Monday, March 31, 2014

SRBC Solicits Projects For Consumptive Water Use Mitigation

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission Monday released a Solicitation For Projects: Water Sources For Consumptive Use Mitigation Within The Susquehanna River Basin.  Proposals are due June 27.
SRBC’s regulations regarding review and approval of projects require mitigation for consumptive use of water.  CU is broadly defined as the loss of water due to a variety of processes by which the water is not returned to the basin undiminished in quantity.  
SRBC’s mitigation strategy is based on the elimination of man-made impacts caused by CU during low flows and the return to natural flow conditions.  SRBC’s CU Mitigation Plan presented the state of CU in the basin, projected mitigation needs, and introduced SRBC’s plan for meeting those needs, including an assessment of CU mitigation assets available at that time in the basin to offset impacts.
Several of the recommendations in the CUMP focus on identifying and evaluating new mitigation sources, which is the goal of this SFP.
The SFP provides necessary information to an Offeror interested in making a submission in response to the solicitation.  This initial phase is focused on soliciting reasonable project concepts involving practical water sources available for CU mitigation and screening them against a set of criteria derived from the SRBC’s CU regulations, standards for CU mitigation, CUMP, and overall objectives related to CU mitigation.
Sealed submittals are due at SRBC Headquarters, 4423 North Front Street, Harrisburg, PA, 17110-1788 by 4:00 p.m. on June 27.  Questions regarding the SFP can be directed to:

DEP Invests $3.4 Million For Agricultural Outreach Program and Assistance

The Department of Environmental Protection Monday announced a $3.4 million investment in an all-new agricultural outreach and assistance program, the Regional Agricultural Watershed Assessment Program, to improve water quality in six different watersheds throughout the state.
“This project will allow DEP staff to work directly with farmers and our partners in the county conservation districts to develop solutions tailored to their farm and their watershed.” DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said. “Anytime we can work as partners with the agricultural community great things happen.”
About $600,000 from the Environmental Stewardship Fund, commonly referred to as the Growing Greener Program, has been budgeted for each watershed, for a total investment of $3.4 million to assist farmers in the planning and installation of Best Management Practices (BMPs).
DEP is finalizing the selection of six small agriculturally impaired watersheds, one in each of DEP’s regions, to be included in the program.
The investment in the Regional Agricultural Watershed Assessment Program will enable DEP staff to develop a working relationship with farmers in the selected watershed. Together with the farmers, DEP will set up initial farm visits to note any potential areas for environmental improvement. Each farm in the program will receive a list of recommended BMPs based on the findings of DEP’s initial visit.
After the first visit, farmers will be encouraged to contact their local conservation district for assistance in planning and implementing the suggested BMPs. They will also receive funding to install Growing Greener Program approved BMPs. Regional DEP staff will follow up with the farmers to check on the status of their plans and BMP installation.
After project progress is underway, DEP will work with the farmer to plan a final visit to ensure that the farmer is well-equipped to implement the recommended BMPs.
Water quality sampling will be conducted in the each of the six watersheds to study the effectiveness of this approach.
The Regional Agricultural Watershed Assessment Program was created as a result of a successful pilot program in Soft Run, Mifflin County.
In September 2012, DEP, with the support of the Mifflin County Conservation District, began an agricultural compliance project in the Soft Run Watershed. This watershed had water quality issues related to agricultural impairment.
The pilot program created an opportunity for conservation district staff to advise the 19 local farmers on BMPs best suited for pollution prevention in the Soft Run Watershed. This effort to improve water quality encouraged DEP to take this successful approach across the state.
Since 1985, agriculture in Pennsylvania has reduced nitrogen pollution by over 13 million pounds per year. Nineteen percent of all nitrogen reductions made in restoring the Chesapeake Bay have been made by Pennsylvania’s agriculture community. Farmers have also spent nearly $15 million for BMP installation and equipment, including no-till planters and drills.
DEP continues to work with agricultural producers to improve the 5,705 miles of impaired streams in the state and find creative, cost effective solutions to improve water quality for the continued environmental health and safety of Pennsylvania’s citizens.
For more information, visit DEP’s Bureau of Conservation and Restoration webpage.

Rep. Daley Salutes Utility Decisions To Delay Heating Shutoffs

Rep. Peter J. Daley II (D-Washington), Minority Chair of the House Consumer Affairs Committee, Monday thanked key gas utilities in Pennsylvania for delaying service shutoffs by two weeks.
"The weather and skyrocketing heating bills have put consumers in a vise," said Rep. Daley. "I applaud the decision by Peoples Natural Gas/Equitable Gas and Columbia Gas to hold off implementing service shutoff rules that go into effect April 1."
Peoples, which recently completed a merger with Equitable, and Columbia said that they would delay the process of terminating natural gas service because of past due bills until April 14.
With the merger with Equitable, Peoples will distribute natural gas to about 660,000 customers in 19 Pennsylvania counties. Columbia Gas provides natural gas service to more than 417,000 customers in 26 Pennsylvania counties. Both utilities serve Fayette and Washington counties.
"I’m hearing that other electric and gas utilities are considering providing customers a two-week break on overdue bills," Rep. Daley said. "It would be a modest but meaningful gesture for consumers hammered by a harsh winter in a less-than-stellar economy."
In letters last week to the Energy Association of Pennsylvania and the Public Utility Commission, Rep. Daley asked for a two-week grace period on shutoff rules that kick in April 1 and allow gas and electric service terminations regardless of financial situations.
From December 1 through March 31, utilities may not terminate service for certain low-income ratepayers without the PUC’s approval.
"I think that the debacle of electricity rates almost quadrupling in some variable-rate plans this winter is another good reason to delay implementing the harsher shutoff rules," said Rep. Daley, noting that the PUC fielded almost 14,000 pleas from ratepayers, many on fixed incomes, about skyrocketing bills and suspect billing practices.
The House Consumer Affairs Committee has scheduled a second hearing on the variable electric rate issue for April 10.   The hearing will be held in the Gold Room, Allegheny County Courthouse, 436 Grant St., in Pittsburgh starting at 10:00.
The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee will hold a hearing April 1 starting at 9:30 a.m. on variable electric rates.

Sen. Solobay Introduces Bill To Force Scrutiny Of Coal Plant Closures

After a winter of power-consumption warnings in Western Pennsylvania, Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington) Monday announced new legislation-- Senate Bill 1273-- to require a closer review of plans to deactivate coal-fired power plants.
The legislation would establish the Coal-Fired Electric Generation Deactivation Commission, which would be charged with reviewing and investigating the potentially adverse impacts that plant closures have on the economy, electric reliability, and the environment.
"We learned over the winter that the grid operator and the power companies are not doing a good job predicting the supply and demand for electricity," Sen. Solobay said. "In the end, it's consumers who suffer for their shortsightedness."
After the closure of two coal-fired power plants in southwestern Pennsylvania last fall, consumers were warned to cut back on electric consumption during two cold snaps in January. The problem was caused by difficulty supplying natural-gas power plants during the extreme cold weather, a possibility never mentioned during testimony officials of grid operator PJM Interconnection at hearings in Greene County last fall.
The hearings were held to discuss the impact of FirstEnergy's planned closings of the Hatfield's Ferry and Mitchell power plants.
"I asked PJM people directly about power shortages and we were told that there would be no problems with supply," Sen. Solobay said. "Our warnings about the supply of natural gas being stretched thin and the need for coal to balance our energy portfolio were ignored."
Sen. Solobay said no federal or state agency is responsible for considering the big picture when it comes to power plants, with every regulatory group having a limited scope. The Deactivation Commission would take a wider view of future power needs to include the economy and the environment, he said.
The legislation also has provisions to protect power-plant workers from sudden decisions about their future and to remediate the plant site.
The bill was referred to the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.  Click Here for a summary of the bill by the sponsor.

Sen. Hutchinson Announces Bill To Protect, Promote Conventional Oil Production

Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) Monday announced he is introducing legislation-- Senate Bill 1310--  to protect that industry from state regulations intended for companies extracting Marcellus Shale gas.
The bill would establish the Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, a panel empowered to study existing regulations and assist the Department of Environmental Protection in making changes that better address the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas production.
Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Forrest) plans to introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
“My Senate district includes the birthplace of oil and gas production in Pennsylvania over a century and a half ago,” Sen. Hutchinson said. “These resources fueled the industrial revolution and transformed our nation’s economy. This industry is an important part of the regional economy – an economy that is already struggling. It cannot afford to be stymied by excessive and unnecessary regulatory burdens.”
The proposed council created by SB 1310 would be a public-private partnership modeled after the successful Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council established in 1988. It would be charged with promoting Pennsylvania’s historic conventional oil and gas industry and advocating its future development.
“Generations of small producers have operated conventional shallow wells in a safe and responsible manner.  The paraffin-based oil produced in this region is unlike any other in the world and is used in specific products, from cosmetics to food production,” Sen. Hutchinson said. “Recent technological advances that have allowed for the development of previously inaccessible formations have necessitated updates and revisions to Pennsylvania’s laws and regulations governing this new unconventional ‘shale gas’ industry.
“Unfortunately, many of these regulatory and legislative changes did not adequately allow for the significant differences between conventional and unconventional development,” Sen. Hutchinson continued.  “The obvious differences within the industry must not be ignored and should be reflected in a separate regulatory framework for conventional oil and gas operations. The unique Pennsylvania Grade Crude Oil product is an asset which should be marketed and promoted, including the specific refineries which process the product, such as the Bradford based American Refining Group, a key employer in Northwest Pennsylvania.”
The bill was referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Click Here for a summary of the bill by the sponsor.

Live Stream Captures Footage Of Eaglets Hatching In Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania’s most famed bald-eagle nest has two new stars.  The first of what could be three eaglets hatched Friday inside a Pittsburgh nest as the magical moment was captured by a camera and live streamed to viewers online.
Then on Sunday, a second egg hatched, bringing the count at the nest to two adults, two eaglets and one egg.  That egg is due to hatch in the coming days.
Typically, bald-eagle eggs follow a 35-day incubation period, meaning the first of the eggs to hatch at the Pittsburgh nest came a little later than expected, while the second hatched a little early. The remaining egg was laid on February 25, which would place it on schedule to hatch April 2.
Plans continue to live stream footage from the nest around the clock through the nesting attempt taking place along the Monongahela River in the Hays section of Pittsburgh.
The live stream can be viewed on the homepage of the Game Commission’s website by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.
The live stream offers a rare, real-time look at nature in action. The live stream, a joint effort between the Game Commission and PixController Inc., launched in late December and has been open to 24-hour viewing for the past several weeks.
There have been some interesting moments along the way.
On February 26, for instance, a raccoon paid a late-night visit to the nest, causing the nesting female to pop up to defend her eggs, flapping her wings and scaring the raccoon off.
Just more than a month later, the two hatchings share the rank of the most significant highlight to date.
While nest-watchers always are welcome online, those venturing afield for a firsthand look at nesting bald eagles are reminded to keep their distance.
While the bald eagle no longer is listed as an endangered or threatened species in Pennsylvania, it continues to be protected by federal law, which among other things establishes a buffer to ensure people stay at least 660 feet from a nest.
Some eagles are more tolerant than others when it comes to human activity. But any action that could flush an adult eagle from the nest is a threat to successful hatching of eggs and fledging of eaglets. Keeping your distance is one way to increase the chances of nest success.
Guidelines on how to more safely view bald eagle nests are available on the Bald Eagle Watching in Pennsylvania webpage.
The bald-eagle nest live stream is the first of two live streams soon to be available to view at the Game Commission’s website.
A camera recently was installed at a Northampton County site where osprey have nested for several years. Game Commission officials believe an osprey nesting attempt, like that of the Hays eagles, holds the potential for many fascinating moments that, with any luck, would include the hatching and fledging of young.

Brandywine Conservancy Will Plant 25,000th Tree April 19

The Brandywine Conservancy’s Reforestation Campaign will achieve its five-year goal ahead of schedule when it plants its 25,000th tree in East Brandywine Township, Chester County on April 19.
The Brandywine Conservancy will plant 600 native trees along the East Branch of the Brandywine at a property owned by East Brandywine Township. Native hardwood tree species to be planted will include redbud, serviceberry, red-twig dogwood, sweetbay magnolia, sycamore, red maple, silver maple, and swamp white oak, selected specially for this important site.
Tree planting will begin at 9:00 a.m. on the Southeast corner of PA 282 Creek Road and Dowlin Forge Road.  Contact Wes Horner, Senior Advisor for Water Resources, 610-388-8124 or send email to: for more information.
More tree planting events are listed below.
The Conservancy’s extensive campaign is made possible through collaboration with many community partners including the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Stroud Water Research Center, Guardians of the Brandywine, East Brandywine Township, Victory Brewing, DuPont, ArcelorMittal, Environmental Resources Management, Inc., PECO, Exelon, school groups, scout groups, and many community volunteers.
“The Brandywine Conservancy’s focus on preserving our land and water fits naturally with our ambitious reforestation campaign. We are proud to collaborate with our community partners, working together to improve water quality from the source to the faucet in the Brandywine Watershed in Pennsylvania and Delaware,” said Brandywine Conservancy Director, Sherri Evans-Stanton.    
Historical Significance Of Forests In The Brandywine Watershed
Forests historically covered well over 90 percent of the landscape within the watershed. This forest cover protected the soil, keeping stormwater from washing it away. Old growth trees and subsequent biological diversity gave the watershed balance and virtually pristine water quality.
As the Brandywine Watershed developed, development removed forests, resulting in forested land now comprising only about 28 percent of the current watershed. As a result, 40 percent of the Brandywine Creek’s stream miles show substantial deterioration today.
In short, reforesting the watershed is an excellent way to restore water quality.  In particular, reforesting steep slopes and riparian areas (strips of land immediately adjacent to a stream) are targeted in the Conservancy’s Campaign because these specific areas are especially vulnerable to erosion and, when reforested, prevent sedimentation and can filter out pollutants from entering waterways. The Conservancy’s Reforestation Campaign allows forests to carry out tasks that are vital to the ecosystem and to the health of our waters.
Reforestation = Cleaner Drinking Water
The reforestation of the watershed also benefits the businesses that rely on the Brandywine Watershed as a resource for producing their products.
“Drinking water or delicious beer is dependent on healthy streams, protected by functional riparian buffers. The Brandywine Conservancy's work here is an investment in our shared future,” said Bill Covaleski, co-owner of Victory Brewing.
The brewery’s location fewer than 14 miles away from the headwaters of the Brandywine inextricably links the health of the watershed to the excellence of the brews. Victory Brewing demonstrates its belief in watershed restoration and protection through its Headwaters Grant program which is funded by a portion of the sales of its Headwaters Pale Ale. Victory Brewing will sponsor a celebratory root beer toast at the April 19th celebration.  
The East Brandywine Township site for the April 19th celebration is situated just upstream of the Downingtown water intake, making it an especially suitable and meaningful location for the Conservancy’s planting celebration.
This and other reforestation projects, taken together, will result in cleaner water for downstream communities in Pennsylvania and Delaware that rely on the Brandywine for their drinking water, including the City of Wilmington, a unique bi-state partner.
Conservancy Sets Ambitious New Goal: 50 By 50 Reforestation Campaign
An additional 6,000 trees will be planted at multiple sites in the spring and fall of 2014 with the support of volunteers and funds from various grant sources. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society continues to be a primary source of funding in the campaign.
“The PHS-Plant One Million campaign, a three state, 13 county initiative to reforest urban and community forests, supports Brandywine Conservancy in their tree planting effort through our TreeVitalize Watersheds grant program and are excited to celebrate their 25,000th tree planted,” said Emma Melvin, Plant One Million Regional Project Manager.
Building on the Reforestation Campaign’s success, the Conservancy has announced an expanded goal “50 by 50,” to plant 50,000 trees by the Conservancy’s 50th anniversary in 2017. The 50 by 50 Campaign allows the Conservancy to further the impact of our targeted water quality improvement. Additionally, the Conservancy continues to hope to inspire additional projects through the visibility and educational opportunity that each reforestation site provides.
Volunteer For Future Tree Plantings
Additional plantings planned and facilitated by the Brandywine Conservancy, provide opportunities for volunteers including:
— April 12 at 8:30 a.m. – 300 trees in East Bradford Township at Brandywine Farm (on PA 842 at intersection with Creek Road) with volunteers from the West Chester Rotary, West Chester University, Henderson High School and East Bradford Township;
— April 26 at 9:00 a.m. – 1,200 trees in East Nottingham Township at the Nottingham Elementary School’s fallow field (rear of School) with volunteers from the Oxford Area School District, Oxford Area Rotary, local community groups and funding from the Department of Environmental Protection’s Growing Greener program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and
— May 3 at 9:00 a.m. – 600 trees in Pennsbury Township at Pennsbury Mill/Craigs Mill, historic structures on permanently protected open space with volunteers from Pennsbury Land Trust and Pennsbury Township and funded through the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society TreeVitalize Program.
For more information, visit the Brandywine Conservancy’s website.

Monday NewsClips

2nd Eagle Hatches In Pittsburgh
Add Green Works In PA To Your Google+ Circle
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 31 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The March 31 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print entire Digest.

Sen. Yudichak Natural Gas Severance Tax Proposal Funds Education, Environment

Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Thursday joined local leaders in education, environmental protection and business at the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center to unveil details of a plan to enact fair and reasonable severance tax proposal on the Marcellus shale industry.
"In order to fully capitalize on the benefits of the Marcellus shale industry, we must have a comprehensive economic strategy in place – and that strategy needs to include a fair and reasonable severance tax," Sen. Yudichak said. "Fair taxes mean better jobs, better education and better environmental protection; and a severance tax would level the playing field for all Pennsylvania businesses to grow along with the Marcellus shale industry and ensure that we do not have to make drastic budget cuts to important state programs every June."
The plan would levy a new 5 percent tax on the extraction of Marcellus shale gas and the revenue generated by the tax would be used to fund education, protect the environment and stimulate the economy. It is estimated that the severance tax would generate $720 million in the first year alone.
Under the proposal, education would receive the largest share of the revenue generated by the severance tax, with $375 million in FY 2014-15, growing to $453 million in FY 2015-16, and more than $1 billion by 2020 dedicated to education funding. All annual increases in tax and fee collections after FY 2015-16 would be dedicated to fund education.
Roughly $195 million of the revenue in FY 2014-15, and $250 million every year after that, would be used to fund DCED programs; make infrastructure investments; fund local economic development projects and implement new tax reduction incentives to improve the local business climate.
The proposal would also make significant investments in environmental protection with $75 million dedicated to Growing Greener programs and $75 million dedicated to replace the administration's plan to allow Marcellus drilling near state parks and forest land in FY 2014-15.
In FY 2015-16 and every year thereafter, the proposal would allocate $120 million for Growing Greener programs and $30 million for other environmental programs.
Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna), who was scheduled to participate in the event, also offered his support of the severance tax proposal.
"Every other state with abundant natural gas resources levies a severance tax on the industry that extracts that natural resource. I believe the taxpayers of Pennsylvania are not being adequately compensated for the volume of natural gas extracted in this state," Sen. Blake added. "The industry expected a severance tax and is certainly able to pay it, provided it is reasonably and responsibly levied in a manner that does not undermine the competitive position of the industry or the state."
Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Minority Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added his support.
“We need to make sure that our classrooms have all the resources necessary for our students to be successful,” said Sen. Hughes. “It’s clear that education is suffering in Philadelphia because of state budget cuts. That needs to change.”
“This plan ensures that programs that provide real opportunities to people are fully funded going forward,” said Sen. Hughes. “Our proposal also makes sure that natural gas drillers, which include some of the largest corporations in the world, are paying their fair share going forward.”
Senator Hughes’ proposal would generate far more revenue than the state currently receives from natural gas drilling. This year, Pennsylvania is only projected to receive $217 million as a result of the current drilling impact fee. The proposed legislation would generate $937 million through a combination of both the fee and severance tax.
“Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not impose a severance tax on natural gas,” said Sen. Hughes. “This legislation will correct this policy failure and generate funding for critical needs, including education.”
The plan will be introduced as Senate Bill 1333.
Sen. Yudichak was joined by Mike Dziak, President/CEO Earth Conservancy; Anthony Grieco, Luzerne Intermediate Unit #18 executive director; and other local leaders in education and business at NEPIRC in Hanover Industrial Estates for the event.
Report Finds Each Gas Well Costs Thousands In Road Damage

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