Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Reminder: PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Steering Committee Meets Aug. 24

There is a meeting of the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan Steering Committee on August 24 from 1:00 to 4:00 at the Department of Agriculture Building, 2301 N. Cameron Street in Harrisburg. Click Here to register to join the event by webinar.
The next meeting of the Steering Committee is on September 27 same time in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg.
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Chesapeake Bay Foundation: Better Than Predicted Water Quality In The Bay

Dr. Beth McGee, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Director of Science and Agricultural Policy, issued this statement Tuesday following release of results from the Early August Hypoxia Report which found areas with low dissolved oxygen to be "much better than average" during the early August cruise in Maryland waters.
Scientists had predicted the dead zone would be slightly larger than average this summer.
If the trend continues, it will be the third year in a row that scientists have found no anoxic conditions, something that hasn't happened since water quality monitoring began in 1985.
Dr. McGee said-- "This is good news, and another sign that the Bay may be becoming more resilient. Last year's record acreage of Bay grasses, improving oyster populations, and a smaller dead zone all indicate the Clean Water Blueprint is working.
“Progress will only continue with increased efforts from the Bay states, and EPA's full participation.
“As Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Program's Executive Council, [Maryland] Gov. Hogan's leadership is critical to ensure that Bay restoration efforts are on track to meet the pollution-reduction goals.
"All the cruises this summer have found no anoxic conditions, areas of the bay with virtually no oxygen. That is important because having some oxygen present prevents pollution on the Bay floor from recycling back into the water column.
"If the trend continues, it will be the third year in a row that scientists have found no anoxic conditions, something that hasn't happened since water quality monitoring began in 1985."
Information on Bay-related cleanup activities in Pennsylvania watersheds can be found on DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office webpage.
There is a meeting of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan Steering Committee on Thursday, August 24 from 1:00 to 4:00 that can be attended in person by going to the Department of Agriculture Building, 2301 N. Cameron Street in Harrisburg or by webinar.   Click Here to register to join the event by webinar.
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 to support their work.

Western PA Conservancy Earns National Land Trust Accreditation Renewal

The Western PA Conservancy Wednesday announced it received its renewed land trust accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, the Conservancy announced today.
“Achieving renewed land trust accreditation confirms that the Conservancy continues to protect Western Pennsylvania’s important natural areas, scenic landscapes, rivers and streams with the highest standards of care required by the Land Trust Alliance,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Western PA Conservancy.
First accredited in 2012, the Conservancy is one of 389 accredited land trusts nationwide. Accredited land trusts must renew every five years, confirming their compliance with national quality standards and providing continued assurance to donors and landowners of their commitment to forever steward their land.
To achieve renewed accreditation, WPC had to provide extensive documentation and undergo a comprehensive review.
“It is exciting to recognize the Western PA Conservancy with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. Accreditation recognizes the Western PA Conservancy has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance and lasting stewardship.”
Established in 1932, WPC helped to establish ten state parks—including Ohiopyle, McConnells Mill and Moraine—and conserved more than 254,000 acres of natural lands. The Conservancy also owns and manages more than 13,000 acres of nature reserves across the region, including the 5,000-acre Bear Run Nature Reserve in Fayette County.
In addition to its land conservation and stewardship work, the Conservancy has also protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams. WPC operates and preserves the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, Fallingwater, and enriches the region’s cities and towns through 132 community gardens, tree plantings and other green spaces.
Based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the Land Trust Accreditation Commission awards the accreditation seal to organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement.
The Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance established in 2006, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts.
The Alliance, of which WPC is a member, is a national land conservation organization based in Washington, D.C. that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America.
More information is available on programs, initiatives and special events at the Western PA Conservancy website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Conservancy, Like them on Facebook, Follow them on Twitter, add them to your Circle on Google+, join them on Instagram, visit the Conservancy’s YouTube Channel or add them to your network on Linkedin.  Click Here to support their work.
(Photo: Elk State Forest, McKean County.)

Chester County Court Dismisses SLAPP Suit Against Groups Filed By Developer

The Chester County Court of Common Pleas Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit filed by Developer Brian O’Neill, along with his corporate counterparts O’Neill Developers and Constitution Drive Partners, seeking to silence opposition to redevelopment of a brownfield site located in Chester County.
Saying “This is what we call constitutionally protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution” and that “…DRN [Delaware RiverKeeper Network] is immune from Plaintiff’s tort claims,” the court dismissed the case.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network organization has been actively challenging a proposal by O’Neill, O’Neill Developers and Constitution Drive Partners to initiate partial cleanup of the highly contaminated Bishop Tube site located in East Whiteland Township in order to accommodate construction of a more than 200 unit housing development.
O’Neill sought a judgement that they pay over $50,000 in damages. The suit also threatened to target up to ten additional residents, naming them as defendants to the suit, in addition to the resident already included as a named defendant.
“Mr. O’Neill should be ashamed of himself for misusing the law to threaten people into silence and seeking a judgment that would strip them of their First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition their government for appropriate action,” said Maya van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “I am gratified that the court so quickly recognized the abuse of law that was being perpetrated by Mr. O’Neill and that it sought to render a strong decision quickly in order to assuage the fears of residents being so directly threatened by the developer and his multiple corporate entities.”
Ms. van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network were represented by attorneys Mark L. Freed and Jordan B. Yeager of Curtin & Heefner LLP. “We’re pleased that the Court has vindicated the constitutional rights of residents to speak up and advocate for a healthy environment without fear of retribution,” said Freed.
The original action was filed by O’Neill and his counterparts on June 27 and claimed the advocacy activities of van Rossum and her organization resulted in defamation/commercial disparagement, interference with contractual or business relations and amounted to a civil conspiracy.
In dismissing the case, Judge J. Sommers wrote:  “DRN has the right to petition its local and state governments as advocates for environmental safety and public health. This is true even if it means that DRN’s efforts are adverse to Plaintiff. This is what we call constitutionally protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution.” (emphasis added)
The Judge also said, “…we conclude that DRN’s concern for the proposed remediation plan and soil clean up is not an objectively baseless concern. Plaintiff has conceded that ‘chlorinated solvent contamination … remains today in Site soils and groundwater’ and that ‘contamination in groundwater has migrated significant distances beyond the boundaries of the Site’ to the surrounding community. … Moreover, Plaintiff has made clear it does not intend to conduct full clean up of the site, but only a partial one, based upon its belief that it has no legal obligation to do more.” (emphasis added)
The Judge concluded, “…we have, therefore, determined that the conducted described in the Complaint is protected … and DRN is immune from Plaintiff’s tort claims.” (emphasis added)
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and members of the East Whiteland community were joined by Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) and a representative from Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) at a press conference on July 26, expressing opposition to the originally filed lawsuit.
“Pennsylvanians have a Constitutionally protected right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural environment. Citizens also have a right to voice their opinions, views, and concerns on decisions regarding our public natural resources and to be involved in the processes be they at the local, state or federal levels. The bottom line is Chester County has a long history of standing up for our environmental resources and to stand up, we need to speak out,” said Sen. Andy Dinniman in a statement released as part of the July press event.
“Lawsuits have an important purpose, but when they are wielded as a bludgeon by wealthy interests to silence advocates and communities, they harm the principles that form the foundation of our country,” said Sen. Daylin Leach in a statement also issued for the July press event. “Free speech is a right held by all Americans – wealthy or not—and it’s our job to protect it.”
The Bishop Tube Site is a former metals processing plant located in East Whiteland Township, PA. The site is bordered by Little Valley Creek, a tributary to the “Exceptional Value” Valley Creek. Portions of the site proposed for development are wooded.
The site is listed on the Pennsylvania Priority List of Hazardous Sites for Remedial Response under the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act. Groundwater, soil and surface water at the Site are contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), which is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA and also as causing other significant health problems. Other contaminants of significant concern are also known to be present at the site.
Click Here for a copy of the Court’s decision.  Click Here for a copy of DRN’s intent to file a citizen suit.
For more information, visit the Delaware RiverKeeper Network website.
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Local Govt. Associations All Oppose Manganese Rider On Budget Admin Code Bills

All of Pennsylvania’s local government associations Monday sent a letter to all members of the House and Senate expressing their opposition to a provision in the Senate-passed Administrative Code bill-- House Bill 118 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne) -- and in House-amended Senate Bill 446 (McGarrigle-R-Delaware) that would remove the requirement to treat manganese discharges from coal mining and other sites and force water users to remove the chemical.
         [Note: The Coal Alliance asked for the manganese amendment to be included in the bills, but with these local government groups now joining a growing list of environmental organizations, the business community, energy companies, and others opposed to major parts of the Senate-passed revenue package and their environmental riders does anyone now support these riders?]
The text of the letter follows--
Administrative Code Bills currently in both the House and Senate include riders that would remove required treatment of manganese at coal mine discharge sites and force more stringent testing and costly removal of manganese at water intake sites.
The Pennsylvania Local Government Conference, made up of the associations listed above, oppose this action.
This particular rider would undo 28 years of environmental protection for Pennsylvania waterways impacted by the consequences of acid mine drainage, and foist additional testing, monitoring and treatment at public water supply operations along these waterways.
For example, a municipal water authority operating a 1 MGD (million gallons/day) water treatment plant, estimated an additional annual cost of $20,000 just for chemical usage (Potassium Permanganate) to treat manganese.
They also noted that diligent monitoring and sampling is required by operators to ensure removal and prevention of unpleasant taste and odor, discoloration and staining, and potential health impacts from high manganese levels in their drinking water.
We are particularly concerned that environmental operations required of the coal mining industry will be rolled back and that the removal of required manganese treatment at point of discharge is environmentally irresponsible to public health, and fish and aquatic life in receiving streams.
We urge the General Assembly, Governor Wolf and DEP Secretary McDonnell to reconsider the impacts that adoption of this rider would have on the people and environment of Pennsylvania and remove it from the Administrative Code bills.
A copy of the letter is available online.
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The Feds
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

EQB Approves Redesignation Of Mill Creek, Schuylkill Watershed To Exceptional Value

On August 15 the  Environmental Quality Board approved redesignation of Mill Creek in the Schuylkill River Watershed as an Exceptional Value stream. The redesignation request was originally submitted to the Board in 2011.
The multi-year effort to upgrade this stream began in 2009 when the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Berks County Conservation District sampled this tributary to the Schuylkill River and determined it had healthy stream life indicative of other Exceptional Value streams in the region.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network submitted a petition and this data to DEP in February 2011 for the re-designation of Mill Creek from Warm Water Fishery, Migratory Fishery (WWF, MF) to Exceptional Value, Migratory Fishery (EV, MF).  
At that time the DRN petition had support from 65 residents and co-petitioners that included the Berks County Conservation District, the Township of Union Environmental Advisory Council, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Berks Conservancy.
The new EV designation provides additional protections to the stream, although the new designation falls short of the complete upgrade DRN was seeking – it applies to 5.6 miles of the 7.7 stream miles.
DRN petitioned for EV status of the Mill Creek in its entirety and submitted subsequent data to the DEP by volunteer monitors and others to support including the excluded Snyder’s Run tributary, but DEP did not grant EV protection to that tributary.
DRN will continue to work with interested landowners to enhance and improve riparian buffers along the remaining WWF, MF segment to advocate for it receiving a higher designation in future years.
“Mill Creek is a source of clean, fresh and healthy water. We must preserve our exceptional waterways and protect them from pollution and harm so we can honor our commitment to present future generations a resource that is healthy and thriving. We are pleased that Pennsylvania's Exceptional Value status is given to Mill Creek as we have petitioned for, as it is an important step to ensure all of our communities can continue to benefit from these waterways," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.
“A stream re-designation upgrade, often spurred by local volunteer community monitors, takes years to work through the regulatory process, but it’s a great week for Mill Creek and a few other tributaries in the Delaware River Basin that got the green light from the PA Environmental Quality Board this week, including Sobers Run and Swiftwater Creek that also received upgrades. On the downside, Pickering Creek and Dwarfskille Creek did not receive the upgrades community groups were seeking,” Faith Zerbe, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said.
The final regulation making the redesignation will now go to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the House and Senate environmental committees for review as required by the state Regulatory Review Act.
Click Here for a copy of the final redesignation package.

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