Friday, January 31, 2020

PUC Enforcement Bureau Seeks $8.8 Million Penalty Against Texas Company For Deceptive Energy Marketing

On January 31, the PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement filed a formal complaint against Texas-based Verde Energy USA (Verde).
The I&E complaint is seeking more than $8.8 million in civil penalties for alleged violations of energy sales and marketing regulations and the Public Utility Code, along with the revocation of Verde’s license to provide electric generation services in Pennsylvania and refunds/reimbursement for consumers.
According to the I&E complaint, Verde allegedly engaged in misleading and deceptive telemarketing and door-to-door sales activity, including:
-- Unauthorized switching of customers’ energy suppliers (slamming) – including enrolling several customers who were deceased.
-- Threatening to disconnect customers’ services and/or using private customer information to falsely report power outages or falsely submit requests to disconnect service.
-- “Spoofing” phone numbers on telemarketing calls to falsely identify the call as coming from other utilities or local telephone numbers.
-- Agents misrepresenting themselves as representatives or employees of a utility, including allegations that agents wore clothing or provided documents that included a utility logo.
-- Falsely claiming to have been sent by a utility to check customers’ meters or rates/bills.
-- Refusing to leave after customers expressed no interest in the service.
-- Refusing to cancel enrollments after customers complained or brought deceptive acts to Verde’s attention.
-- Claiming that customers’ current electric generation supplier was going out of business, bankrupt or not providing service.
-- Suggesting that customers were required to switch or choose Verde.
-- Representing that the customers’ current electric generation supplier was purchased by or merged with Verde.
-- Providing false and misleading information about the customers’ contracts or rates with their current electric generation suppliers.
-- Misrepresenting that Verde is a discount program.
-- Making misleading claims about potential savings.
Collectively, the I&E complaint alleges nearly 9,000 violations of energy marketing regulations or other sections of the public utility code-- including 339 customer accounts impacted by deceptive telemarketing or door-to-door activities and 3,922 incidents where Verde representatives allegedly used confidential customer information to access or create an online customer account without the customers’ consent or authorization. 
Verde has 20 days from the date the complaint was served to file an answer to the I&E complaint. 
Visit the PUC’s Your Electric Rights & Protections webpage to learn your rights when shopping for an electric provider.
[Posted: January 31, 2020]   PA Environment Digest

Updated Agenda Now Available Showing Technical Guidance DEP Is Working On

The Department of Environmental Protection published an update to its Non-Regulatory Agenda showing the technical guidance DEP is now working on to give the public and stakeholders an opportunity to be part of the development process.  (formal notice)
Technical guidance is listed by program with an anticipated schedule for public review and agency contact people.  
Some of the highlights include these guidance documents an likely schedule for consideration--
Public Participation
-- Public Participation In Development Of Regulations, Technical Guidance - Draft, 1st Quarter 
-- Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy - Final, 1st Quarter
-- Water Quality Certification Of Natural Gas Pipelines - Final, 2nd Quarter
-- Historical & Museum Commission/DEP Permit Coordination - Final, 4th Quarter
Air Quality
-- Air Quality Permit Review Protocol - Draft, 3rd Quarter
-- Air Quality permit Exemptions - Draft, 2nd Quarter
Coal Mining
-- Surface Water Protection From Underground Mining - Draft, 4th Quarter
-- Engineering Manual For Mining Operations - Draft, 3rd Quarter
-- Civil Penalty Assessments - Final, 4th Quarter
Dam Safety & Encroachments
-- Establishing A System For Valuing Compensation For Mitigation - Final, 3rd Quarter
-- In-Lieu Fee Program Mitigation Compensation - Interim-Final, 1st Quarter
-- Implementation of Act 162 Buffer, Related Requirements - Final, 3rd Quarter
Drinking Water
-- Lead & Copper Rule Working Guide - Final, 2nd Quarter
-- Safe Drinking Water Field-Related Compliance - Draft, 4th Quarter
-- Requirements for Transient Noncommunity Water Systems - Draft, 2nd Quarter
-- Noncommunity System Design Standards - Draft, 4th Quarter
-- Community System Design Standards - Draft, 2nd Quarter
Land Recycling
-- Use of Caps As Engineering Controls - Draft, 1st Quarter
-- Historic Pesticide Use On Agricultural Lands - Draft, 2nd Quarter
Oil & Gas
-- Civil Penalty Assessment - Draft, 2nd Quarter
-- Implementing Area Of Review For Permits - Final, 4th Quarter
-- Replacement, Restoration of Water Supplies Impacting By Drilling - Final, 1st Quarter
-- Erosion & Sedimentation, Stormwater Management At Drilling Sites - Draft, 4th Quarter
Radiation Protection
-- Radioactivity Monitoring At Solid Waste Facilities - Final, 3rd Quarter
-- Radiation Protection Compliance & Enforcement - Final, 2nd Quarter
Storage Tanks
-- Evaluation of Underground Storage Tank Liners - Final, 1st Quarter
-- Closure Requirements for Underground Storage Tank Systems - Final, 2nd Quarter
-- Closure Requirements for Aboveground Storage Tank Systems - Final, 2nd Quarter
Water Allocations
-- Water Allocation Permit Application Revisions - Draft, 3rd Quarter
-- Design Standards for Domestic Wastewater Facilities - Draft, 3rd Quarter
-- On-Lot Wastewater Technology Verification Protocol - Final, 3rd Quarter
-- Site Suitability, Alternative Analysis For Onlot Sewage Disposal - Final, 2nd Quarter
-- Manual For Land Application Of Treated Wastewater - Draft, 3rd Quarter
Regulatory Agenda
DEP has a similar Regulatory Agenda which shows the status of regulations in development, going through the public review process, along with an anticipated schedule for public review and agency contact people.
Both Agendas serve as a guide and resource to the regulated community, the public, Department staff and members of the Department's advisory committees regarding the focus of the Department's policy development for the coming year.
Neither of these Agendas are required by law.  They are in addition to all the other public review and notification requirements DEP is required to do for individual advisory committee meetings, public hearings, reviews by the Senate and House environmental committees and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.
Visit DEP’s Public Participation webpage to learn more.
Related Article:
[Posted: January 31, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

DEP Posts 56 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In Feb. 1 PA Bulletin

The Department of Environmental Protection published 56 pages of public notices related to proposed and final permit and approval/ disapproval actions in the February 1 PA Bulletin - pages 682 to 738.
  Sign Up For DEP’s eNotice: Did you know DEP can send you email notices of permit applications submitted in your community?  Notice of new technical guidance documents and regulations? All through its eNotice system. Click Here to sign up.

PennEast Natural Gas Pipeline Seeks FERC Approval To Build PA Part First

On January 31, PennEast Pipeline Company LLC announced the filing of an amendment with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct the pipeline in two phases, the first being the 68 miles in Pennsylvania and then the remaining 50 miles in New Jersey.
The pipeline route would be located in Luzerne, Northampton, Carbon and Bucks counties.
Under the phased approach, PennEast will have within Pennsylvania three delivery points: UGI Utilities, Inc. (to serve the Blue Mountain Ski Resort) and new interconnections with Columbia Gas and Adelphia Gateway to serve the growing demand in the southeast region.
“PennEast has always been vital to fulfilling our plans of a new hotel and water park, which have been delayed for years without the natural gas necessary to fuel the expansion,” said Barb Green, President of Blue Mountain Resort in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. “The announcement today to complete the project in phases is a major boost for our local tourism, economic development and job creation.”
DEP Permits
DEP has not issued any of the environmental permits needed to construct the pipeline.  DEP received updated application materials from PennEAST in response to deficiency letters in October of 2019.
Visit DEP's PennEast Pipeline webpage for more information.
Delaware RiverKeeper Maya van Rossum issued this statement on the PennEast proposal--
“The announcement by PennEast that it will seek to construct its project in Pennsylvania first while it continues to pressure for approvals in New Jersey is not a surprise. 
“This has been a common strategy of pipeline companies; they seek approval from FERC to build in the places where they can claim they have permitting and try to use that ongoing construction to pressure other agencies where approvals are outstanding.  
“The result has been properties taken and environments destroyed for pipelines that are unable to be fully constructed.  It is not a shock that this is PennEast’s strategy.  
“What will also not be a shock, but is legally and morally wrong, is that FERC will help PennEast pursue this strategy.  
“This announced step by PennEast makes it more important than ever that the Delaware River Basin Commission step up and be the necessary check on FERC power run amuck.  
“PennEast cannot begin construction within the watershed absent DRBC [Delaware River Basin Commission] approval-- at least not legally; although I will not be surprised if PennEast and FERC seek to avoid this legal obligation.  So all eyes need to turn to DRBC.  
“And New Jersey needs to continue to maintain its strength and vigilance in denying the PennEast pipeline in order to protect the water resources and residents of our state and region, and needs to use its seat at the DRBC to make sure that the agency lives up to its obligations not to advance the dirty fossil fuel fracked gas PennEast pipeline that would inflict irreparable harm on the water resources, residents and environments of our region.  
“This announcement also stands as further evidence for next week’s hearing before Congress’s Committee on Energy and Commerce as to why Natural Gas Act reform needs to be a priority.”
[Posted: January 31, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

Registration Open: PA Brownfields Conference March 9-11 In State College

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania are now accepting registrations for the 2020 Pennsylvania Brownfields Conference to be held March 9-11 in State College.
The Conference program includes presentations and workshops on--
-- Central Appalachian Regional Brownfield Summit
-- Mobile Workshop/Tour of Bellefonte Match Factory Site
-- EPA Region 3 Brownfields Grantees Meeting
-- Women’s Network
-- From Brownfield to Workforce Housing
-- Connected, Automated and Green: Collaboration For the 4th Industrial Revolution
-- Resiliency, Fill Policy, Sustainability
-- Uniform Environmental Covenants
-- Brownfields: Planning For The Future
-- Funding Community Brownfields: Grant Sources Roadmap
-- Technical Challenges, Solutions For PFAS At Brownfield Sites
-- PFAS And Brownfield Redevelopment: Risk Management
-- Rebuilding Rural Coal Region Through Environmental Justice
-- Playbook for PA’s Retired Coal-Fired Power Plants
-- Becoming (And Remaining) A Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser
-- Next Generation Of Brownfield Properties From A Buyer’s Perspective
-- Redeveloping The Lehigh Valley
-- Green Remediation For The 21st Century
-- Success Stories
To register or for more information, visit the 2020 Pennsylvania Brownfields Conference webpage or the Conference Facebook page.
More information on brownfields reuse is available at DEP’s Land Recycling Program webpage.
Related Article:
[Posted: January 31, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

State Funding Provided To Help Cleanup Former Industrial Sites In Blair, Erie Counties

On January 31, Gov. Tom  Wolf announced the approval of funding to help clean up former industrial sites in Blair and Erie counties to prepare them for occupation by businesses and residential properties through the Industrial Sites Reuse Program.
“The benefits are two-fold – not only will harmful chemicals be removed from these properties, but the elimination of blight will attract aspiring renters, homeowners, and business owners for many years to come,” said Gov. Wolf.
The projects include--
-- Altoona-Blair County Development Corporation was approved for a $10,200 grant for an environmental assessment of the former Silk Mill Industrial Complex located in Blair County. In 2018, ISRP funds were used for environmental remediation costs. 
This funding will be used for an assessment to include soil borings, soil sampling, installation of monitoring wells, hazardous material survey, aquifer slug testing, sub-slab vapor sampling, indoor air and ambient air sampling and the development of a remediation plan. 
Once the site has been remediated, it will allow for development of approximately 100,000-170,000 square feet to support the construction of 42 residential apartments and 19,000 square feet of office/rental space. 
The project will also complement the redevelopment of the former Bon Secours Hospital Complex that is currently underway.
-- Albion Borough, Erie County was approved for a $63,810 grant for site characterization of an old gas station. The borough has a prospective buyer who plans to use the property for warehousing and minor parts assembly.
ISRP funds will be used for a geophysical and professional survey, soil borings and monitoring wells, well development, groundwater and soil gas sampling, aquifer testing, fate and transport analysis, human health risk assessment, remedial investigation reports, and the development of a cleanup plan. 
“This new funding will bring new opportunities to Blair and Erie counties and will ensure that these sites become safe and valuable properties that improve their communities and bring new appeal to formerly underutilized or unused areas,” said Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin.
ISRP provides loans and grants for environmental assessments and remediation. The program is designed to foster the cleanup of environmental contamination at industrial sites, thereby bringing blighted land into productive reuse.
“Revitalizing former industrial sites provides tremendous benefits for communities, but important testing and remediation must take place to ensure that the sites are environmentally safe,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “These funds will allow for this important work to take place so that the sites are ready for redevelopment.”
For more information on this program, visit DCED’s Industrial Sites Reuse Program webpage.  More information on brownfields reuse is available at DEP’s Land Recycling Program webpage.
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[Posted: January 31, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

DCNR Releases New Report On Conservation Landscape Successes For The Economy And Environment

On January 31, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn celebrated the success of Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes Program by releasing a new report on how this partnership-building approach is critical for meeting regional environmental challenges and economic challenges
The report-- 2019 Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes – Models for Successful Collaboration-- shares the results of a recent evaluation and  highlights individual landscape efforts and the best practices they are using to achieve conservation and revitalization goals.
“We believe that the landscape-scale approach, now more than 15 years in practice, is well positioned to help Pennsylvania tackle the most challenging problems such as watershed protection, and our changing climate and its impacts on infrastructure, wildlife, and health,” Dunn said at the annual meeting of the South Mountain Partnership at Liberty Mountain, Fairfield. 
“As we strive to accelerate the pace and scale of conservation efforts, a good understanding of what makes landscape efforts successful is critical,” added Dunn.
“The South Mountain Partnership invests in building the capacity of its partners, and uses a collaborative approach to tackle large projects,” said external lead Katie Hess of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “That’s led to significant wins for the landscape including the conservation of 850-acres of valuable forested land on South Mountain, the rebirth of the Craighead House as a cultural and educational asset, and a current focus on clean water efforts for local communities and the Chesapeake Bay.”  
The report provides an overview of key best practices in the Conservation Landscapes include: using partnerships to make large, complex projects a reality; investing in public lands and facilities to drive economic development in communities; cross-promotion of regional tourism assets; strategic land conservation to address water quality and climate change; and offering mini-grant programs to support small projects. 
It also makes some recommendations to strengthen the program and position it to tackle landscape-scale conservation challenges.
The South Mountain Partnership is a public-private partnership between DCNR and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and has grown into a coalition of citizens, businesses, nonprofit organizations and government representatives in Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties.
For more information on this initiative, visit DCNR Conservation Landscapes webpage.
  For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
Additional Resource:
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[Posted: January 31, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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