Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Senate Appropriations Committee Sets Agency Budget Hearing Schedule

On January 31, the
Senate Appropriations Committee posted the schedule of agency budget hearings starting March 20, after Gov. Shapiro’s March 7 budget address.   

The hearings for environmental agencies will be held--

-- March 21: Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 9:30 a.m.

-- March 22: Department of Environmental Protection, 9:30 a.m.

-- March 28: Department of Agriculture, 1:00 p.m.

Click Here for the full schedule.

The hearings will be held in Hearing Room 1, North Office Building.   Click Here to watch live.

Visit the Senate Appropriations Committee webpage for more information.

[Posted: January 31, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

Gov. Shapiro Issues Order Directing Agencies To Set Deadlines For Permit Reviews, Requires Money-Back Guarantee If Deadlines Not Met; A Similar Program Started At DEP In 1995

On January 31, Gov. Josh Shapiro signed
Executive Order 2023-07 to improve the Commonwealth’s licensing, permitting, and certification processes, beginning a comprehensive review of how long it takes agencies to process applications and how workers and businesses apply online. 

The Executive Order will help to establish a date-certain for each license, permit, or certificate by which applicants will hear back – if applicants don’t receive a response by that date, the agency responsible will refund their application fee.

Under this Executive Order, the Governor’s Office will also conduct a review of the existing digital services that Pennsylvanians use to apply for licenses, certificates, and permits and work to modernize those application platforms and services to better serve Pennsylvanians.

Unpredictability and long wait times for Commonwealth-issued licenses, certificates, and permits can create unnecessary barriers for Pennsylvania workers and businesses. 

For example, an NPR analysis from 2021 found that Pennsylvania had some of the longest wait times in the country for issuing nursing licenses. More than half of the nursing applicants who applied in Pennsylvania that year waited at least three months to hear back.

In addition to nursing licenses, the Commonwealth issues hundreds of licenses, certificates, and permits, from barber and salon licenses to teacher certifications to business permits. 

Under the direction of the Governor, the Administration will work expeditiously to ensure Pennsylvanians get responses in a timely manner – and the Shapiro Administration will have real skin in the game. 

Governor Shapiro is making clear his Administration will be customer-service oriented and that state government will work harder to get them a response, so that they can pursue their dreams.

Gov. Shapiro said at the press conference, “The speed in which we will act on a barber license will be quicker than a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit for a major construction project.

“We will sacrifice nothing when it comes to public health, public safety and environmental protection. 

“If during the course of this 90-day review, it’s determined by an individual agency that they need additional help in order to meet the processing times, then that will be something we’d consider with lawmakers when it comes time for a budget or we may reallocate within an existing budget line.”

Click Here for a copy of the Executive Order. Click Here for complete announcement.

DEP Money-Back Guarantee

In 1995, Gov. Tom Ridge issued Executive Order 1995-5 directing the Department of Environmental Protection to establish a Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program setting deadlines for permit reviews and requiring permit fees to be returned if those deadlines were not met..

The original program covered over 700 permits and approvals at DEP, without eliminating opportunities for public review.

From 1995 to 2002, over 125,000 permit applications were reviewed under the program and only 22 missed the review deadlines.

In 2012, Gov. Tom Corbett updated the program by issuing Executive Order 2012-11 making changes to the program that built on the successes of the original order, Gov. Corbett said.

Gov. Corbett's order not only set deadlines for review of permits, but DEP programs developed "Standard Operating Procedures" telling staff and applicants how they review permits and the statutory and regulatory basis for their actions.

DEP reports each week on its website how many permits actions it takes and how many of those actions are within the Permit Decision Guarantee deadlines.

For example, for the week of January 23, DEP reported it took action on 690 permits, 93 percent within the permit review deadlines.

Since January 1, DEP took action on 2,630 permits, 93 percent within the Permit Decision Guarantee deadlines.

The new Executive Order issued by Gov. Shapiro does not rescind Gov. Corbett's Order covering DEP.


-- PennLive - Jan Murphy: Shapiro Offers A Money-Back Guarantee On PA’s Licensing And Permitting Process

-- PA Capital-Star: Shapiro Launches Review To Mitigate Red Tape In PA Professional Licensure Process

-- Inquirer: How Josh Shapiro Is Starting His Administration With A Pro-Business Focus, And A ‘Money-Back’ Guarantee

-- AP: Shapiro Order Aims To Reduce Wait Times For Professional Licensing

Related Articles:

-- Natural Gas Industry, Senate Republicans Launch Effort To Unleash The Industry, Reduce Regulation, Call For Automatic Approval Of Permits, Limit Public Comments  [PaEN] 

-- More Than Half Of E&S Permit Applications Submitted Are Incomplete; Consultants Take 6 Weeks To Respond To Deficiencies  [PaEN] 

[Posted: January 31, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

DEP/PROP: Study Shows Growth in K-12 Students' Recycling Knowledge; 1988 Recycling Law Updates Needed

On January 31, the Department of Environmental Protection and the
Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania collaborated on a School Recycling Study Survey that shows Pennsylvania K-12 students have increased their knowledge and awareness of recycling over the past fiscal year.

“Students are our future, and it is important to see that they are increasing their awareness around recycling. It is incredible that these schools made a commitment to Pennsylvania’s present and future,” Acting DEP Secretary Richard Negrin said.

From July 2021 through June 2022, PROP (with funding from DEP) coordinated the study. This is the second year of the study, which gauges understanding of recycling among students and staff. 

Schools were asked to complete a brief survey, providing details on their current recycling programs and practices. The survey was sent to 3,770 public and private schools in Pennsylvania.

Of the schools surveyed, 86.6% recycle. Also, 43.5% of the schools surveyed have a recycling awareness program.

In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the survey was sent to 2,713 schools with 199 responding. 

In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, 81.4% of schools responded that they have a recycling program.

Some of the questions in the survey include: Does the school recycle? Does your school have a recycling awareness program? Is cost a barrier?

“Student awareness of recycling is a critical step in making sure these students continue to recycle through adulthood,” said PROP Executive Director Jennifer Summers. “Recycling is a cross-generational effort, and it is imperative that we know how our students are faring with their recycling knowledge.”

The summary report also details ways to increase awareness and how schools respond to waste with other methods, like composting. PROP is instrumental in driving student awareness and hosts a yearly poster contest for students.

“Just as our schools nurture and preserve their students’ futures, so too must our communities nurture and preserve the future of our environment,” said Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “By introducing learners to the importance of recycling, that knowledge can spread, and young minds can be empowered by sharing this critical best practice with their friends, families, and neighbors.”

The next steps include working with individual coordinators with results from their counties and another survey. 

Another survey will be used to collect more detail about the types of education and training that is needed for the schools. 

The outcomes of the surveys will result in the creation of tools and resources for schools and school business officials, including web resources.

Click Here for a copy of the school survey.

For more information on recycling, visit DEP’s Recycling In Pennsylvania webpage.

Recycling Law Updates Needed

In September 2022, the PA Resources Council and PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center released a new report that outlines how Pennsylvania’s solid waste laws haven’t kept up with the growing problems facing local recycling programs, trash disposal, and significant changes in the items making up Pennsylvania’s waste stream.

Act 101, the landmark 1988 recycling law that made Pennsylvania a leader in 1988, needs multiple updates to meet the demands of today’s economy.

PRC and PennEnvironment called on Act 101 to be modernized to address the Commonwealth’s growing waste problem, improve public health, clean up the environment and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.  Read more here.

In December 2021, DEP released a 54-page white paper outlining the history of the Act 101 Recycling Programs, the status of waste generation, disposal and recycling in Pennsylvania and the fact that recycling contributes $22.6 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy and directly employs over 66,000 people.

The paper also outlined a series of recommendations to expand recycling and reduce waste--

-- Diversion of organic waste from landfills by funding composting and anaerobic digestion projects.

-- Keep recycling funds in the Recycling Fund.

-- Support smaller, dual-stream and commingled waste recycling facilities.

-- Create Research and Development grants to invest in emerging technologies.

-- Fund regional public Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) to create competition and  increase stability in the cost of processing recyclables.

-- Reinstitute a Waste Planning Section to evaluate new technologies, product evaluations and the consumption of recyclable materials in Pennsylvania.

-- Oversee the development of a comprehensive education program to improve the quality of materials collected.

-- Expand access to recycling through convenience centers. Ensure all Pennsylvanians have convenient access to all recycling options.  Read more here.

In September 2022, Ali Tarquino Morris, Director of DEP’s Bureau of Waste Management noted in a presentation to DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council, the trends in waste generation and recycling have been going in the wrong direction.

She reported the overall amount of waste generated in Pennsylvania has increased 8.3 percent between 2015 and 2021-- from 14.3 million tons to 15.6 million tons.

In 2019, the most recent year available, 5.25 million tons were recycled, which is roughly the same amount that was recycled in 2004-- 5.14 million tons.

Municipal waste generated in Pennsylvania has increased 10.1 percent-- 8.62 million tons in 2015 to 8.59 million tons in 2021.

Residual waste (industrial waste) generated in Pennsylvania has increased 7.1 percent-- from 2.99 million tons in 2015 to 3.22 million tons in 2021

The overall amount of waste being disposed in the state has increased 9.3 percent between 2015 to 2021-- 21.4 million tons to 23.6 million tons.

DEP’s paper also notes, “in the last two decades there has been approximately $188 million diverted [from the Recycling Fund] to other programs including Waste Tire Remediation, Growing Greener, Forest Lands Beautification and General Fund augmentations.

“The most recent diversion of $50 million to the General Fund has greatly impeded DEP’s ability to implement new plans and new ideas.

“Stated simply, most of the recommendations in this report cannot be accomplished since adequate resources no longer exist.”  Read more here.

Related Articles:

-- PennEnvironment, PA Resources Council Release Plan To Reduce Waste, Improve Recycling Efforts, And Meet Modern Waste Challenges

-- Recycling Program, Managing Electronics Waste On DEP Citizens Advisory Council Agenda For Oct. 18

-- DEP Outlines Recommendations For Changing Act 101 And Electronics Waste Recycling Laws To Make Them More Effective At Dec. 16 Advisory Committee Meeting

-- DEP Bans Sale Of Electronic Devices Made By AWOW Tech For Not Complying With PA’s Electronic Waste Recycling Law; E-Waste Recycling Program Broken

[Posted: January 31, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

Pocono Heritage Land Trust: A Cautionary Tale In Land Conservation - Why A Handshake Is No Longer Enough

By Carol Hillestad for the
Pocono Heritage Land Trust

Back in the 1920s, a group of landowners, mostly farmers, got together to do something good for local kids.

Each family carved out a piece of their land — fields and forest, creeks and ponds — to create a Boy Scout camp in the heart of Polk Township.

All told, it was 755 acres of natural beauty.

Their intention was clear: to provide healthy outdoor experiences for generations to come. 

They worked with Harry C. Trexler, a well-known businessman and philanthropist, to sell the land to the Boy Scouts for this purpose. 

Back then, gratitude and promises were strong bonds. A handshake was good enough. 

And so, Camp Trexler came into being.

Generations of Scouts have loved the place. Their lives and spirits sanctified it. Descendants of those generous, good-hearted people still live on their nearby farms.

But it seems a handshake is no longer good enough.

The Scout organization is putting Camp Trexler up for sale. Even though the original owners’ aim had always been unmistakable, even though for almost 100 years the land has been used as those good-hearted farmers intended, it seems Camp Trexler is doomed.

Whatever you think about the Boy Scouts breaking promises to those neighbors, there’s a lesson here.

Maybe you have a farm, a hunting camp or fishing club or some woodlands and fields you want to see protected — for good — from development. 

No matter how sincere, trustworthy and reliable others are right now, circumstances change (just ask the Boy Scouts). 

And relying on future good faith down the line — of heirs, fellow club members, hunting buddies, or future generations — is inviting a travesty.

A local land trust, such as Pocono Heritage Land Trust, can help you make your wishes clear. Not informally over dinner with family, friends, or club members. But legally. And with teeth.

Maybe you don’t feel ready to make decisions like this.

Talk to a land trust, anyway. At least find out what the options might be, learn about tax advantages, and understand how to accomplish your goals.

Land trusts have been around since the 1800s. 

If only the Camp Trexler donors had known…

About Conservation Easements

Landowners have different goals for protecting their property, and no two conservation easements are the same. 

Each easement is tailored for a particular piece of property, its unique natural values, and the owner’s goals. 

Specific rights retained by a landowner or restricted by an easement vary with each property.

For more information on land conservation, upcoming events and how you can get involved, visit the Pocono Heritage Land Trust website.  Explore Our Nature Preserves.   Follow them on FacebookClick Here to sign up for email updates (bottom of page).

Founded in 1984, Pocono Heritage Land Trust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the natural heritage of the Pocono Mountains region by conserving land and inspiring people to care for, enjoy, and explore their natural world.

Related Article - Trexler:

-- Pocono Heritage Land Trust Seeks Partner To Protect 755-Acre Camp Trexler In Monroe County From Development  [PaEN]

Related Article This Week:

-- DCNR: Mount Jewett To Kinzua Bridge Trail, McKean County Selected As PA’s 2023 Trail Of The Year  [PaEN]

[Posted: January 31, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

PA Solar Center Webinar: Feb. 17 - Apply For USDA Rural Energy For America Program, G.E.T. Solar Programs To Reduce Your Energy Costs

PA Solar Center will host a webinar on February 17 on how to apply for the USDA Rural Energy For America Program and the G.E.T. Solar Communities Programs.

In 2023, agricultural and other businesses located in rural communities can access up to twice as much grant funding than normal through the USDA’s widely coveted “Rural Energy for America Program” (REAP). 

Overall funding has nearly doubled from $300 million to $550 million, and maximum grant amounts have increased from $500,000 to $1 million for renewable energy systems, including solar. 

According to the agency, the maximum federal grant share is also increasing from 25 percent to 40 percent of total project costs.

The USDA Communities Facilities grants and loans are also available for tax-exempt entities located in rural areas.

This infusion of essentially free money might be the impetus for many businesses and organizations to flip the switch to solar. Combining these grants with the tax benefits in the federal Inflation Reduction Act will result in substantial and immediate energy cost savings for almost all applicants as soon as the solar is turned on. 

We will review all this in February's webinar, as well as our G.E.T. Solar and G.E.T. Solar Communities programs, which offer businesses and tax entities technical assistance to go solar.

Click Here to register.  The webinar will be held from Noon to 1:15 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Solar Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit effort to raise the awareness of the benefits of solar energy in Pennsylvania. Click Here to sign up for regular updates.

Resource Links:

-- DEP Energy Programs Office - Financial Options

-- PA Environmental Management Assistance Program

Related Articles:

-- PennTAP: Apply Now For USDA Rural Energy For America Renewable Energy, Efficiency Improvement Loans, Grants  [PaEN]

-- Apply For West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund Funding Opportunities  [PaEN]

[Posted: January 31, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner