Friday, June 30, 2017

Sen. Alloway Introduces Bill To Totally Revamp PA Electronics Waste Recycling Program

Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) Thursday introduced Senate Bill 800 to create a new Waste Electronic Equipment Recovery Act to replace the 2010 Covered Device Recycling Act that provides for the collection and recycling of electronics waste.
The bill continues the existing ban on disposing of electronic waste in landfills, with a limited exception for old cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and monitors.  The bill allows leaded glass to be managed at a facility permitted for the storage or dedicated retrievable cells for leaded glass that complies with EPA waste regulations.
Companies or governments are prohibited from charging for the collection and recycling of electronic waste, except a seller of electronic equipment shall collect a fee from consumers equal to 0.5 percent of the full retail prices, excluding Sales Tax, to be used to administer and implement the program outlined in the Act.
The Department of Environmental Protection is required to establish a network of convenience centers available in every county as a collection point for electronic waste through a Request For Expression Of Interest process to solicit proposals from counties and municipal authorities.
Grants would be available to set up the convenience centers from revenue collected from the consumer fee.
After the convenience centers are established, DEP is required to issue an invitation to bid on recycling electronics waste from these convenience centers. Electronics equipment manufacturers are required to cover the full cost of recycling the electronics waste through the convenience centers.
Electronic equipment manufacturers may petition DEP to set up a convenience center network for recycling electronic waste.
For more information on the existing program, visit DEP’s Covered Device Recycling Act webpage.
Related Story:

Gov. Wolf Vetoes Bill Banning Communities From Adopting Plastic Bag Bans, Fees

Gov. Tom Wolf Friday vetoed House Bill 1071 (Farry-R-Bucks) which would have prohibited local governments from adopting bans or fees on plastic bags used at grocery and other retail stores.  The text of the Governor’s veto message follows--
“This legislation does considerably more than forbid political subdivisions from imposing a ban, fee, surcharge, or tax on recyclable plastic bags provided to consumers.
“It potentially thwarts local governments from complying with their trustee obligations under Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, to protect and preserve the environmental resources in their communities.
“The prohibition under this bill, therefore, is not consistent with the rights vested by the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and the duties upon all governmental actors, including municipalities.  
“The constitutional obligation under the amendment binds not only state but also local government. As such, the bill cannot remove a political subdivision’s separate authority to implement its independent constitutional duties.
“In practical terms, this means government, at all levels, is required to prevent the unreasonable degradation, diminution, or depletion of our water, air, and land. This prohibition hinders the performance of this important requirement.
“This bill also contains a significant preemption issue as it relates to the rights of political subdivisions. In my view, the Commonwealth should only on rare occasions preempt the rights of local governments to implement laws and policies that it believes are in its best interest.  
“Here, the Commonwealth is impeding the freedom of local governments to regulate recyclable plastic bags.  This policy supporting this preemption is misguided and should not become the law of this Commonwealth.
“For the reasons set forth above, I must withhold my signature from House Bill 1071, Printer’s Number 1270.”
A House Fiscal Note and summary of the bill is available.

Western PA Conservancy Helps Add Important Land To Laurel Ridge State Park In Somerset County

The Western PA Conservancy Friday purchased a 30-acre property located in the headwaters of Laurel Hill Creek in Jefferson Township, Somerset County, that has now become a new addition to Laurel Ridge State Park.
This property, which is adjacent to the park, provides significant water quality protection and features 2,500 feet of frontage on Shaffer Run, a major tributary to Laurel Hill Creek.
An average of approximately 1.4 million gallons of water per day flow from four natural artesian groundwater springs located on the property. The property also includes forested wetlands adjacent to the springs.
The permanent conservation of the forests, wetlands and springs on this property will play an important role in protecting water quality and quantity in Laurel Hill Creek, a significant ecological and recreational asset for the Laurel Highlands region.
The Conservancy immediately conveyed this land to Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks to become part of Laurel Ridge State Park.
“DCNR prides itself in strong partnerships with conservation-based organizations, and for decades there have been few stronger than that with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “This latest addition to Laurel Ridge State Park is to be applauded, and surely will be appreciated by the almost 70,000 who visit the park each year.”
The Conservancy recently protected one other property totaling approximately 184 acres that was also conveyed to DCNR to become part of Laurel Hill State Park. WPC President and CEO Tom Saunders said Laurel Hill Creek has been identified by the Conservancy as a priority stream for protection, so conserving properties within its watershed is a priority.
“We are pleased to continue partnering with DCNR to help protect the region’s water quality and the natural and recreational value of this important creek,” Saunders added. “This is another wonderful addition to the protection of lands in the Laurel Hill Creek watershed.”
Conservation of this land was made possible through the generosity of the Family of B. Kenneth Simon and through funding from DCNR.
More information is available on programs, initiatives and special events at the Western PA Conservancy website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Conservancy, Like them on Facebook, Follow them on Twitter, add them to your Circle on Google+, join them on Instagram, visit the Conservancy’s YouTube Channel or add them to your network on Linkedin.  Click Here to support their work.

PEDF Asks Court To Determine If $383 Million Transferred From Oil & Gas Lease Fund Remains In The Public Trust

As a follow up to the June 20 PA Supreme Court decision declaring the 2009 and 2010 Fiscal Code and other amendments diverting money from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Fund to the General Fund unconstitutional, the PA Environmental Defense Foundation filed a motion Thursday with Commonwealth Court asking the Court to determine if $383 million in Shale gas upfront and lease payments remains in the public trust to be used only for conservation purposes.
Citing an affidavit from former DCNR Secretary John Quigley saying $383 million in Shale gas payments to DCNR Oil and Gas Lease Fund resulted directly from Shale gas leasing in State Forests.
The motion says in part, “Thousands of acres of State Forest land are no longer available to the people of the Commonwealth. The lease and bonus payments directly result in the conversion of the corpus of the public trust to private industrial development.
“The funds from the lease and bonus payments must remain in the trust and must be devoted to the conservation and maintenance of our public natural resources, consistent with the plain language of [Article I,] Section 27 [Environmental Rights Amendment].”
If Commonwealth Court finds $383 million remains in public trust as determined by the PA Supreme Court decision, the General Assembly might be required to pay the money back to the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, however, courts have been reluctant to stray into this territory.  At the very least, it presents an interesting legal issue.
Click Here for a copy of the motion.  Click Here for a copy of Quigley’s affidavit.
For more information and background on the case, visit the PA Environmental Defense Foundation website.
Related Story:

DEP Hearing July 24 On Brunner Island Power Plant Water Quality Permit In York County

The Department of Environmental Protection Friday announced it will host a public hearing July 24 to collect comments from citizens on the draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit issued to Brunner Island Power Plant on April 5, 2017 and published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on April 22, 2017.
Brunner Island LLC operates a 1,490-Megawatt coal- and natural gas-fired power plant which discharges treated industrial wastewater and cooling water to the Susquehanna River.
The hearing will held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 pm. at the Union Fire Company, 201 York Street, Manchester, PA 17345.
Individuals will have the opportunity to present up to five minutes of verbal testimony. Comments must be limited to the conditions of the draft permit. Groups are asked to designate one speaker.
Relinquishing of time to other speakers will be prohibited. All presenters should bring at least one copy of their comments and exhibits for submission to DEP.
Those who wish to present testimony are asked to register in advance by contacting John Repetz by sending email to: or 717-705-4904, at DEP’s Southcentral Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110.
Registration will be taken through July 21. Individuals will be called to testify in the order they registered. Time permitting, those who did not register in advance will be given the opportunity to testify.
DEP received written comments on the draft permit during a 30-day comment period after the draft permit was published in the PA Bulletin. The comment period ended on May 22, 2017 and DEP is reviewing all comments received.
The draft permit and fact sheet are available for public review at the DEP Southcentral Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110, Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Please call 717-705-4732 to make an appointment. They can also be accessed on DEP’s Southcentral Regional Community Information webpage.
Individuals who need an accommodation for the hearing as provided for in the American with Disabilities Act should contact Mr. Repetz at the number listed, or make accommodations through the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at 1-800-654-5984.
Questions should be directed to John Repetz, DEP Southcentral Regional Office, by sending email to: or 717-705-4904.

Clinton, Centre, Lycoming County Farmers, Apply For NRCS Funding To Install Conservation Practices

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service-PA Friday encouraged producers in Clinton, Centre and Lycoming Counties to apply for funding to install innovative conservation practices that will help improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
Applications are due August 4, although applications will be accepted until funds are depleted.
Under a special initiative through USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnerships Program, NRCS is partnering with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA to assist farmers with establishing practices to improve soil health, reduce erosion and nutrient loss, and control stormwater runoff to local streams draining into the Chesapeake Bay.
Examples of management practices include continuous no-till planting, diverse crop rotations, integrating grazing with crops, planting multi species cover crops, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
These will help to promote soil organisms and biodiversity. Many of these practices improve plant productivity by improving access to soil nutrients, reducing demands for supplemental fertilizer, increasing soil water holding capacity, and protecting from drought and high-volume rain events.
This initiative will focus on 4,000 acres enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program . Additional resource concerns on these farms will be addressed through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Producers interested in applying should contact their local USDA NRCS Service Center listed below--  
-- Centre and Clinton Counties: Mill Hall NRCS Field Office, 216 Spring Run Road, Room 102, Mill Hall, PA 17751-9587, 570-726-3196, ext. 3                                                      
-- Lycoming County: Montoursville NRCS Field Office, 542 County Farm Road, Suite 204, Montoursville, PA 17754-9209, 570-433-3902, ext. 3
For more information on the financial, technical and other assistance available to install farm conservation practices anywhere in Pennsylvania, visit the Natural Resources Conservation Service-PA webpage.

DEP Publishes 65 Pages Of Permit Actions In July 1 PA Bulletin

DEP published 65 pages of public notices related to proposed and final permit and approval/ disapproval actions in the December 17 PA Bulletin - pages 3587 to 3652.

DEP Publishes Updated Non-Regulatory Agenda On Technical Guidance In Development

The Department of Environmental Protection published an updated Non-Regulatory Agenda of Technical Guidance Documents it plans to develop and finalize in the agency.  (formal notice PA Bulletin page 3652)
This Agenda is similar to DEP’s Regulatory Agenda which lists regulations in development and a timeline for action.
Among the guidance documents in development are--
-- Air Quality
-- Updated Air Quality Permit Review Protocol: Draft 4th Quarter
-- Chapter 105
-- PA Function Based Compensation Protocol For Mitigation: Final 4th Quarter
-- Coal Mining
-- Updated Surface Water Protection From Underground Coal Mining: Draft 1st Quarter 2018
-- Updated Engineering Manual for Mining Operations: Draft 3rd Quarter
-- Updated Civil Penalty Assessments For Mining Operations: Draft 4th Quarter
-- Land Recycling
-- Land Recycling Program Technical Guidance Manual: Draft 3rd Quarter
-- Oil & Gas Operations
-- Updated Civil Penalty Assessments For Oil & Gas Operations: Draft 4th Quarter
-- Public Resources Impact Screening For Oil & Gas Operations: Draft 1st Quarter 2018
-- Best Practices for Noise Control For Oil & Gas Operations: Draft 2nd Quarter 2018
-- Induced Seismicity Policy For Oil & Gas Operations: Draft 4th Quarter
-- Guidelines For Implementing Area Of Review For Oil & Gas Operations: Final 4th Quarter
-- Policy for Replacing Water Supplies Impact By Shale Gas Operations: Final 3rd Quarter
-- Public Participation
-- Updated Policy for Development and Publication Of Technical Guidance: Draft 3rd Quarter
-- Updated Policy for Development and Availability of Regulations: Draft 3rd Quarter
-- Updated Policy on Public Participation in Development of Regulations: Draft 3rd Quarter
-- Updated Policy for Advisory Committees To Follow In Giving Input: Draft 3rd Quarter
-- Radon
-- PA Radon Mitigation Standards: Draft 4th Quarter
-- Storage Tanks
-- Closure Requirements For Underground/Aboveground Tank Systems: Final 3rd Quarter
-- Wastewater
-- Water Quality Management Permitting: Draft 4th Quarter
-- Water Allocation
-- Updated Water Allocation Permit Review: Draft 4th Quarter
Click Here for a copy of DEP’s Non-Regulatory Agenda.

Penn State Extension Webinar July 18 On Green Infrastructure, A Lesson In Change

The Penn State Extension Community Forestry Program will hold a webinar on July 18 from Noon to 1:00 p.m. on Green Infrastructure - A Lesson In Change.
Green Infrastructure has been elevated as means to an end for communities to deal with polluted runoff.  It has also been an agent of change in how urban foresters, engineers and landscape architects work together.
From a landscape architect’s perspective, join us in a journey of engagement and relationship building as we explore how past and present views on tree planting and design have merged, while cultivating more respect and understanding between three professions as they work to reclaim unused lands, address environmental justice and create livable biologically functioning places in cities and towns across the nation.
The presenter for this webinar will be Donna Foster, Landscape Architect, U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Area State And Private Forestry.
Click Here for all the details and to register.  Click Here for more on other upcoming Extension Community Forestry Programs.

House, Senate, Governor Agree On $31.996B Spending Plan, Fails To Address ANY Environmental Funding Shortfalls

The Senate, House and Gov. Wolf reached a bipartisan agreement Thursday on a $31.996 billion General Fund budget-- House Bill 218 (Saylor-R-York)-- which the Senate (43-7) and House (173-27) passed Friday and sent to the Governor.

The budget includes more money for schools, pension obligations and services, but demands across-the-board cuts state government agencies and in Medicaid.
It fails to address a any environmental funding shortfalls, including in DEP’s Safe Drinking Water Program criticized by EPA for failing to have the resources to meet minimum federal requirements for inspections and other obligations.
DEP’s General Fund budget in the new year-- $147.7 million-- is $17.9 million BELOW what it was in 1994-95-- $165.6 million and 40 percent BELOW what it was in 2002-03-- $245.6 million.
This means DEP will have to continue to rely on permit fee increases to fund its programs.
At the same time, House and Senate give themselves a 4.8 percent raise in the new year.  That means their budget has increased 77 percent since FY 1994-95-- $182.9 million in 1994-95 to $325.2 million in the new fiscal year ($142.3 million) and 26 percent since 2002-03 from $258.1 million to $325.1 million ($67 million). Plus a $118 million balance left from FY 2015-16.
Since 2002-03, the General Assembly cut DEP's General Fund budget 40 percent.
The FY 2017-18 spending plan also has a $2 billion hole to fill and there is no agreement on how to fill it.  The Senate and House will vote the General Fund budget bill today-- House Bill 218 (Saylor-R-York) and come back after July 4 to figure that out.
Click Here for more on the options for filling the budget hole, including transfers from special funds.
Gov. Wolf proposed a $32.3 billion budget in February and the House Republicans passed a $31.52 billion budget in April, the same total as in FY 2016-17.
Some other budget highlights include--
-- DEP: slight decrease from $148.3 million to $147.7 million, that’s higher than the Republican-passed budget in April of $139.3 million.
-- Personnel line-items essentially level funded
-- Conservation Districts same as last year $2.5 million
-- West Nile Virus & Zika Virus slight cut $5.3 million to $5.2 million
-- Black Fly same as last year $3.3 million
-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission cut in half $473,000 to $237,000
-- Delaware River Basin Commission cut in half $434,000 to $217,000
-- Interstate Commission On The Potomac River cut in half $46,000 to $23,000-- Chesapeake Bay Commission same as last year $275,000
-- DCNR: Slight decrease from $106.9 million to $105.5 million, that’s higher than the House Republican-passed budget, but primarily due to a significant increase in using General Fund monies to fund agency operations, rather than the Oil and Gas Lease Fund monies. There is still a $4.7 million transfer from the Lease Fund to support DCNR operations (not shown on budget spreadsheet) that will increase their overall budget. There is a total transfer of $61.2 million from the Fund-- $11.2 million of that to pay for DCNR State Parks and Forestry operations and $50 million to fund recreation and conservation projects (page 366, House Bill 218).
-- Heritage Parks same as last year $2.875 million
-- Agriculture: Slight increase from $143.6 million to $144.1 million, that’s higher than the House Republican-passed budget in April, but due primarily to $30 million in funding for the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School
-- Conservation Districts same as last year - $869,000
-- Nutrient Management Fund same as last year - $2.7 million
Click Here for the FY 2017-18 budget spreadsheet. Click Here for summary of DCNR, DEP budget.  Click Here for Agriculture budget summary.  Both from Senate Democratic Caucus.
What’s Next
The Senate, House and Gov. Wolf have to now agree on about $2 billion in new revenue in some form to make the FY 2017-18 budget balance.  As a result, all the same options talked about of the last few weeks and months are still on the table-- massive state borrowing, gaming expansion, further liquor privatization and Tax Code.  
In more detail they are--
-- Special Fund transfers to the General Fund that House or Senate members believe are just sitting there “flush with cash” and not doing anything better;
-- Sell or lease out state assets like the Farm Show Building or something else;
-- Borrow $1.5 billion against tobacco settlement revenue or securitize some other revenue stream to pay for paperclips and fill the General Fund revenue hole;
-- Approve 40,000 video gaming terminals for everyone with a liquor license (bars, nursing homes and churches);
-- Extend the state Sales Tax to warehousing and storage;
-- Redirect the local share of the present casino tax revenues to the state General Fund, along with adopt new casino license fees;
-- Authorize beer, wine and spirits sales in more private outlets; and
-- Shift the Sales Tax on bottles of wine and spirits from the bottle bought by liquor license holders to the individual drink bought by consumers.
We’ll see what happens!
Click Here for the FY 2017-18 budget spreadsheet. Click Here for summary of DCNR, DEP budget.  Click Here for Agriculture budget summary.  Both from Senate Democratic Caucus.
[Note: The budget situation is fluid and this article will be updated as new information becomes available.]

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