Tuesday, October 16, 2018

TODAY: Senate Appropriations Committee Set To Consider Bill To Weaken Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Standards

The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled an off-the-floor meeting TODAY to consider House Bill 2154 (Causer-R- Cameron) in a last-minute action to weaken environmental standards for conventional (not Shale) oil and gas drilling, an industry whose violations of existing regulations have tripled over the last 3 years.
If the Committee reports out the bill, it would be in position for a final Senate vote.
The conventional oil and gas drilling industry has a full court press underway to get a final vote on the bill by the end of Wednesday to get it to the Governor’s desk before the legislation dies and has to start over next year.
Gov. Wolf, the Department of Environmental Protection and environmental groups have consistently opposed the legislation.
In anticipation of a Senate vote, the Environmental Defense Fund and PA Environmental Council Tuesday sent this letter to all members of the Senate expressing their significant concerns with the bill--.
“The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) wish to express our opposition to House Bill 2154 (P.N. 3477) and urge a NO vote on this legislation, which is expected to be voted on today in the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting.
“We anticipate that this legislation may be voted on final passage in the Senate today or tomorrow and we would again urge a NO vote on HB 2154.
“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, HB 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 many important respects.
“Considering that the Department of Environmental Protection’s recent 2017 Oil and Gas Report findings that the number of conventional oil and gas well violations more than tripled between 2015 (1,024) and 2017 (3,273), the timing and design of this legislation is ill-advised.
“If this legislation were to pass, Pennsylvania would have the discreditable distinction of being the only state to significantly reduce environmental protection, best practices and the use of new technology 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.
“To make matters worse, an out-of-state company that bought nearly one quarter of the state’s active conventional wells (over 24,000) would face weakened idle well standards and insufficient bonding requirements amid questions about the company’s ultimate ability to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars of plugging liability it faces – nothing in this bill would require it to do so.
“Just some of the provisions of this legislation 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.
-- 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.
-- Weakening well integrity standards that are critical for groundwater protection.
-- 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.
“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.”
Sincerely,
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.
The Senate Appropriations Committee meeting will be in the Rules Room off-the-floor, which means the meeting could be held any time after 1:00 when the Senate convenes for session today.
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Environmental Council website, visit the PEC Blog, follow PEC on Twitter or Like PEC on Facebook.  Visit PEC’s Audio Room for the latest podcasts.  Click Here to receive regular updates from PEC.

DEP: 61 Watershed Restoration, Stormwater Projects Totalling $12.6 Million Funded By Mariner East 2 Pipeline Penalty

The Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday announced it has selected 61 projects to receive grants from the historic $12.6 million penalty assessed to Sunoco for violations related to the Mariner East 2 pipeline project. The selected projects improve water quality, restore watersheds, and improve stormwater management.
“One thing that all of these projects have in common is that they will improve Pennsylvania’s water – whether that is through reducing runoff pollution, restoring watersheds, or other means,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

In February 2018, DEP collected the $12.6 million penalty for numerous violations along the Mariner East 2 pipeline and began accepting grant applications in April.
Grants were awarded for stormwater management, invasive species removal, forest restoration, farm runoff reduction, streambank restoration, and many other projects that ultimately improve water quality in Pennsylvania.
Grantees include County Conservation Districts, municipalities, school districts, and non-profit organizations.
“These projects do not absolve Sunoco of its responsibility to restore any damage to Pennsylvania waters and wetlands through the construction of the pipeline. But it is nice that this penalty could be put directly towards other deserving improvement projects in the communities along the right-of-way,” said McDonnell. “DEP has been vigilant in holding Sunoco accountable for violations and will continue to do so.”
Click Here for a list of projects funded.
For more information on actions taken by DEP related to the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, visit DEP’s Mariner East 2 Pipeline webpage.
The Public Utility Commission has also taken a series of actions related to the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

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Reminder: South Mountain Partnership Trails Workshop: Building Strong Community Connections Nov. 20 In Shippensburg

Are you interested in funding, designing, constructing, and/or maintaining walking, hiking, or biking trails?
During this workshop you will learn how to effectively work with landowners, municipalities, and others to build better bike and pedestrian trails that connect communities, enhance economic development, and improve quality of life.
Workshop topics to include: Building Municipal and Community Support for Trails; Designing Trails for Local Needs; Bike Friendly Communities Panel; How to Work with PennDOT; and  many more!
Fewer than 100 tickets are available for this workshop, so early registration is encouraged.
Funding for this project comes from a grant via the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, Chesapeake Bay Trust, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Thanks also to Volvo Construction, the Center for Land Use and Sustainability at Shippensburg University, and the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau for their sponsorship.
The cost is only $10, which includes breakfast, lunch, and reception. An optional mobile session on the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail is an extra $5, and spots are limited to 20 people.
Click Here to register or for more information.
For more information on programs, initiatives and other upcoming events, visit the South Mountain Partnership and Capital Resource Conservation & Development Area Council websites.

Western PA Conservancy Now Accepting Applications For Canoe, Kayak Access Projects In Western PA

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Tuesday announced it is seeking grant applicants for its Canoe Access Development Fund, which supports projects that will improve canoe and kayak access to the region’s waterways.  The deadline for applications is November 16.
WPC’s Canoe Access Development Fund seeks to make the region’s rivers and streams more accessible for outdoor recreation by providing grants to watershed organizations or other community groups to develop access sites for canoers and kayakers.
Currently, 56 CADF-supported projects are completed and open to the public.
“The Canoe Access Development Fund has been instrumental in our organization’s shift from a project-based institution to an association of that supports recreation enthusiasts,” said Annie Quinn, executive director of the Jacobs Creek Watershed Association in Scottdale, Westmoreland County.  “The two access ramps that we built using CADF funds have allowed us to introduce Jacobs Creek to hundreds of individuals.”
New access sites proposed for grant funding should be located along a stream or river featured in “Canoeing Guide to Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia,” a similar guidebook or resource, or be recognized as a paddling waterway in Western Pennsylvania.
Qualified grant recipients will receive up to $4,000 per site for the construction and enhancement of canoe and kayak access locations.
Grant funding could be used in multiple ways, including stabilizing access areas to rivers or streams, adding nearby parking areas or purchasing riverside access. The CADF was founded in 2008 by private WPC donors and outdoor enthusiasts Roy Weil and Mary Shaw.
Projects funded by this program can be found on an interactive map.
For more information and an online application, visit the WPC’s Canoe Access Development Fund webpage. Grant recipients will be notified by December 15.
Questions should be directed to Eli Long at WPC’s Watershed Conservation office by sending email to: elong@paconserve.org or calling 724-471-7202, ext. 5105.
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.

LancasterOnline.com: Now 5 Deaths Statewide From West Nile Virus

Heather Stauffer, LancasterOnline.com, Tuesday reported the Department of Health has confirmed 5 deaths from West Nile Virus so far this season-- 2 in Lancaster and one each in Lebanon, Philadelphia and Westmoreland counties.
In 2017, the Department of Health reported 20 human cases of West Nile and 3 deaths.
Statewide the Department of Health told Lancasteronline.com there are now 80 confirmed cases of West Nile Virus statewide.
Certain mosquito species carry the West Nile virus, which can cause humans to contract West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in an inflammation of the brain. According to the Department of Health, all residents in areas where virus activity has been identified are at risk of contracting West Nile encephalitis.
Weeks of unusually wet weather this summer has led to almost perfected conditions for mosquito breeding, and breeding season will not be over until the first, hard killing frost.
Individuals can take a number of precautionary measures around their homes to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas, including:
-- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar containers that hold water.
-- Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
-- Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
-- Have clogged roof gutters cleaned every year as the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug drains.
-- Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
-- Turn over wheelbarrows and don't let water stagnate in birdbaths.
-- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
-- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
If a resident has stagnant pools of water on their property, they can buy Bti (short for Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis) products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. This naturally occurring bacterium kills mosquito larvae, 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, usually April through October.
-- Use insect repellents according to the manufacturer's instructions. An effective repellent will contain DEET, picardin, or lemon eucalyptus oil. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician for questions about the use of repellent on children, as repellent is not recommended for children under the age of two months.
For more information about West Nile virus and the state's surveillance and control program, please visit the West Nile Virus website. [Note: Unfortunately this website is not being updated.]
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Next DEP Climate Change Advisory Committee Meeting Set For Dec. 4

The next meeting of  DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee is scheduled for December 4.  The October 23 meeting is canceled.  (formal notice)
The Committee has been discussing a series of presentations by ICS, the contractor DEP hired to help with the 2018 Update to the PA Climate Change Action Plan, on topics ranging from flood risk reduction, energy strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural and recreation policy changes to mitigate climate change impacts.
The Committee is expected to continue those discussions at the December meeting.
DEP is required by Act 70 of 2008 to update Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Action Plan every three years.  The last update was published in 2015.
The meeting will be held in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg starting at 10:00.
For more information and available handouts, visit the DEP Climate Change Advisory Committee webpage.  Questions should be directed to Lindsay Byron by calling 717-772-8951 or send email to: lbyron@pa.gov.

Bay Journal: Part 2-New Nutrient Reduction Goals Reflect Updated Science, Data, Computer Modeling

By Karl Blankenship, Chesapeake Bay Journal

This article is the second in Chesapeake Bay Journal 4-part special report, The Bay's Pollution Diet: Is it Working?

The state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program partnership recently revised its nutrient reduction goals for 2025 based on improved information, new science and updated computer modeling.
States are updating their cleanup plans to address the revised goals.
These watershed implementation plans, drafts of which are due to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by April 12, 2019, are supposed to demonstrate that states have realistic plans to meet their new goals, as well as adequate programs, regulations and funding to get the job done.
States are also supposed to engage local officials and organizations, as well as establish more localized planning goals in their plans.
Final plans are to be completed by August 9, 2019.
The revised cleanup goals, or “planning targets,” stem from new computer models developed during the Bay Program’s “midpoint assessment” of the progress made since 2010 toward the 2025 cleanup goals outlined in the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or “pollution diet.”
The TMDL defines the maximum amount of pollutants the Bay can receive and still attain water quality standards.       
Overall, the new numbers show a more difficult path toward the 2025 goal than those produced by the previous models.
While they continue to show that the region as a whole is on track to meet its phosphorus goals, it is further behind on its nitrogen goals. (See the table, Chesapeake Watershed Nutrient Trends and Goals.)
The previous computer model found that the region had, through the end of last year, achieved 36 percent of the needed nitrogen reductions. The new model has found it is only 30 percent of the way to the target.
A variety of factors contribute to the changes. The new model uses a host of updated information, such as improved land cover data, new information about soil types and better information about nutrient movement through river systems.
The model also uses updated data about fertilizer sales, animal populations and the implementation and effectiveness of a wider range of nutrient-reducing “best management practices.”
Taken as a whole, the new analysis shows fewer nitrogen reductions from non-wastewater sources.
The model analysis further incorporates refined information about the importance of where nutrients are generated. Nutrient runoff that occurs closer to major rivers, for example, tends to have more influence than runoff near smaller rivers because major rivers transport nutrients to the Bay more effectively.
Nutrient reductions from the Potomac River basin also have a somewhat greater impact on Bay health than was indicated by the previous model.
In addition, the relative impact of nitrogen is greater than phosphorus in the new modeling.
Overall, the new model findings had the greatest impact on Maryland. In the old model, the state needed to achieve 5.7 million additional pounds of nitrogen reductions to meet its 2025 goal; in the new model it has to achieve 8.4 million pounds of reductions.
The District of Columbia, which had already met its 2025 goals in the old model, continues to do so in the updated model. West Virginia has also met its goal.
A Guide To Understanding Nutrient Trends
The figures in the table, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Nutrient Trends and Goals, show computer-estimated nutrient “loads” reaching the Chesapeake from each major “sector” — sources of nutrient pollution — in each state.
The figures presented for each state reflect levels in 1985, the approximate year in which nutrient control efforts began; 2009 levels, which are the baseline for measuring efforts since the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load was established; estimated progress at the end of 2017; and the 2025 cleanup goals.
Load changes between 1985, 2009 and 2017 reflect the estimated impact of new urban and agricultural runoff control practices, upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and land use changes.
The sectors that generate nutrients are categorized as follows:
-- Agriculture, which covers all forms of farming, including large concentrated animal feeding operations, croplands and low intensity pastures.
-- Developed Land, which reflects runoff from all urban and suburban land, including areas covered under stormwater permits and areas where runoff is unregulated.
-- Wastewater, which includes discharges from treatment plants and sewer overflows, as well as any industries that discharge nutrients.
-- Septic, which includes septic systems and other small, on-site treatment devices.
-- Natural Land, which includes forests (including harvested areas), wetlands, stream banks and other largely natural areas. Many natural nutrient sources are largely uncontrollable.
As states develop new watershed implementation plans in the coming months, they will set new sector goals for 2025, which the EPA will use to track progress toward overall goals, as well as more local targets.
These figures do not include some significant nutrient sources which the Bay Program has also committed to address:
-- The impact of the filling of the Conowingo Dam reservoir on the Susquehanna River. This results in about 6 million additional pounds of nitrogen and about 260,000 additional pounds of phosphorus reaching the Chesapeake each year. States have committed to writing a joint plan to address that issue.
-- The impact of climate change. This results in about 9 million additional pounds of nitrogen and 385,000 pounds of phosphorus reaching the Bay each year. Those estimates are being reviewed, and states have committed to revising cleanup plans to address climate change in 2021.
-- The impact of continued population growth and development. Based on past trends, that could mean another 4 million pounds of nitrogen and 154,000 pounds of phosphorus entering the Bay by 2025.
-- Additional pollution reductions may be needed on the James River in Virginia. Right now, Virginia figures only include reductions for the James River that are needed to address Chesapeake Bay water quality.
But scientists and state and federal officials are working to establish a revised standard for chlorophyll a (a measure of algae) that is needed to protect aquatic life in the tidal portion of the James River, which could require additional nutrient reductions.
Sediment goals will be set later but are presumed to be accomplished by phosphorus controls, which also control sediment.
For information on efforts in Pennsylvania to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup obligations, visit the PA Chesapeake Bay Plan webpage.
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