Thursday, April 30, 2015

Exelon: Industry Can Achieve EPA Carbon Reduction Goals At Low Cost

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants can be achieved quickly and at low cost to consumers through a voluntary compliance program that uses existing market mechanisms to prioritize the use of emissions-free energy, Exelon Executive Vice President of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy Joseph Dominguez told members of the United States Energy Association Thursday.
“The ability of grid operators to rely on reliable, emissions-free nuclear plants will be increasingly important as the nation’s electricity system becomes less reliant on coal and more reliant on natural gas pipelines and renewable technologies – such as wind and solar – which are weather-dependent”
Dominguez disagrees with critics who claim EPA’s proposed carbon rule is unachievable, too costly and damaging to electric reliability and said they are on the wrong side of history. The remarks were part of a keynote address at the 2015 USEA Annual Membership Meeting & Public Policy Forum at the National Press Club.
“Americans want the power industry to pollute less. They believe progress in this area is possible, and they are right,” he said. “As an industry, we have to offer ideas that focus on what we can achieve, not look for reasons why we can’t. We believe there are options for reducing carbon on time without causing blackouts, soaring electricity costs or any of the other doomsday predictions.”
Dominguez urged EPA to support a proposal to give states a way to comply with the Clean Power Plan, also known as Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, by imposing a cost on carbon emissions to make low- and no-emissions energy sources more competitive. The concept, referred to as Reliability Dispatch Safe Harbor, has broad support from industry, environmental organizations and trade groups.
“This is a rare instance where these groups agree, which is a good basis for EPA to support it,” he said.
Currently, grid operators call upon power plants in order of their cost to operate. This is a time-tested mechanism for meeting demand while ensuring that consumers get the best price. However, the market doesn’t currently factor in the cost of pollution on the environment and society, Dominguez said.
Under the Reliability Dispatch plan, EPA would determine a uniform, nationwide price for carbon emissions that would result in the reductions called for in the Clean Power Plan. Carbon-emitting power generators in states that opt into the plan would include the carbon price as a variable cost of operating, and the state would be deemed in compliance with EPA’s interim target.
The additional carbon price would reflect the true cost of operating high-emitting plants, resulting in more clean energy sources being dispatched to the grid based on their lower true cost. High-emitting plants would remain available to meet demand, ensuring that reliability is not compromised.
The revenues collected for carbon use could be returned to consumers, mitigating the costs of the program, Dominguez said. Exelon estimates that this approach would result in a one-time rate increase of 2 percent to 5 percent, which is in line with standard utility rate increases.
Reliability Dispatch would treat all zero-carbon power equally, providing an incentive to invest in new renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, while increasing the competitiveness of existing clean sources, including nuclear and hydropower.
Nuclear plants are among the most reliable sources of energy on the grid and are essential to any serious plan to reduce carbon emissions, Dominguez said. Yet some nuclear plants are at risk of shutting down due to economic factors and market rules that don’t properly value the reliability and clean energy that nuclear provides.
“The ability of grid operators to rely on reliable, emissions-free nuclear plants will be increasingly important as the nation’s electricity system becomes less reliant on coal and more reliant on natural gas pipelines and renewable technologies – such as wind and solar – which are weather-dependent,” Dominguez said.
For more information, visit the Exelon Environment webpage.

Wildlife For Everyone: Winners Announced In Tom Ridge Wetlands Photo Contest

The Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation welcomed students from across Central Pennsylvania to "Explore, Discover & Understand Wetlands Through the Lens of a Camera" on April 27 at The Governor Tom Ridge Wetlands in Centre County.
Students received experience using the latest technology to capture the natural beauty of the wetlands and its inhabitants. Generous donations from Big Froggy 101, Best Buy, Penn's Cave & Wildlife Park and Dairy Queen Grill & Chill offset the cost of prizes and entertainment for participants.
After an educational briefing on the history of the wetlands and on the site's features, teams of students explored the preserve, snapping photographs of wildlife and habitat. Teams then proceeded to upload pictures onto tablets, creating short presentations featuring their best photos. These presentations were judged by a panel based on quality and creativity.
The award winners were--
-- Group A: First Place - Dan & Matt; Second Place - Lexis & Allison; Third Place - Marina & Matt
-- Group B: First Place - Ammati & Taylor; Second Place - Jacob & Aidan; Third Place - Aleah & Tiara
Winning presentations are available online at and through social media.
The Governor Tom Ridge Wetlands Preserve is comprised of over 135 acres, located along Route 220 between Julian and Martha Furnace in Centre County.
The site includes about 55 acres of wetlands created by The WHM Group (based in State College with offices in Harrisburg, Delaware Valley and Western Pennsylvania); 15 acres of upland woodland; a quarter-mile of frontage on Bald Eagle Creek, which is a multi-use recreational stream stocked with trout; about 1.5 miles of trails along the wetlands; off-street parking; and 35-40 acres that could be developed by WFEEF in the future.
"We were overwhelmed with the amount of quality entries we received," said WFEEF Administrative Assistant Peg Hosterman. "We'd also like to thank the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, Big Brothers Big Sisters and our volunteers from Best Buy for participating."
The event's inception coincided with WFEEF receiving the Best Buy 2013 community grant. The grant's focus was to aid teenagers in building and improving 21st Century technology skills.
Working with area stores Best Buy Mobile (#2811 - Nittany Mall) and Best Buy State College (#369 - North Atherton Street), WFEEF received $6,880.04 from Best Buy to purchase cameras, tablets, a printer and other related items. Best Buy contributed volunteers to this year's event as well. The WHM Group and Wildlife Leadership Academy also had information display booths at the wetlands.
"I have always had a passion for wildlife in Pennsylvania," said WFEEF Executive Director Vern Ross. "I hope this event helps develop a similar passion within a new generation."
For more information, visit the Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation website.

PA Environmental Council Launches Environmental Focus TV Show On PCN May 3

The PA Environmental Council has announced it will produce a monthly, half-hour television talk show on environmental issues beginning May 3 on the Pennsylvania Cable Network and later online at PEC’s website.
Titled “Environmental Focus,” this show will center on a different environmental topic each month, and will feature guests and roundtable discussion with particular insights and expertise on the issues.
The broadcast one Sunday afternoon per month on PCN.
The May 3 program will air at 5:30 p.m. and will focus on the Pennsylvania capital budget. The featured guest will be former Department of Environmental Protection secretary David Hess, now Director of Policy & Communications at Crisci Associates in Harrisburg.
A one-on-one interview with Hess will be followed by a roundtable discussion on the budget with R. John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Davitt Woodwell, president of the PA Environmental Council.
“Environmental Focus is another way that PEC is taking its message to our members, our constituents, policy-makers, and decision-makers in Pennsylvania,” said Woodwell.
“We think it’s an effective tool for reaching important audiences and openly discussing the issues, ideas, and challenges facing the Pennsylvania environment,” he added. “And PEC hopes to lead the discussion on these issues in ways that elevate the debate in a thoughtful, transparent, and productive way.”
For more information, visit the PA Environmental Council website.

April 30 DEP News Now Available

The April 30 edition of the DEP News newsletter is now available from the Department of Environmental Protection featuring articles on--
-- Click Here to sign up for your own copy.

Marcellus Gas Industry Campaign Contributions Up 47 Percent

A new study finds a 47 percent increase in campaign donations from the natural gas industry to Pennsylvania politicians in the 2013-2014 election cycle (over 2011-2012). Lobbying expenditures grew 13 percent over the same period.
The study was done by, a project of Common Cause and the PA and Conservation Voters of PA that tracks campaign contributions of the gas drilling industry. 
Quick Facts:
-- Natural gas campaign contributions (2013-2014): $2,819,109
-- Total contributions (since 2007): $8,221,909
-- Natural gas lobbying expenditures (2013-2014): $17,903,738
-- Total lobbying (since 2007): $46,869,515
In 2013-2014, natural gas industry donations were made to:
-- Republican candidates and PACs totaled $2,195,254.
-- Democratic candidates and PACs totaled $519,814.
In the executive branch, 2013-2014 natural gas donations were made to:
-- Gov. Tom Corbett totaled $794,884.
-- The Republican Governors Association totaled $501,377.
-- Gov. Tom Wolf totaled $59,500.
-- Katie McGinty totaled $72,500.
In the General Assembly, 2013-2014 natural gas donations were made to:
-- Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati totaled $101,788.
-- House Majority Leader Dave Reed totaled $81,250.
-- Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa totaled $48,700.
-- Representative Jeffrey Pyle totaled $44,745.
-- Former Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi totaled $43,000.
-- Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman totaled $40,750.
-- House Speaker Mike Turzai totaled $27,500.
For more information, the full data sheet, and analysis of the impacts of these expenditures, read the full report at

House Committee Postpones May 7 Hearing On Chapter 78 Drilling Regulations

Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, sent out an email Thursday postponing the May 7 Committee hearing on DEP’s proposed final Chapter 78 drilling regulations.
“Yesterday afternoon, the Department of Environmental Protection advised House staff that Acting Secretary John Quigley has declined the invitation to appear at the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee hearing next week on what DEP has published as an "Advance Notice of Final Rulemaking" for Oil & Gas regulations referred to as Chapter 78 and 78A,” said Rep. Maher.
“This hearing was postponed from its originally scheduled date to accommodate DEP' when it announced a series of hearings on the subject.  DEP now advises that Acting Secretary Quigley has a "scheduling conflict" on May 7,” he said.  “Acting Secretary Quigley's testimony is essential and, accordingly, the May 7th hearing is postponed with the hope that a hearing date might be discovered that will not present a "scheduling conflict" for Mr. Quigley.”
Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair of the Committee.

Schuylkill Action Network To Honor Students For Work In Protecting Drinking Water

The Schuylkill Action Network will recognize students in the Schuylkill River Valley for their work protecting drinking water from the Schuylkill River.
The Schuylkill Action Network will present the Schuylkill Scholastic Drinking Water Award to the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber on May 4 at 3:20 p.m. in celebration of National Drinking Water Week on May 3-9.
The Science Leadership Academy at Beeber is one of three award winners in 2015.  The Schuylkill Action Network will also honor Reading Area Community College in Berks County and Blue Mountain Middle School in Schuylkill County for projects they completed on their campuses.
Students at the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber worked with the Philadelphia Water Department to build and install environmental sensors, or “root kits,” in a rain garden to monitor soil moisture and temperature.  They also made these kits for three elementary schools.
“Projects like this one are very important for keeping the Schuylkill Watershed clean,” said Tom Davidock, senior coordinator of the Schuylkill Action Network at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.  “Schools provide that direct link to communities and can teach all of us simple things we can all do to keep our rivers and streams healthy.  The students at the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber are involved in a small project that can have a big impact on the watershed.”
Click Here for more information on the Beeber project.  For more information on how you can protect drinking water, visit the Schuylkill Action Network website.

May 5 Webinar: Establishing & Maintaining Forested Stream Buffers

Penn State Extension continues its Green Infrastructure series of webinars with a webcast on May 5 at noon on Establishing and Maintaining Forested Stream Buffers.  Click Here to register. Other recorded webinars in the series are available online-
-- Click Here for more webinars.

DCNR To Add 48 Acres To Codorus State Park In York County

Acting Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Thursday  announced the department will add about 48 acres to Codorus State Park with the acquisition of the former Rohrbaugh property along Blooming Grove Road in Manheim Township, York County.
“This property includes a nice mix of habitats -- wetlands, fallow fields that are reverting to forest and a mixed hardwood and evergreen forest,” Dunn said. “At Codorus State Park, as with many of our sites, there is continuing pressure of residential development along park borders.  This acquisition is consistent with our priority of adding lands adjacent to our current properties for protective buffers from this development.”
“As Pennsylvania’s largest land manager, recreation provider and community recreation partner, DCNR is leading outdoor recreation initiatives that invigorate citizens and communities, creating jobs that pay, encouraging healthy lifestyles and promoting environmental stewardship,” Dunn said. “The land we add to our system supports that mission.”
The Rohrbaugh property is located on the southern boundary of Codorus State Park with frontage on Blooming Grove Road (Route 216).
The state invested $219,000 in Growing Greener 2 funds to purchase the land.  The Conservation Fund, a non-profit organization that focuses on creating land and water protection strategies that balance environmental stewardship with economic viability, facilitated the purchase with additional funds from an anonymous donor.
“This property boasts a network of trails, great views and access to Long Run, which expands the tremendous recreational opportunities that attract visitors to Codorus State Park every year,” said Kyle Shenk, Pennsylvania representative for The Conservation Fund. “Enhancing and adding to the park’s natural attractions will ensure public access and support the local economy through tourism.”
DCNR compensates local governments on an annual basis as payment-in-lieu of taxes for public lands.  This is meant to replace taxes that would have been generated if these land holdings were in private ownership. Conservation of these lands also will ensure that municipalities will not have to bear costs associated with development.
Pennsylvania state parks host 38 million visitors annually, support more than 13,000 jobs, and provide more than a billion dollars to the state’s economy.
The 3,490-acre Codorus State Park is in the rolling hills of southern York County. The 1,275-acre Lake Marburg has 26 miles of shoreline. The lake is popular with sail boaters and motor boaters. Anglers love the lake for warm water fishing and also can fish Codorus Creek for trout.
The park has many different habitats, like forests, fields, wetlands, and the large lake, which make it a great place to see wildlife.
For more information, visit DCNR’s State Parks webpage.

GreenWorks! Grants Are Now Available Thru Project Learning Tree

Project Learning Tree is now accepting applications for GreenWorks! grants for schools and community programs  that engage youth in meaningful service-learning projects and to develop youth leadership and critical thinking skills.  Applications are due by September 30.  Click Here for all the details.  Also visit the EE Resources website for more environmental education resources.
(Reprinted from the April EE Resources newsletter from the PA Association of Environmental Educators.  Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)

PA Environmental Council Offers Comments At First Hearing On DEP Drilling Regs

John Walliser, PA Environmental Council’s vice president for Legal and Government Affairs, offered these comments on the Chapter 78 (conventional) and Chapter 78A (unconventional) proposed final regulations on drilling at DEP’s first hearing on the package Wednesday in Washington County.
Good evening. My name is John Walliser and I am a Vice President with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), a statewide membership organization.
We commend the Department for making improvements to the environmental protection provisions in the proposed rulemaking, and for allowing further public comment. Chief among those improvements are more robust pre-drilling analysis to prevent pollution migration, more detailed analysis and reporting with respect to protection of water resources, and tougher containment standards.
PEC will be submitting more detailed written comments to the Department, but tonight I want to underscore the critical importance of finalizing this rulemaking proposal.
This rulemaking is the result of enactment of Act 13 of 2012, the subsequent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Robinson (December 2013) on sufficiency of that statute, a series of issue workgroups convened by the Oil & Gas Technical Advisory Board, a previous round of public hearings and comment, and the collective management and enforcement experience of the Department over the past several years.
At current pace, this rulemaking proposal will not be finalized until 2016. That’s four years from the date of the authorizing statute.
While there remain areas where we feel the rulemaking can be further improved – and again PEC will present those details to the Department as part of the additional public comment process – we must also recognize that the citizens and environment of Pennsylvania are best served by having regulations on the books and in operation across the state.
This holds true of advancing updates to conventional well regulations as well; particularly containment and financial assurance measures to ensure that we don’t further add to Pennsylvania’s already significant and expensive legacy of abandoned well remediation.
PEC has long embraced the concept of continuous improvement through our own advocacy and involvement in efforts like the Center for Sustainable Shale Development. This rulemaking proposal is a strong step in that direction.
While there are some who seek to derail this process altogether by trying to run out the procedural clock, they certainly don’t represent the view of a majority of Pennsylvanians or the demonstration by many in the industry that we can achieve success and high standards in both oversight and operation.
The people and environment of Pennsylvania deserve as much, and I probably don’t have to remind you it’s a fundamental right guaranteed by our state’s constitution.
Again, we commend the Department for strengthening this rulemaking proposal, and urge swift finalization after receipt and consideration of additional public comment.
Two more hearings on the regulations are scheduled for April 30 in Warren and May 4 in Williamsport.
DEP is accepting comments on the proposal final changes to the regulations until May 19.
For more information, visit DEP’s Oil and Gas Regulations webpage.

Webcam Gives Close-Up Look At A Falcon Family

A webcam inside an American kestrel nestbox  monitored by Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Berks County is giving everyone with an internet connection a bird's eye look at the family life of falcons.
To date, a female has laid four eggs and is beginning to spend more time in the box.
"This year we're building on Hawk Mountain's own long-term research on the kestrel and providing a kestrel curricula for school teachers," says director of education Erin Brown. "We hosted a professional workshop in March and intend to host it again next year for those educators who want more information."
Teachers can also contact and mark their calendars for other upcoming workshops for professional educators this summer: Pennsylvania Songbirds on May 15, Pennsylvania Biodiversity on June 18, and Wild about Raptors on August 10.
All workshops cost just $5, are approved for Act 48 hours, and can be reserved by calling 610-756-6000 x108.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary has been studying the breeding, wintering and migratory habits of American kestrels for more than 50 years. Today more than 200 kestrel nestboxes have been placed within a 25-mile radius of Hawk Mountain, and each year, the boxes are cleaned and monitored for signs of activity. If successful, nestlings are banded at two weeks of age.
For more information, visit the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary website.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Designates Critical Habitat For Freshwater Mussels In PA

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Thursday finalized critical habitat designations for the rabbitsfoot freshwater mussels in Crawford, Erie, Mercer and Venango counties in Pennsylvania.
The critical habitat designation applies only to actions involving federal funds or a federal permits, such as NPDES water quality permits.  The habitats for these mussels are already included in the PA Natural Diversity Inventory so this designation should not result in additional flags during permit reviews.
Designating critical habitats also informs landowners and the public about specific areas that are important to a species’ conservation and recovery.
In Pennsylvania, critical habitat designations include portions of French Creek in Crawford, Erie, Mercer and Venango counties, the Allegheny River in Venango County, Muddy Creek in Crawford County and the Shenango River in Mercer County.
The detailed designations in the Federal Register notice include—
— French Creek: Unit RF22 includes 120.4 rkm (74.8 rmi) of French Creek from Union City Reservoir Dam northeast of Union City, Erie County, Pennsylvania, downstream to its confluence with the Allegheny River near Franklin, Venango County, Pennsylvania.
The Allegheny River rabbitsfoot population (Unit RF23) is likely a single metapopulation with the French Creek population (Unit RF22) (Butler 2005, p. 31). This unit contains all or some components of all four physical or biological features and contains all five primary constituent elements.
The physical or biological features in this unit may require special management considerations or protection to address changes described above as well as row crop agriculture and oil and gas development. Approximately 97 percent of the riparian lands adjacent to, but not included in, this unit are in private ownership and 3 percent are in Federal ownership.
— Allegheny River: Unit RF23 includes 57.3 rkm (35.6 rmi) of the Allegheny River from the French Creek confluence near Franklin, Venango County, Pennsylvania, downstream to Interstate 80 near Emlenton, Venango County, Pennsylvania. The lower Allegheny River and French Creek (Unit RF22) populations likely represent a single metapopulation because no barriers exist between the streams (Butler 2005, p. 29).
This unit contains all or some components of all four physical or biological features and likely functions as a metapopulation to French Creek (Unit RF22). This unit contains primary constituent elements 1, 3, 4, and 5 for the rabbitsfoot.
A series of nine locks and dams and Kinzua Dam constructed over the past century has resulted in altered hydrologic flow regimes in the Allegheny River (Butler 2005, p. 29). The physical or biological features in this unit may require special management considerations or protection to address changes described above as well as row crop agriculture, oil and gas development, and channelization.
Approximately 83 percent of the riparian lands adjacent to, but not included in, this unit are in private ownership and 17 percent are in State or local ownership.
— Muddy Creek: Unit RF24 includes 20.1 rkm (12.5 rmi) of Muddy Creek from Pennsylvania Highway 77 near Little Cooley, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, downstream to its confluence with French Creek east of Cambridge Springs, Crawford County, Pennsylvania.
This unit contains all or some components of all four physical or biological features and contains all five primary constituent elements. The physical or biological features in this unit may require special management considerations or protection to address changes described above and oil and gas development.
Approximately 81 percent of the riparian lands adjacent to, but not included in, this unit are in Federal ownership and 19 percent are in private ownership.
— Shenango River: Unit RF31 includes 24.8 rkm (15.4 rmi) of the Shenango River from Porter Road near Greenville, Pennsylvania, downstream to the point of inundation by Shenango River Lake near Big Bend, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
This unit contains all or some components of all four physical or biological features and contains all five primary constituent elements. The physical or biological features in this unit may require special management considerations or protections to address changes described above as well consumptive water uses.
Approximately 54 percent of the riparian lands adjacent to, but not included in, this unit are in Federal ownership and 46 percent are in private ownership.
A copy of the Federal Register notice is available online.
NewsClip: Fish And Wildlife Finalizes Mussel Habitat Designations

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