Monday, January 22, 2018

Philadelphia Green City, Clean Waters Student Art Contest Now Accepting Entries

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and the Philadelphia Water Department are now accepting entries for the 2018 Green City, Clean Waters Student Art Contest. The deadline for entries is February 28.
This annual competition is open to all students from kindergarten through 12th grade, including those that are homeschooled, throughout the City of Philadelphia.
For seventeen years, the nonprofit National Estuary Program has been a partner of the Philadelphia Water Department to administer this exciting contest, which educates thousands of children in public and private schools annually about stormwater runoff, a leading cause of water pollution throughout the Delaware Estuary.
This form of pollution occurs when water from rain or melted snow flows over sealed surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks, and streets. This rainwater picks up litter, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants on its way into sewers and into the water bodies we use for swimming, fishing, drinking and more.
So what do creative students get if they win? The top three winners in each of the four age groups receive gift cards ranging from $25 to $100, artwork featured in the 2018-2019 calendar (which is free to the public), and the opportunity to win the brand new “People’s Choice Award.”
This new award will go to the student whose artwork that gets the most online votes from the public. But that’s not all!
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will feature first place drawings in an advertising campaign for thousands of people too enjoy.
“Marrying art with sciences is an extremely effective way to explain difficult concepts,” says RenĂ©e Brecht, Director of Outreach with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.  “This contest provides a perfect avenue for teachers to talk about impacts on our waterways in a fun, positive and engaging way. Hands-on activities that stimulate creativity are exactly what new science standards are trying to move towards, and we want to help Philadelphia teachers do this.”
Teachers- you get something too! The first school to submit 100 qualified entries or more by the February 28 deadline will also receive a $100 gift card for school supplies. Plus, each teacher of a winning student will receive a $50 gift card.
To learn more about water pollution, visit the Green City, Clean Waters Student Art Contest webpage.  Questions should be directed to Brittany Musolino at 302-655-4990 ext.112.

PA Supreme Court Throws Out Congressional District Maps, Senate Rs To Seek U.S. Supreme Court Stay, Start Drawing New Maps

The PA Supreme Court Monday, by a vote of 4 to 3, issued a decision finding the state’s Congressional District Map “clear, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.”
The General Assembly and Governor have until February 15 to submit a revised plan for consideration by the Court.
If the General Assembly and Governor fail to act by that date, the Court itself will adopt a plan based on the evidentiary record development in the Commonwealth Court.
To comply with its decision, the Court said, “...any congressional districting plan shall consist of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said they will seek a stay of the Court’s order before the U.S. Supreme Court in a statement--
“Today’s ruling by the State Supreme Court is a partisan action showing a distinct lack of respect for the Constitution and the legislative process.  The PA Supreme Court has overstepped its legal authority and set up an impossible deadline that will only introduce chaos in the upcoming Congressional election.  
“The Court had this case since November 9, 2017 – giving it over 10 weeks to reach this decision.  Yet, it has elected to give the legislature 19 days to redraw and adopt the Congressional Districts.  With matters the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in the past, it afforded the General Assembly four months to make corrections.
“It is clear that with this ruling the Court is attempting to bypass the Constitution and the legislative process and legislate themselves, directly from the bench.  We will be filing an application with the United States Supreme Court this week to request a stay.”
In response to questions from the media, Drew Crompton, Chief Of Staff for Sen. Scarnati, said the lack of a written opinion has the Senate “flying blind here a little bit,” but they will be starting the process of developing a new map to the best of their ability given the timeline they were given by the Court while they pursue the U.S. Supreme Court stay.  He said they have to, given the 19 day timeline.  “We will start today.”
Crompton noted the formal appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court has to wait for the PA Supreme Court's written opinion.  Only the Order has been issued at this point.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said this on Twitter about the decision -- “I call on all four caucuses and Gov. Wolf to come together as soon as possible to draw bipartisan, fair and appropriate maps before the February 9 deadline.”
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) said this about the Court decision-- “Gerrymandering, the voter ID law, shrinking the House and other measures that impact some communities more than others are cynical ploys by the Republican majority to choose their voters rather letting voters choose their representatives in fair elections. The Supreme Court’s decision sends a strong signal that change is at hand in Pennsylvania politics and government.
“It’s a victory for people over entrenched special interests.
“The contorted 2011 congressional map never passed a simple eye test. Now the Supreme Court has clearly said it doesn’t pass the legal test either.
“House Democrats will be active participants in a bipartisan effort to meet the very tight deadline set by the court to enact congressional districts that are constitutional.”
Gov. Tom Wolf issued this statement in response to the Court's action-- "I strongly believe that gerrymandering is wrong and consistently have stated that the current maps are unfair to Pennsylvanians. My administration is reviewing the order and we are assessing the executive branch's next steps in this process."
The Justices supporting the PA Supreme Court decision all ran as Democrats.  Justices Baer (D) and Mundy (R) and Chief Justice Saylor (R) joined by Justice Mundy all filed dissenting statements.
For copies of the documents related to this ruling--
-- Click Here for the Court’s Order
-- Click Here for Justice Baer Dissenting Statement
-- Click Here for Chief Justice Saylor Dissenting Statement
-- Click Here for Justice Mundy Dissenting Statement
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Winners Of 2018 PA Park & Forests Volunteerism, Leadership And Management Awards

The PA Parks and Forests Foundation Monday announced the winners of its 2018 awards to  recognize the outstanding service, programs, and exemplary work being done in state parks and forests.
This year’s winners will be honored at the 12th annual banquet on May 9, 2018 at the Susquehanna Club, New Cumberland.  Sponsorships for awards are available.
“The awards banquet is one of my favorite times of year,” said Marci Mowery, President of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation. “The commitment of the award winners to the stewardship of our public lands for generations to come inspires and engenders a continued commitment to these precious resources.”
Award Winners:
-- Cliff Jones Keystone Legacy Award: This top honor is being awarded to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn to recognize her outstanding contribution to the protection and enhancement to the park and forest system in Pennsylvania.
-- President’s Award: The Pennsylvania Wilds Conservation Landscape Program and the PA Wilds Center are being awarded the President’s Award to recognize their outstanding work to protect open space, conservation, outdoor recreation, and volunteerism.
-- Joe Ibberson Government Award: Rep. Kate M. Harper (R-Montgomery) is being awarded the Joe Ibberson Government Award for her focus on preserving the environment and work to protect and enhance the state’s Growing Greener program, Keystone Recreation, and Parks and Conservation Fund, which supports open space, historic preservation and improvements to state parks and forests.
-- Park of the Year: Cook Forest State Park is being recognized for its exemplary and innovative work in customer service, education, programming, recreation, stewardship of the natural, cultural, historic assets, and/or accommodation of special needs of visitors.
-- Forest of the Year: Rothrock State Forest is being recognized for the innovative and exemplary work in both forest management and recreation being done.
-- Improvement Award: Boulder Woods Country Club is being recognized for the creation and stewardship of two disc golf courses at Gifford Pinchot State Park.
-- Education Award: Marilyn and Tom Fye are being recognized for their help with decades of education programming, campground hosting, volunteerism, and commitment to Parker Dam and Clear Creek State Parks and their visitors.
-- Volunteerism Award: The Over-the Hill Gang at Oil Creek State Park, is being recognized for their decades of dedication to the maintenance and care of the 40 miles of trails in Oil Creek State Park.
-- Young Volunteer Award: Sarah Reeping is being recognized for her significant commitment to volunteerism at the Laurel Hill State Park complex.
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.

Westmoreland Shale Gas Stream Monitoring Workshop Feb. 24

The Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring and Protect Penn-Trafford will hold a Shale Gas Stream Monitoring Workshop on February 24 at the Protect PT at 3337 Route 130 Suite 2 in Harrison City, Westmoreland County from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
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.
Limited spots are available, so please RSVP by filling out the form below.
Click Here to register.  For more information or questions, contact Natalie McNeill by sending email to: mcneilln@dickinson.edu  or call 717-254-8143.

Western PA Conservancy, DCNR Host 2018 Riparian Forest Buffer Summit Feb. 28-March 1 In State College

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are hosting the 2018 Riparian Forest Buffer Summit at the Ramada Conference Center in State College February 28 and March 1.
The Summit was created as an opportunity for those interested in the health of Pennsylvania’s waterways to learn more about the vital role Riparian areas play and how we can improve planting and maintaining them.
The Summit will provide attendees with information and skills-- from creating planting plans to working with contractors-- that they can utilize in their day-to-day work.
Those who would benefit from attending include conservation professionals and decision-makers that work with riparian forest buffers across Pennsylvania.
There will also be opportunity for exhibitors and vendors.
For all the details and to register, visit the 2018 Riparian Forest Buffer Summit webpage.
For more information on buffers, visit DCNR’s Forest Buffers webpage.

Pittsburgh Water Authority Reports Water Sampling Results Show Lead Exceeding EPA Action Level

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Monday released estimated results from its most recent compliance testing for lead required by state and federal regulations showing it has exceeded the EPA action level of 15 ppb (parts per billion).
PWSA expects the Department of Environmental Protection to certify the compliance testing results Tuesday.
One hundred eighteen (118) samples were collected from homes that were determined to have, or are expected to have, lead service lines or plumbing.
The 90th percentile results from the latest round of testing were 21 ppb, exceeding the EPA action level of 15 ppb. Previous compliance testing results were 15 ppb in June 2017, 18 ppb in December 2016 and 22 ppb in June 2016.
According to EPA, there is no safe level of lead. Residents should continue to consider the recommendations provided by PWSA to reduce exposure to lead if they know or suspect they have lead service lines or plumbing.
Samples were taken by customers at 114 residential sites based on a method prescribed under DEP and EPA guidelines. Four samples were submitted twice from the same sites. All samples were taken from homes that have, or are expected to have, lead service lines or plumbing.
Service lines are the connections from the home to the water main and are the primary source of lead entering tap water. Samples were sent by customers directly to an independent, accredited lab, and the results were reviewed and will be calculated by DEP.
Seventy four percent of the samples collected were below 10 ppb. The details of the December 2017 compliance testing results, as well as a comparison of previous testing rounds, are as follows:
-- 38 are non-detect for lead
-- 23 are between 2.1 and 4.9 ppb
-- 27 are between 5 and 9.9 ppb
-- 12 are between 10 and 14 ppb
-- 4 are between 15 and 19 ppb
-- 11 are between 20 and 49 ppb
-- 3 are higher than 50 ppb
Click Here for more complete sampling results.   Click Here for a frequently asked questions document on lead in water from the Authority.
For more on actions by DEP related to lead in the Pittsburgh Water Authority system, visit DEP’s Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority webpage.
For more on the issue statewide, visit DEP’s Lead In Drinking Water webpage.
NewsClips:

U.S. EIA Forecasts Natural Gas To Remain Primary Source For Electricity Generation

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's January 2018 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecasts that natural gas will remain the primary source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years.
The share of total electricity supplied by natural gas-fired power plants is expected to average 33 percent in 2018 and 34 percent in 2019, up from 32 percent in 2017.
Power plant operators are scheduled to bring 20 gigawatts (GW) of new natural-gas fired generating capacity online in 2018, which, if realized, would be the largest increase in natural gas capacity since 2004.
Almost 6 GW of the capacity additions are being built in Pennsylvania alone, and more than 2 GW are being built in Texas. In contrast, about 13 GW of coal-fired capacity are scheduled to be retired in 2018.
EIA expects the share of generation from coal, which had been the predominant electricity generation fuel for decades, to average 30 percent in 2018 and 28 percent in 2019, compared with 30 percent in 2017.
Generation from renewable energy sources other than hydropower has grown rapidly in recent years. EIA expects the average annual U.S. share of total utility-scale generation from non-hydro renewables to exceed 10 percent for the first time in 2019.
The mix of energy sources used for producing electricity generation continues to shift in response to changes in fuel costs and the development of renewable energy technologies. Since 2015, the cost of natural gas delivered to electric generators has generally averaged $3.50 per million British thermal units (Btu) or less, and it is expected to remain near this level through 2019.
EIA expects the cost of natural gas for electricity generation to remain relatively competitive with coal-fired electricity over the next two years.
The average cost of natural gas delivered to generators in 2018 is forecast to fall 2 percent, while the forecast delivered cost of coal rises 5 percent. These relative price changes should increase the share of natural gas generation in 2018.
The costs of both natural gas and coal in 2019 are expected to remain relatively unchanged from this year’s forecast prices.
These changes in the generating capacity mix contribute to the continuing switch from coal to natural gas, especially in southern and midwestern states.
Click Here for the complete report.
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POWR Now Accepting Applications For 2018 Pennsylvania Sojourn Grants

The PA Organization of Watersheds and Rivers is now accepting applications for 2018 Pennsylvania River Sojourn Grants.  The deadline for applications is February 26.
Grants are available on a competitive basis for single and multi-day paddling events on Pennsylvania Rivers. Sojourns must incorporate significant educational programming, and be open to all participants (i.e., private trips are not eligible).
The PA Sojourn Program is a nationally unique program that distributes more than $40,000 in grants across the state to support local organizations and their sojourn events.
Each year, between 10 and 15 paddling events are supported under this program, encompassing over 500 river miles, 50+ on-the-water days, offering more than 100 educational programs and engaging over 12,000 people.
Click Here for all the details.  Questions should be direct to Angela Vitkoski, Project Manager, or Janet Sweeney, PEC Vice President, at 570-718-6507 or send email to: avitkoski@pecpa.org or jsweeney@pecpa.org.
For more information on programs, initiatives and other events, visit the PA Organization of Watersheds and Rivers website.  POWR is an affiliate of the PA Environmental Council.

PA Environmental Council: Senate Bill 977 Reduces Transparency, Gives 1 Committee Power To Delay Regulations

The PA Environmental Council Monday wrote to members of the Senate Rules Committee asking them to oppose Senate Bill 977 which limits information given to the public on proposed regulation changes and gives one committee of the House or Senate the authority to delay consideration of any regulation.
Senate Bill 977 is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Rules Committee TODAY in an off-the-floor meeting.
The text of PEC’s letter follows--
Today you may be asked to vote on Senate Bill 977, legislation similar to last session’s Senate Bill 562 that was vetoed by the Governor over concerns that it would cause uncertainty in the regulatory process and decrease transparency in state government. These concerns remain with the language of Senate Bill 977. For these reasons, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council respectfully asks that you oppose Senate Bill 977.
Specifically, our concerns with this legislation are as follows:
First, Senate Bill 977 would block publication of agency Statements of Purpose for rulemakings in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. There is no equitable rationale for this proposed revision to a longstanding, statutory practice – in fact, it decreases transparency by limiting information provided to the public.
Second, Senate Bill 977 enables standing committees of the General Assembly to unilaterally postpone Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) consideration of rulemaking proposals.
Currently, the Regulatory Review Act gives standing committees the power to further review or disapprove a regulatory proposal after the IRRC – which consists of four legislative appointees and one appointee of the Governor – has voted on it.
Moreover, IRRC does not vote until after a proposal has been vetted by legal and scientific experts; subjected to review by the general public, advisory committees, the General Assembly, and the Attorney General; in addition to being vetted in other forums like the Environmental Quality Board.
Under existing law, when a standing committee invokes its power to review or disapprove, a regulatory proposal is stayed for a definite period of time, and can eventually be brought to a vote before the full legislature. In short, the General Assembly’s current oversight power is both substantial and well defined.
By contrast, Senate Bill 977 would enable standing committees to invoke the power to “further review” of proposed regulations a mere 24 hours before the IRRC votes, and sets an indefinite time frame by basing said review on the legislative calendar.
Given that there are prolonged periods where the General Assembly is out of session, this delay could extend over several months. This could have the effect of invalidating rulemaking proposals merely by lack of action by a single Committee within the mandatory rulemaking timeframe already set by law.
While we understand the importance of ensuring that standing committees receive all necessary and supporting information for review of regulatory proposals, Senate Bill 977 would block some of that information from being provided to the public at large, and create greater uncertainty for review and finalization of proposals.
Senate Bill 977 undermines certainty and transparency in the rulemaking process, and is against the public interest. We ask you to oppose this legislation.
Thank you for your consideration.
Click Here for a copy of the letter.
The prime sponsor of Senate Bill 977 said the legislation was needed to give committee additional time to review regulations.
On the requirement to remove the statements of purpose for a regulation for publication in the PA Bulletin for the public to see, the prime sponsor said, "There have been instances when courts have interpreted SOPs in a way that is either inconsistent with the regulations themselves or inconsistent with the intent of the General Assembly. This legislation seeks to correct those instances."
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.
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