Wednesday, January 31, 2018

PennVEST OKs $74 Million In Water, Stormwater, Non-Point Source, Forest Conservation Projects In 11 Counties

Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday announced the investment of $74 million for 13 drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, and non-point source projects across 11 counties through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority.
“This funding continues our commitment to clean water in Pennsylvania with the approval of these loans and grants through PennVEST for a variety of water quality improvement projects that cover areas across the commonwealth”, said Gov. Wolf. “These projects benefit the environment, economic development, and public health and will further our shared goal of a clean and safe environment for our families to enjoy, as well as, my vision for a better Pennsylvania, both now and for years to come.”
Non-Point & Stormwater Projects
The projects approved to control non-point and stormwater pollution include--
-- Bedford County: Mann Township received $444,031 grant to cover costs related to a temporary stream diversion, embankment stabilization, and restoration project in Blackberry Lick Run.
-- Cameron County: Lyme Emporium Highlands II LLC received a $24,549,885 loan to purchase 11 large tracts of forest land to protect headwater streams, provide conservation easements, and sustainable working forests. The project is expected to create over 50 new forestry related jobs and leverage $91,000,000 in private investment. Click Here for more.
-- Delaware County: Chester City Stormwater Authority received a loan for $4,888,205 to construct 4 bio-retention cells, 7,250 square feet of permeable pavement, establishment of a storm drain catch basin retrofit project program and 70 storm sewer inlets.
-- Lycoming County: Old Lycoming Township received a $622,175 grant to purchase a water recycling jet vacuum truck to remove sediment from the storm water system to comply with the best management practices in this MS4 community.
-- Wayne County: Hawley Borough received a $277,911 grant to repair or replace approximately 733 feet of failing storm sewer pipe, to eliminate periodic flooding, and prevent soil erosion from entering the Lackawaxen River.
The funding comes from a combination of state funds: Growing Greener, Marcellus Legacy funds, federal grants to PennVEST from the Environmental Protection Agency, and recycled loan repayments from previous PennVEST funding awards. Funds for the projects are disbursed after bills for work have been paid and receipts submitted to PennVEST.
Click Here for a complete list of projects.
For more information on grant and loan funding opportunities for water infrastructure, visit the PennVEST website or call 717-783-6798.

IFO: Act 13 Drilling Impact Fee Revenue To Increase $46.1 Million

The Independent Fiscal Office Wednesday released its latest report on Act 13 drilling impact fee revenues which said the revenue coming in this year is estimated to be $219.3 million, up $46.1 million over last year when $173.2 million was collected.
The IFO said the additional revenue comes from a higher price for natural gas used in the fee calculation and production from new unconventional natural gas wells offsetting the decline from older wells.
The most ever collected from the fee was in 2013 -- $225.7 million.
Click Here for a copy of the report.

House Committee Meets Feb. 6 On 5 Bill Regulatory, Permit Package Designed To Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing

The House State Government Committee is scheduled to meet on February 6 to consider a 5 bill regulatory and permit reform package that came out of the Committee’s report on Regulatory Overreach released January 16.
The legislation includes bills giving the General Assembly authority to repeal significant environmental and other regulations by doing nothing (House Bill 1237), taking the authority to issue delayed permits away from state agencies and giving it to third parties (House Bill 1959) and creating a new Regulatory Compliance Officers in each agency with the ability to waiver fines and penalties for any violations (House Bill 1960).
With respect to “reforming” the way regulations are adopted, a review of how often House and Senate standing committees and the General Assembly use the regulatory review tools they have now clearly shows they don’t use them very often or even comment on regulations that much.  Click Here for more.
The bills include--
-- Kill A Regulation By Doing Nothing: House Bill 1237 (Keefer-R-York) The General Assembly would be required to vote on a concurrent resolution to approve an economically significant regulation (which has an annual fiscal impact totaling $1 million or more on the government or private sector), in order for that regulation to go into effect.  If the General Assembly does nothing, the regulation cannot go into effect.  Click Here for more.
A similar bill was already passed by the Senate-- Senate Bill 561-- and is in the House State Government Committee.  
-- Taking Permit Reviews Away From State Agencies Giving It To Third Parties: House Bill 1959 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) Establishes the Pennsylvania Permit Act which requires agencies to create and develop a navigable online permit tracking system and takes authority to issue certain permits away from state agencies and gives it to third-party reviewers.  Click Here for more.
-- New Regulatory Compliance Officers With Authority To Waive Fines: House Bill 1960 (Ellis-R-Butler) Requires each agency to appoint a Regulatory Compliance Officer with the authority to waive fines and penalties if a permit holder attempts to comply.  Click Here for more.
-- New Office of The Repealer/Moratorium On New Regulations: House Bill 209 (Phillips-Hill-R-York): Establishes the Independent Office of the Repealer to undertake an ongoing review of existing regulations; receive and process recommendations; and make recommendations to the General Assembly, the governor, and executive agencies for repeal.
Additional provisions of this legislation would both establish a moratorium on new regulatory burdens and create a process for “sunsetting” existing regulations by placing a cap on the number of regulations and requiring the repeal of two existing regulations for every  new regulation promulgated.
Click Here for more from an identical bill introduced last session-- House Bill 2408.
-- Repeal Any Regulation By Resolution: House Bill 1792 (Benninghoff-R-Mifflin) Gives the General Assembly the ability to initiate the repeal of any state regulation in effect by a concurrent resolution modeled after a federal procedure used successfully by the Trump Administration to repeal regulations (sponsor summary).
The meeting will be held in Room B-31 Main Capitol starting at 10:00.  Committee meetings are usually webcast on the House Republican website.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by sending email to:   Rep. Matthew Bradford (D-Montgomery) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to:

PA Construction Aggregates Facilities Continue No Fatality Safety Record For 3rd Year

The PA Aggregates and Concrete Association Wednesday recognized the industry’s safety record which recorded no fatalities at construction aggregates facilities for the third year in a row.
The last fatalities in underground aggregates facilities in Pennsylvania were in August 2008 and November 2014 for surface aggregates facilities.  
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulates safety at these facilities and tracks injuries and fatalities.  Their latest graph for the metal/nonmetal industry illustrates a downward trend in fatalities since 1977.
“PACA members continue to work together with their employees on effective training campaigns and ensuring both MSHA and DEP requirements are in place to protect their employees and bring them home to their families at the end of their shift,” said PACA President Peter Vlahos.  “As an organization, Safety is a PACA focus.”
PACA will hold its Annual Safety Conference in State College on February 22.
For more information on programs, initiatives and other upcoming events, visit the PA Aggregates and Concrete Association website.

CBF-PA To Hold Agricultural Teacher Workshops For A Lesson In The Value of Watershed Experiences

Agriculture teachers will become students when meeting with Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA educators to learn about the value of providing hands-on environmental education that connects students with real-world issues.
Called Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE), many teachers have found that supporting classroom work with investigations into local environmental issues engages students in their community and improves critical thinking.
The workshops are being held in Harrisburg in February.
“We are excited for the opportunity to share information and resources with these teachers to support and enhance their approaches to teaching about sustainability and the impact of agriculture on water quality, particularly in their local communities,” said Dr. Amy Green, Director of Teacher Professional Learning at CBF. “We also want to show them how the MWEE model can help advance environmental literacy and stewardship through field-based learning, in the context of agricultural sciences.”
CBF staff will partner with the Penn State Center for Professional Personnel Development to address 170 agriculture teachers over the first three Saturdays in February at the Sheraton in Harrisburg.
The workshops for teachers coincide with the annual Agricultural Cooperation Establishes Success Conference for about 1,500 students from 100 Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters throughout Pennsylvania. At ACES, students will learn social skills, leadership, and teamwork.
Teachers will learn about Pennsylvania’s relationship to the Chesapeake Bay; the Commonwealth’s progress and challenges in reducing pollution; and how agricultural education connects to and can include environmental education with field-based learning, student action, and stewardship.
“We want to expose teachers to some of the tools and strategies we’ve been working with in Maryland and Virginia, and how they can be applied in Pennsylvania,” said Norah Carlos, Education Outreach and Communications Coordinator at CBF. “Studies have shown that environmental education improves academic performance, increases civic engagement, and instills a belief that individuals can make a difference.”
CBF also has a Susquehanna Watershed Environmental Education Program. This field-based program supports MWEE in Pennsylvania, investigating the health of local waterways. Students study the physical characteristics of the waterway, the shoreline, and adjoining lands.
They use water chemistry tests to determine water quality, examine stream health through examining the aquatic life that is present in the stream, and use maps to orient themselves in their watershed.
CBF also provides a Mentors in Agricultural Conservation Program that pairs FFA and 4H students with CBF restoration specialists, to participate in restoration work and learn about agricultural conservation projects on local farms.
“Issues like water quality, soil health, and implementation of best management practices are central to agricultural education, and provide prime opportunities for hands-on study,” Carlos added. “We will also use computer technology to show these teachers how they can compare water quality across the watershed in the Commonwealth.”
The CBF and CPPD partnership at the workshops will have long-term benefits to both organizations and for the teachers attending the workshops.
“Developing a partnership between the Penn State CPPD and CBF will allow Pennsylvania’s agricultural education teachers to obtain the most current knowledge and skills related to protecting our water,” added Dr. John Ewing, Associate Professor of Agricultural Education at Penn State University.
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here to support their work.

Latest UpStream Newsletter Now Available From Stroud Water Research Center

The latest edition of the UpStream newsletter is now available from the Chester County-based Stroud Water Research Center featuring articles on--
-- Click Here to sign up for your own copy
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the Stroud Water Research Center website,   Click Here to subscribe to Stroud’s Educator newsletter.  Click Here to become a Friend Of Stroud Research,  Like them on Facebook, Follow on Twitter, include them in your Circle on Google+ and visit their YouTube Channel.

PennFuture: State Parks & Forests Must Remain Protected From Natural Gas Drilling

PennFuture Wednesday said it “unequivocally opposes” a resolution making its way through the state Senate today that urges Gov. Tom Wolf to reverse his moratorium on new natural gas drilling leases in state parks.
Senate Resolution 104 (Bartolotta-R-Washington) urging the Governor to end the moratorium on new non-surface disturbance natural gas drilling on state forest land (sponsor summary) was reported out of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Tuesday with Republicans supporting, Democrats opposed.
“Our state parks and forests must be protected and preserved for the natural resources that they are: green spaces that citizens can enjoy with their friends and families; spaces that contribute to what attracts people to our great Commonwealth,” said PennFuture Vice President and Chief of Staff Matthew Stepp. “Recreational opportunities within our state parks and the towns that hold them contribute to our economy in vast ways, and drilling in areas that should be treasured goes against the common sense notion that state parks should be protected.”
The moratorium on new natural gas leases in state parks and forestlands dates back to the very first days of the Wolf administration, implemented on January 29, 2015, via executive order.
“We applaud the governor for his early implementation of this moratorium on drilling in state parks and forests, and we urge him to stand firm against this resolution, which would have the potential to devastate Pennsylvania’s forests, including the Loyalsock community and so many more,” Stepp said.
Gov. Wolf's press secretary JJ Abbott reiterated the Governor remains opposed to more drilling in state parks and forests--
"Natural gas development is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, but so is the economic and environmental viability of our parks and forests," he said.
"Gov. Wolf believes we currently have the right balance as our state parks and forests are unique assets that should be preserved, protected, and utilized by our residents for recreational purposes. Gov. Wolf has focused on finding opportunities to grow our recreational and tourism economy through a revitalized parks and forest system that ensures we are preserving our natural resources and protecting our people and the environment."
Related Story:

Senate Passes Bill To Finance More Initiatives Out Of The Growing Greener Fund Without Adding Any New Money

The Senate Tuesday amended and Wednesday passed Senate Bill 799 to use the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund to finance programs previously funded through the General Fund or other agencies, plus added several new initiatives without providing any more money.
This means the already scarce resources devoted to the Growing Greener Program would be stretched even more thinly and lose their effectiveness at restoring and protecting Pennsylvania’s environment if no significant sources of new funding are found.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee said in a Tweet, "The bill promotes innovative technology and creates a framework to build upon successful environmental programs.. We will continue to work towards dedicated funding of these programs to help PA meet our Chesapeake Bay mandates."
The need for new funding to make this initiative work was also mentioned in remarks on the Senate Floor by Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
“The Growing Greener framework, included in Senate Bill 799, represents our commitment to stakeholders throughout PA, including the groups like the Growing Greener Coalition, that the legislature will continue the fight for the necessary funding to continue the tremendous legacy of the Growing Greener Program,” said Sen. Yudichak.
The programs previously funded through the General Fund or other sources including--
-- Funding the $10 million Resource Enhancement and Recovery (REAP) Farm Conservation Tax Credit from Agriculture’s share;
-- Funding Department of Community and Economic development local land use planning, Elm Street and Main Street redevelopment programs, now part of the Keystone Communities Program which was appropriated just over $13 million this year;
-- Grants to counties to preserve farmland through the Department of Agriculture, not just the Department;
-- Funding low-interest loans to farmers on preserved farms to keep them viable through the Department of Agriculture.
-- Fish and Boat Commission dam rehabilitation and maintenance and upgrades to fish hatcheries;
-- Game Commission dam and water structure improvements;
-- PA Historical and Museum Commission for historic preservation grants;
-- Funding for the PA Energy Harvest Program for solar, wind and methane digester projects on farms through DEP; and
-- Funding to characterize, remediate or eliminate environmental hazards on brownfield properties to return them to productive use through DEP.
The allocation of funds to each participating agency were changed to add the new programs now proposed to be funded by the Environmental Stewardship Fund--
-- Department of Conservation & Natural Resources: 28.9 Percent [Old Percentage 24.1] of which: 50 percent for county, municipal, authorized organizations; 10 percent for land trust projects; 4.5 percent for Heritage Areas; 30 percent for projects in the Susquehanna River Watershed;
-- Department of Environmental Protection: 38.2 Percent [Old Percentage 37.4 Percent] of which 40 percent for projects in the Susquehanna River Watershed;
-- Department of Agriculture: 19.7 Percent [Old Percentage 14.8] of which 12 percent for farmland preservation; 40 percent for projects within the Susquehanna River Watershed, and paying for the Resource Enhancement and Protection Farm Conservation (REAP) Tax Credit;
-- PA Infrastructure Investment Authority: 4.6 Percent [Old Percentage 23.7] of which 40 percent for projects in the Susquehanna River Watershed;
-- Department of Community and Economic Development: 3.6 Percent [Not included before];
-- Fish and Boat Commission: 2.6 Percent [Not included before];
-- Game Commission: 1.3 Percent [Not included before]; and
-- PA Historical and Museum Commission: 1.1 Percent [Not included before].
The bill also creates a new, significantly changed Clean Water Procurement Program aimed only at nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Susquehanna River Watershed relying on a bid process. The program does not include sediment, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed’s biggest water quality problem and has no funding.
Reaction - PEC: This Represents Only An Empty Shell Without Funding
The PA Environmental Council sent this letter on the amended bill to Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair who both worked on the revised language--
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, thank you for your bipartisan efforts to incorporate Senator Killion’s Senate Bill 705 and the Growing Greener III initiative into Senate Bill 799, and to make significant changes to the underlying legislation.
The Growing Greener Program framework in the amended bill, when funded, would represent a critical step toward addressing many of Pennsylvania’s most challenging environmental cleanup and restoration needs, which are faced by communities, businesses, and citizens across the Commonwealth.
At the same time, we are pleased that both of you recognize that without new, significant sources of funding to support this initiative, the bill stands as an empty shell that could prove detrimental. We believe the final version of this legislation, before being sent to the Governor, must be accompanied by a dedicated and sustainable funding source. It is essential that Senate leadership demonstrate their commitment to this need.
With respect to the underlying procurement program in Senate Bill 799, there must be full vetting to ensure that the methodology truly sets a level playing field, and constitutes verifiable use of taxpayer money. These safeguards must also ensure that it will not hamper existing, proven programs that benefit Pennsylvania farmers and water quality. We believe the program should be established as a pilot that is limited in scope and duration, and subject to ongoing evaluation to ensure it is helping Pennsylvania meet its federal mandates.
We look forward to working with you to improve this legislation as it moves forward, and again greatly appreciate your support.
Reaction - PA Growing Greener Coalition: No Funding Source In Face Of $300 Million Annual Need
The PA Growing Greener Coalition Executive Director Andrew Health said this in reaction to the bill’s passing, ““We acknowledge that this is a process, and the Coalition is committed to working with the General Assembly and the Governor to ensure that additional funding needed for the program can be achieved this year.”
The Coalition sent this letter to members of the Senate Tuesday on the revised legislation--
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth, I want to express my appreciation for your interest and willingness to amend Senate Bill 799 to include the Growing Greener III framework legislative language introduced by Senator Tom Killion earlier this session as Senate Bill 705.
This represents a positive step in achieving a viable Growing Greener III program by the end of the year, and we are encouraged that you understand how important the Growing Greener III program is in tackling the ever-increasing unmet needs facing communities throughout the Commonwealth.
Established in 1999, the state’s Growing Greener program has funded hundreds of local parks and trail projects, conserved more than 80,000 acres of threatened open space, and restored hundreds of miles of streams and waterways. The program has also protected more than 78,000 acres of farmland, restored more than 1,600 acres of abandoned mine land, and helped reduce flooding and water pollution through 400 watershed protection projects and more than 100 drinking and wastewater treatment improvements.
In addition to funding the Department of Agriculture (PDA), Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PennVEST), the Growing Greener III framework legislation enhances the current program by adding agencies and additional programs to better address the needs facing the Commonwealth.
For example, the framework legislation authorizes the funding of a Working Forest Conservation Easement initiative to protect the state’s forests and ensure a healthy forest industry and reflects the urgent need to address water quality issues in the Susquehanna River watershed by requiring certain state agencies to allocate a percentage of Growing Greener ESF funds for projects in the watershed. It enables the PDA to use Growing Greener dollars to support best management practices on farms which will also help improve local water quality.
Once fully-funded, this Growing Greener III program will be the largest investment ever made by the Commonwealth to meet its commitment under the Chesapeake Bay watershed agreement. The state’s failure to meet its targets to date makes the passage of Growing Greener III even more urgent.
The Coalition is encouraged by recent changes made to the original version of SB 799, including the removal of language that weakened local communities’ responsibilities to address water quality issues through MS4 programs. However, more information is needed to better understand the provisions in the legislation dealing with nutrient trading, procurement methodology and the innovative technology fund.
Unfortunately, the amendment also removes a provision of Senate Bill 705 that would have transferred the Growing Greener II Bond debt service payment out of the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund. We remain encouraged that as the process moves along, the General Assembly will explore a list of options to fund Growing Greener III. Senate Bill 705 is supported by a bipartisan group of twenty-seven Senators.
The Coalition agrees that science and technology will play a critical role in addressing the Commonwealth’s environmental challenges and, supports pursuing innovative solutions to solving those challenges.  However, these innovations must demonstrate real, tangible, cost-effective results that will maximize the investments being made with recognized progress. In its current form, it is unclear whether SB 799 meets these requirements, but our coalition supports moving the conversation along with a positive vote on SB 799 as amended with the Growing Greener framework.
In its current form, the legislation does not identify funding sources for either the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund or the Innovative Technology fund. The Coalition has identified more than $300+ million in annual needs to ensure Pennsylvanians have access to clean water, locally grown food, and parks, trails and other recreational opportunities. The final version of this legislation must be accompanied by a sustainable funding source prior to being sent to the Governor.
The Coalition understands that this is a process and we are committed to working with all parties to ensure that a fully-funded Growing Greener III program can be achieved.  Once this legislation passes the Senate, which we hope will happen soon, we will work with our legislative champions in the House to address any outstanding issues and identifying the funding sources needed to make this program work.
Sincerely, Andrew Heath, Executive Director, PA Growing Greener Coalition.
[Note: This post will be updated as other comments are released.]

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