Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Philadelphia Roundtable Targeted Vehicle Emissions, Next Steps

Nearly a hundred Philadelphia policymakers, public health practitioners, environmentalists, and citizens attended a public roundtable discussion Tuesday evening, which focused on Philadelphia’s transportation and public health policy.
The event, hosted by PennFuture and Clean Air Council, featured speakers from SEPTA, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Philadelphia Department of Health, and the Eastern PA Alliance for Clean Transportation. Rep. Donna Bullock (D-Philadelphia) delivered an opening keynote.
“People have become deaf to the horns of traffic. Instead of planning for clean air, we plan for congestion,” said Bullock. “People want sustainable transportation, and fighting for these programs can increase the quality of life for all Philadelphians. We need to fight for those who do not have a seat at the table – our elders and our children.”
Transportation recently surpassed electricity generation as the largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States.  
[Editor’s Note: In Pennsylvania, the largest contributor is electric generation-- 104.7 million tons in 2012, industrial sources-- 80.3 million tons and transportation is third at 64.74 million tons, as inventoried in Pennsylvania’s recently published 2015 Climate Action Plan Update (page 17).]
Rep. Bullock called attention to the 126 annual deaths in Philadelphia from poor air quality and also highlighted transportation’s economic burden. “Transportation is the third largest cost to low-income people, behind food and shelter.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released the Technical Assessment Report on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and carbon pollution standards for cars and light trucks, which revealed that automakers are rapidly adopting stronger fuel economy strategies for model years 2022-2025. But experts say that we need to think beyond fuel economy.
“A lot of lower-income people are dependent on cars because they live in the city but work in the suburbs. There is an equity issue that needs to be addressed when we talk about behavioral change,” said Christine Knapp, director at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.
“Something that’s really important for behavioral change is for people to understand the risks of driving a vehicle that emits pollution,” said Jessica Caum MA, MPH, CPH, assistant program manager in Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness at the Department of Health.
Air pollution and climate change is increasingly placing a heavier burden on Philadelphia.
In 2015, Philadelphia suffered four red ozone days for the first time in three years. Exposure to outdoor air during red ozone days poses a threat to public health, even without a pre-existing sensitivity, such as asthma.
This year, Philadelphia has already witnessed three red ozone days, and broke a 114 year old precipitation record as well as a 1999 heat record.
“The simplest and easiest solution to our air quality issues is the enforcement of our anti-idling regulations,” said Tony Bandiero, executive director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Transportation.
“We need to eliminate the need for cars by supporting denser development so that people can walk, and encourage mode shift so we use cars less,” added Knapp.
“SEPTA is converting its bus fleet to hybrid and battery electric. Right now, the best thing we can do is to get people to ride public transit,” said Erik Johanson, director of innovation at SEPTA. Fuel taxes “allow us to invest in better transit, but with a carbon tax there is the potential for more regenerative income.”
Pennsylvania is ranked seventh nationally in carbon pollution from transportation and has benefited from an influx of federal funding for electric buses and charging stations, in addition to new transportation infrastructure like traffic lights, multi-modal trails, and bus stops.
“Workplace electric vehicle charging is one the best options available,” Bandiero said. “I hope the utilities get involved because we all pay utility taxes.” But Bandiero cautioned, “keep your mind open to all types of fuel sources — there is no silver bullet.”
“Are the Ubers and Lyfts of the world good or bad things,” asked Johanson. “They can work together for and against public transit. We are in a very, very disruptive moment in transportation history.”

Wildlands Conservancy Highlights September Education Programs, Activities

The Wildlands Conservancy in the Lehigh Valley will host a variety of educational programs and activities in September for people of all ages.
Among the activities are workshops on: You & Me: Little Ecowarriors, Poetry In Paint, Adventure Allentown: Mini Bike & Boat and much more.
The Conservancy will hold a Trailblazing Work Day on September 17 for volunteers interested in helping to improve the trail network on the Maple Tract.
Also highlighted is a Characters, Caches & Oz - Oh My! Program on November 20 on geocaching.
Click Here for more information.
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the Wildlands Conservancy website. Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Conservancy, Like on Facebook, Follow on Twitter and Join on Instagram.

Game Commission Webinar August 25: Tips For Better Elk Viewing

Seeing more elk in Pennsylvania is as easy as A-B-C – Autumn, Bugles and Crowds.  A webinar to be hosted at Noon on Thursday, August 25 by the Game Commission will provide these and other tips to a better elk-viewing experience.
Whether you have visited Pennsylvania’s elk range 100 times, or you’re planning to visit for the first time, the webinar to be conducted by Doty McDowell, the Information & Education Supervisor for the Game Commission’s Northcentral Region, will provide tips and ideas on how to make your next trip enjoyable and educational.
The session will include an about 15-minute PowerPoint presentation, followed by a short question-and-answer period.
Click Here to register online. A confirmation email sent after registration is completed contains information about joining the webinar.
For a list of other programs and meetings, visit the Game Commission’s Upcoming Events webpage.
For more information on elk, visit the Game Commission’s Pennsylvania Elk webpage and the Elk Viewing Destinations webpage.

PA Farmland Preservation Program Reaches New Milestone: Preserves 5,000th Farm

With the addition of 26 new farms, Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program reached a new milestone Wednesday, surpassing the 5,000-farm mark.
Pennsylvania’s program leads the nation in the number of farms and the number of farm acres that have been preserved in perpetuity for agricultural production.
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined former state agriculture secretaries, legislators, county and local officials, and farmers from across the Commonwealth to celebrate the milestone today during the bi-monthly meeting of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board.
The meeting was held at the SmuckerLand farm in Lancaster County, which was officially the 5,000th farm preserved under the program.
“Preserving Pennsylvania’s best farmland is an investment in our heritage, in our economy, in our ability to sustain ourselves, and in our environment,” said Redding. “Across the state – for decades now – some of our most productive lands have been lost forever to development. And those pressures continue. Protecting our agricultural industry and our ability to grow and produce food is a strategic and economic imperative for us as a state. To do that requires that we preserve the precious asset that is our state’s farmland.”
All told, the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board voted to safeguard 2,475 additional acres on 26 farms in 16 counties, including Adams, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Cumberland, Dauphin, Fayette, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Westmoreland and York.
Additionally, the board approved increasing the farmland preservation program’s spending threshold in light of new funding as part of the 2016-17 fiscal year budget.
In July, the Commonwealth appropriated another $5 million for farmland preservation from cigarette tax revenues. This additional funding makes it possible for the state to increase the amount of funding available to $36 million, up from the $31 million threshold set at the February 2016 meeting before the budget’s enactment.
“Gov. Wolf and the members of the Pennsylvania legislature recognized the importance of preserving our farmland and the future of agriculture in Pennsylvania, and I want to recognize and thank them for that appreciation and leadership,” said Redding. “There is an extensive backlog of farms across the state waiting to be preserved. Those farm owners have been waiting anxiously – some of them for years – to be able to protect their farm. And once they have done so, many of them will turn around and invest those proceeds right back into their operations. With these new funds, we’ll be able to start chipping away at that backlog.”
Since the state’s farmland preservation program began in 1988, federal, state, county and local governments have invested more than $1.3 billion to preserve 525,020 acres on 5,003 farms in 58 counties for future agricultural production.
The number of farms preserved in Pennsylvania is nearly equal to the number preserved in Maryland and New Jersey combined – two states that rank second and third, respectively, for farmland preservation behind Pennsylvania according to a 2015 report from American Farmland Trust.
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program identifies properties and slows the loss of prime farmland to nonagricultural uses. It enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, also called development rights, from owners of quality farmland.
For more information, visit Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation webpage.
(Photo: Lancasteronline.com, 2012)

Secretary Of Health Asks Pennsylvanians To Donate To Louisiana Flood Victims

Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy Wednesday expressed her sympathies for those affected by the historic flooding in Louisiana and asked Pennsylvanians to consider donating to help the victims of that state’s worst natural disaster in recent years.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by this tragedy and many are in critical need of basic supplies such as food, medicine, and shelter,” said Secretary Murphy. “This historic flooding has completely devastated some residents of Louisiana, leaving them extremely vulnerable and in desperate need of our help. I am encouraging all Pennsylvanians to support and help those residents of Louisiana who have lost so much.”
Last week’s storm dumped up to two feet of rain on the hardest hit areas of Louisiana.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 110,000 individuals and households have registered for assistance. Since the flooding began last week, more than 45,000 overnight stays in shelters and nearly 300,000 meals and snacks have been provided to flood survivors.
In addition, more than 30,000 Louisiana residents had to be saved from the flooding by organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Guard, and local emergency responders. Thousands of animals have also been rescued.
If you would like to donate to the victims of the Louisiana flooding, please visit Louisiana Flood Relief — Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
To learn important safety tips about preparing and responding to flooding in Pennsylvania, visit www.readypa.org.

Independent Fiscal Office Increases FY 2016-17 Revenue Estimate By $900 Million

The Independent Fiscal Office Wednesday increased its FY 2016-17 revenue estimate by about $900 million to take into account the budget revenue package passed in June to increase state revenues.
The IFO says available revenues will total $32.5 billion in FY 2016-17, rather than $31.66 billion it had estimated in June.
The FY 2016-17 General Fund budget passed in June totaled $31.6 billion with another $100 million or so of new revenue to come from expanded gaming, when the General Assembly and Gov. Wolf agree on a bill to pass.
Among the budget package income/loss itemized by the IFO are--
-- Bank Shares Tax: $21.1 million
-- Sales & Use Tax (Vendor Discount): $61.5 million
-- Sales & Use Tax (Digital Downloads): $45.7 million
-- Sales & Use Tax (transfer to Commonwealth Financing Authority): Loss of $95.3 million
-- Cigarette Tax: $411.7 million
-- Cigarette Tax (transfer to Agricultural Easement Fund): $5 million loss
-- Electronic Cigarettes: $11.2 million
-- Loose Tobacco: $33.7 million
-- Personal Income Tax (Lottery Winnings): $15.2 million
-- Table Games Tax: $17.6 million
-- Tax Amnesty: $100 million
The IFO analysis also includes a review of the impact of various new and existing tax credit programs enacted as part of the budget revenue package.
A copy of the revised estimated is available online.

DEP To Review Compliance Of Selected Farms In Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Continuing efforts to reduce annual loading of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay, the Department of Environmental Protection has notified a selection of farmers in the Bay Watershed that officials will be visiting farms soon to verify and review the operation’s manure management and agricultural erosion and sediment control plans.
“It is important that we identify good practices and become aware of gaps in having these mandated plans,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “These visits will help us document compliance with state requirements, and direct resources where they are needed most.”
Initially, visits will be in high-priority areas of the watershed, to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff as quickly as possible.
The value, McDonnell said, is as important nearby as it is further downstream. “Farmers’ plans control erosion and manage manure, which directly helps improve local water quality,” he said.
Approximately 2,000 of the 33,000 Pennsylvania farmers in the bay watershed were selected at random for notification by letter this week.
The letter notes that DEP is responsible for ensuring that the nutrient and sediment loads are reduced enough to meet federally mandated allocations by 2025, and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the urban stormwater and agricultural sectors are not making sufficient progress toward achieving these allocations.
The visits will allow DEP and County Conservation District staff to ensure compliance with basic requirements to have and implement written plans to:
-- Properly handle, store and land-apply animal manure and agricultural process wastewater on the farm consistent with the nutrient needs of growing crops (commonly referred to as a manure management plan); and
-- Properly manage risks of erosion and runoff from agricultural plowing or tilling operations and animal heavy use areas (commonly referred to as an agricultural erosion and sediment control plan, or Ag E&S Plan).
For more information on Bay-related efforts, visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay webpage.
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UGI Starts Construction On Sunbury Pipeline To Serve New Natural Gas Power Plant

UGI Energy Services LLC, the midstream and energy marketing subsidiary of UGI Corporation, Wednesday celebrated the start of construction of its Sunbury Pipeline with a groundbreaking ceremony near the 1,124 MW Panda Hummel Station Power Plant it will serve.
UGI Energy Services President Brad Hall welcomed nearly 100 guests to the ceremony. UGI, he told the gathering, is pleased to be a part of a partnership with Panda Power Funds that will result in cleaner power generation and jobs for central Pennsylvania.
“The Sunbury Pipeline Project represents an incremental step forward for Pennsylvania natural gas infrastructure, and a major step forward for Pennsylvania’s energy future,” Hall said. “UGI is excited to continue its more than century-long tradition of putting natural gas to work for Pennsylvania by fueling the state-of-the-art Hummel Station along with enhancing local natural gas supplies.”
Gladys M. Brown, Chairman of the Public Utility Commission, stressed the importance of new pipeline capacity such as the Sunbury Pipeline to transport local energy to Pennsylvania families and businesses.
“Pennsylvania continues to set new records in natural gas production, breaking 4.6 trillion cubic feet last year. Projects like the Sunbury Pipeline provide new capacity to leverage that record production,” Chairman Brown said. “The Sunbury Pipeline Project will not only help bring more local energy to local users, but also help meet our clean power goals by fueling efficient natural gas-fired electric generation.”
Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) said the Project’s implications reach well beyond the Greater Susquehanna Valley.
"As Senate Majority Whip, I've worked with the General Assembly to craft policies to encourage development of this natural resource. Consumers will benefit from the Sunbury Pipeline as it ensures continued reliable generation of electricity to the regional grid, as well as from economical natural gas prices thanks to the new local supply entering the market," said Sen. Gordner.
Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver (R-Northumberland) said central Pennsylvanians recognize the significance of the Sunbury Pipeline to the area.
“Aside from providing clean and affordable fuel for Hummel Station, the Sunbury Pipeline will support hundreds of jobs for people in our area. The Pipeline is another example of how Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas reserves are positively affecting all pockets of the state,” said Rep. Schlegel-Culver.
Joe Lloyd, Vice President of Operations for Panda Power Funds, emphasized what the Sunbury Pipeline means for Panda’s mission to generate clean, natural gas-fueled electricity.
“Panda is thrilled to be constructing one of the largest coal to natural gas power replacement projects in the United States, which would not be possible without the Sunbury Pipeline,” Lloyd said. “Along with UGI, we’re pleased to be contributing to the local economy through our project’s construction and future operation, and proud of what both the Pipeline and Hummel Station mean for Pennsylvania’s long-term energy reliability and economic growth.”
The 35-mile-long Sunbury Pipeline is located entirely within north central Pennsylvania.
When it is finished at the end of 2016, it will carry natural gas from the Transco interstate pipeline in eastern Lycoming County and travel through parts of Montour, Northumberland, Union and Snyder counties on its way to the power plant in Shamokin Dam.
For more information, visit UGI’s Sunbury Pipeline website.  For information on the power plant, visit the Panda Hummel Station Power Project webpage.
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Tenaska Breaks Ground For 925 MW Natural Gas Power Plant In Westmoreland County

Tenaska Pennsylvania Partners, LLC Wednesday celebrated the start of construction for the Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station, a 925-megawatt (MW) natural gas-fueled power plant near Smithton in Westmoreland County.
More than 75 elected officials, community leaders and company executives gathered at the site for the ceremonial groundbreaking. Attendees included U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA and state Rep. Ted Harhai (D-Westmoreland), along with leaders from Westmoreland County, South Huntingdon Township and Smithton Borough.
“Natural gas production is an important industry in Pennsylvania and is one that not only creates direct employment but also stimulates the economy and fosters additional jobs through its support of related, downstream businesses,” said Dennis Davin, Secretary of Community and Economic Development, who gave the keynote address. “On behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Department of Community and Economic Development, it’s an honor to welcome Tenaska to Westmoreland County and to break ground on a project that is sure to be a significant contributor to the vitality of the region and beyond.”
Construction of Tenaska Westmoreland is expected to boost the local economy, with direct construction costs of more than $500 million.
When complete in late 2018, the plant will be able to provide enough power for approximately 925,000 homes in the PJM Interconnection market, which coordinates the delivery of reliable power in all or parts of 13 eastern states, including Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.
“Tenaska Westmoreland has been many years in the making,” said Tenaska Vice Chairman and CEO Jerry Crouse. “We appreciate the continued support we have received from many residents and community leaders, and we are pleased to now be starting construction and bringing the many economic benefits of the project to reality.”
Tenaska Pennsylvania Partners, LLC, comprised of affiliates of Tenaska and Diamond Generating Corporation, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Corporation, owns the Tenaska Westmoreland project.
“Diamond Generating Corporation is pleased to be a part of this highly efficient, combined-cycle project in Pennsylvania, continuing our long-term relationship with Tenaska” said CEO Satoshi Hamada. “The Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station demonstrates our commitment to provide clean, flexible and reliable energy for local communities in competitive markets.”
The Tenaska Westmoreland project is expected to create more than 300 direct jobs, on average, over the nearly three-year construction period, as well as opportunities for local contractors and vendors.
Once operational, the plant will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue over its life.
“Tenaska is meeting the needs of an evolving industry,” said Jason Rigone, executive director of Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation, who also spoke at the event. “In recent years numerous coal-fueled power plants have retired, leaving a void to fill our energy demands. The Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station will utilize locally produced natural gas and provide a clean source of electricity for our region’s businesses and ensure our homes are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.”
Black & Veatch is the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project. The EPC contractor performs design, completes engineering and manages construction of the plant. Tenaska encourages its EPC contractors to hire locally when possible.
For more information on the power plant, visit Tenaska’s Westmoreland Project website.
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