Tuesday, February 21, 2017

PEMA, DCED Release Funds For Projects To Reduce Flooding, Sinkhole Impacts

The PA Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Community and Economic Development Tuesday announced the award of grants to six communities to acquire homes in order to avoid future losses from events such as flooding or sinkholes.
The grants include—
-- Columbia County: Scott Township $947,007 15 households
-- Dauphin County: CDBG-DR City of Harrisburg  $2,579,099 28 households
-- Dauphin County: PDM City of Harrisburg #1 $600,000. This is CDBG-DR money to satisfy the local share required by the previously awarded 2015 FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant of $1.65 million. 25 households
-- Lebanon County: South Lebanon Township $195,000  1 household
-- Luzerne County: Plymouth Township $2,500,000 23 households
-- Wyoming County: Wyoming $2,453,000 14 households
“These grants provide communities with the opportunity to remove people and structures from harm’s way in high-hazard areas, without having to pay for it entirely on their own,” said PEMA Director Richard D. Flinn Jr. “We are happy to work with our state and federal partners to work on behalf of the impacted citizens of the Commonwealth.”
The homes in the projects listed below were selected by grant-eligible communities. PEMA and DCED assisted in the application development process.
A total of 106 homeowners will have the opportunity to participate in the buyout program using up to $8.3 million in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funding through DCED.
It is important to note that homeowners may at any time voluntarily decline to participate in the program, and the numbers below may fluctuate as a result.
“Ensuring that businesses and communities have opportunities to succeed and thrive is key to DCED’s work,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin. “By contributing to these efforts we are aiding the movement of individuals away from potential harm – both physical and financial. In doing so, we are also contributing to the overall, shared economic well-being of the Commonwealth.”
PEMA will administer these funds directly with the municipal grant recipients. PEMA received 16 applications totaling more than $16 million in requests that were reviewed by the State Application Review Team.
The scoring criteria included but was not limited to: projects benefiting a low and moderate income neighborhood; projects must be located in one of the five hardest-hit counties during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; eligible municipalities must be in good standing as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Program; and eligible municipality must prove the capability to meet all requirements to complete the projects in a timely manner.
PEMA staff will continue to work with DCED personnel to ensure an expedited process to move homeowners and tenants out of these high risk areas using these awarded funds and to restore the floodplain to its natural state and ensure the safety of those near areas vulnerable to sinkholes.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Save The Bay Photo Contest Now Open

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation 2017 Save the Bay Photo Contest is now accepting entries through March 24.
CBF is celebrating its 50th year and they want to see how you see the Chesapeake Bay and all its rivers and streams.
The contest is open to both amateur and professional photographers, and we are seeking photographs that illustrate the positive aspects of the Bay and its rivers and streams. All photos must include water from the Chesapeake Bay or a river, stream, creek, or other body of water inside the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Official judging will be conducted by a panel of CBF employees who will judge entries on subject matter, composition, focus, lighting, uniqueness, and impact. The public will also be able to vote online for their favorite photo in the Viewers' Choice Gallery.
The cash awards include: First Prize: $500; Second Prize: $250; Third Prize: $150; and Viewers' Choice: $100.
In addition, the first-prize photograph will appear in CBF's 2018 calendar. And that's not all:  All winners will also receive a one-year membership to CBF and will have their photos displayed on CBF's website, in a CBF e-newsletter, and in CBF's Save the Bay magazine.
For all the details and to submit entries, visit the 2017 Save the Bay Photo Contest webpage.
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here for a copy of CBF-PA’s most recent newsletter.

March 9 Get Your Feet Wet! Workshop For Teachers In Montgomery County

The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership will host a Get Your Feet Wet! Teacher Workshop on March 9 at the Cheltenham Elementary School, 7853 Front Street, Cheltenham, Montgomery County from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Explore watershed education resources! Discover the Fairmount Water Works Understanding the Urban Watershed curriculum, participate in hands-on activities for classroom & schoolyard and learn about local restoration & water monitoring projects.
This workshop will have a special focus on Earth Day resources.
Other partners in presenting the workshop are Stroud Water Research Center, The Nature Conservancy-PA, Briar Bush Nature Center, the National Wildlife Federation and others.
The workshop is free and includes dinner. To RSVP and to have your questions answered, contact Emilie at 215-744-1853 or send email to: emilie@ttfwatershed.org.

DEP Citizens Advisory Council: The Consistent Cuts To DEP's Budget Are Unsustainable

The independent Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday unanimously approved the text of a letter to Senate and House Appropriations Committee Chairs expressing serious concerns about current funding levels at the Department of Environmental Protection saying, in part, “consistent cuts to DEP over the last 2 decades has reached an unsustainable level.”
The Council said, “Over the last 14 years, DEP has diligently done more with less funding, less staff, and less resources while fixed costs have continued to rise and unfunded mandates, both at the state and federal level, have also sharply risen.
“The General Fund appropriation for the Department has decreased steadily from a high of $245.6M in FY 2002-03 to the current $152 million in the proposed FY 2017-18 Budget.
“At the same time, reliance on federal funding including augmentations and special funds where appropriate have risen to cover the decreasing General Fund dollars, but this solution also has finite applicability.
“To respond to this gap, DEP has looked to the regulated community for increased permit and annual fees just to cover the general cost of operation and staffing levels to handle the increased permitting and inspection requirements that have been instituted on the department through legislation and the courts.”
The letter also points out DEP has received several letters from federal agencies citing failure to meet minimum federal program standards in the Safe Drinking Water and Mining Programs due to staff shortages.
The Council gives DEP credit for its initiatives in electronic permitting and to get consultants/applicants to submit complete permit applications in the first place to get permit reviews done on time with dwindling staff.
The Council noted, “Legislative proposals to shorten review time that do not include increased funding for staff resources to complete reviews nor an exemption from this provision merely compound the problem as well as stifle economic development.”
Both the Council’s letter and Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said at the meeting DEP faces a particular problem with significant numbers of employees reaching the 30+ years of service milestone.  McDonnell noted 319 employees are now at that milestone and another 213 will reach it by June 30-- that’s 22 percent of DEP’s staff.
In addition to concerns about basic funding, Council also pointed to other more specific funding and program issues that need resolution by the General Assembly.
“We look forward to working with the Legislature to extend the sunset date for the Recycling Fund [and recycling fee] in Act 101, making improvements to the Covered Device Recycling Act, and finding a funding solution for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund that is dwindling due to the cessation of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax and the Storage Tank Fund that needs addressed by June 30, 2017.”
A copy of the letter approved by Council is available online.
The text of the letter follows--
The Citizens Advisory Council is writing to you today to encourage a more adequate funding level be appropriated for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2107-18 Budget.
Over the last 14 years, DEP has diligently done more with less funding, less staff, and less resources while fixed costs have continued to rise and unfunded mandates, both at the state and federal level, have also sharply risen.
The General Fund appropriation for the Department has decreased steadily from a high of $245.6M in FY 2002-03 to the current $152 million in the proposed FY 2017-18 Budget.
At the same time, reliance on federal funding including augmentations and special funds where appropriate have risen to cover the decreasing General Fund dollars, but this solution also has finite applicability.
To respond to this gap, DEP has looked to the regulated community for increased permit and annual fees just to cover the general cost of operation and staffing levels to handle the increased permitting and inspection requirements that have been instituted on the department through legislation and the courts.
The staff and the leadership of the DEP have always diligently risen to the challenge to uphold the mission of the agency, but it is time we recognize they need our help as well.
There are also several funds that will require legislative action before this fiscal year is out.
Over the last year, it has become apparent that DEP needs additional support from the General Fund or through fee increases to maintain service and retain delegated authorities from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in several areas.
The letter dated December 30, 2016 from EPA Water Protection Deputy Jon Capacasa indicates that DEP staffing levels have fallen well below adequate to retain primacy of the Safe Drinking Water Program.
A loss of primacy will mean a loss of direct funds for staff in the Safe Drinking Water Program including regional staff such as Sanitary Enforcement Officers and other who inspect and work with the over 9,200 drinking water systems across the Commonwealth as well at $100 million in federal funds for the PennVest program.
The current fee proposal of $7.5 million seeks to make up the diminished General Fund appropriation, but that fee will ultimately be paid by every citizen on a public water system passed through by the managing company or municipality.
The program will work to find efficiencies through electronic permitting and inspection but that cannot replace the one on one interaction with inspectors or the time needed by a permit reviewer to review and approve a permit that will withstand legal scrutiny, especially with the large number of small municipal systems maintained in Pennsylvania.
DEP has five fee packages pending to try to cover similar funding shortfalls across the agency.
Please also be aware that whenever many water related permits are challenged, a provision of the Clean Streams Law allows for the collection of attorney’s fees should the challenger prevail.
That means DEP pays out of the Clean Water Fund as DEP is the defender of the permit, not the permittee nor the licensed professional who generated the application. The statutory authority falls squarely on DEP.  
Legislative proposals to shorten review time that do not include increased funding for staff resources to complete reviews nor an exemption from this provision merely compound the problem as well as stifle economic development.
Other areas that the EPA and the Office of Surface Mining have cautioned the department on staffing inadequacies include but are not limited to the Bureau of Air Quality and the Mining Program.
An audit of both programs concluded the staffing levels were becoming insufficient to administer the programs as well as the augmentations against these funds for staff were becoming inappropriate but DEP lacks the appropriate level of funding on the general funds under Environmental Program Management and Environmental Program Operations to compensate the necessary staff.
The Mining Program faces extra issues in FY 2017-18 because 30 percent of the staff eligible for the early retirement offered by Governor Wolf are located in this program, most of that staff are located in regional offices where permitting and inspection activities occur.
The key issue for DEP is how to maintain a balance of the appropriate level of well trained staff to execute the mission of the agency while adjusting to changes in legal authorities due to statutes or legal precedent, right to know compliance, working with permit applicants and holders, and responding to citizens.
DEP is charged with reviewing permit applications and approving applications that comport with the protective environmental standards for that action.
DEP is vigorously doing its part to have more administratively complete and technically adequate applications come through the door by offering pre-application meetings with applicants, consultants, and DEP staff, improving technical guidance and fact sheets related to permits, turning to electronic permitting to require applications be filled out completely and properly before submission, and engaging stakeholders in listening sessions across program to identify permitting inconsistencies and develop work groups to address technical issues.
However, all of these improvements cannot completely make up for the time needed for review of a permit by a physical person.
The best way to increase DEP’s ability to review permits in a timelier manner to improve economic development is to increase the General Fund appropriations to DEP.
The alternative is to continue down the path where the regulated community shoulders all of the burden through permit, annual, and inspection fees which may make certain business activities unobtainable for many small to medium businesses and industries currently in distress.  
All of Pennsylvania’s citizens benefit from economic development being conducted in an environmentally conscious manner, making it a worthy application of our precious tax dollars.  
We hope you will consider our endorsement of additional funding for the department as you work on the arduous task of setting the budget for the next fiscal year.
We are aware that everyone will be approaching you with the expectations for additional funds, but the consistent cuts to DEP over the last 2 decades has reached an unsustainable level.
We look forward to working with the Legislature to extend the sunset date for the Recycling Fund in Act 101, making improvements to the Covered Device Recycling Act, and finding a funding solution for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund that is dwindling due to the cessation of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax and the Storage Tank Fund that needs addressed by June 30, 2017.
Thank you for your consideration and if you need any further information or have any questions concerning the Council, please contact Katherine Hetherington Cunfer, Council’s Acting Executive Director, at 717-705-2693.
Sincerely,
William Fink, Chairman, Citizens Advisory Council
For more information, visit the DEP Citizens Advisory Council webpage or contact Katie Hetherington Cunfer by calling 717-705-2693 or send email to: khethering@pa.gov.
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Feb 22 Meeting On Covanta Waste Transfer Station Permit In New Castle, Lawrence County

Department of Environmental Protection invites interested members of the public to a public information meeting on February 22 from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the New Castle City Building located at 230 North Jefferson Street, New Castle, PA 16105.
The information meeting is to inform the public about a municipal waste transfer station permit application submitted by Covanta Environmental Solutions, LLC.
The purpose of the meeting is for the applicant to explain their project and permit application, for the department to explain the permit application review process, and for both the department and the applicant to hear and understand concerns or questions from the general public.
Copies of the application will be available for review at the Department of Environmental Protection, Northwest Region Office, 230 Chestnut Street, Meadville, PA 16335 and at the New Castle City Building, 230 North Jefferson Street, New Castle, PA 16105.
Questions should be directed to Melanie Williams, DEP, 814-332-6615.

DEP Hosts Feb. 22 Meeting On Broomall Lake Dam Breach Project In Delaware County

The Department of Environmental Protection will host a public meeting on February 22 to discuss the partial breach project of the Broomall Lake Dam located on 3rd Street in Media Borough, Delaware County.
The high hazard dam is in a state of disrepair and its current condition is considered to be unsafe. Upon completion of the partial breach, the potential threat to downstream residents will be reduced significantly.
The project is scheduled to begin with turtle relocation on or around April 15, 2017 and proceed for two weeks, at which point construction will begin with a 60-day timeframe for completion.
The meeting will be held in the Parlor Room of the Media Borough Municipal Building. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m., at which time guests are invited to view construction plans until the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.
DEP staff will provide an overview of the project and answer questions from the public.
This project will be funded through previously reserved funds, currently managed by the Department of Transportation.
Questions should be directed to Virginia Cain, DEP, 484-250-5808.
NewsClip:
DEP Holds Feb. 22 Meeting On Crumbling DelCo Dam

DEP Holds Feb. 28 Meeting/Hearing On TCE Response In Vanport, Beaver County

The Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public meeting and hearing on February 28 regarding DEP’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act proposed response at the CBS Vanport/Vanport Township Municipal Authority sites in Vanport Township, Beaver County.
The meeting/hearing will be held at the Vanport Volunteer Fire Department: 435 Jefferson Street, Vanport, Beaver County.  The meeting will be held from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. and the hearing from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
DEP proposes continued monthly sampling, modeling of the trichloroethylene (TCE) plume using existing groundwater data, additional data collection, soil and surface water sampling, and an assessment of the air strippers and treatment systems in use at VTMA and the former Westinghouse facility.
DEP requests that individuals wishing to testify register in writing or by telephone before noon on February 28,to Brian Schimmel, Local Government liaison, at 412-442-4199 or Lauren Fraley, Community Relations Coordinator, by sending email to: lfraley@pa.gov.
Individuals who cannot attend the hearing may submit written comments, which will be accepted until 4:00 p.m. April 14, and should be directed to:  Annette Paluh, Project Manager, Environmental Cleanup & Brownfield Development,Southwest Regional Office, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
Documents pertaining to DEP’s proposed response are available for review by appointment between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at DEP’s Southwest Regional Office, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, 412-442-4000.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Ag Major Explores Urban Ag At Penn State Philadelphia Center

“Urban agriculture” isn’t a well-known concept, but Sara Touey (photo) plans to change that.
Touey, a community, environment, and development major in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, interned at the Penn State Center in Philadelphia. The center offers educational programs to people of all ages and encourages them to get involved with the community.
She studied urban farming, a subject that’s relatively new to the agricultural world.
Urban agriculture is rooted in social benefits and community enrichment. Often partnered with nonprofit organizations, urban agricultural operations concentrate their efforts on food access and nutritional programs.
“It’s about solving community problems at the local level, not about imposing solutions as an outsider without all the facts,” said Touey, who hails from Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
Touey participated in the internship as part of Penn State’s Scholarship, Sustainability and Civic Engagement Program, a seven-credit, immersive, engaged scholarship experience that brings together undergraduate students who are interested in community development, civic engagement, and sustainability and pairs them with faculty members and a community host to gain professional experience and apply the skills learned in class in a real-world setting.
Touey was paired with the Penn State Philadelphia Center for her internship, and from there began to develop her project by working with the center’s myriad nonprofits. Over eight weeks, she researched communities and immersed herself in the world of urban agriculture.
“During the internship I went to a farm on the site of Teens 4 Good, a nonprofit associated with the Penn State Center,” said Touey. “They teach youth from lower-income neighborhoods how to grow and harvest their own food. They also teach nutritional programs, how to cook with produce and job-development skills they can take into the real world.”
Smaller farms associated with urban agriculture don’t have the heavy machinery or space one would find on a rural farm, or many workers, Touey explained.
“It was humbling — it’s a very personal process,” she said about working at Teens 4 Good. Along with a handful of other volunteers, she worked in a small unit with the head farmer. She was given the opportunity to get her hands dirty, see how the food was grown and gain first-hand experience with the process of working on a smaller farm.
“We got up early in the morning and really got personal with growing foods. It gave me a greater appreciation because before this internship, I was completely removed from the growing process,” she said. “It’s so easy to get food from the grocery store and not really think about where it comes from.”
While Touey learned a lot about urban agriculture and the benefits of integrating with nonprofit organizations, she realized that many people are confused when it comes to the definition of urban agriculture and what it does.
“A lot of these nonprofits actually struggle with funding, because a lot of people don’t understand what urban agriculture is," Touey said. "There’s a disconnect between quantifying the benefits, because people think it’s about food production and giving to the community in that way, but urban agriculture is about social benefits. It’s about how they’re impacting their communities in terms of food access and nutritional quality.”
Touey plans to continue studying urban agriculture. She’s currently working on a brochure to show the diversity of urban agricultural infrastructure in Philadelphia. She wants to emphasize what urban agriculture can do, along with promoting some nonprofit organizations that work with urban agriculture to improve communities.

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