Thursday, May 31, 2018

House Sets Final Vote Tuesday On Bill Weakening Standards For Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling

House Republican Caucus Chair Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery) notified Republicans Thursday a final vote is scheduled for Tuesday on House Bill 2154 (Causer-R-Cameron), the Conventional Oil and Gas Act, which weakens environmental protection standards for conventional oil and gas drilling and turns back the clock 34 years to the original 1984 Oil and Gas Act.
A final vote on the bill was unexpectedly delayed on May 2 when Rep. Martin Causer, the prime sponsor, told the House the vote would be postponed to see if issues could be worked out with those opposing the bill, including the Department of Environmental Protection.
Prior to the delay, the bill was on a fast track, coming out of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee April 30 and referred into the House Appropriations Committee May 1 and out again May 2.
The PA Environmental Council and Environmental Defense Fund wrote to all members of the House April 30 urging them to oppose House Bill 2154 (Causer-R-Cameron) as a wholesale weakening of necessary environmental protection standards for conventional oil and gas drilling.
The bill is on third consideration in the House, which means to amend the bill the House would first have to suspend the rules and then vote the amendment.  As of late Thursday evening, there were no amendments filed to the bill.
Comments By PEC, EDF
The PA Environmental Council and Environmental Defense Fund Monday wrote to all members of the House urging them to oppose House Bill 2154 (Causer-R-Cameron) as a wholesale weakening of necessary environmental protection standards for conventional oil and gas drilling.
"It is our position that common-sense, practical solutions exist to address the concerns of small company operators. However, House Bill 2154 is a wholesale unraveling of protections that were established with the bipartisan enactment of Act 13 of 2012.
"In fact, this legislation would result in a law even weaker than the 1984 Oil and Gas Act in several important respects."
The coal industry is also very concerned about House Bill 2154 because the provision on the coordination of gas drilling in areas of underground coal mining are inadequate in their view.
The text of the PEC/EDF letter follows--
Dear Representatives:
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) respectfully submit the following comments on House Bill 2154 (P.N. 3187), which we anticipate will come before the House on second consideration for a vote this week.
At the start, we wish to express our deep concern over the stated intent for this legislation. It is our position that common-sense, practical solutions exist to address the concerns of small company operators.
However, House Bill 2154 is a wholesale unraveling of protections that were established with the bipartisan enactment of Act 13 of 2012. In fact, this legislation would result in a law even weaker than the 1984 Oil and Gas Act in several important respects.
Said simply, characterizing House Bill 2154 as a credible plan to protect small businesses and cut methane emissions from abandoned wells is an obfuscation of the true design of the bill.
If this legislation were to pass, Pennsylvania would have the discreditable distinction of being the only state to significantly reduce environmental protection related to oil and gas development in the modern era, walking back decades-old protections and operating standards that are accepted by both the industry at large and other oil and gas producing states.
House Bill 2154 is Not Based on Actual Risk Assessment
Any potential divergence in protection standards must be based on objective risk assessment, and consider actual practices and technologies employed at a well site.
Under Act 13 of 2012, and as defined in House Bill 2154, the fundamental distinction between “conventional” and “unconventional” operations is one based on depth of drilling.
This distinction fails to account for what scale or type of operations are actually happening at the well site – “conventional” wells can be drilled horizontally and hydraulically fractured at much shallower formations in closer proximity to groundwater, a fact that House Bill 2154 expressly acknowledges.
As a starting point, any proposal that seeks to create separate rules must be narrowly tailored to the technologies and practices being used. House Bill 2154 does not accomplish this, and would only create new problems by relaxing or removing standards irrespective of what is actually occurring at the well site.
House Bill 2154 Weakens or Removes Fundamental Environmental and Health Protections
Compared to existing and even prior law, some of the most significant changes in House Bill 2154 include:
-- Complete removal of the requirement to analyze potential impacts to Public Resources. This requirement was established in the 1984 law, expanded by Act 13, and validated by the Pennsylvania courts.
-- Complete removal of the requirement for operators to disclose chemicals used in fracturing. Disclosure – for both conventional and unconventional operators – is currently required practice in Pennsylvania as well as in virtually all other jurisdictions in the United States.
-- Removing containment, as well as spill and leak prevention and reporting provisions, despite the documented fact that conventional sites present threats similar to unconventional operations.
-- Exempting certain existing wastewater treatment facilities from state water protection requirements [Section 904(h) of the legislation, page 64].
-- Weakening protections for impacted drinking water supplies, including failure to ensure that, in all instances, replacement supplies meet the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act. [Section 308(a) of the legislation, page 29].
-- Weakening well integrity standards that are critical for groundwater protection [Section 307 of the legislation, page 27].
-- Preserving woefully inadequate bonding and other financial assurance requirements, which threaten to leave Pennsylvania on the hook for costly remediation work in the decades to come. An operator is only required to provide a blanket bond of $25,000 no matter how many wells they are operating. Remediation costs for an individual well can exceed this amount. While House Bill 2154 allows, after a five period, for adjustment of this amount via rulemaking, it caps any increase to no more than $10,000 from the prior amount. [Section 315 of the legislation, page 44].
Orphaned Wells; Methane Emissions
Supporters of House Bill 2154 have touted provisions in the legislation for plugging of orphaned and abandoned wells. Conventional operators have commendably taken the initiative to begin to address this issue – and deserve incentive and support from the state.
But it is important to recognize that House Bill 2154 provides extraordinary limited advancement for these efforts.
The Commonwealth needs a comprehensive strategy to address its legacy issues, one that looks to a full suite of initiatives – everything from good Samaritan protections to new and meaningful funding for innovative and collaborative efforts.
House Bill 2154 does not provide that foundation. In fact, the legislation’s across the board rollback of protection standards is likely to increase the problem in the years to come.
House Bill 2154 is a wholesale weakening of necessary protection standards; standards that are already the law in Pennsylvania, and that are accepted common practice in the industry and other oil and gas producing states.  We strongly urge you to oppose this bill.
Thank you for your consideration.
Director, Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, U.S. Climate and Energy
Environmental Defense Fund
Senior Vice President, Legal & Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Click Here for a copy of the letter.
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Delaware River Basin Commission Offers Clean Water Lessons To Students At Lehigh Valley HydroMania

On May 18 the Delaware River Basin Commission participated in the 18th annual Lehigh Valley Water Suppliers’ HydroMania, a fun-filled water festival attended by over 1,000 3rd and 4th grade elementary school students, teachers, and chaperones at Cedar Crest College in Allentown.
Over the years, DRBC has been a regular HydroMania exhibitor and was proud to again participate this year.
When the students arrived at the college, they descended upon a large tent that was set up with a variety of interactive exhibits and learning stations for them to explore, each which answered a different water-themed question.
DRBC staff helped the students answer the questions, “Do we live in a watershed?” and "How can we help keep our watershed clean?" using a map of the Delaware River Basin and the commission’s Enviroscape watershed model.
The model teaches the students about different sources of nonpoint source pollution found in runoff especially after heavy rains and what we can do to help keep our waterways clean.
The model is always a hit with kids, especially younger children, as it demonstrates in a visually engaging way the connection between land and water.
HydroMania is organized by the Lehigh Valley Water Suppliers, Inc. This educational event aims to generate curiosity, excitement, and understanding about current water issues, resulting in a lifetime of watershed-friendly water-use habits.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Delaware River Basin Commission website.  Click Here to sign up for regulator updates.  Follow DRBC on Twitter.  Visit them on YouTube.
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Volunteer Training For Shale Gas Stream Monitoring July 7, Allegheny County

The Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring and Mountain Watershed Association are hosting a volunteer training session on stream monitoring related to Shale natural gas production on July 7 in Allegheny County.
Participants will be provided with equipment and trained on stream monitoring techniques in order to document the health of local waterways, collect baseline data, and report potential shale gas extraction impacts.
The training will be held at the Blythedale Volunteer Fire Department, 1799 Blythedale Road in Buena Vista from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Limited spots are available.  Click Here to RSVP online or contact Ashley at 724-455-4200 ext #6..
For more information or questions, contact Natalie McNeill by sending email to: or call 717-254-8143.
Click Here to learn more about stream monitoring related to Shale gas production.

Delaware River Basin Commission Summer Photo Contest Begins June 25

The Delaware River Basin Commission Thursday announced it will accept entries for its Summer Photo Contest from June 25 to August 1.
DRBC launched the seasonal photo contest to highlight original, striking images that capture both the importance and beauty of the basin’s water resources.
Click Here for instructions on how to enter.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Delaware River Basin Commission website.  Click Here to sign up for regulator updates.  Follow DRBC on Twitter.  Visit them on YouTube.
(Photo: Red Spotted Newt by Janice Annunziata, winner of the Spring Photo Contest.)
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Fort Indiantown Gap Offers Tour In Lebanon County To See Rare Regal Fritillary Butterfly Late June, July

Visitors of all ages have the opportunity to see a rare Regal Fritillary butterfly on June 29, 30 and  July 6, 7 guided tours of the PA National Guard’s Fort Indiantown Gap facility in Lebanon County.
The Regal Fritillary is just one of the many rare species that can be found at the Gap and is the official symbol for the PA Natural Heritage Program.
Fort Indiantown Gap also provides a wide variety of habitats for 40 species of mammals, 143 breeding species of birds, 36 species of reptiles and amphibians, 27 species of fish, more than 800 species of plants and many notable species of invertebrates to include 86 species of butterflies and 386 species of moths.
Fort Indiantown Gap also provides habitat for more than 100 species of conservation concern in Pennsylvania.
The tours, which have been offered for more than 10 years, allow the public to see this rare butterfly and its associated rare grassland habitat on military training ranges, as well as many other natural wonders on the 17,000-acre military post, which serves as the Pennsylvania National Guard’s headquarters.
No reservations are required and no rain dates will be scheduled. Please arrive no later than 9:30 a.m.
Tours will last approximately three hours, but attendees can leave earlier if necessary. Visitors of all ages and abilities are welcome. Tours will be on foot on gravel roads and mowed paths; wandering off of the path, into the fields is prohibited.
Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear for uneven terrain, and consider bringing insect repellent, sun screen and other personal comfort items. Drinking water will be provided.
To navigate to parking, turn onto Asher Miner Road at the intersection of Asher Miner and Fisher Avenue in Annville (GPS coordinates in decimal degrees: North 40.4214, West -76.577), located immediately north of the entrance to the National Cemetery.
“Wildlife Event” signs, wildlife staff, and volunteers will direct attendees to the parking area and provide additional instructions. Note: parking will be in different locations on Fridays vs. Saturdays, but the directions above pertain to all tour days.
Click Here for the full announcement and other background information.  General inquiries about the tours can be directed by email to:  or call 717-861-2449.

PA Parks & Forests Foundation Forthcoming Report: Conserving the Legacy: The Future Is In Our Hands

The following summary of the forthcoming report The Legacy of Pennsylvania’s State Parks and Forests: The Future Is In Our Hands by the PA Parks and Forests Foundation was taken from the Summer Penn’s Stewards newsletter. (See the newsletter for additional charts and photos.)
In 2018, Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests celebrate their 125th anniversary.
Keeping in mind that these parks and forests were founded and developed through visionary leadership for the long-term investment in Pennsylvania’s natural resources and its citizenry, state elected officials and government administrators again have an extraordinary opportunity to provide needed and overdue resources to address the more than $1 billion in state park and forest infrastructure needs, which range from bridges to wastewater treatment facilities, from dams to invasive plant removal, and from roads to trails.
In July, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation will release “The Legacy of
Pennsylvania’s State Parks and Forests: The Future Is In Our Hands,” a report funded through a grant from Richard King Mellon Foundation and donor support that examines the story behind the creation of Pennsylvania’s award-winning state park and forest system, and explores the needs that must be addressed to assure that what we pass on to our children and grandchildren is a legacy in which we can all be proud.
What follows, is a summary of the report. Visit [the PPFF] website for the full report in July.
Popularity Is Not Inexpensive
Research demonstrates time and again that our public lands are well loved and much appreciated by Pennsylvania residents, providing generations with fond memories, improved health, and opportunities for relaxation.
However, with that use comes significant wear and tear to the built and natural infrastructure, requiring maintenance and upgrades to keep our state parks and forests safe and attractive.
Changing regulatory requirements for public safety also create a need for infrastructure investments.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is one of the top state agencies in terms of the amount of infrastructure it manages. Maintaining and repairing that infrastructure requires resources – staff, funding, and materials – that have fallen increasingly short over the past decade.
Unfortunately, the money required for regular infrastructure maintenance, upgrades, and improvements has not kept pace with the need. In fact, money acquired from overnight stays in state parks had been invested back into maintenance needs in the past, but is now used to cover basic operations due to budget shortfalls.
Because of this lack of investment, we are losing the ability to maintain and enhance our 125-year legacy as a world-class state park and forest system.
Infrastructure Requires Routine Rehabilitation and Upgrades
Pennsylvania’s state park and forest infrastructure repairs and maintenance needs are funded through multiple funding sources including allocations from the General Fund, the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, the Key 93 Fund [Keystone Fund], the Environmental Stewardship Fund, and, when available, park user fees.
However, these funding streams have been insufficient, resulting in an accumulation of projects that are deferred, which often results in greater costs down the road.
Philanthropic donations, volunteer assistance, and other sources help supplement General Fund allocations, but ultimately the condition of our state parks and forests depends on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to recognize and abide by their civic duty to provide and maintain public open space in a manner that ensures human safety and provides for future generations.
DCNR’s budget is just one half of one percent of the annual Pennsylvania state budget. In recent years, General Fund allocations to DCNR have been reduced and the balance supplanted with funds from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund and revenue generated from overnight stays and other user fees.
Lack of predictable funding hinders long-term planning and forces reallocation of funds away from maintenance and innovation into general operations.
With the significant amount of buildings, roads, bridges, dams, and other structures within our state parks and state forests, routine maintenance is a daily task.
Water and sewer lines, as well as treatment facilities, need to be upgraded to meet new regulations, roofs worn by time need to be repaired or replaced, roads need to be resurfaced, campsites need to be mowed, and fences need to be mended or removed.
Infrastructure Involves More Than Built Structures
Typically, infrastructure refers to buildings and roads, but state parks and forests include natural infrastructure as well.
This includes cutting trees, controlling invasive species, collecting seeds, and planting seedlings, among other tasks.
Maintaining natural infrastructure is an integral part of what DCNR does and from which all Pennsylvanians benefit.
Long-Term Investments Promote Quality Communities & Job Creation
Every dollar invested in our state parks and forests brings multiple benefits to the communities that surround them.
In a 2012 study, for instance, the return on taxpayer investment in our state parks alone was estimated at nearly $12.41 for every $1 invested. With more than 41 million visitors to our state parks in 2016, that accounts for considerable economic stimulation and jobs created and/or retained.
Our state park and forest resources also provide benefits through the environmental functions that they perform such as water filtration, air quality improvement, and flood control. They improve quality of life and housing values, and provide opportunities for recreation-based employment.
In fact, Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation for outdoor recreation spending!
What Pennsylvanians Want
Through various surveys and polls, the same comments are made year to year: Pennsylvanians want outdoor recreation opportunities at state parks and forests that are safe, clean, and well-maintained.
For instance, the most recent State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) states that maintenance of existing park and recreation areas continues to be the top concern and priority for both citizens and recreation providers.
Well-maintained trails and clean restrooms are especially important to visitors.
SCORP and census data supports the fact that the face of Pennsylvania is changing, with residents becoming older and more diverse. With these changes, come new recreational needs and adaptations in order to remain relevant and accommodating.
The 2014-2019 SCORP priorities recognize the important role Pennsylvanian’s assign to outdoor recreation – that role being improving human health. The SCORP plan was developed after extensive input from Pennsylvania residents, who consistently support investment in state park and forest maintenance.
Working Together to Find a Solution
“The Legacy of Pennsylvania’s State Parks and Forests: The Future Is In Our Hands” presents an opportunity to provide major investments to our state parks and forests. These commitments also invest in our local economies and the economic engine that is outdoor recreation.
It creates a quality of life that makes Pennsylvania a great place to live, work, and play, keeping us competitive on the national front for job creation, employee retention, and attracting new businesses.
Pennsylvania stands at a critical juncture between handing our children a legacy of state parks and forests in which we can all be proud and strapping them with a burden from which they will struggle to recover.
An opportunity exists to look for a solution to address the most pressing infrastructure repair needs in the treasures that are Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests.
While volunteers and private philanthropy are making a difference, the needs of our state parks and forests require an investment by the state through adequate operational funding for DCNR, for adequate staffing for state parks and forests, and for dedicated infrastructure funding.
Visit [the PPFF] website for the full report in July.
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Parks & Forests Foundation website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Foundation,  Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.  Click Here to become a member of the Foundation.
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