Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Painful Details For Environmental Funding In FY 2010-11 Budget Now Available

The new $28 billion General Fund budget agreed to by the Senate, House and Gov. Rendell today has more steep cuts for environmental funding bringing the cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection in FY 2009-10 and 2010-11 General Fund appropriations to 33.2 percent and to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to 27.2 percent.
As examples of the pain in the FY 2010-11 budget, Gov. Rendell cited: an additional 11.7 percent cut in the Department of Agriculture, an additional 9.2 percent cut in the Department of Environmental Protection and an additional 11 percent cut in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (specifically an additional cut of 7.3 percent in State Parks).
See a table on some environmental line items available online.
The FY 2009-10 budget cut 26.7 percent from DEP and 18.5 percent from DCNR which means over the last two years DEP's budget was cut 33.2 percent and DCNR was cut 27.2 percent.
The Governor said the cuts will require about 1,000 layoffs of state workers, although the numbers are still being worked through given the line item numbers.
The FY 2009-10 budget cuts required DEP and DCNR to furlough or eliminate 333 full time positions and DCNR had to eliminate or reduce hours for 1,131 seasonal workers.
Fund Transfers
Gov. Rendell also said there were some transfers from several special funds, like the Environmental Stewardship and Keystone Funds, to help balance the budget, about $100-$150 million worth, but details were not announced.
REAP Tax Credit
There is no word yet on whether there were any changes to the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Farm Conservation Tax Credit which was scheduled to be funded at the $4.5 million level, cut from $5 million in FY 2009-10 and $10 million in FY 2008-09.
Severance Tax
The Governor said he would be setting up a special commission over the summer to start work immediately on adoption of a natural gas protection severance tax, which under the agreement is to be adopted by October 1 with the new tax to start January 1.
Transportation Funding
He also said he would be calling another special session on transportation funding and is planning to meet with legislative leaders to go over revenue options on July 20.
Capital Budget
The Governor said he was pleased RCAP capital budget funding was increased by $600 million and economic development funding was not cut as significantly as was earlier feared.
He expressed disappointment at not getting agreement on new or increased tobacco taxes and getting rid of the business discount for submitting the Sales Tax.
He said June revenues should be above estimates by $20-$30 million and an additional $45 million was brought in under tax amnesty. FY 2009-10 should close out with a $1.2 billion deficit, he said.
The budget numbers do assume Pennsylvania will receive all or a portion of the $850 million in federal Medicaid funding with an understanding adjustments will be made later if needed.
If the Senate and House act tomorrow, this will be the first "on-time" budget in the 8 years of the Rendell Administration.
The full FY 2010-11 budget spreadsheet is available online.

Rendell Says New Budget Will Result In Pain

At a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Rendell said the new $28 billion General Fund budget (just $182 million more than last year) will mean more cuts for state agencies and programs.
As examples of the pain, Gov. Rendell cited: an additional 11.7 percent cut in the Department of Agriculture, an additional 9.2 percent cut in the Department of Environmental Protection and an additional 11 percent cut in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (specifically an additional cut of 7.3 percent in State Parks).
This year's budget cut 26.7 percent from DEP and 18.5 percent from DCNR which means over the last two years DEP's budget was cut 35.9 percent and DCNR was cut 29.5 percent.
The Governor said the cuts will require about 1,000 layoffs of state workers, although the numbers are still being worked through given the line item numbers.
The FY 2009-10 budget cuts required DEP and DCNR to furlough or eliminate 333 full time positions and DCNR had to eliminate or reduce hours for 1,131 seasonal workers.
The Governor said he would be setting up a special commission over the summer to start work immediately on adoption of a natural gas protection severance tax, which under the agreement is to be adopted by October 1 with the new tax to start January 1.
He also said he would be calling another special session on transportation funding and is planning to meet with legislative leaders to go over revenue options on July 20.
The Governor also said he was pleased RCAP capital budget funding was extended and economic development funding was not cut as significantly as was earlier feared.
He expressed disappointment at not getting agreement on new or increased tobacco taxes and getting rid of the business discount for submitting the Sales Tax. He also said there were some transfers from several special funds to help balance the budget, but details were not yet announced.
He said June revenues should be above estimates by $20-$30 million and an additional $45 million was brought in under tax amnesty. FY 2009-10 should close out with a $1.2 billion deficit, he said.
The budget numbers do assume Pennsylvania will receive all or a portion of the $850 million in federal Medicaid funding with an understanding adjustments will be made later if needed.
If the Senate and House act tomorrow, this will be the first "on-time" budget in the 8 years of the Rendell Administration.
This information should be considered preliminary until the final information is released by legislative leaders.

DCNR Conservation & Natural Resources Advisory Council Opposes Environmental Fund Transfers

The (DCNR) Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council (CNRAC) opposes any budgetary action that would transfer and/or suspend $132 million from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund; the Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener); and the Farmland Preservation Program (Agriculture Easement Purchase Fund) from its intended use, and to be used to help balance the state budget.
CNRAC is fully aware and understanding of the economic condition of the Commonwealth presently. As state leadership grapples with ways to address budgetary shortfalls, proposals have been frequently made to promote assistance with revenue generation. However, in our opinion, too much of the budgetary burden has fallen recently on environmental and conservation programs designed to serve the public, re-directing funds to provide financial assistance to the General Fund, rather than for their intended purpose. This practice needs to stop.
Our leaders need to understand the wisdom in the original creation of these funds and the powerful results generated from their use for resource protection and recreational provision, and to ensure that these funds are retained and used as they were originally intended.
These publicly-supported funds improve our quality of life in communities in which we live and work. Projects funded through these grant programs protect our citizens by supporting and encouraging a healthy lifestyle. They attract industry, and help keep young people here.
When leveraged with federal, other state, foundation and local dollars, these funds provide huge economic and health dividends, all of which can be documented and should not be dismissed in times of economic recession. These grants and financial assistance programs lead to community recovery and sustainability. We need these local job-creating and community-enhancing programs now more than ever.
In recent years we have seen transfers of conservation funds intended for DCNR, but used for other purposes.
Keystone funds, and Oil and Gas Lease funds have been re-directed to offset budget deficits in the past. We have acknowledged the “one-time only” need to conduct these transferences when they occurred. However, those short-term times have come and gone. We believe it is time for our leaders to prevent further environmental and conservation funding cuts, and to protect Pennsylvania’s resources through their support of the maintenance of these funds.
We thank you for your fullest consideration and prompt attention to these concerns.

Tuesday NewsClips

Legislative leaders worked until 3:00 a.m. on a budget and when the sessions ended House Speaker Keith McCall (D-Carbon) saying an agreement was reached, but Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) saying more details need to be worked out.
Sen. Pileggi said Senate Republican agreement to increased education spending, passing a natural gas production severance tax by October 1 and increasing RACP economic development borrowing limit by $800 million will only hold if Gov. Rendell agrees to do a budget on time.
The compromise calls for a $28 billion budget and assumes $850 million in federal Medicaid funding will be coming from Congress.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled an off the floor meeting for today to consider House Bill 2279 (D-Evans-D-Philadelphia) the General Fund budget bill.
Budget Deal Could Be Near
Working Late, No Budget Deal Yet
Marathon Budget Talks Break Off Without Deal
Senate GOP Leaders Plans To Pass Budget, With Or Without Rendell
GOP Offers Backing On Natural Gas Severance Tax
Marcellus Drillers Want Forced Pooling To Accompany Severance Tax
State Releases List Of Drilling Chemicals
Fayette Proposes Marcellus Shale Drilling Task Force
Constable Allegedly Provided Unlicensed Gas Well Security
Editorial: Gas Drilling Awareness
Solar Panels Gain In Popularity With Rebate Program
Duquesne Light Offers Reward After Metal Thefts
Annual Yough River Crossing Draws Hundreds
Tornado Confirmed As Cause Of Presque Isle Damage
Northampton Twp. May Regulate Solar Energy Systems
Hatboro Considers Single Stream Recycling
Horsham Council Challenges DEP Stormwater Rules
Community College/Business Partnership Producing Green Jobs
Gas Industry Wants Access To Unleased Property
Q&A With Marcellus Shale Experts
Op-Ed: Joe Sestak On Marcellus Shale Development
New Growth Industry Sprouts On Site Of Former Strip Mine

Monday, June 28, 2010

Senate GOP Agrees To Severance Tax If Governor Agrees To On-Time Budget

The Patriot-News is reporting Senate Republicans have agreed with House Democrats to pass a natural gas production severance tax by October 1, if the Governor agrees to pass the budget package agreed to by House and Senate legislative leaders.
NewsClip: Republicans Reach Tentative Agreement On Natural Gas Tax

Senate Will Pass Budget Whether Rendell Agrees Or Not

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) told a Pennsylvania Press Club audience today the Senate would pass a General Fund budget by June 30 whether or not it is agreed to by Gov. Rendell.
Sen. Pileggi said Senate Republicans, House and Senate Democrats have agreed to a state budget proposal of slightly over $28 billion.
He was quoted by Capitolwire as saying, "When we close a budget is entirely dependent on the level of reasonableness of the Governor. If he wants to insist on his position in the face of opposition by both the House and Senate, he can insist on that from now until the end of his term if he likes."
Sen. Pileggi said how to deal with the potential loss of $850 million in federal Medicaid funding is still an unresolved issue. He said Senate Republicans preferred to pass a budget without assuming that funding, while House and Senate Democrats have agreed with Gov. Rendell to include it.
Senate Republicans and other legislators are worried the Governor may attempt to line-item veto appropriations near and dear to legislators in which case, Sen. Pileggi said, we will be back at doing a budget until the end of his term.
He said discussions are still underway on the loose tobacco, cigar and natural gas extraction taxes. On the natural gas severance tax in particular, Sen. Pileggi said, issues surrounding that tax-- the tax rate and distribution of the revenues-- definitely could not be resolved in the coming weeks and would have to wait until the Fall.
Budget Deal Depends On Governor, Senate Republican Says
PA Budget Battle Taking Shape

Monday NewsClips

No Deal Reached On State Budget
Budget Talks Continue With No Agreement In Sight
Businesses Brace For Ripple Effect If State Workers Laid Off
Editorial: Budget Gap Widens
NE Schools Preparing Workers For Gas Drilling Industry Jobs
Some Environmental Advocates Oppose New Chesapeake Bay Bill
Farm Bureau Supports Midstate Congressman's Chesapeake Bay Act
Renewable Energy Bill To Test House Coal Caucus
Braddock BioFuel Operation In High Gear
Abington Park Trail Project Almost Ready
Bears Seeking Home Of Their Own Clash With Neighbors
Extracting The Gas, Is It Safe?
Editorial: Expedite New Drilling Water Rules
Let The Rain Soak In, Porous Paving Systems
Township Creates Guidelines For Solar Panel Installation
Gas Leasing Extending Into Pike County
Gas Truck Traffic Poses Our Biggest Emerging Threat
Editorial: Drilling Operations Should Be Taxed

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday NewsClips

Legislative leaders from all four Caucuses emerged from budget talks Saturday evening saying they made progress on closing the $400 million gap between their positions on spending levels.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) was tasked with presenting a "budget concept" of $27.9 billion in spending, which does include an increase in basic education funding and a contingency plan if Congress does not appropriate the $850 million in Medicaid funding the state was expecting, to the Governor for his review.
Each of the legislators said they are still shooting to have the budget done next week.
Legislative Leaders Move Closer To Budget Consensus
Scarnati Calls For Republicans To Lead On Environmental Issues
Environmental Hazards Of Drilling Exposed By Gutsy Film
Editorial: State Still Lags Gas Industry
Marcellus Shale Expo
Lehigh River Recreation Thrives
Susquehanna River Trail Assn. Hosts Paddlers
Student Intern Gives Rare Plant New Life
Education Goal Of Luzerne Energy Expo
Bald Eagle Population Still Growing

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday NewsClips

The four legislative Caucuses will have a budget meeting today in an attempt to get budget discussions passed the disagreements over the spend number. If progress can't be made, then Senate Republicans are reportedly ready to send a bare-bones budget to the House early next week ahead of the June 30 deadline.
No one is talking about how to fill the $850 million hole left when Congress failed to approve Medicaid funding this week.
Rendell: I'm Ready To Get Out
Column: Negotiators Make Little Progress On Budget
State Gives Gas Driller OK To Resume Fracking
DEP Allows EOG Resources To Resume Fracking
North Branch Land Trust Rejects Plea For Drilling
Q&A With John Dawes, Foundation For Pennsylvania Watersheds

Friday, June 25, 2010

June 28 PA Environment Digest Now Available

June 28 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Governor, Legislators Consider $453 Million In Cuts To Environmental Programs, Layoffs

Senate Republicans and House Democrats exchanged budget proposals of $27.5 billion and $28.2 billion respectively this week and then they began to talk to Gov. Rendell about their budget ideas.
By the end of the week, Gov. Rendell and House Democrats say they were firmly behind a $28.2 billion spend number that includes a $320 million increase in basic education funding. Senate Republicans inched their proposal up to $27.8 billion, but said many of the cuts they proposed were being ignored. Click here to read more…

PA Parks & Forests Foundation: Cuts Would Harm Tourism Industry In State

The PA Parks and Forests Foundation sent this action alert on proposed diversions of money from environmental funds saying it would further reduce the $9 in economic benefit State Parks and Forest make to the state's economy for every $1 spent--

Gov. Rendell's current funding proposal would dramatically impact state parks, community recreation and farmland preservation. Specifically, $182 million would be taken from the state's special funds, with the bulk -- $132 million -- coming from environmental funding. These proposals would essentially shut down the:
-- Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund;
-- Growing Greener (the Environmental Stewardship Fund); and
-- Farmland preservation program and more.
If this proposal moves forward as it is currently proposed -- and it will unless we push back - we will lose funding for community parks, open space protection, farmland preservation, community-centered environmental restoration and other conservation efforts. At serious risk are Growing Greener grants, Keystone grants, and allocations for counties for farmland preservation.
-- The cut would result in reducing the Bureau of State Parks' wage hours by approximately 25 percent. A reduction of that magnitude would result in major reductions in services and staff cuts.
-- State park capital and maintenance repair projects (e.g. sewage treatment plant rehabilitation) and emergency (e.g. dam rehabilitation projects) are funded out of the Keystone Fund and would be suspended.
-- State park emergency response for major malfunctions in physical plants such as sewage lift stations, water treatment plants, bridges, roads etc. would be drastically reduced or eliminated.
-- DCNR's Community Conservation Partnership Program (C2P2) grants that assist municipalities and nonprofit organizations in recreation, park, land acquisition, planning, and conservation projects are funded through a variety of state and federal sources and would essentially be eliminated. The two most significant sources are Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund Act (Key 93) and the Environmental Stewardship Fund.
-- C2P2 requests in the last grant round topped $100 million; DCNR was only able to provide funding for 1 of every 5 projects.
-- The proposed fund transfer would reduce available grant funds for the next round to about $4 million - $3.2 million in Keystone (Key 93) and $816,000 in ESF (GG1). If the funds are transferred, less than 5 percent of the total demand could be met.
Environmental stewardship and the state parks are such a small portion of the overall budget that it is unfair to ask them to shoulder so much of the budget-balancing burden. In fact, state parks contribute to the economic vitality of the Commonwealth, with $9 of every taxpayer dollar invested returning to the state's coffers.

DEP Citizens Advisory Council Opposes Diversion Of Environmental Funds

The Citizens Advisory Council to the Department of Environmental Council sent this letter to every member of the General Assembly urging them to reconsider diverting money from environmental funds to help balance the state budget--

While we recognize that Pennsylvania faces a significant budget shortfall, the Citizens Advisory Council1 to DEP is frustrated to learn that consideration is being given to further cutting special environmental funds in the state budget. According to media reports, a total of $132 million in suspensions and transfers from environmental funds has been proposed, including:
-- Growing Greener - $12 million in transfers and $29.8 million in suspensions,
-- Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund - $54.8 million in suspensions,
-- Clean Air Fund - $8 million in transfers, • Agriculture Easement Purchase Fund - $20.4 million in suspensions.
Pennsylvania’s environmental initiatives and agencies have absorbed significant budget cuts over the last several years. For example, continued cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection have reduced its General Fund appropriation to a level not seen since the 1990s. In addition to these cutbacks in DEP’s general fund budget, a number of DEP’s other funds have been repeatedly raided in recent years. These special funds were created in law for specific purposes, and were created with the public’s support. Diverting them away from the intended use to unrelated purposes, such as balancing the state budget, flies in the face of the public’s will.
Environmental quality is critical to attracting and retaining companies and their employees, as well as tourists. We want Pennsylvania to be a place with a high quality of life: a place where people now and in the future will want to live, work, recreate and invest, not a place in a perpetual state of cleanup and remediation. Pennsylvania’s Constitution requires that our natural resources also be available to future generations of residents. We need to heal for the future, not steal from it.
We urge you to take a strong stand for Pennsylvania’s future by protecting Growing Greener, Keystone and other long-standing environmental initiatives. Please protect environmental funding from further cuts.

County Conservation Districts Oppose Further Cuts To Environmental Funding

The PA Association of County Conservation Districts sent this letter to all members of the Senate and House opposing further cuts to environmental funding and supported the adoption of a natural gas production severance tax--

Dear House/Senate Members,

The PA Association of Conservation Districts, (PACD) opposes Gov. Rendell’s list of environmental fund transfers and suspensions totaling $132 million that he views as potential revenue sources to help bridge the current $700 million gap in spending proposals for the next fiscal year.
The Environmental Stewardship Fund, Growing Greener II, the Agricultural Easement Fund, and the Keystone Recreation Park and Conservation Fund are included on the list. Surface mining conservation, clean air protection and energy development are also on the Governor’s list.
Please join PACD in opposition to any budget that would cut these critical sources of funding. Instead, please consider raising additional funds by levying a severance tax on natural gas drilling. Currently House Bill 1489 (PN 3936) is a compromise bill with a portion dedicated to the Conservation District Fund (3 percent) and the Environmental Stewardship Fund (15 percent) and Local governments (20 percent), and is aimed at providing PA with a reasonable severance tax to help protect our natural resources and defray local infrastructure costs associated with Marcellus gas extraction. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Allegheny County Nonprofit Offering Grants For Biodiversity Projects

The Allegheny County-based Sprout Fund is now offering grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 for environmental projects to promote biodiversity in Southwestern PA. The deadline for applications is September 24.
For more information, visit the Spring Program webpage.
NewsClip: Nonprofit Set To Fund Biodiversity Projects In Western PA

Friday NewsClips

Rendell Says Budget Proposal Would Require 1,000 State Layoffs
Budget Deal Nears, As Long As U.S. Funds Arrive
Drilling Severance Tax Could Exempt Most Gas
Natural Gas Companies, Policy Group At Odds Over Tax
DEP Chief Lashes Out At Gasland Documentary Director
Crackdown On Trucks Hauling Drilling Wastewater
Drillers Sentenced For Dumping Brine In ANF
Mundy Introduces Gas Drilling Moratorium Legislation
Mundy Sees Drilling Moratorium Unlikely
Penn State Officials Address Marcellus Shale Issues In Murrysville
BP Spill Turns Investors' Eyes Toward Marcellus Shale
Hard To Recycle Event Saturday In Allegheny County
Nonprofit Set To Fund Biodiversity Projects In Western PA
Delaware River To Be Sprayed For Black Flies
Bluebird Nestbox Camera: Take Two
Solar Energy Project Advances At Former Mine Pit In Kline Twp.
Pine Twp.: No Notification Of Gas Well Blowout
Heavy Drilling Trucks To Pay For Rt. 504 Repairs
N. Strabane Residents Voice Drilling Concerns
Marcellus Shale Test Well Planned In S. Strabane
Newfield, Damascus Drilling Agreement

Thursday, June 24, 2010

At A Minimum, 1,000 State Workers May Be Furloughed Under New Budget

Late today Gov. Rendell and House Democrats said they support a $28.1 billion budget proposal that would cut from 5 to 10 percent of every line item in the budget in order to increase basic education funding. Gov. Rendell estimated at this spending level 1,000 state workers will have to be furloughed.
Senate Republicans support a $27.8 billion spending level, however, details of what cuts were made and how many furloughs would be required to meet that level were not available.
And the word from Congress is they are unlikely to appropriate the $850 million in additional Medicaid funding the Governor, House Democrats and Senate Republicans include in their budgets. That means additional cuts and diversions will no doubt have to be made to balance the state budget.
Gov. Rendell this week proposed $132 million in transfers and suspensions from a variety of environmental funds this week to help balance the state's budget. But these transfers don't end the bad news.
NewsClip: Rendell Says Budget Proposal Would Require 1,000 State Worker Layoffs
Bill's Failure In U.S. Senate Could Blow State Budget

Groups Urge Governor, General Assembly Not To Retreat On Environmental Funding

The PA Environmental Council, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Western PA Conservancy and the PA Organization of Watersheds and Rivers issued this statement today on the proposed diversion of $132 million in environmental funding from Growing Greener, the Keystone Fund and other sources to balance the state budget--

As the Commonwealth collectively stares down another budget deadline, environmental programs once again find themselves as primary targets for revenue diversion to balance the General Fund budget.
In addition to extending the extraordinary cuts already made last year, including more than $259 million taken from the Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation & Natural Resources, the current proposal on the table between the Governor and General Assembly would transfer an additional $132 million in funding from clean air, clean energy development, agricultural preservation and, most astonishingly, Growing Greener and the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (or Key '93).
In fact, the proposed transfers would effectively end the landmark Growing Greener program and empty the Keystone Fund, long-standing and highly effective programs which have helped the Commonwealth address watershed restoration, public recreational amenities, community revitalization, abandoned mine land abatement, land conservation, and other critical needs.
While we all certainly understand the realities of a bad economy, there is a clear line between making “tough decisions” and looking for short term solutions which fail to meet ongoing needs; especially when other alternatives exist to help plug funding shortfalls.
In reality, the cuts made to environmental programs over the past several years now raise serious questions about the State’s ability to meet existing state and federal mandates for environmental protection, such as those related to the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. These cuts affect the very air we breathe, water we drink, and places we live.
While sustaining or deepening these cuts may get us past June 30th and a budget deadline, they tear into the very foundation that has led Pennsylvania’s environmental resurgence -- one that has attracted businesses and created jobs, benefited public health, and restored overall quality of life. Are we really willing to make this sacrifice?
We ask the Governor and General Assembly to reject temporary budget fixes that cut critically important environmental and conservation programs like Growing Greener and the Keystone Fund.

Renew Growing Greener: Who's Fighting For Pennsylvania's Environmental Future?

Andrew Heath, Executive Director of Renew Growing Greener, a statewide coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations, today strongly encouraged the Senate and House to stand up for Pennsylvania's future by not accepting the recent list of "one-time" transfers being offered by Governor Rendell's administration as part of the budget negotiations.
"After yesterday's revelation that the Administration is once again hanging the conservation, recreation and environmental communities out to dry, I am appealing to the leadership of the Senate and House to take a strong stand for Pennsylvania's future by protecting Growing Greener, Keystone and other long-standing environmental initiatives," Heath stated. "This is a rare opportunity for Republican and Democrats to unite over an issue that affects the lives of every Pennsylvanian and will ensure that future generations get to enjoy the special places the Commonwealth has to offer."
"The targeted programs have enjoyed strong bi-partisan support, but conservation, recreation and environmental funds seem to be the easiest targets in budget talks. As much as $1 billion has already been cut or diverted from state environmental initiatives in the past seven years. At a time when natural gas drilling puts our state's water, air and land at risk, we cannot afford to suspend the programs that protect us," said Heath.
According to media reports released yesterday, Governor Rendell's administration is proposing a total of $132 million in suspensions and transfers from environmental funds, includine:
-- Growing Greener - $12 million in transfers and $29.8 million in suspensions
-- Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund - $54.8 million in suspensions
-- Clean Air Fund - $8 million in transfers
-- Agriculture Easement Purchase Fund - $20.4 million in suspensions
Since 1993, the Keystone Fund has been hugely successful in creating and upgrading municipal parks, supporting community recreation, conserving critical natural areas, building trails and improving State Parks and Forests. Because the Keystone Fund leverages local investments, every dollar cut from Keystone results in the loss of two or more dollars for conservation and recreation.
In 2005, Governor Rendell and the General Assembly put a $625 million bond referendum question to the voters for the maintenance and protection of the environment, open space and farmland preservation, watershed protection, abandoned mine reclamation, acid mine drainage remediation and other environmental initiatives. The referendum was passed with 60% approval and Growing Greener II was established.
The Renew Growing Greener Coalition consists of 22 of the state's leading conservation, recreation and environmental organizations. The Coalition's mission is to secure dedicated funding for future Growing Greener projects. For more information, visit the Renew Growing Greener website.

Thursday NewsClips

Budget Talks Narrow Gap, But Deal Still Elusive
Speaker McCall: Next 24 Hours Critical On Budget
Rendell, Lawmakers Cite Progress In Budget Talks
Rendell Sends Solobay Headless Bobblehead Doll For Not Supporting Severance Tax
Corbett, DEP Secretary, Onorato Spar Over Marcellus Shale Drilling Standards
Sting Nets Trucking Violators, Many Hauling Fracking Water
Environmental, Safety Violations Found On Drilling Water Trucks
State Police Crack Down On Gas Drilling Vehicles
Gasland Documentary Fuels Debate Over Natural Gas Drilling
Backyard Burning Ignites Concern In Carbon
Old Refrigeration Units Now Being Hauled Away For Free
Commonwealth Court Affirms Ruling Against LED Billboard
Earthquake In Canada Sends Tremors Throughout NE
Harrisburg Incinerator Misunderstood?
Gratz Says No To Wind Turbine
Schuylkill Appoints Recycling Chief
Mineland Developer Pitches New Fill Process
Group Stages Drilling Protest In Dallas Twp.
Corbett Statement ON Gas Drilling Draws Flak
Property Owners Alliance Opposes DRBC Gas Test Well Ban
DEP Looks To Raise NPDES Permit Service Fees
Dimock, PA: A Colossal Fracking Mess

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rendell Proposes $132 Million Suspensions, Transfers From Environmental Funds To Balance State Budget

Gov. Rendell has given legislative leaders a list of proposed $182 million in fund transfers and suspensions to help balance the state budget with $132 million coming from environmental funds--
-- Growing Greener-- $12 million (transfer), $29.8 million (suspension) - total $41.8 million -- virtually all the money going into the fund in FY 2010-11 beyond paying for the Growing Greener II bond issue debt service;
-- Keystone Fund-- $54.8 million (suspension) -- virtually all the money going into the fund in FY 2010-11;
-- Surface Mining Conservation -- $10 million (transfer);
-- Clean Air Fund-- $8 million (transfer);
-- Energy Development Fund $2 million (transfer); and
-- Agriculture Easement Purchase Fund- $20.4 million (suspension) -- virtually all the money going into the fund in FY 2010-11.
He proposed an additional $643 million to be transfered out of two Tobacco Settlement Funds.
Over the last seven years more than $1.3 billion in environmental funding has been used to balance the budget or to fund programs that could not get funding on their own.
The proposed cuts to Growing Greener in particular will end any new project funding, period. It will also mean county conservation district watershed specialists cannot be funded bringing support to watershed groups to its knees.

Coalition: Tax on Natural Gas Extraction Must Include Significant Funding for Growing Greener

A coalition of 22 of the state’s leading conservation, recreation and environmental organizations, strongly supports a tax on natural gas extraction that includes a significant portion of the revenues being allocated to the Environmental Stewardship Fund for future Growing Greener projects.
Andrew Heath, Executive Director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition, said he is cautiously optimistic that the Environmental Stewardship Fund, the primary funding source for the state’s Growing Greener initiatives, will receive a significant portion of any future Severance Tax legislation. “We are encouraged by the responses we have received during our meetings with Senators. There appears to be a strong, bipartisan understanding that Growing Greener is an effective tool in protecting and restoring the Commonwealth’s most treasured places,” Heath said.
Heath noted that, in a recent Capitolwire article, Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson) specifically cited Growing Greener as a possible beneficiary of any future Severance Tax. “This is a clear indication that there is concern in the Senate about our communities’ ability to protect their land, air, water and ways of life,” Heath said.
Growing Greener began in 1999, when Governor Tom Ridge and the General Assembly committed $645 million over five years to empower communities to protect working farms and special places, clean up rivers and streams, create and improve parks and trails, and revitalize cities and towns. Growing Greener remains the largest single investment in conservation, recreation and environmental projects ever made by the Commonwealth.
In 2002, Governor Mark Schweiker and the General Assembly identified a dedicated source of revenue for Growing Greener through increasing the state’s “tipping fee,” a fee charged for dumping trash in Pennsylvania landfills. The Environmental Stewardship Fund was created to receive those “tipping fee” revenues and Growing Greener grew from $645 million to $1.3 billion.
Recognizing the need to accelerate the work of Growing Greener, Governor Rendell and the General Assembly put a $625 million bond referendum question to the voters for the maintenance and protection of the environment, open space and farmland preservation, watershed protection, abandoned mine reclamation, acid mine drainage remediation and other environmental initiatives. In the primary of 2005, the referendum passed with 60% approval and Growing Greener II was established.
Since its inception, Growing Greener has transformed Pennsylvania by empowering local communities to protect, restore and maintain their natural treasures, revitalize their downtowns and neighborhoods, and improve their economic vitality.
According to the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee Report issued in March 2010, virtually all of the Growing Greener II funds have already been spent or committed. Total funds available for Growing Greener projects will soon decrease to about $15 million a year, from previous levels of $200 million.
For more information visit the Renew Growing Greener Coalition website.

Wednesday NewsClips

Budget Talks Termed Productive
State Budget Negotiations Called Productive
Scranton Time Drilling Series
Western PA Changed By Gas Drilling Offer Local Lessons
Business Opportunity Fueled By Water, Not Gas
Public To Weigh In On Marcellus Gas Pipeline Project
Impacts Of Marcellus Drilling Questioned By Pitt Center
Gas Officials: Industry Will Stimulate Local Economy
Op-Ed: Natural Gas Drilling Tightly Regulated In PA, Sen. MJ White
Pittsburgh Council Members Want Regulations On Gas Drilling
Pittsburgh Bill Would Restrict Natural Gas Drilling In City
Inventors Say Hydra Offers Clean Water, Hope For Villages
Editorial: Reject PPL's New Rate Ploy
Camp Hill Woman With Lyme Disease Supports Senate Bill
P&G Could See Break On Natural Gas Tax
Road Damage From Drilling Trucks Concerns Mehoopany
Little Oversight, Looming Problems For Gas Industry
LED Lights To Be Installed Soon
House Committee Votes On Natural Gas Tax
No House Vote On Vitali Energy Bill
Lower Nazareth School Neighbors Threaten Suit Over Solar Proposal
Education Focus Of NE Energy Expo
First Step Toward Lycoming Solid Waste Plan
Gas Officials: Industry Will Stimulate Local Economy
Groundbreaking Held For Natural Gas Park
At Drilling Sites, Business Is Good
Contaminated Soil Dumped At Housing Development

Monday, June 21, 2010

PEC Presents Lifetime Achievement Awards To Jane G. Pepper, J. Blaine Bonham Jr.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council announced it will award the prestigious Curtin Winsor Award to longtime urban greening advocates Jane G. Pepper and J. Blaine Bonham Jr., both of whom have recently retired from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
The award will be presented at PEC's 40th Annual Philadelphia Dinner on June 23rd at the Crystal Tea Room.
Named for the PEC's founder and longtime President, the Winsor Award honors distinguished environmental leaders. Past recipients include Dr. Ruth Patrick, former Congressman Bob Borski, Joseph Manko, Joanne Denworth, and Eleanor Morris.
"All Philadelphians have benefitted from the exceptional leadership of Jane Pepper and Blaine Bonham during their time at PHS," said Don Welsh, President and CEO of PEC. "From iconic landscapes like the Azalea Garden and Logan Square to small neighborhood gardens, they have vastly improved the quality and sheer number of green spaces in the region and made our city a more vibrant place to live."
Jane Pepper led the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society as President for nearly three decades. During her tenure, she raised the stature of the Philadelphia Flower Show into an international phenomenon.
In honor of her tenure, PHS recently launched the Legacy Landscapes campaign, with a goal of raising $12.1 million in endowment funds to provide ongoing maintenance to the city's treasured landscapes. To date the fund has raised more than $9 million.
J. Blaine Bonham Jr. founded Philadelphia Green, the PHS urban greening program, in 1974. He started with two volunteers and a truck and grew the program into the most comprehensive urban greening program in the nation.
Now a national model, the program has been particularly effective at converting millions of square feet of vacant land in Philadelphia into green space. Bonham is also responsible for PHS's wildly popular Tree Tenders program.
"PEC has had the pleasure of working with Jane and Blaine on many projects over the year," said Patrick Starr, Senior Vice President of PEC. "I'm so pleased to recognize these two partners who have been vital to PEC's work, and wish them continued success in their new endeavors."

Cathy Myers To Head Bucknell University Environmental Center

Cathy Myers, Special Assistant to the DEP Secretary for Pennsylvania's Recovery and former Deputy Secretary for Water Management, announced she is leaving the Department of Environmental Protection to become the first Executive Director of the Bucknell University Environmental Center.
Since November 2004, the Bucknell University Environmental Center has sought to provide a venue for interdisciplinary teaching, research, and outreach related to environmental affairs. The Center brings together faculty, staff, and students from each of the University's four divisions-- humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.

Another Natural Gas Severance Tax Bill Moving In House

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee today voted 17-9 to report out House Bill 1489 (George-D-Clearfield) which includes yet another version of a severance tax on natural gas production and includes a tax credit to help drilling companies hire Pennsylvania workers.
The bill was later referred into and out of the House Rules Committee with a recommendation it be referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
"The measure, House Bill 1489, is available now for consideration as part of the budget negotiations," said Rep. Bud George, Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee. "It has been refined to provide more flexibility on how the tax is assessed and to ensure that the governments and resources being strained by the drilling boom are responsibly reimbursed."
Rep. George said the extraction tax on drillers was simplified to a flat tax that can be adjusted annually to reflect changes in gas prices, providing the industry and the Commonwealth clearer benchmarks.
The base and beginning tax rate would be 35 cents for every 1,000 cubic feet recovered.
"At the base rate, every 1 trillion cubic feet would garner $350 million," Rep. George said. "Based on projected production rates, House Bill 1489 could generate as much as $223 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year that begins next week and more than $400 million in 2011-12."
The tax rate would be adjusted once a year based on the previous 12-month average of natural gas prices.
"The measure accounts for both immediate and long-term needs of environmental-protection programs and state and local governments," Rep. George said. "No longer would Pennsylvania be the only major gas-producing state to make Commonwealth taxpayers shoulder the entire load for the risks and costs of what will be a long-term and lucrative venture for the gas industry."
Rep. George said the first $75 million from the $223 million anticipated from first-year-only severance tax proceeds would go "off the top" to the state's General Fund. The distribution formula for the anticipated $148 million remaining would be:
-- 50 percent to the General Fund;
-- 20 percent to a Local Government Services Account;
-- 15 percent to the Environmental Stewardship Fund;
-- 3 percent to the Conservation District Fund;
-- 3 percent to the Fish & Boat Commission;
-- 2 percent to the Game Commission;
-- 2 percent to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP;
-- 2 percent to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund;
-- 2 percent to the Oil & Gas Environmental Disaster Recovery Account; and
-- 1 percent to low-head dam removal and reconstruction projects.
After 2010-11, the "off-the-top" distribution to the General Fund would end, and all revenues would be distributed according to the base formula.
Rep. George said the Government Services Account would distribute 40 percent of its dedicated revenues to municipalities where the gas is severed, 30 percent to counties where the gas is severed, 20 percent to municipalities without producing sites but within gas-producing counties, and 10 percent to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
"House Bill 1489 represents a collaborative effort combining ideas from across the state," Rep. George said. "It provides a legislative path for responsible budgeting and assessing of the costs of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom."
Rep. George said HB 1489 would also:
-- Prevent severance tax deductions from landowners' royalties;
-- Exempt companies extracting gas for in-plant use. Surplus gas sold from company wells would be subject to the tax;
-- Create a $2,500 tax credit for each job created for up to $25 million annually for gas-drilling firms hiring Pennsylvania workers;
-- Exempt stripper wells producing 60,000 cubic feet or less of gas a day.
Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) serves as Minority Chair of the Committee.

Monday NewsClips

Rendell Continues To Warn OF Government Worker Layoffs
Hazards Posed By Natural Gas Drilling Not Always Underground
State Lacks Consistent Recordkeeping For Drilling Contamination, Leaks
Marcellus Shale's Promise Has Potential For Problems
The Cost Of Natural Gas Drilling, Including Flaming Water
Column: Want A Big Natural Gas Pipeline In Your Backyard?
Op-Ed: Legislature Must Act For Safe Gas Drilling
Editorial: Senate Should Pass Moratorium On State Forest Drilling
Editorial: Gasland Documentary Should Be Required Viewing For Legislators
Editorial: Expedite New Water Rules
Editorial: Staying Green With Growing Greener
Sunbury Riverfront Being Overhauled
Op-Ed: BP Disaster Echoes TMI Incident
PECO Lobbies Against Philadelphia Energy Panel
Historic House Becoming A Zero-Energy Home
Riverfest Provides A Real Trip For Many
Coal, Coke Trail Hits End, Mt. Pleasant Cyclists Conquer Others
Plan Aims To Integrate Walking, Biking Routes
Native Plant Experience In York County Showcase For Home Ideas
Vitali: Rules Now In Place To Protect Marcellus Region
Editorial: Gas Tax Gambit Exposes Harrisburg's Thinking

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 21 PA Environment Digest Now Available

June 21 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Rendell: Progress Made On Budget, Except 20,000 Workers May Be Furloughed

At a press conference this week, Gov. Rendell said there was progress in a meeting with the four Caucus leaders where they laid out a schedule to get the state budget done almost on time.
But he also asked the legislative leaders to stay in Harrisburg continuously, starting June 21, until the state budget is finished.
At the same time, the Governor said if the federal government does not approve $850 million in federal Medicaid funding by July 1, he would begin putting state funds in escrow to cover that budget need.
The funds, he said, would be gleaned from further budget cuts and the furlough of 20,000 state and local workers. Click here to read more…

Friday NewsClips

Wastewater Rule Wins Key Vote In Harrisburg
State Stiffens Drilling Water Regulations
PA Commission Passes Tougher Marcellus Shale Wastewater Rules
Marcellus Drillers Facing Stringent Wastewater Rules
Marcellus Shale Drillers Have To Treat Water Before Putting It Back
Senate Committee Expresses Concern About Shale Drilling
Drilling Benefits Recreation Site
Drillers Dispute Gasland Documentary
Gasland Movie Critical Of Drilling
Schuylill/Luzerne Forum Set To Discuss Business Opportunities
Sewage Upgrade Progress Varies To Meet Chesapeake Bay Cleanup
House Panel Seeks More Information On Chloramine
Solar Projects Heat Up At Lehigh Valley Schools
Solar Panels Could Be Bright Idea to Cut Costs
Op-Ed: Electric Deregulation Is Working
Riders Fill Up Free Buses On Dump The Pump Day
Erie Coke Pays $6 Million Penalty To Upgrade Coke Oven
National Award For PA State Parks Makes Rounds
Parks, Recreation Homecoming For Mike DiBerardinis
Fish Advisories Lifted For Pair Of Western PA Waterways
PA Towns To Serve As Put-In, Take-Out Sites For Susquehanna Adventure
Students Get First Hand View Of Gas Industry
Despite Cheaper Options, PPL Customers Remain With Utility
Smithfield Twp. Plans Wind Power Plant
Gas Well Response Company To Visit Clearfield Airport
Nature Abounds Grant To Aid Water Monitoring By Senior Environment Corps
Editorial: Don't Change Law To Allow Gas Companies To Seize Our Land
DRBC To Regulate Exploratory Wells
Partnership Resolution On Drilling Sparks Criticism In Sullivan

Thursday, June 17, 2010

IRRC Approves Tougher Drilling Wastewater, Erosion & Sedimentation Rules

Gov. Rendell today praised two votes by members of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission he said will protect Pennsylvania's streams and drinking water supplies against total dissolved solids pollution from Marcellus Shade drilling wells and other sources from stormwater runoff.
The new total dissolved solids, or TDS, rules the Commission approved will ensure rivers and streams in Pennsylvania do not exceed the safe drinking water standard of 500 milligrams per liter, the Governor said. The rules also will protect businesses by grandfathering all existing discharges and allowing businesses to use a stream's ability to absorb those discharges while not exceeding drinking water standards.
"Today's IRRC vote is a great step forward in our efforts to protect one of the state's greatest natural and economic assets-our waterways," said Gov. Rendell. "Millions of Pennsylvanians rely on the state's rivers and streams for drinking water; countless numbers of our residents and visitors from out-of-state come here to fish these waters or use them for recreation; and some of our largest industrial employers wouldn't be able to operate here if not for the clean, reliable supply of water they offer. So, we cannot allow new, heavily polluted sources of wastewater to contaminate them.
"That's why these regulations are so important," added the Governor, who noted the approved regulations now await review from the environmental resources and energy committees in the state House and Senate."
Both regulations were approved by a vote of 4 to 1.
Drilling Wastewater
"As the natural gas industry expands to access the Marcellus Shale reserves in Pennsylvania, the volume of wastewater returned to our streams could increase exponentially, and the only way to protect our water resources is to implement new wastewater treatment standards for the drilling industry," said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger. "The National Association of Water Companies and many other individuals and groups across the state strongly support the adoption of this rule and I commend the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for taking this action. All other industries are responsible for the waste they generate and the drilling industry should be no exception."
Secretary Hanger noted that drilling wastewater contains very high levels of total dissolved solids - chlorides and sulfides - that must be removed before discharging into surface waters. High TDS levels have damaged industrial equipment, caused drinking water companies to issue drinking water advisories and even led to a massive fish kill on Dunkard Creek. Some of Pennsylvania's rivers are near their capacity to absorb and dilute additional levels of TDS.
The regulations will require drillers to treat drilling wastewater to 500 mg/l or to drinking water quality at the discharge pipe if they choose to return drilling wastewater to rivers and streams. Drillers have several options to dispose of wastewater in Pennsylvania, including: reuse or recycling; disposal in deep caverns when permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; or full treatment to the 500 mg/l for TDS standard.
The last option will only work if polluted water is properly treated to reduce high TDS levels. Several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee, prohibit returning any drilling wastewater to streams.
Natural Gas Industry Reaction
Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, issued this statement about the new rules, which have been sought by DEP:
“There is not a single water treatment facility in Pennsylvania that could meet this unreasonable benchmark, which will not provide any additional environmental benefit.
“Our industry is working aggressively and constantly to improve our water management practices, as one of our top priorities has been and remains the protection of our rivers, lakes, streams and tributaries. In fact, MSC members are now recycling nearly 60 percent of the water from this process. Many are recycling almost 100 percent of their water, thanks to new technologies and the unwavering commitment to environmental protection.
“There is a need for commonsense regulations that encourage the production job-creating natural gas throughout the Commonwealth and aim to keep our water clean. Unfortunately, these rules will make responsible shale gas development more difficult, and the jobs and economic benefits created throughout this process less likely, without positively impacting Pennsylvania’s water quality.”
Erosion & Sedimentation
The panel also approved new regulations to enhance existing rules governing erosion, sediment control and stormwater to protect streams from the effects of new development, reduce localized flooding during heavy storms, and cut sediment and nutrient pollution.
The new rules, which also include an updated permit fee structure, bring Pennsylvania into compliance with federal requirements for:
-- Erosion and sedimentation controls and post-construction stormwater runoff;
-- Creating mandatory requirements for establishing and protecting existing streamside and riverside buffers in high quality and exceptional value watersheds; and
-- Enhancing agricultural stormwater management provisions beyond plowing and tilling to include animal-heavy use areas.
The regulations also contain $5 million in permit fees increases designed to help offset, in part, the 26 percent cut in the General Fund appropriation to DEP in this year's budget and continued in FY 2010-11.
Environmental Reaction
“We applaud today’s vote in favor of adopting these important new standards. DEP based the regulations on sound science and the result will be better protection for our streams and drinking water.," said Matthew Ehrhart, PA Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“This proposal places tight limits on the total dissolved solids (TDS) allowable in treating hydraulic fracturing wastewater and will protect Pennsylvania’s streams, our communities, and our industries that depend on clean water. It will additionally provide protection for sewage treatment facilities that were not designed to treat the high TDS concentrations components that exist in this type of wastewater.
“The high TDS and other chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing wastewater can be damaging to the biological systems employed at many wastewater treatment facilities. These systems are critical to meeting nitrogen and phosphorus limits as required through the Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Standards. Additionally, the proposal protects drinking water plants and other industries that rely on fresh water.

“The IRRC also approved improvements to Pennsylvania's regulations on preventing pollution from construction sites. The new regulations require that when a new development is proposed, our most pristine streams will be protected by a 150-foot streamside forest on both sides of the stream.
"Scientific research has shown that these forests, called buffers, provide critical benefits to water quality while often increasing neighboring property values. The new regulations also strengthen requirements for controlling stormwater pollution from new development and clarify requirements for agricultural operations that have livestock heavy use areas.
“Streamside forests and better stormwater pollution controls protect our streams from polluted runoff. CBF fully endorses these new requirements.
“These votes are a major victory for water quality in Pennsylvania.”
Next Steps
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee last week and the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee this week requested a 14 day extension of their opportunity to comment on these regulations. Both committees expressed interest in seeing the results of the IRRC meeting.
Copies of the regulations are available on the May 17 Environmental Quality Board meeting webpage.
State Stiffens Drilling Water Regulations
PA Commission Passes Tougher Marcellus Shale Wastewater Rules
State Passes Rules To Regulate Drilling Wastewater

June 23 PA Environmental Council Dinner To Feature Candidates For Governor

Join the PA Environmental Council for a discussion with Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates Tom Corbett and Dan Onorato as they share their environmental perspectives and visions.
Tickets are still available for PEC's 40th Philadelphia Dinner - the region's premier environmental networking event! The dinner will be held on June 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Crystal Tea Room.
PEC will also present two Curtin Winsor Awards, named for PEC's founder and longtime president. Jane Pepper and Blaine Bonham, both recently retired from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, will be awarded this prestigious honor for their lifelong commitment and success in greening Philadelphia.

Marcellus Shale Coalition: Would DRBC Have Let Washington Cross The Delaware?

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group promoting Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, put out this piece in response to the extended moratorium on drilling issued by the Delaware River Basin Commission this week.

It’s hard to imagine President Kennedy had the denial of jobs and revenue for residents of Pennsylvania in mind when he signed a bill in 1961 creating the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).
But nearly a half-century later, the DRBC of today bears little resemblance to the compact established nearly five decades ago -- one that was put in place to promote economic growth by providing a mechanism for equitable distribution of the Delaware’s waters.
Today, unlike similarly structured, intergovernmental bodies – such as the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) – the DRBC is working aggressively to shut down any and all natural gas exploration that may take place, now or in the future, in the eastern portion of the Marcellus Shale.
This week, following the decision last month to ban new shale permits in the area, the West Trenton, N.J.-based organization took additional steps to bring responsible Marcellus Shale natural gas production to a standstill by putting forth a de facto moratorium. How’d it do that? Easy: DRBC simply gave itself the authority to unilaterally freeze exploratory Marcellus production wells in the basin altogether.
Well aware of exactly what’s at stake, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) wasn’t bashful in telling the Philadelphia Inquirer what it thought of the DRBC decision:
Kathryn Klaber, executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition…said extending the temporary ban on new permits to include exploratory wells only added "layers of unnecessary red tape" without any environmental benefit.
"The DRBC's decision to deny Americans the benefits of clean-burning, job-creating natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is misguided and unfortunate," she said. New technologies, she added, are reducing the overall water usage and land disturbance.
"At the same time, this production is creating tens of thousands of jobs and delivering affordable, clean-burning energy to struggling families and small businesses. Our hope is that the DRBC will recognize this fact and act accordingly, putting commonsense solutions and policies ahead of agendas," she said.
Safely producing clean-burning natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania remains a powerful job creation engine. In fact, according to a recently updated Penn State University economic impact study, this tightly regulated production is projected to create nearly 212,000 jobs over the next decade.
Many in Pennsylvania understand how important this opportunity is for the Commonwealth, especially in regions of the state facing high unemployment and ongoing economic struggles. And like the MSC, supporters of environmentally safe natural gas production understand how critical it is to get this right, balancing commonsense environmental safeguards with the economic opportunities before us.
Here’s what one northeastern Pennsylvania natural gas advocate told the Associated Press about safely developing these abundant, domestic and clean-burning resources near the Delaware River basin:
Energy companies have leased thousands of acres of land in Pennsylvania’s unspoiled northeastern tip, hoping to tap vast stores of gas in a sprawling rock formation — the Marcellus Shale — that some experts believe could become the nation’s most productive gas field.
Plenty of folks like Matoushek are eager for the gas, and the royalty checks, to start flowing — including farmers who see Marcellus money as a way to keep their struggling operations afloat.
“It’s a depressed area,” Matoushek said. “This is going to mean new jobs, real jobs, not government jobs.”
Adding new and unnecessary layers of burdensome regulations and red tape – aimed at halting job-creating Marcellus Shale natural gas production – will not help deliver more affordable supplies of homegrown energy.
The DRBC’s shale gas moratorium will not help drive down our dependence on unstable regions of the world to keep our economy fueled, nor will it help create jobs at a time when they’re most needed. Quite the opposite, in fact.

DEP's Scott Roberts Earns Mayfly Award

The Pennsylvania Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference’s coveted “Mayfly Award” recognizes individuals who have dedicated a lifetime of knowledge and expertise to the reclamation of abandoned mines in Pennsylvania.
This year’s recipient is Deputy Secretary for Mineral Resources Management, Scott Roberts from the Department of Environmental Protection. It is safe to say that everyone in the AMR community knows Scott Roberts’ name and there is reason for that.
“Early on he recognized the value of working with watershed groups to help reclaim abandoned mines and treat mine water”, says former DEP Secretary David Hess. Secretary Hess goes on to say, “Scott helped to oversee programs that from 1995 to 2003 reclaimed over 33,000 acres of abandoned mined lands, more than at any other time in the state’s history.”
Scott's contributions to the AMR community doesn't stop there.
He was instrumental in gaining Congressional approval in 2006 for the extension of the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation fee that will, over 15 years, provide over $1 billion to Pennsylvania for mine reclamation efforts. He played a critical, behind-the-scenes, role in helping rescue the 9 miners trapped in the Quecreek Mine in Somerset County in 2002.
In his executive management position, Roberts’ oversees five program areas, encompassing 555 employees, with an annual operating budget of $110 million. The Bureau of Mineral Resources Management is responsible for developing and implementing Pennsylvania ’s policies and programs for surface and underground coal and industrial mineral mining, oil and gas exploration and production, mine safety and the reclamation of abandoned mines and wells.
The direct economic impact of these programs in Pennsylvania exceeds $2 billion annually.
Beyond all that, Roberts’ is an extremely personable, knowledgeable, respected, and worthy candidate for the PA AMR’s Conference committee’s prestigious award.
The Mayfly Award was presented to Roberts aboard the River Boat Cruise as part of the 2010 Joint Mining Reclamation Conference.

Thursday NewsClips

Legislative Leaders Charge Staff With Developing Budget
Vitali Pushes For Tax On Natural Gas Drilling
Severance Tax Issue A Big Hurdle For Drill Laws
Op-Ed: Conserve Aquatic Resources With Severance Tax
DEP Secretary Warns Of Consequences To Gas Industry
U.S. State Calls For Tougher Gas Drilling Regulation
Head Of DEP Wants Tougher Well Oversight
PA Environmental Official Calls For Safer Natural Gas Industry
PA Officials Warns Natural Gas Companies Not To Cut Safety Corners
DEP Warns Gas Well Drillers
New Standards Urged For Drilling Wastewater
DEP Seeks New Drilling Safety Laws
Editorial: Drilling Could Harm Water
New Recycling Facility Opens For Drilling Wastewater
Natural Gas Jobs Continue To Flow In PA
Senate Panel To Hold Form On Drilling Preparedness
No PA Violations Found For Driller In WV Well Fire
Group Revives PA Coal Caucus
State Parks To Suspend Anti-Free Speech Regulation
Flood Cleanup, Damage Assessment Continues In NE
The Allegheny Front: Overcoming Nature Deficit Disorder
Schools Move Kids Outside For Nature Lessons
Anti-Billboard Group Sues Philadelphia
Bat Program At Carbon County EE Center
Sestak Commends DRBC Stand On Natural Gas
Sierra Club Plans Cleanup Of Neshaminy Creek Trail
$2 Million EPA Fine For Fish Kills
Drilling Poses Risk To PA Water Supplies
Ransom Discusses Gas Drilling Concerns
Chesco Firm Gets OK To Treat Marcellus Shale Water
Gas Pipeline Filing Puts Eminent Domain On Table
Reps. Hanna, Mirabito Offer Gas Tax Sharing Plan

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