Monday, June 26, 2017

40 Groups Urge Gov. Wolf, DEP To Deny Permits For Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

A coalition of 40 community organizations, farms, environmental organizations, and local businesses representing over 436,727 members and constituencies Monday delivered a coalition letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection Secretary McDonnell urging the DEP to deny permit applications for the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project.
DEP is reviewing the application for this nearly 200-mile Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, which would transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to Maryland for export and to supply gas plants in North Carolina and Florida. Transco, the parent company of the proposed Atlantic
The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline must obtain Chapter 102 and 105 permits from the DEP for wetland and waterway crossings and earth disturbances.
If approved, the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline would directly impact ten Pennsylvania counties and cross hundreds of wetlands and waterbodies — many of which are designated high quality or exceptional value.
The pipeline would directly affect 45,000 residents and place 19,000 homes in the evacuation zone, according to a recent report commissioned by the Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
The Key Log report estimates the lost value and benefits Pennsylvania would lose from this pipeline in food production, water supply, air quality, erosion control, biological diversity, soil fertility and waste treatment is estimated to be $6.2 to $22.7 million, while annual costs for this diminished ecosystem would be approximately $2.9 to $11.4 million per year.
“The mission statement of the DEP is ‘to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment,’ but it is clear that the cumulative impacts of the Atlantic Sunrise project will cause massive environmental degradation and put citizens in harm’s way,” said Ann Pinca, President of Lebanon Pipeline Awareness. “The DEP cannot approve these permits without directly violating its own mission statement.”
"The applications for this destructive project are still incomplete and deficient," said Alex Bomstein, Senior Litigation Attorney of Clean Air Council. "It would be premature and against the law for DEP to permit this pipeline without first making sure Williams fixes the problems in its applications."
“The only rational way forward for Pennsylvania is to invest in and support renewable, sustainable energy solutions, not allow the building of more fracked gas pipelines that are intended to be in service far longer than we can afford to rely on fossil fuels. The letter we’re submitting to Gov. Wolf and Secretary McDonnell lays out ample arguments that justify a rejection of the Chapter 102 and 105 permits for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. So the only question that remains is whether or not the administration will come down on the side of reason or if it will continue its failed and irresponsible policy of supporting natural gas infrastructure,” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.
“This project has failed to receive both the serious environmental review and adequate public participation necessary,” said Patrick Grenter, Senior Campaign Representative of Sierra Club. “People from around Pennsylvania have voiced their sustained opposition to this dangerous proposal. It is time for Governor Wolf to listen to his constituents and reject this pipeline.”
“A technical review on just one portion of this pipeline application in Schuylkill County shows nine areas where this permit application is grossly unprotective, incomplete and inadequate,” said Faith Zerbe, Director of Monitoring, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “Exceptional Value waterbodies and anti-degradation standards deserve and warrant far greater protection than what is being proposed by the pipeline applicant - the cost to our environment and health is too high and risky. Governor Wolf and his DEP have an opportunity to protect Pennsylvania and we urge them to use their power to deny the water permits.”
“Fossil fuels have left legacy contamination and polluted waterways in Pennsylvania we are still cleaning up with taxpayer money long after the industry is gone. It’s time we look to the future and invest in sustainable and renewable jobs, not more fracking and pipeline build outs that will lock us into harmful climate trapping exploitation for decades to come, said Leah Zerbe, CoFounder, Schuylkill Pipeline Awareness. “We urge Gov. Wolf to stand up for Pennsylvania families and the environment and deny these permits.”
The letter is a follow up to concerned residents who attended public hearings held subsequently and on the heels of the community requesting, at minimum an extension beyond the June 26th deadline for further scrutiny and public review of the pipeline company’s applications.
The groups sending the letter include: Air Coalition of Tunkhannock,  Aquashicola/ Pohopoco Watershed Conservancy, Berks Gas Truth, Breathe Easy Susquehanna County, Bucks Environmental Action, Chester County Sierra Club, Citizens for a Sane Energy Policy, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County, Damascus Citizens For Sustainability, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Green America, Greenbelt Climate Action Network, Lancaster Against Pipelines, Lancaster Farmland Trust, Lancaster Friends Meeting Environmental Concerns Committee, League of Humane Voters, Lebanon Pipeline Awareness, Mason Pipeline Committee, Mud and Maker, New Jersey Sierra Club, Omega-Alpha Recycling Systems, Paunacussing Watershed Association, Peace Action Network of Lancaster, Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water EV Committee, Pennsylvania Earth Guardians, Pennsylvania Sierra Club, Plains Township Residents Against PennEast, Potter’s Farm, Protect Penn-Delco, Quittapahilla Watershed Association, Rachel Carson Council, Radnor Racquet Club, Responsible Drilling Alliance, Sane Energy Project, Schuylkill Pipeline Awareness, Shalefield Organizing Committee, StopNED, and the Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN).
A copy of the letter is available online.
For more information on the status of permit reviews, visit DEP’s Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline webpage.

House Committee Cancels Meeting To Consider Recycling Fee Extension, On-lot Septic System Bills

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Monday canceled its scheduled June 27 meeting on legislation eliminating the sunset date on the $2 Recycling Fee in Act 101 and a bill to provide for alternative onlot septic system technologies in local sewage plans.
The bills included--
-- Senate Bill 646 (Killion-R-Delaware) would prevent a funding crisis in the state’s Recycling Program by eliminating the expiration date for the Act 101 $2 per ton recycling fee on waste disposed in Pennsylvania; and
-- Senate Bill 144 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) amending Act 537 ton include alternative on-lot sewage systems in sewage plans (sponsor summary).
Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to:  Rep. Mike Carroll serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to:

Senate Lawn Fertilizer Application Bill Unanimously Approved By Committee

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Monday unanimously reported out Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Adams) that would regulate the application of lawn fertilizer on June 26.
The bill was introduced last Wednesday by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Adams), one of Pennsylvania’s representatives on the Interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission.
“The health of Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers is of critical importance to our economic future and quality of life,” said Sen. Alloway.  “Unfortunately, thousands of miles of streams in the Commonwealth are impaired due to excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Excess levels of these nutrients are also significant contributors to the impairment of the Chesapeake Bay, whose watershed covers 50 percent of our state.
“For decades, Pennsylvania’s farmers have led the way to implement erosion and sedimentation controls, nutrient management plans and other best management practices on farms,” explained Sen. Alloway.  “More recently, wastewater treatment plants have begun to implement upgrades to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus emissions. Both sectors should be commended for their successful efforts.
“Unfortunately, as these sectors continue to implement nutrient reductions, the loads from urban and suburban stormwater continue to grow,” noted Sen. Alloway. “In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, acres of turf now outnumber acres of corn.
“This legislation will reduce the environmental impact of fertilizer applied to turf areas, such as lawns, golf courses and athletic fields, while ensuring that all turf areas within the Commonwealth will be able to receive adequate nutrients so that adverse turf health will not result as an unintended consequence,” said Sen. Alloway.
“In addition to setting clear standards for the application of fertilizer to turf, the bill will also require all professional fertilizer applicators to be certified in proper application techniques and best management practices,” said Sen. Alloway.  “This legislation is specifically focused on the lawn care industry and will not apply to agricultural production.
Similar legislation has already been enacted in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, and the industry has expressed a strong desire for consistency across the region and state.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for action.
Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and can be contacted by sending email to:  Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to:

House Retroactively Rolls Back Protection For Streams From Underground Coal Mining

Senate Bill 624 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) was passed Monday by the House by a vote of 120 to 77. The bill retroactively changes the protection streams receive under Act 54 from underground coal mining.
The bill was introduced to influence an appeal now pending before the Environmental Hearing Board of an underground coal mining permit allowing Consol to longwall mine under streams in and around Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County.  (EHB Docket No. 2014-072-B)
Groups like the PA Environmental Council have opposed the bill on the grounds recent studies by the Department of Environmental Protection have demonstrated the existing protections in Act 54 are not adequate to prevent permanent, long-term damage to streams. Click Here for more.
A motion by Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) to declare the bill unconstitutional based on the recent PA Supreme Court decision on the Environmental Rights Amendment was defeated 136 to 61.
The bill now returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.
(Photo: Dam in Ryerson State Park already damaged by this same Consol underground coal mine.)

House Passes Bill Extending Temporary Cessation Of Surface Coal Mine Operations For Years

The House Monday voted 163 to 33 to pass House Bill 1333 (Gabler-R-Clearfield) eliminating the current DEP limit on how long surface mine operators can temporarily cease mining operations from 180 days to the federal standard of what could be up to five years.
Rep. Gabler said this measure was necessary because the Pennsylvania coal industry is experiencing severe economic hardships.
While the legislation says the mine operator remains responsible for all permit obligations, clearly in this economic climate for coal, this bill would give mine operators license to simply disappear without reclaiming the site.
In May of last year, the PA Environmental Council sent a letter to Gabler and then to all members of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee expressing significant concerns with the legislation.
While recognizing the current market challenges faced by the coal industry, PEC said it was concerned about the risk of adding to Pennsylvania’s coal mining-related environmental liabilities if appropriate safeguards are not put in place during the cessation of operations.
Without these safeguards, PEC said, these liabilities could ultimately be borne by Commonwealth taxpayers if an operator elects not to restart mining activity or declares bankruptcy.  (Click Here for more.)
The bill now goes to the Senate for action.  A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.

DOE Grant To Penn State Continues Research Into Rare-Earth Elements Extraction From Coal

In 2016, a team of Penn State and U.S. Department of Energy researchers discovered a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to extract rare earth elements (REEs) from coal and coal byproducts.
Now, through a $1 million grant from DOE's Office of Fossil Energy, this research may be headed one-step closer to commercialization.
Rare-earth elements are a set of seventeen metals -- such as scandium, yttrium, lanthanum and cerium -- necessary to produce high-tech equipment used in health care, transportation, electronics and numerous other industries.
Penn State and a consortium of three industry partners, Texas Mineral Resources Corporation, Inventure Renewables Inc., and K-Technologies, will use the funding to conduct laboratory testing and prepare a technical design for a pilot plant to profitably produce salable REEs and other critical elements from coal-related materials from an eastern Pennsylvania anthracite coal mine.
The goal is to determine the economic feasibility of recovering REEs from domestic coal and coal by-products.
Penn State researchers found initial success in extracting REEs in 2016 using ion exchange, which involved extracting coal byproducts with a solvent that releases the rare-earth elements bound to them.
Through this new grant, the researchers will develop a new extraction technique that combines pressure filtration, which uses external forces to separate solids from fluids, with an environmentally friendly ion-exchange/ion chromatography process.
The resulting REE-enriched liquid can be processed to recover the elements while recycling the liquid for reuse in the system.
"We're interested in using environmentally-friendly solvents that will be the best at reacting with these elements and extracting them," said Sarma Pisupati, professor of energy and mineral engineering at Penn State. "If we reach a ceiling with the method of ion exchange, we will begin to test alternative methods that may be economical and environmentally feasible. We believe this novel approach for extraction will be able to provide the high efficiency and throughput sought by the industry for a technologically feasible and an economically viable extraction method for REEs."
TMRC's focus will be to install a self-contained, modular and portable continuous ion exchange/ continuous ion chromatography pilot plant in Pennsylvania, and to determine the economic viability of producing scandium and other REEs associated with coal waste material from Pennsylvania coal.
"The potential to profitably produce scandium and other rare earth minerals from Pennsylvania coal waste holds great promise," said TMRC Chairman Anthony Marchese. "Creating value profitably from waste is an environmental goal shared by all citizens, especially when considering the strategic nature of the minerals proposed to be produced."
REEs are a group of 17 elements — all metals — found in the Earth's crust. REEs have unique chemical properties making them essential components of technologies ranging from electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense.
The United States Geological Survey expects worldwide demand for rare earth elements to grow more than 5 percent annually through 2020. The increased demand for REEs has spurred interest in developing cost-effective technologies for domestic REE recovery.
The team of Penn State researchers includes Pisupati; Mark Klima, associate professor of mineral processing and geo-environmental engineering; and Xiaojing Yang, graduate student in energy and mineral engineering.
For more information contact Patricia Craig, 814-863-4663, or send email to: or A'ndrea Elyse Messer, 814-865-9481 or send email to:
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