federal Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act, H.R. 2901, as a major step toward helping homeowners facing rising flood insurance premiums.
The U.S. Senate must now consider the legislation.
The bill encourages more private insurers to write flood insurance and fits with current efforts by the Wolf Administration to increase consumer protection by raising awareness about growing options in the private flood insurance market that could result in substantial savings for many Pennsylvania homeowners.
"This proposal ties in perfectly with Gov. Wolf's consumer protection agenda, and with work the Insurance Department has been doing the past several months, by creating a one-stop shop for homeowners to get information on flood insurance, including the increasing availability of private market coverage, which can often be substantially less costly than the National Flood Insurance Program policies managed by the federal government," Commissioner Miller said.
Mortgages backed by the federal government require flood insurance for homes in designated flood zones.  Prior to the last three years, almost all residential flood insurance was sold through the federal government run National Flood Insurance Program.  
Recent premium increases for many homeowners with NFIP policies, and re-mapping of many other properties into flood zones by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has made the flood insurance market more attractive to private insurers.
The legislation approved by the U.S. House would define as acceptable a policy issued by a private insurance company that is licensed, admitted, or otherwise approved in the state in which the insured property is located.  
A policy issued by a non-admitted insurer, also known as a surplus lines policy, would also qualify.  Including surplus lines policies is important, as most private coverage now sold in Pennsylvania is through the surplus lines market.
Commissioner Miller testified in favor of this legislation before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance in January.
"During my testimony, I stressed that one of the obstacles to increasing the availability of private flood insurance is that many lenders are unsure if private coverage meets the requirements of the federal government. The Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act would remove that obstacle by requiring lenders to accept private flood insurance if it complies with state laws and regulations and includes the required limits of coverage," Commissioner Miller said.
She urged the U.S. Senate to follow the House and pass this important consumer protection bill.
For more information on flood insurance options in Pennsylvania, visit the Insurance Department’s Flood Insurance webpage.

DEP Makes Changes To Meadville, Harrisburg Regional Office Directors

The Department of Environmental Protection Friday announced new Regional Directors for its Meadville and Harrisburg Regional Offices
In Meadville, Staci Gustafson was named as Acting Regional Director, replacing John Guth.  Gustafson was serving as Assistant Regional Director.
Guth will now be Environmental Program Manager for the Regional Waste Program.  Guth was named Northwest Regional Director in 2014.
In Harrisburg, Robert Conrad was named Acting Regional Director, replacing Lynn Langer.  Conrad was serving as Assistant Regional Director.
Langer will become Environmental Program Manager for Clean Water.  Langer was named Southcentral Regional Director in 2012.
The changes are effective May 2.

Agencies Announce Plans To Improve Bicycle Access, Revitalization Of PA Wilds Region

Officials from the state departments of Transportation, Conservation and Natural Resources and Community and Economic Development Thursday discussed the state’s transportation and economic development, as well as outdoor recreation, heritage and tourism opportunities at the annual PA Wilds dinner and awards banquet in St. Marys, Elk County.
During the event, PennDOT announced plans that the department will begin in May to review necessary steps to improve bicycle safety, accessibility and connectivity on Route 6 across the state’s northern tier. The route is currently officially designated as PA Bike Route Y.
“This region of Pennsylvania has so much to offer to the public with its scenery and history, and this is a prime opportunity to enhance tourism in the PA Wilds and along the Route 6 corridor,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said of her agency’s announcement. “To make this route a go-to destination for cyclists, we need to ensure that it’s as safe and connected to trails and communities as possible.”
PennDOT will review Route 6’s current condition, bicycle facilities and safety, environmental conditions as well as collect and examine other data. PennDOT will work to identify infrastructure, trail or other connections necessary for a safe and integrated corridor.
The department will conduct extensive outreach with stakeholders and the public, including opportunities for public input through public surveys and online meetings.
DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn noted her agency’s support of the plans as part of the state’s efforts to improve connections among citizens, natural resources and transportation assets.
“The regional PA Wilds Conservation Landscape initiative is all about collaboration. DCNR is thrilled to be working with PennDOT and DCED to bring our collective resources to bear in the Route 6 corridor,” Dunn said. “The PA Wilds region includes four counties along Route 6: Tioga, Potter, McKean and Warren, and DCNR manages several state parks and forest land in this area.”
Dunn noted that one key investment coming online this fall is the new Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitor Center and Park Office which is expected to create new economic opportunities for adjacent communities and the region.
The agency is also beginning some master planning activities at Denton Hill and Cherry Springs State Parks that can tie well into PennDOT’s plans as well as leverage the state’s recent investment at the PA Lumber Museum operated by the PA Historical and Museum Commission.
“Such agency coordination and collaborative strategic planning and investment is a good example of Gov. Wolf’s commitment to a “government that works,” Dunn said.
DCED Secretary Dennis Davin discussed economic investments and activity in the region.
“The Pennsylvania Wilds region is home to unparalleled outdoor adventures and opportunities for all travelers. According to our most recent data travelers spent more than $1.7 billion throughout the region and we are committed to keeping that momentum moving forward,” Davin said. “In 2016 alone DCED has approved more than $6.4 million in funding to support economic development initiatives including a recently approved $124,000 Pennsylvania First grant to support infrastructure improvements in the historic town of Emporium.”
The Pennsylvania Wilds, one of the state’s 11 official tourism regions, covers about a quarter of the Commonwealth and includes the counties of Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Cameron, Elk, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield and the northern part of Centre county.
The region is known for its more than 2 million acres of public land, and also boasts two National Wild & Scenic Rivers, some of the darkest skies in the country and the largest wild elk herd in the Northeast. Visitors spend an estimated $1.7 billion in the region each year, according to the most recent statistics.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the PA Wilds website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates on PA Wilds (left panel of page).

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