Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Senate Passes Lawn Fertilizer Application Bill, Now Goes To The House

The Senate Tuesday voted 47 to 3 to pass Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Adams) that would regulate the application of lawn fertilizer.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin), 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 was amended by the Senate before passage with provisions related to foreign seeds in fertilizer.
The bill now goes to the House for action.

PA Hunters Harvested An Estimated 367,159 Deer In 2017-18, Up 10 Percent

Pennsylvania’s buck harvest increased 10 percent, and the overall deer harvest also was up 10 percent, in the state’s 2017-18 hunting seasons, which closed in January, the Game Commission reported Tuesday.
Hunters harvested an estimated 367,159 deer in the 2017-18 seasons, which easily topped the overall deer harvest of 333,254 in the 2016-17 seasons.
Across the 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMU) used by the Game Commission to manage whitetails, the deer harvest decreased in only three units.
The 2017-18 buck harvest totaled 163,750, representing a 10 percent increase over the 2016-17 buck harvest of 149,460. It is the second largest harvest of bucks since antler restrictions were put in place in 2002.
The largest harvest – 165,416 – occurred in the first year of antler restrictions.
The 2017-18 buck harvest also compares well with big buck harvests in Pennsylvania since the Game Commission began using calculated harvests in 1986. From that perspective, the 2017-18 buck harvest ranks as the 10th best.
But when comparing deer harvests over time, it’s important to remember that deer and hunter numbers have changed from decade to decade.
In the 1987-88 deer seasons, 16 percent of deer hunters took a legal buck. Ten years later, that rate increased to 19 percent. In the 2007-08 seasons, which were five years into antler restrictions, 15 percent of deer hunters took an antlered deer. In the 2017-18 seasons, more than 20 percent of deer hunters took an antlered deer.
The antlerless deer portion of the 2017-18 harvest also increased. Totaling 203,409, the antlerless harvest was up 11 percent over the 2016-17 antlerless harvest of 183,794. But that was by design. The 2017 antlerless license allocation increased about 7 percent over 2016’s allocation.
About 64 percent of the antlerless deer harvest was adult females; button-bucks comprised 19 percent and doe fawns made up 17 percent.
Click Here for the complete announcement.
For more information on hunting in Pennsylvania, visit the Game Commission website.

DEP, PA Sea Grant March 27 PA Lake Erie Environmental Forum

The Department of Environmental Protection and PA Sea Grant invite interested members of the public to attend a meeting of the PA Lake Erie Environmental Forum (PA-LEEF) on March 27.
The meeting will be held at the Erie County Conservation District Office, 1927 Wager Road in Erie from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Special Presenter Victoria Pebbles with the Great Lakes Commission will discuss “Challenges and Opportunities of Clean Water Infrastructure in the Great Lakes Region,” while Special Presenter Christine Weigel, executive director with the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority will share her vision about "Asset Management and Inter-Governmental Cooperation in Pennsylvania."
Tim Bruno, Chief of the DEP Great Lakes Office will provide information on the final U.S. Lake Erie Phosphorus Reduction Domestic Action Plan to reduce Harmful Algal Blooms and Lake Erie “dead zones.”
In addition, Bruno will provide updates on rulemaking regarding the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Waterway, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and the Pennsylvania State Water Plan.
Citizens, policy makers, local stakeholders, and municipal officials are encouraged to attend.
Please call or email Marti Martz at 814-217-9011, ext. 104 or mam60@psu.edu to reserve a seat.
For more information on past Forums, visit the PA Sea Grant’s PA Lake Erie Environmental Forum webpage.
(Photo: View looking from the area of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Presque Isle State Park.)

DEP To Host March 28 Meeting/Hearing On Remacor Hazardous Sites Cleanup In Lawrence County

The Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday announced it will hold a public meeting March 28 to describe DEP’s Proposed Interim Cleanup for the 45 acre Remacor Site containing radiological and other chemical contaminants near the Beaver River to answer questions from the public.
The meeting will be held at the Taylor Township Building, 218 Industrial Drive in West Pittsburg, PA 16160 starting at 6:00 p.m.
The public will have an opportunity to present oral comments regarding the Proposed Interim Cleanup, for inclusion into the Administrative Record, in a public hearing immediately following the public meeting at 7:00 p.m.
The Proposed Interim Cleanup includes the demolition of site buildings, removal, and offsite disposal, as needed, of demolition wastes. The Remacor Site used to process secondary magnesium scrap into products used in the steel industry.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DEP conducted investigations of the Remacor Site between 2007 and 2015 to characterize and evaluate environmental and building conditions.
Site investigations identified soils, wastes, and groundwater impacted with metals, volatile organic compounds, and radiological contaminants. Additionally, elevated levels of radiological contaminants were found inside and adjacent to several onsite buildings.
Contractors were unable to completely characterize radiological contamination within, under, and directly adjacent to certain structures due to the deteriorated and unsafe buildings on Site. Once the issue of the unstable buildings has been resolved, soils and groundwater cleanup will be addressed in a separate remedial response.
The Departments Remedial Action Objectives for the Site include:
-- Protect the public and environmental receptors from direct contact exposure to radiologically contaminated building materials and physical risks associated with structurally unsound buildings; and
-- Demolish structurally unsound buildings so that future investigation and remediation of radiologically and chemically contaminated site soils can be completed to protect the public and environmental receptors from site-related hazardous substances.
The objectives are based on the premise that:
-- If the buildings are demolished and properly disposed, the threat of protecting the public from radiologically contaminated building materials is achieved; and
-- If the buildings are demolished and properly disposed, contaminated soils located between and potentially beneath the buildings can be safely assessed and addressed to protect public and ecological receptors from exposure to Site contaminants.
Additional background on the site is available in the formal February 24 PA Bulletin notice.
Persons wishing to pre-register to present oral comments at the public hearing should contact Jacob Moore at 814-332-6648 or by email to: jacmoore@pa.gov.  
DEP is accepting written comments for inclusion in the Administrative Record until 4:00 p.m. on May 25, 2018. These can also be submitted by email to Jacob Moore or in writing to his attention at the Department of Environmental Protection, 230 Chestnut Street, Meadville Street, Meadville, PA 16335. Please use “Remacor Site Proposed Interim Cleanup” as the subject line in written and email communications. The Administrative Record is available for review at DEP’s office address above.
Questions should be directed to Melanie Williams, DEP Northwest Regional Office, 814-332-6615 or send email to: melanwilli@pa.gov.

Pittsburgh Park Will Create Walkable Space, Reconnect Historic Neighborhood With Downtown

Plans are moving forward for a new, urban three-acre green space that will reconnect Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District with the city’s Downtown business and cultural center.
The yet-to-be-named, tree-lined park will function as a “cap” over Interstate 579 providing a walkable link to a neighborhood that lost its direct access to Downtown Pittsburgh over 50 years ago as a result of urban renewal and federal highway projects.
Awarded a $19 million federal grant through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, the $26.4 million pedestrian park will be constructed on top of a bridge-like structure.
The park will include “story” walls featuring the history of the Hill District, performance and green spaces, an outdoor classroom space, bike pathways, an amphitheater, and a bike-share station.
Green infrastructure will enable stormwater capture with rain gardens, native trees, shrubs, and grasses also helping to reduce noise from the interstate below.  The park’s pedestrian and bike-friendly path system will be ADA-accessible.
HDR Engineering, with LaQuatra Bonci Associates, the landscape architect subcontractor, have created the park’s design with input from the Hill District community.
In the 1950s and 1960s, construction of the former Civic Arena, in concert with other development activities, led to the demolition of entire blocks of homes and businesses in the Lower Hill neighborhood, essentially separating the Hill from Downtown Pittsburgh.
During that same time, Crosstown Boulevard was built, creating an additional barrier; this highway later became federal Interstate 579.
The project is expected to go out for bid by summer 2018, with construction underway later in 2018.
To learn more about green innovation in the Pittsburgh Region, visit the Pittsburgh Green Story website.  Questions should be directed by email to: info@pittsburghgreenstory.com for assistance in reaching individuals or companies featured on this site.

Senate Hearing On Pipeline Safety Points To Need To Hold Pipeline Companies Accountable For Impacts, Better Communication

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy and Consumer Affairs and Professional Licensure Committees Tuesday held a joint hearing on pipeline safety reviewing the state’s authority to regulate pipelines and the steps and missteps taken to deal with a variety of issues related to the Sunoco Mariner East 1 and 2 Pipelines in Chester County and other areas.
Gladys M. Brown, Chairman, Public Utility Commission, provided an overview of the authority the PUC has to regulate pipelines, noting federal law preempts state authority to approve pipeline routes and regulation of natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines in interstate commerce.
The PUC does have a formal agreement with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to enforce federal pipeline safety laws in the Commonwealth.  The PUC performed 1,745 individual pipeline inspections in 2017 she said.
The PUC has 21 employees to enforce the safety requirements for a total of 81,213 miles of pipelines of several types-- gas distribution mains (48,139 miles), natural gas distribution services (28,933 miles), natural gas gathering lines (799 miles), natural gas transmission lines (1,275 miles) and hazardous liquids (2,067 miles) of pipeline in the state.
Brown noted the PUC’s proposed budget for the coming year asks for two additional staff to be added to the Pipeline Safety Division.
Brown said the PUC devoted a significant portion of its resources over the past several years to the Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline Project, 76 inspection days in 2017 alone, and will continue to monitor and inspect the Project.
She described the steps taken to shutdown the Mariner East 1 Pipeline to safety risks.
“(T)he Commission acted swiftly to suspend the operation of Mariner East 1, investigate any and all repercussions on the integrity of the pipeline from these circumstances, and place the burden on Sunoco to prove that re-authorizing the operation of the pipeline is safe, reasonable, and in the public interest,” said Brown.  “This situation exemplifies the role this Commission plays to ensure pipelines operate safely in Pennsylvania.”
With respect to a request to conduct a public risk assessment of a hazardous liquid pipeline like Mariner East 2, Brown said a risk assessment is “likely prohibited by state law” noting legal restrictions on protecting confidential security information of public utilities.
“The Commission acknowledges the risks present in the transportation of natural gas liquids by pipeline,” said Brown.  “The Commission will continue its ongoing oversight of the safety and operations of Sunoco and its hazardous liquids pipeline system to mitigate said risk. To the extent the Commission discovers any issues which raise concerns about the safe operation of any pipeline within its jurisdiction, rest assured that the Commission will take prompt action to protect the public.”
In response to a question from Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Brown said the PUC does do a risk assessment related to pipelines it regulates, but they are not made public due to the need to protect confidential information by state law.
Paul Metro, PUC Manager for Gas Safety said, in response to a question from Sen. Yudichak, there were seven incidents related to natural gas pipelines releasing products in the past year, including three natural gas explosions. There was one incident involving a release of natural gas liquids from a pipeline that as reportable under federal law.
Domenic Rocco, Acting Manager, DEP Regional Permit Coordination Office, outlined to the Committee how DEP regulates the construction of pipeline construction through Chapter 102 (Erosion and Sedimentation), Chapter 105 (Water Obstructions and Encroachments) and Chapter 106 (Floodplain Encroachments).
Rocco pointed to the DEP Pennsylvania Pipeline Portal as a source of information for how DEP regulates pipelines and for information on ongoing pipeline projects.
The types of information available includes the 2016 Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force Report, DEP’s permit review process, Mariner East 2, Atlantic Sunrise, PennEast, Shell Ethane and Sunoco Pipeline Pump Station projects.
Rocco provided one recommendation for legislative changes to the Committee.
He noted DEP does not have an inventory of private water supplies and does not regulate private water supplies, including standards for water well construction.  Additional statutory authority would be helpful in this area to protect those supplies from the impacts of projects like pipelines.
Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) asked for more information on how DEP locates private water wells that could be impacted by pipelines.
Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) was critical of DEP for lack of communication with the PUC over the sinkhole incidents that lead to the PUC’s shutdown of the Mariner East 1 Pipeline.
In response to a question from Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), Rocco said there is a point at which DEP would pull the plug on a pipeline construction project if there continues to be violations, but there is no predetermined way to define that point.
It was noted later in the hearing Sunoco has had problems similar to the Mariner East 2 Pipeline spills in Pennsylvania at similar projects in Ohio and West Virginia.
Andrew Williams, Director of Regulatory & Legislative Affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said they are focused on developing a responsible framework to better assess and deal with the inherent risks associated with pipeline design, construction, operation and maintenance.
Williams said the PUC did the right thing to halt operation of Mariner East 1 Pipeline, but “it is time to hold bad actors accountable for direct and negative impacts to the public and require that companies have a compressive plan to reduce the overall risk of their operations. It is simply unacceptable that many people are still without water resources – now for over six months in some places according to my conversations with impacted residents.”
Williams said more needs to be done to control leaks from natural gas gathering pipelines, noting a 2013 PUC case found one legacy natural gas gathering system had a loss rate of 70 percent.
EDF supported legislation sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) last year that became law to add the location of some natural gas gathering pipelines to the PA One Call Program, but there are no regulations to require gathering line operators to find and fix leaks.
Williams also said EDF has been working in Pittsburgh with Peoples Gas and Google to use new technology to detect leaks in natural gas distribution lines.
Rebecca Britton, Uwchland Safety Coalition in Chester County, gave the Committees a practical description of the issues of responding to a leak or an explosion from the Mariner East 1 and 2 natural gas liquids pipelines.
She said development that has grown up around the pipeline route that was originally approved in 1930.
“Regardless, of the supposed economic benefits you will hear about today; expanding pipeline infrastructure without balancing the need for public safety, we grow this expansion haphazardly,” said Britton.  “The results of these loopholes in legislation have created a landscape where the public feels our interests are not being met.
“In Chester and Delaware Counties many easement owners with the means to do so have sold their homes and fled the path of the pipeline,” explained Britton. “Children sleep as close as 25 feet from the pipeline and the easement traverses sometimes under foundations. Schools are less than 100 feet from the most unstable gases in the industry, because the only entity that approved this route was the operator itself.
“Our first responders may/may not be properly equipped or prepared. Uninformed residents are being subjected involuntarily to risks they don’t understand,” Britton said.
Melissa DiBernadino, Goshen United For Public Safety, expressed very similar concerns to those outlined by Britton about living next to a natural gas liquids pipelines.
DiBernadino said one of her most frightening concerns is a leak of the colorless, odorless natural gas liquid that is not detected in time to react to the emergency.  She added, the only way it seems these leaks can be detected is when people begin passing out.
She noted the Mariner East 1 Pipeline was original approved in 1930 to ship heating oil, a much more benign product.
Sen. Dinniman said his constituents in Chester County do not know what to do in an emergency involving the pipeline saying he has heard nothing about these issues from the PA Emergency Management Agency.
Keith Coyle, Chairman, Marcellus Shale Coalition Pipeline Safety Workgroup, said “Pipelines are the safest and most reliable means of transporting the nation’s energy products. According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, pipelines caused fewer fatalities and injuries than other modes of transportation during the past decade.”
He also provided an overview of how pipelines are regulated.
With respect to rural natural gas gathering lines, Coyle, said PHMSA is currently considering whether to modify their exemption and apply new reporting and safety standards.  
In addition, the American Petroleum Institute is developing a new recommended practice with safety standards for rural gas gathering lines. API plans to publish the new recommend practice later this year, he said.
Both Sen. Rafferty and Sen. Dinniman said at the hearing they are working with Sen. Yaw and others to develop legislation to deal with what they see as holes in the current process for regulating pipelines, siting pipeline routes, regulating pipeline and agents related to eminent domain, the lack of coordination between agencies on regulating pipelines and for community interaction with pipeline companies.
Sen. Rafferty has already introduced Senate Bill 604 would centralize state pipeline inspections in PennDOT,  Senate Bill 605 establishes a state impact fee for areas impacted by pipelines, Senate Bill 1027 further providing for notification of residents impacted by pipeline construction and Senate Bill 1028 requiring pipeline operators to conduct studies of aquifers that may be impacted by pipeline construction.
Sen. Dinniman has already introduced Senate Bill 928 requiring pipeline companies to apply to the PUC on pipeline routes, Senate Bill 929 allowing municipalities to impose an impact fee on pipelines to fund emergency response actions, Senate Bill 930 requiring pipeline companies to meet with county emergency coordinators to share emergency response information and Senate Bill 931 requiring pipelines to have more shut-off values in more highly developed areas.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said one of the things the hearing revealed is state agencies are not talking to each other and that “maybe we are dealing with a “bad apple” company”-- Sunoco-- that doesn’t know how to talk to people.
He pointed to his experience with Marcellus Shale drilling companies in his area where companies met with people in communities early on to tell them what they can expect from drilling and what a big difference it made in how they were received.
Sen. Yaw said Sunoco’s actions are affecting what’s happening with pipelines all around Pennsylvania and other places.
Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), Majority Chair of the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, pointed to one passage in Andrew Williams testimony that summarized the hearing for him-- “it is time to hold bad actors accountable for direct and negative impacts to the public.”
In addition to questions at the hearing, Sen. Rafferty provided written comments to the Committee on the pipeline issues.
Click Here for copies of written testimony and to watch a video of the hearing.
Additional Background
The hearing follows action by the Public Utility Commission two weeks ago to shutdown the Sunoco Mariner East 1 Pipeline in Chester County after nearby construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline likely caused sinkholes to develop exposing the operating Mariner East 1 Pipeline.
The pipeline carries volatile and hazardous natural gas liquids from Western Pennsylvania to processing plants in the Philadelphia area.
In February, the Department of Environmental Protection fined Sunoco $12.6 million for violations related to construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline which DEP shutdown for several weeks across the state.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3280 or sending email to: gyaw@pasen.gov.   Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7105 or sending email to: yudichak@pasenate.com.
Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks) serves as Majority Chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-5072 or sending email to: rtomlinson@pasen.gov.  Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-4236 or sending email to: boscola@pasenate.com.
(Photo: Mariner East 2 Pipeline Route through Middletown, Delaware County.)

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