Thursday, June 30, 2016

Gov. Wolf Will Sign General Fund Budget Bill As Soon As Sustainable Revenue Package Is Passed

Gov. Wolf issued this statement after the House voted to send the General Fund budget bill-- Senate Bill 1073 (Browne-R-Lehigh)-- to his desk--
          “I want to commend leaders and members in both chambers for passing a bi-partisan, compromise budget that invests more money in early childhood, K through 12 and higher education, and also provides vital resources to combat the heroin crisis. I am pleased that working together we took this important step to move the Commonwealth forward. 
          "I will sign the General Appropriations bill as soon as there is a sustainable revenue package to pay for it, and I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to achieve this.”
Related Story:

House Concurs In Senate General Fund Budget Sending It To Gov. Wolf, Now To Pay For It

The House voted 144 to 54 to concur in the Senate-passed FY 2016-17 General Fund budget bill--  Senate Bill 1073 (Browne-R-Lehigh) sending it to Gov. Wolf for his action.
The total General Fund budget is $31.52 billion, after moving some spending off the General Fund ledger.
The bill increases higher education line items by 2.5 percent and funding for Community Colleges to $232,111,000 from the $226,450,000 the House had in its version of the budget.
The budget numbers for DEP and DCNR are about the same as the House.  The Senate did increase the Heritage Parks Program line-item to $2.8 million from the $2.25 million the House approved.
The budget bill also includes an increase in DCNR’s in-lieu of tax payments for State Forest land.
Both the Heritage Parks and in-lieu of tax payment authorizing language is now in House Bill 1605 (James-R-Butler) as an amendment to the Fiscal Code.  The bill is due to be taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee Friday.
Click Here for a spreadsheet from Senate Republicans showing differences between FY 2015-16 and FY 2016-17 Senate-passed budget.  Click Here for a Senate Fiscal Note and summary.   Click Here for a narrative summary by the House Democratic Appropriations Committee staff.
No Agreement On Revenue Package
There is not yet any agreement on a revenue package to support the budget in Senate Bill 1073.
The House proposed four sources of revenue to fund its budget proposal: 1) $267 million for expanded gaming in House Bill 2150 (Dunbar-R-Westmoreland) authorizing 6 new types of gaming, including iGaming, slots at airports and off-track betting parlors, is still in the Senate Community, Economic and Recreation Development Committee [there are potentially several other legislative vehicles in the Senate]; 2) $129 million for tax amnesty in House Bill 1888 (Quinn-R- Montgomery), now in the Senate Appropriations Committee; 3) $480 million increase in tobacco taxes, including new taxes on chewing, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products (the cigar exemption remains), which the House has not acted on yet; and 4) $150 million in revenue from the liquor reforms already signed into law.
While nothing is for sure, House Bill 1198 (Barrar-R-Delaware), making changes to the Tax Code, was nonconcurred in by the Senate and House in December as part of the FY 2015-16 budget consideration and could be used as a vehicle for tax changes as part of a conference committee deliberation.
The House now expects to be in town through Saturday.
Related Story:
Gov. Wolf Will Sign General Fund Budget Bill As Soon As Sustainable Revenue Package Is Passed

PUC Approves Utility Plans To Encourage Natural Gas Competition

The Public Utility Commission Thursday approved plans submitted by five natural gas distribution companies (NGDCs) enabling them to more easily share customer account numbers with natural gas suppliers (NGSs) in public venues, like shopping malls and community events, when account numbers are not available from interested customers or from the Eligible Customer List (ECL).  
Customer account numbers are needed in order for a customer to be switched to a competitive NGS.
“As we directed three years ago in the electric market, the Commission believes that an account number access mechanism would be a useful tool to enable gas customers and NGSs to more easily interact and participate in the competitive market while maintaining necessary customer protections,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown.  “We are pleased that most of the state’s major NGDCs are now positioned to move forward with the mechanisms and have them in place by 2017.”
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the development and implementation of natural gas account number mechanisms for five NGDCs: Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc.; PECO Energy Company; National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation; Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC, including Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC – Equitable Division, and Peoples TWP; and UGI Utilities Inc. – Gas Division, as well as UGI Penn Natural Gas, Inc. and UGI Central Penn Gas, Inc.  
On July 8, 2015, the Commission adopted a Final Order directing PUC-jurisdictional NGDCs to submit for the Commission’s review and approval compliance plans for the development of a username and pass-code protected secure website portal that will, upon customer request and consent, provide NGSs with access to residential and small business account numbers that are not available on the NGDCs ECLs.
NGSs will only have access to these websites after obtaining appropriate customer identification, as well as consent from the customer in the form of a signed Letter of Authorization.  
The lookup mechanism will only be used for customer-initiated enrollment transactions in public locations and not for enrollments that occur during door-to-door or telephone transactions.
For more information on switching natural gas suppliers and competition, visit the PUC’s PA Gas Switch website and on the PUC’s Retail Markets Investigation on Natural Gas webpage.

Standards For Securing Access To Electric Smart Meter Data OK’d By PUC

The Public Utility Commission Thursday adopted a Final Order detailing standards for a secure system that will allow authorized third-parties to access consumer Smart Meter data, in order to assist consumers in identifying ways to save money or energy while also ensuring consumer privacy and the confidentiality of customer information.
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve data access standards which were developed by the Electronic Data Exchange Working Group. These standards were initially proposed in February 2015 and have been the subject of extensive input and review.
The goal of the project is to provide a framework for access to Smart Meter data, with customer consent, by certain entities – such as electric generation suppliers – in order to provide consumers with beneficial information based on their historical power usage, such as conservation opportunities or better rates.
In addition to establishing standards for accessing this data, the Commission underscored its zero tolerance policy regarding the confidentiality of consumer information.
For more information on smart meters, visit the PUC’s Act 129 Energy Conservation Information webpage.

July 18 Hearing On Keystone Landfill Expansion, Lackawanna County

The Department of Environmental Protection will host a public hearing on July 18 to take testimony regarding Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s permit application to expand its facility located in Dunmore and Throop Boroughs in Lackawanna County.
The event will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Mid-Valley High School, located at 52 Underwood Road, Throop.
Keystone Sanitary Landfill filed an application with the department on March 20, 2014 to vertically expand on 435 total acres within the existing permitted area and to increase the facility’s disposal capacity by approximately 145 million cubic yards.
The department held two public meetings in February and June of 2015 and answered questions from the public regarding the permit application process. DEP also issued its first environmental assessment of the proposed expansion to Keystone Landfill in October of 2015 and Keystone responded in May of 2016.   
Those wishing to offer testimony at the hearing can pre-register by emailing: Roger Bellas, Program Manager, Waste Management at: or Colleen Connolly, Community Relations Coordinator at:
The department will also accept written testimony by email or by sending comments to:  Roger Bellas, Program Manager, Waste Management, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701. Written comments will be accepted until July 29, 2016 at 4:00 p.m.
A copy of Keystone’s permit application, as well as their recent response to DEP’s first Environmental Assessment letter, can be viewed at DEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilkes-Barre.
Those wishing to make an appointment to view the documents can do so between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. by calling 570-826-2511.
Click Here to view copies of these documents and other regional information online, .
Individuals in need of an accommodation as provided for in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 should contact Colleen Connolly or make accommodations through the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at 1-800-654-5984 (TDD).

12th Annual Festival Of Wood Aug. 6-7 Gifford Pinchot Grey Towers Pike County

“Goods from the Woods” is the focus of the 12th Annual Festival of Wood at Gifford Pinchott’s Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, Pike County on August 6 - 7.  
This family-friendly and free event offers a variety of activities that demonstrate the many ways we use and enjoy wood in our everyday lives.
Unique wood crafts, children’s activities with wood, chainsaw carvings, educational exhibits, live woodland wildlife, beekeeping, films, tree pruning and portable sawmill demonstrations, free music, tree walks and much, much more will be offered on the grounds of the historic estate throughout the weekend.
Free parking, a free shuttle and free admission to the grounds makes this a popular annual event.
The 12th annual Festival of Wood is “a celebration of our natural and cultural heritage of wood.” The activities, exhibits and programs are intended to heighten awareness of the many uses of wood in our everyday lives.
The U.S. Forest Service, the Grey Towers Heritage Association, the Pocono Arts Council and numerous collaborators host the event at Grey Towers, ancestral home of conservationist Gifford Pinchot, who founded and served as first chief of the Forest Service from 1905-1910. Pinchot also is well known as a former Governor of Pennsylvania.
New this year: a number of wood craftsmen have been added to the show, with unique, one-of-a-kind wood items for sale; a special artifacts exhibit that illustrates Gifford Pinchot’s affinity for fishing, including his newly restored Old Towne canoe, will be available; guided walking tours of the estate grounds, highlighting some of the more interesting and mature trees, will be offered.
There is something for everyone:
-- Craftsmen and artists from throughout the region will exhibit, sell and demonstrate their crafts, all made from wood. Co-sponsored by the Pocono Arts Council, the crafts component illustrates how beautiful objects that we use in our everyday lives are created from wood.
-- Children’s activities include games and toys using wood and other craft activities. A cross-cut saw activity and visits from Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl also are planned.
-- Educational exhibits and informational handouts on such topics as beekeeping, Chestnut trees, regional conservation initiatives, will be ongoing throughout the weekend.
-- Free music with wood instruments will be provided each day.
-- Demonstrations on tree pruning and a portable sawmill are planned.
-- A free wildlife show is planned for each day.  
-- The Master Chain Saws of America will demonstrate chain saw carving three times a day, each day.
-- All three floors of the historic Grey Towers mansion are open for visitors both days; a $5 fee will be charged.
-- Refreshments will be available for sale.
The Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on August 6, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. August 7.
For a schedule of events or more information, call 570-296-9630 or send email:
A schedule and map of the Festival activities can be downloaded at the Festival of Wood webpage.
For more information visit the Grey Towers National Historic Site or the Grey Towers Heritage Association websites or call 570-296-9630.

PUC OKs DISC Infrastructure Improvement Plans For UGI, Peoples Natural Gas

The Public Utility Commission Thursday approved the modified long-term infrastructure improvement plans for Peoples Natural Gas, UGI Utilities Inc. - Gas, UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc. and Central Penn Gas Inc.
The Commission voted to approve the companies’ modified LTIIPs, which were filed in compliance with Act 11 of 2012. The Commission has continued to challenge natural gas distribution companies across the state to accelerate their replacement of aging cast iron and unprotected steel pipelines – in the interest of public safety and system reliability.
The approved, revised LTIIP for Peoples Natural Gas replaces the currently approved, separate LTIIPs of the Peoples Division and the Equitable Division (previously Equitable Gas Company) of the Peoples Natural Gas Co. Peoples’ Revised LTIIP is a five-year plan that builds off of, and expands upon, the previously-approved LTIIPs for the Peoples and Equitable Divisions.  
Peoples has replaced all known cast iron pipelines in its system, and plans to address accelerated replacement of the 37 miles of known cast iron pipelines acquired through its formation of the Equitable Division.
Peoples proposes to replace all bare steel and cast iron pipelines over an approximately 20-year period.
In its revised LTIIP, Peoples indicates it will replace all at-risk customer-owned service lines, which is an update from its original LTIIP where the company said it planned to pressure test customer-owned service lines prior to replacement.  
Peoples provides natural gas service to approximately 640,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in all or portions of 17 Southwestern Pennsylvania Counties.
In a separate action, the Commission voted to approve the modified LTIIPs for UGI Gas, UGI Penn Natural Gas and UGI Central Penn Gas. Each of the UGI Companies’ modified LTIIPs are five-year plans, spanning the years 2014-2018.  
The LTIIPs detail accelerated infrastructure improvements that are intended to enhance system resiliency.  
The instant petitions do not propose to change or extend the term of the current LTIIPs.  Rather, the instant petitions propose to increase the amount of infrastructure spending over that of the currently effective LTIIPs by more than 20 percent.
The UGI Companies as a group propose spending more than 50 percent additional capital in the final three years of their LTIIPs compared to the original projections.
Act 11 requires, among other things, that utilities file LTIIPs as part of any action to establish a Distribution System Improvement Charge (DSIC) to recover reasonable and prudent costs incurred to repair, improve or replace certain eligible property that is part of a utility’s distribution system.
As of Jan. 1, 2013, public utilities could petition the Commission for approval to establish a DSIC. The petition must contain the following elements: 1) an initial tariff; 2) testimony and exhibits to demonstrate that the DSIC will ensure the provision of adequate, efficient, safe, reliable and reasonable service; 3) a long-term infrastructure plan; 4) certification that a base rate case has been filed within the past five years; and 5) any other information required by the Commission.  
The petition must demonstrate that granting the petition and allowing the DSIC to be charged will accelerate the replacement of infrastructure.
On Feb. 14, 2012, Gov. Corbett signed Act 11 of 2012, which allows jurisdictional water and wastewater utilities, natural gas distribution companies, city natural gas distribution operations and electric distribution companies to petition the Commission for approval to implement a DSIC.
Under the law, the DSIC must be designed to provide for "the timely recovery of the reasonable and prudent costs incurred to repair, improve or replace eligible property in order to ensure and maintain adequate, efficient, safe, reliable and reasonable service.
For more information, visit the PUC’s Distribution System Improvement Charge webpage.

PA Small Business Centers Recognize Environmental Management Assistance Team

The PA Small Business Development Centers have honored ten staff members and four Centers for their commitment and contributions to small business during their 2016 annual network meeting held in York, Pennsylvania last week.  Among those honored were--
The Environmental Management Assistance Program (EMAP)-- Nancy Crickman, Pennsylvania SBDC Lead Office; Lee Ann Briggs, University of Pittsburgh SBDC; Jeremy Hancher, Pennsylvania SBDC Lead Office; and Chuck Haney, Shippensburg University SBDC; Carrie Wintersteen, Pennsylvania SBDC Lead Office.
This award was given to recognize service to the entire Pennsylvania SBDC network in a targeted service area.  The Pennsylvania SBDC’s Environmental Management Assistance Program (EMAP) was recently awarded the 2015 U.S. EPA Administrator’s Award for Outstanding Accomplishments by a Small Business Trade or State Small Business Environmental Assistance Provider, thus making them the recipient of the Targeted Services Award.
For more information, visit the PSBC Environmental Management Assistance Program webpage.

More LIHEAP Heating Bill Help Available For 2015-16 Season

The Department of Human Services Thursday announced extra financial help will be provided to vulnerable Pennsylvanians who received assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, during the 2015-2016 heating season.
“These supplemental funds will help older Pennsylvanians, individuals with a disability, families with children, and crisis grant recipients to pay their remaining heating bills and even help with their heat during the next winter months,” said Secretary Ted Dallas. “DHS would like to thank the utility companies, LIHEAP Advisory Council, and our dedicated LIHEAP staff for another successful season.”
LIHEAP assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization, and energy-related home repairs.
In the 2015-16 heating seasons, crisis grants were approved for more than 114,000 households with an average crisis benefit of $322.  
LIHEAP was also approved to more than 240,000 older Pennsylvanians, individuals with a disability, and families with children. These households will now also receive the $65 supplemental cash grant paid directly to their utility or deliverable fuel company to credit their accounts.
DHS is sending letters to the consumers that are eligible for the $65 supplemental grant payment. The payment will be issued in early July.
The 2016-17 LIHEAP season is scheduled to begin November 1, 2016.
For more information, visit the DHS LIHEAP Program webpage.

Central PA Business Journal 40 Under 40 Nominations Now Open

Nominations are being accepted for the Central PA Business Journal 2016 Forty Under 40 Awards.   The deadline for nominations is July 12.
The awards program recognizes the region’s most accomplished young business leaders who are committed to business growth, professional excellence and community service.
To be eligible, all candidates must be 39 years old or younger on November 21, 2016, and be employed in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry or York county to be eligible.
Judges will review and score nominees based on their current résumé and biographical profile.
The forty honorees will be recognized at an awards banquet on November 21 at The Hill Society at the Hilton Harrisburg and profiled in a special publication to the November 25 issue of the Central Penn Business Journal.
Central Penn Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 awards are sponsored by Members 1st Federal Credit Union, Infiniti of Mechanicsburg, and Classic Drycleaners and Laundromats.
For all the details, visit the Central PA Business Journal 2016 Forty Under 40 Awards webpage.

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