Friday, September 22, 2017

Sept. 25 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The September 25 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Here are just a few of the headlines--

Since the Senate and House are likely to be busy trying to reconcile the differences between the budget proposals passed by both chambers, it might be helpful to have in one place what each proposal contains.

Written By Sgt. Zane Craig, Fort Indiantown Gap
The Pennsylvania National Guard’s environmental office sustainability team at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County, staffed by both Pennsylvania National Guard members and Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs civilians, won the 2016 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for sustainability.

Walter N. Heine attended his last Citizens Advisory Council meeting at DEP on Tuesday after serving on the Council for 34 years.
Heine played a key role in shaping environmental policy in the regulation of mining operations in Pennsylvania as the Associate Deputy Secretary For Mines and Land Protection in DER from 1971 to 1977.
In 1977 President Jimmy Carter nominated Heine as the first Director of the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement after the passage of the first federal law to comprehensively regulate coal mining operations-- the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act-- that same year.  

Penn State University researchers are inviting stormwater practitioners to participate in a survey on current practices and implementation of green infrastructure in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed as well as attend an October 27 Chesapeake Stormwater Summit - Overcoming Barriers To Green Infrastructure Solutions in Harrisburg.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful invites schools in Pennsylvania to participate in the Litter Free School Zone Program, a comprehensive program that encourages young people to play an active role in protecting and improving our environment through recycling, litter awareness, and community stewardship.

The National Brownfields 2017 Conference is now accepting nominations for its Phoenix Awards to recognize exemplary brownfields redevelopment and revitalization.  The deadline for entries is October 4.

Laurel Hill State Park Hosts Salute To PA Outdoor Corps In State Parks, Forest Lands
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Thursday joined Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), Department of Labor & Industry officials and Bureau of State Parks representatives in saluting contributions and successes of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps at Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County.

Department of Agriculture officials published notice in the September 23 PA Bulletin announcing the Spotted Lanternfly quarantine has been expanded into 26 more municipalities in  Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties. (formal notice)

To read the Digest, visit: www.PaEnvironmentDigest.com.  Click Here to view or print the entire Digest.

PA Environment Digest is edited by David E. Hess, former Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and is published as a service of Crisci Associates.


Additional Tools--
Click Here to sign up to receive the Digest directly by email.
Click Here for a Calendar of Upcoming Events.
Click Here to search back issues of the Digest.
PA Environment Digest Twitter Feed: Update on PA environmental issues.
PA Environment Daily Blog: Update on PA environmental issues.
Green Works In PA Google+ Circle: Update on PA environmental issues.
Questions?: Send email to David Hess at: DHess@CrisciAssociates.com

DEP, Westmoreland County Partners View Progress In Redeveloping Jeannette Glass Brownfield Site

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell Friday toured the former Jeannette Glass site to see first-hand the importance of Pennsylvania’s brownfields program at work.
The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation led the tour of the 13-acre site in the heart of Jeannette with city, county and state officials.
WCIDC staff explained to McDonnell and others the latest progress on building demolition and cleanup to prime one of the largest vacant parcels in Jeannette for future development by the target of July 2018.
“DEP’s Land Recycling Program encourages public sector remediation projects, but we can’t achieve our cleanup goals without these partnerships,” said McDonnell. “The benefits are threefold—a cleaner environment, economic development, and revitalized communities.”
After Jeannette Glass declared bankruptcy in 1983, the property changed hands but remained largely idle and plagued with environmental violations, which prompted enforcement actions by DEP and the City of Jeannette.
WCIDC secured the deed in 2015, entered the voluntary Act 2 program, and later received grant money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling, or Act 2, program has been recognized as a national leader in in facilitating the reuse of contaminated commercial and industrial sites.
WCIDC elected to pursue site-specific standards for soil and groundwater and are currently characterizing the contaminants at the site.
Ground was broken in May 2017 to begin the remediation which consisted of asbestos abatement, building demolition, waste removal, and sampling. WCIDC reached out to DEP for assistance to pursue Act 2 release from liability.
“This site has sat idle for too long,” said Jason Rigone, executive director, WCIDC. “We’ve set an ambitious timetable to finish remediation to get the site back on the tax rolls—a key to Jeannette’s revitalization.”
“We met early with WCIDC staff to go over any permitting requirements they might have and how we could expedite the process to keep the project on schedule,” said Ron Schwartz, acting regional director for DEP’s Southwest Regional Office.
WCIDC received a $960,300 Industrial Site Reuse Program grant to help fund the cleanup. Under the Wolf Administration, $12.3 million in ISRP grants funded site assessments and remediation projects throughout the Commonwealth.
House Budget Cuts Threaten Reuse Program
“The latest House budget proposal raids the Industrial Site Reuse Program fund, effectively cancelling vital projects like this,” said McDonnell. “Contaminated and blighted properties are often obstacles to a community’s turnaround, but state investment through the ISRP is a catalyst to leverage private investment. Zeroing out these funds works against our efforts to remediate lands and spur economic development.”
For more information, visit DEP’s Land Recycling Program webpage.
Related Story:

Schuylkill Water Stewards Water Quality Monitoring Program Seeking Volunteers For Fall Class

The Green Valleys Watershed Association is now accepting applications for its Fall class for the Schuylkill Water Stewards Water Quality Monitoring Program.
The class focuses on the exceptional value French Creek, from its headwaters in southern Berks and northern Chester County as well as the high quality Pickering Creek – both vital tributaries to the Schuylkill River.
Join the effort to study them and keep them beautiful as a Schuylkill Water Steward (SWS) volunteer!
Schuylkill Water Steward volunteers will participate in four fun and engaging, weekend training sessions on the science of healthy watersheds, threats to local streams, water sampling techniques, and more. An emphasis is placed on hands-on, streamside training.
The SWS program is especially popular with sportsmen & women and environmental educators, although anyone who is interested in protecting and learning more about the streams in northern Chester and southern Berks Counties will find value in this training.
Classes begin on October 28, and continue through November 18. Following training, SWS volunteers will be part of a network that conducts water quality sampling and collects information on aquatic wildlife and their habitats.
Additional volunteer opportunities include stream cleanups and other restoration activities.
As a Schuylkill Water Steward, you will gain the satisfaction of being part of a team of like-minded individuals, in an effort that protects local streams for the benefit of the communities and wildlife that depend on them.
The deadline to register is October 20.
To learn more about the program and sign up, visit the Schuylkill Water Stewards website.

Tree Pittsburgh Receives Net Zero Sustainability Grant From Green Mountain Energy Sun Club

The ambitious goal of achieving net zero energy status and LEED Platinum certification is becoming a reality for Tree Pittsburgh’s new campus thanks in large part to a $134,800 solar and sustainability grant from the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club.
As a nonprofit dedicated to restoring and protecting the city’s urban forest, Tree Pittsburgh is committed to serving as a leader in sustainability.
The donation from the Sun Club, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing sustainability, will help establish them as the only agricultural organization in Pennsylvania powered by 100 percent solar energy.
“Tree Pittsburgh enriches the local community by connecting people to nature and educating them on the many environmental, social, economic and health benefits trees provide,” said Mark Parsons, president of Green Mountain Energy Sun Club. “Supporting organizations like Tree Pittsburgh is why the Sun Club was founded, and we’re proud to help them achieve net zero and LEED Platinum certification.”
Tree Pittsburgh’s sustainability project includes:
-- 57-kilowatt solar array on the roof of Tree Pittsburgh’s new office building;
-- Battery system for solar energy storage;
-- Rainwater capture system to collect 100 percent of rooftop runoff for landscape irrigation; and
-- Tree planting along the campus’ riverfront to restore critical riparian zone.
“We are so thankful for the Sun Club's generosity,” said Danielle Crumrine, executive director of Tree Pittsburgh. “Their donation of solar equipment for our new campus along the Allegheny River allows our building to be more sustainable and will benefit our organization and the environment for years to come.”
Arbor Aid Music Festival
The public is invited to attend Tree Pittsburgh’s annual Arbor Aid music festival, which benefits the urban forest, and Pittsburgh’s first-ever Pawpaw Fest on September 23, 2017, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark.
The family-friendly music event will include 10+ bands and artists, kids’ activities, food trucks, local beer and all things pawpaw.
The Sun Club, along with city officials, will dedicate the sustainability project before performer Melinda takes the stage at 4:30 p.m. The Sun Club will also have solar powered popcorn and a community art piece involving solar panels.
To date, the Sun Club has donated more than $6.5 million to support nearly 100 nonprofits in the Northeast and Texas through solar and sustainability projects like the one at Tree Pittsburgh.
To learn more about the Sun Club and how to nominate a worthy nonprofit for a sustainability grant, visit the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club website.

Walter N. Heine Recognized For 34 Years Of Service To DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council

Walter N. Heine attended his last Citizens Advisory Council meeting at DEP on Tuesday after serving on the Council for 34 years.
Heine was first appointed to Council in August of 1983.  The experience he brought to discussions was shaped by his background as a registered professional engineer and President and CEO of Walter N. Heine Associates, Inc. and as a former West Pennsboro Township Supervisor in Newville, Cumberland County.
From 1955 to 1970, Heine worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, serving as a staff engineer, operations engineer, regional sanitary engineer, and Chief of the Division of Mine Drainage Control.
Heine played a key role in shaping environmental policy in the regulation of mining operations in Pennsylvania as the Associate Deputy Secretary For Mines and Land Protection in DER from 1971 to 1977.
In 1977 President Jimmy Carter nominated Heine as the first Director of the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement after the passage of the first federal law to comprehensively regulate coal mining operations-- the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act-- that same year.  
Heine assisted in the drafting of the federal law whose provisions were based largely on Pennsylvania’s own mining program.
The new law established a comprehensive regulatory program for the coal mining industry, in cooperation with states, and provided funding for the reclamation of abandoned mine lands through enactment of a per ton mine reclamation fee.
During his nearly 3 years as Director of OSM, he oversaw the development and implementation of the first federal regulations covering coal mining and laid the foundation of today’s modern mining and reclamation programs.
If there is a father of federal coal mine regulation program, Walter N. Heine is it.
At the CAC meeting Heine reflected on his service on the Council saying, “It has been quite an experience” noting when he first started “just cleaning up a stream in those early days was a big deal.”
“Walter Heine’s career represents the leadership role Pennsylvania has had in shaping environmental programs that make sense not only for the Commonwealth, but also the nation,” said David E. Hess, former Secretary of DEP.  “I have very much appreciated the education Walter has given me over the years and benefited from his experience both in public service and the private sector.  I wish him well and thank him for his service to the people of Pennsylvania.”
During his tenure on Council he has served as Chairman from June 2004 through September 2006 and before that as Vice Chair.
He was elected to be one of Council’s representatives on the Environmental Quality Board, the board that adopts all of DEP’s regulations, and to the Mining and Reclamation Advisory Board. He was also a member of the Environmental Standards and Water Committees of Council.
For more information, visit DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council webpage or contact Lee Ann Murray, Executive Director of the Citizens Advisory Council, by calling 717-787-8171 or send email to: LeeMurray@pa.gov.

Analysis: Refresher On Senate, House Budget Proposals, A Race To The Bottom

Since the Senate and House are likely to be busy trying to reconcile the differences between the budget proposals passed by both chambers, it might be helpful to have in one place what each proposal contains.
First, no prizes will be issued to either proposal for “best budget” from an environment and energy point of view.
There are no prizes for cutting the least.
House Republican Budget
The House Republican revenue proposal in House Bill 453 (Fiscal Code) cuts a $317 million swath through environmental and energy funds removing financial support for community-based environmental restoration and recreation projects and conservation districts.
The most damage occurs to--
-- Recycling Fund - $70 million
-- Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund - $70 million
-- Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund - $50 million
-- Multimodal Transportation Fund - $50 million
-- Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund - $100 million
-- County Conservation District Fund - $2.5 million
-- Industrial Sites Cleanup Fund - $10 million
-- Industrial Sites Environmental Assessment Fund - $7.5 million
-- Energy Development Fund - $3.96 million
-- Environmental Education Fund - $500,000
-- Coal Lands Improvement Fund - $2 million
-- Highway Beautification Fund - $500,000
-- Solid Waste-Resource Recovery Development Fund - $448,000
But, the damage does not stop there.
The bill includes environmental riders, just like the Senate-passed revenue plan, that have nothing to do with the budget, including--
-- Extends, Not Repeals Newark Shale Moratorium: Extends the existing ban on drilling in the Newark Shale natural gas deposits in the Southeast to January 1, 2024 from 2018.  (new from Senate plan)
-- Air Pollution Act Transfer: $30.4 million from a settlement by the Attorney General relating to violations of the Air Pollution Control Act by Volkswagen received during the fiscal year to the General Fund. (same as Senate plan)
-- Oil and Gas Lease Fund: Annually transfer $20 million [supposed to be $35 million] from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund for distribution to the Environmental Stewardship Fund and $15 million transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund to transfer to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund. (same as Senate plan)
-- Small Water And Sewer System Funding: $15 million available for small water and sewer projects with a cost of not less than $30,00 or more than $500,000.  Transfers an additional $10 million from Building PA Program to small water and sewer projects. (same as Senate plan)
-- Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions: Authorizes the Auditor General to audit the river basin commissions and no more than 25 percent of the appropriations to the commissions may be spent in any quarter and the commissions shall reimburse the Auditor General for the cost of the audit.  (same as Senate plan)
-- Farm Succession Planning Grants: Allows the Department of Agriculture to use funds from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund for succession planning grants to continue agricultural operations.  (same as Senate plan)
-- Funding For Washington Crossing Historical Park: Requires $2.25 million of DCNR’s State Parks Operations line item to be expended on maintenance for Washington Crossing State Park. (same as Senate plan)
-- Taken Out Of Senate Plan: Natural Gas Pipeline Fund: $6 million transfer from the Building Pennsylvania Program to the Natural Gas Pipeline Fund
-- Taken Out Of Senate Plan: Funding Sewer/Water Laterals: Allows public municipal authorities to use funds to replace private water and sewer laterals.
-- Taken Out Of Senate Plan: Temporary Cessation Of Oil & Gas Wells: Provisions relating to payments of royalties during periods of nonproduction.
Senate Revenue Plan
The Senate passed a revenue plan that does not rely on taking money out of environmental and energy funds, but it does uproot environmental permit programs, blocks initiatives and removes key environmental standards.
The Senate plan is endorsed by Senate Republicans and Democrats, House Democrats and Gov. Wolf and it passed the Senate by a vote of 26 to 24 on July 27 in a three bill package-- Tax Code House Bill 542 (still in the House), Fiscal Code House Bill 453 (returned by the House to the Senate amended with the Republican plan) and the Administrative Code House Bill 118 (still in the House).
Senate Tax Code
While House Bill 542 contains a new severance tax expected to generate about $108 million the first year, the revenues are pledged to hold harmless the Unconventional Gas Well [Act 13 Impact Fee] Fund at the $200 million a year level and the remainder will be deposited in the General Fund.
A new Gross Receipts Tax on natural gas is included that would generate about $303.7 million the first year, of which $20 million is dedicated to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and $20 million for natural gas infrastructure improvements and to expand market access for residential gas customers.
The bill also makes permanent the Wild Resources Conservation Tax Checkoff.
But the bill also includes riders that have nothing to do with the budget which--
-- Third-Party Permit Reviews: Requires DEP to set up a third-party permit review program for all its permit programs that would allow unqualified individuals review and issue permits, even their own applications.  Click Here for more.
-- Legislative Approval Of Oil & Gas Emission Controls: Creates a special 7-member (6 legislative appointees) “Advisory” Committee that must approve any air quality general permits for oil and gas operations that is clearly designed to block the General Permits DEP proposed to better control these emissions.  Click Here for more.
-- Deemed Approved Oil & Gas Permits: Would deem approved oil and gas well permits where DEP did not complete a review within a certain number of days regardless of whether they met environmental standards or not. Click Here for more.
A coalition of business leaders, including shale gas, distanced themselves publicly from these changes to permit programs in August saying, in part, they did not believe they would survive a legal challenge.  So, it begs the question, who exactly supports these changes, beyond the legislators who proposed them?
Senate Administrative Code
House Bill 542 contains a mish-mash of environmental riders many of which have little to do with the budget--
-- Recycling Fee Extension: Removes the sunset date for the $2/ton municipal waste recycling fee and funds will remain in the Recycling fund for grants. [Senate Bill 646 (Killion-R- Delaware) pending in the House would extend the Recycling Fee for only 1 year.]
-- Solar Borders: Requiring solar energy credits under the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards to be purchased within Pennsylvania. [Senate Bill 404 this session, House Bill 2040 last session.]
-- Manganese Standard: Directs the Environmental Quality Board to propose regulations setting a point source water quality criterion for manganese and changing the point of compliance from the discharge point to the point of intake by public water supplies. [Supported by the Coal Alliance adopting a standard used by West Virginia prohibiting enforcement of a manganese discharge standard unless it was within 5 miles of a water supply.]
-- Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Treatment: Requires water treatment facilities providing water disposal services exclusively to conventional oil and gas wells shall be allowed to operate under existing permits through December 31, 2019. \[Supported by conventional oil & gas drilling industry and applies to three privately-operated conventional wastewater treatment facilities.]
-- Wyoming County State Park: Requires DCNR to conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a state park in Wyoming County, including an appraisal of the fair market value of property proposed for a state park. [No funding provided.]
Senate Fiscal Code
The Senate version of House Bill 453 has everything the House did, but added, as noted above--
-- Natural Gas Pipeline Fund: $6 million transfer from the Building Pennsylvania Program to the Natural Gas Pipeline Fund
-- Funding Sewer/Water Laterals: Allows public municipal authorities to use funds to replace private water and sewer laterals.
-- Temporary Cessation Of Oil & Gas Wells: Provisions relating to payments of royalties during periods of nonproduction.
Analysis - How Will It All Fit?
No one knows the final shape of the budget, but the starting points for negotiations on environmental and energy funding and program changes isn’t all that encouraging, unless sufficient public pressure is brought to bear to step back from these proposals.
These cuts and changes, whatever they will be, come on top of more than a decade of cuts to the General Fund budgets for DEP and DCNR.  
DEP, in particular, has seen a 40 percent reduction in General Fund support and lost over 25 percent of its staff over the last 14 years.
And these cuts are in addition to the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut 40 percent or more from the grants to states, including Pennsylvania, to administer federal environmental programs.  If those cuts are enacted, on top of state funding cuts, the impact will be to cripple these programs.
And this at a time when Pennsylvania’s Safe Drinking Water, Air Quality, Mining and other programs are being criticized by the federal government for not even meeting minimum federal requirements for inspections and other obligations.
There seems to be a three part strategy being implemented to dismantle and hamstring Pennsylvania’s environmental programs--
-- Step 1: Cut the budgets for state agencies with environmental programs-- DEP, DCNR, Agriculture trying to hamstring environmental programs from the top down (already implemented);
-- Step 2: Eliminate funding for community-based environmental restoration and recreation projects, essentially trying to eliminate environmental protection efforts from the bottom up (proposed by House Republicans); and
-- Step 3: Eliminate environmental protection and program laws themselves (already suggested in a number of bills and this week by one House Republican who said he wants to get rid of the mandate to recycle added in response to a question on the Growing Greener Program-- Two-thirds of the state is covered by woods, so “how much greener should we be?
Over the last two weeks environmental groups, county and township governments and many others have opposed the dramatic cuts and changes proposed by the House and Senate.
They clearly demonstrated the value of these programs to the public, communities and the environment.
Now it’s up to members of the House and Senate to listen.
(Written By: David E. Hess, former DEP Secretary under Governors Ridge and Schweiker.)
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