Friday, August 18, 2017

August 21 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The August 21  PA Environment Digest is now available.  Here are just a few of the headlines--

The Northeast PA Environmental Partners Wednesday announced the winners of its 2017 awards.  Recipients of the 27th annual Environmental Partnership Awards are—

By Davitt Woodwell, President & CEO Of PA Environmental Council
The chaotic state budget process is again moving in fits and starts in Harrisburg. And, again, the public is left to wonder how our environment will bear the brunt of political trade-offs on what should be purely fiscal decisions.

The Governor’s Office published its semi-annual Regulatory Agenda in the August 19 PA Bulletin starting on page 4922.  The Agenda contains an agency by agency list of regulations under consideration and new proposals and their status.  
The regulatory agenda shows DEP proposing permit fee increases for at least 6 programs-- Noncoal Mining, Oil and Gas, Water Quality/NPDES Permits and Air Quality programs and finalizing fee increases for the Drinking Water and Radiation Protection.

For the past three years, under a grant from the William Penn Foundation, The Nature Conservancy in Delaware and University of Delaware Water Resource Center have worked closely with water companies and municipalities on both sides of the Delaware-Pennsylvania state line to develop the Brandywine-Christina Healthy Water Fund.  

The Department of Environmental Protection's Wednesday announced the expanded agricultural inspections program for clean water management in Pennsylvania's part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed not only exceeded federal expectations for number of acres inspected, but also found that a majority of farms are complying with state erosion and sediment control and manure management planning requirements.

Local partners and the Department of Environmental Protection Monday dedicated a new addition to the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine tourism site in Schuylkill County that represents a big piece of regional history: a 35-foot headframe from a local coal mine.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Tuesday announced four men from the Pittsburgh area have been cited for illegally dumping trash in Allegheny County.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday natural gas prices in the Appalachian Region are increasing to meet the Henry Hub national benchmark price as more and more pipeline projects are completed.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are holding a public Workshop On A Study To Explore Improving The Aquatic Environment at the F.J. Sayers Dam and Reservoir on August 30 in Howard, Centre County.

To read the Digest, visit:  Click Here to view or print the entire Digest.

PA Environment Digest is edited by David E. Hess, former Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and is published as a service of Crisci Associates.

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DEP: West Nile Virus Mosquito Spraying Set For Lycoming County On August 21

Department of Environmental Protection Friday announced it will conduct a mosquito control operation to reduce high populations of mosquitoes on August 21 in portions of South Williamsport Borough and Armstrong Township, Lycoming County.
The treatments will be administered via truck mounted spraying equipment. The equipment will dispense Biomist 3+15, applied at a rate of 1.0 ounce per acre. Residential and recreational areas will be sprayed for adult mosquitoes.
This product is designed to provide quick, effective control of adult mosquito populations. Due to the application technique being used, the application material has a very low toxicity profile to mammals and is safe for the environment.
Certain mosquito species carry the West Nile virus, which can cause humans to contract West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in an inflammation of the brain. According to the Department of Health, all residents in areas where virus activity has been identified are at risk of contract West Nile encephalitis.
So far in 2017, West Nile virus has been detected in 38 counties. They are Adams, Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Cambria, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Union, Washington, Westmoreland and York counties.
One human case has been reported in 2017. It was recently reported that a male in Montgomery County tested positive.
Weather conditions and other unexpected events could delay or cancel this spray operation. If conditions do not allow application on August 21, it will be rescheduled for August 22.
Individuals can take a number of precautionary measures around their homes to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas, including:
-- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar containers that hold water.
-- Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
-- Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
-- Have clogged roof gutters cleaned every year as the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug drains.
-- Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
-- Turn over wheelbarrows and don't let water stagnate in birdbaths.
-- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
-- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
If a resident has stagnant pools of water on their property, they can buy Bti products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. This naturally occurring bacterium kills mosquito larvae, but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.
Additionally, these simple precautions can prevent mosquito bites, particularly for people who are most at risk:
-- Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
-- Consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors, particularly when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes.
-- When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods, usually April through October.
-- Use insect repellents according to the manufacturer's instructions. An effective repellent will contain DEET, picardin, or lemon eucalyptus oil. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician for questions about the use of repellent on children, as repellent is not recommended for children under the age of two months.
For more information on the West Nile Virus prevention efforts in Pennsylvania, visit the West Nile Virus website,  Follow on Twitter or Like the program on Facebook.

PA American Water Awards Environmental Grants Totaling $30,000 To 8 Groups

PA American Water Friday announced it has awarded Environmental Grants totaling $30,000 to eight groups within its service territory in Pennsylvania.  The grants were awarded to—
-- Allegheny Land Trust, Allegheny County was awarded a grant for dumpsite cleanups at Dead Man’s Hollow Conservation Area, a protected green space with several tributaries to the Youghiogheny River. The cleanups will allow further habitat restoration and stream water monitoring.
-- California University of Pennsylvania, Washington County will use its funding to support a fish and macroinvertebrate survey of the Youghiogheny River that will enhance water quality management, along with existing survey information. The information will also be used for continued monitoring by local school groups within the watershed.
-- Delaware River Basin Commission will use its grant to purchase markers and equipment that the Boy Scouts will apply on storm drains in the Yardley and Nazareth areas, alerting residents about their impact on the Delaware River Watershed.
-- Misericordia University, Luzerne County in partnership with Lehman Sanctuary, will use its funds to install and utilize advanced telemetry equipment to monitor water quality on the sanctuary’s property. The project will advance understanding of the biodiversity and allow remote monitoring of environmental conditions for school groups at the location
-- River Alert Information Network, Allegheny County will use its grant monies to coordinate watershed groups along with the Allegheny Watershed Alliance to identify local source water protection issues. Additionally, informational literature will be developed to educate community groups on source water protection.
-- South Fayette Conservation Group, Allegheny County will purchase a groundwater and rainmaker model to be used as a hands-on educational tool to help students better understand point source and nonpoint pollution.
-- Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County will use its grant to support a riparian buffer project in Simpson Park along the Yellow Breeches Creek. Volunteers will plant new trees and shrubs to help stabilize the streambank as part of an ongoing riparian project.
-- West Norriton Township, Montgomery County will use its funding to support the Schuylkill River Invasive Weeds project, aimed at removing invasive plant species from the Norristown Basin, improving water quality along the river and habitats for wildlife.
For more information, visit PA American Water’s Environmental Grant Program webpage.

Trump Order On Infrastructure Environmental Reviews May Impact State Decisions Under Delegated Federal Programs

The 13-page order seeks to address what the Trump Administration believes are inefficiencies associated with infrastructure project decisions, including by limiting National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews to “not more than an average of approximately [two] years.”
Infrastructure projects include: a project that involves multiple authorizations from Federal agencies to develop the public and private physical assets that are designed to provide or support services to the general public in the following sectors:  surface transportation, including roadways, bridges, railroads, and transit; aviation; ports, including navigational channels; water resources projects; energy production and generation, including from fossil, renewable, nuclear, and hydro sources; electricity transmission; broadband internet; pipelines; stormwater and sewer infrastructure; drinking water infrastructure; and other sectors as may be determined by the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council.
One Federal Decision
A new One Federal Decision protocol is also established for major infrastructure projects where multiple federal agencies have permit responsibility, under which a lead federal agency will work with other relevant federal agencies to complete needed environmental reviews and permitting decisions.
The EO stipulates that federal agencies will sign a joint Record of Decision and issue required federal permits 90 days later.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, will develop a two-year modernization goal, establish a performance accountability system, and score each federal agency quarterly on implementation of the EO and of appropriate best practices.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is charged with developing an action plan to improve government-wide environmental reviews and mediate disagreements between federal agencies.
Guidelines To States
The Executive Order notes that “CEQ and OMB shall also develop guidance for applying One Federal Decision whenever the lead agency is a [s]tate, tribal, or local agency exercising an assignment or delegation of an agency's NEPA responsibilities.”
The new EO revokes the January 2015 EO 13690 related to establishing a federal flood risk management standard which prevented federal investments in infrastructure projects that would be subject to flooding, including as a result of sea level rise.
It also directs the Department of Interior to provide a multi-agency reorganization effort and incorporate the strategy into the comprehensive reorganization plan directed in March by EO 13781, which includes the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement which have oversight of the mining and reclamation programs in states like Pennsylvania.
DOI is also the lead on identification and designation of “energy right-of-way corridors” on federal land for expedited environmental review for energy infrastructure projects.
In January 2017, the White House released the Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects, which called for identification of high-priority infrastructure projects and for CEQ to coordinate with relevant federal agencies to expedite procedures and deadlines for completion of environmental reviews.
Click Here for a copy of the infrastructure order.  Click Here for a fact sheet on the order issued by the White House.

Registration Open: Delaware Watershed Research Conference Nov. 8

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is now accepting registrations for the Delaware Watershed Research Conference on November 8 in Philadelphia.
The Conference is being presented as a part of the Academy’s initiative to encourage novel research throughout the Delaware River Watershed and to foster collaboration among the growing research community.
This gathering will serve as a platform for experts in their respective disciplines to discuss the state of watershed research toward answering management and conservation questions.
This program is part of the William Penn Foundation’s major, multi-year commitment to fund research and pollution reduction projects in the Delaware River Watershed.
Information on professional and student registration and more is available at this announcement of the Delaware Watershed Research Conference.  The deadline for registration is October 25.
For more information on the Delaware Watershed Initiative generally, visit the Academy’s Delaware Watershed Initiative webpage.  

Day 52: General Fund Exhausts Full $750 Million Line Of Credit To Pay State Bills

While this year’s delay in enacting a complete state budget has not yet eclipsed the 2015-16 record, some are predicting more dark shadows will fall on Pennsylvania’s financial landscape next week because the General Fund could run out of money again very soon.
State Treasurer Joe Torsella Wednesday announced the release to the General Fund of the full amount of a $750 million loan from Treasury’s Short Term Investment Pool (STIP) to pay the Commonwealth’s bills Torsella authorized on August 3.
He also said the General Assembly “should not be assume that Treasury will continue to backstop the General Fund unless a responsible revenue package is enacted to balance the budget, or underlying financial conditions improve.”
“Today’s announcement regards the details of a troubling development: the Commonwealth’s need for a $750 million loan from Treasury’s STIP,” said Torsella. “This amount represents an unprecedented borrowing need this early in the fiscal year.”
The STIP loan was released in full to the General Fund on August 15. The Commonwealth has until August 23 to pay back the loan, at an interest rate of 85 basis points.
Treasurer Torsella also released a statement regarding future projections for the General Fund and Treasury’s position on short-term lending.
“While this short-term borrowing will be repaid by August 23, we forecast that without some action, the General Fund balance will again fall below zero by August 29th.
“Treasury continues to project a need for Commonwealth borrowing of as much as $3 billion to fund budgeted operations for approximately 2/3rd of the fiscal year. It is important for policymakers to understand that this is not a gradual decline in some distant future: the General Fund balance is projected to fall to $1.6 billion on or about September 15.
“Treasury’s Short Term Investment Pool is not a Rainy Day Fund; it is neither intended nor managed to be a back-stop to the General Fund. As an investment fund, it is governed by law mandating only ‘prudent’ investments.
“An overly concentrated loan by the Pool to the General Fund—at a time when the underlying budget is $2.2 billion out of balance, revenues are declining, and we are still without an enacted revenue package—would represent a substantial investment risk.
“We know of no historical precedent for an extended loan to the General Fund in a period without an enacted revenue package that is certified to cover expenses.
“To state the obvious, my fiduciary duty as Treasurer requires me to ask how the General Fund could pay back a loan when approved expenditures exceed expected revenues by $2.2 billion.
“Accordingly, it should not be assumed that Treasury will continue to backstop the General Fund unless a responsible revenue package is enacted to balance the budget, or underlying financial conditions improve,” said Torsella.
Auditor General DePasquale
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale weighed in Thursday saying the short term borrowing of $750 million to fill deficits in the state’s General Fund are hurting taxpayers.
“All of us should be deeply concerned about the current situation with our state budget. Yesterday, Treasury released a short-term loan of $750 million to the General Fund as a temporary solution to revenue shortfalls and to keep Pennsylvania’s state government functioning.
“Most worrisome is once the $750 million loan is repaid by the mandatory August 23 deadline Treasury forecasts the state’s general fund balance will fall below zero by August 29 and hit negative $1.6 billion by mid-September. This type of borrowing is like getting a bank loan to buy groceries and could prove calamitous for everyone in the Commonwealth.
“Costs are already getting added to the state budget including $141,000 in interest on the temporary loan. That is money that does not help a single Pennsylvania resident.”  Click Here for more.
House Approps Chair Saylor
On Friday, House Appropriations Committee Majority Chair Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) issued this statement in response to calls for House Republicans to raise taxes-- “Legislators in the House Republican Caucus continue to work on a revenue package to fully fund the state budget.
“While I appreciate that Rep. Carol Hill-Evans (D-York) wants to increase Pennsylvanians’ utility bills that will hurt seniors and low-income families and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale wants to legalize and tax marijuana, I and the Republican Caucus do not believe that is the direction we should be taking Pennsylvania, and our constituents agree.
“Despite a disengaged governor, we were able to pass a budget that funds priorities such as education, while keeping spending growth in check.
“We in the House Republican Caucus are carefully reviewing our options and working with members to create a solution to the problem caused by the governor’s overspending.
“We have been meeting in Harrisburg continually and have been in communication with our Democratic colleagues.”
Understand, everything is on the table, including transfers from environmental funds and redirecting the Act 101 Recycling Fee revenue and other environmental funding streams to the General Fund so House Republicans can pass a budget that has no tax increases.
Gov. Wolf
Gov. Wolf said earlier in the week his Office was working to avoid another credit downgrade from Standard and Poor’s credit rating service, something he said is likely to occur if the state’s budget issues are not resolved soon.
Wolf said House Republicans need to get back to Harrisburg and finish the budget.
What’s Next?
There is still no indication whether House Republican leadership is planning to bring members back into session, other than the already scheduled week of September 11.  The Senate is due back September 18.
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