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Author Archives: Administrator

PA Moves to Cut Emission of Smog-Forming VOCs

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – New rules to cut smog-forming emissions from thousands of oil and gas facilities across Pennsylvania have taken a step forward.

On Thursday, the state’s Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee is meeting to review a draft proposal from the Department of Environmental Protection to reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

Current rules only apply to new and modified facilities.

According to Andrew Williams, director of regulatory and legislative affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, extending rules to existing oil and gas infrastructure will be a major step forward.

“Smog emissions have been found to cause increased rates of asthma in communities nearest those emissions,” he points out. “Acting to reduce volatile organic compound emissions is a necessary element of protecting communities across the state of Pennsylvania.”

The proposed rules will be opened for public comment early next year.

Although cutting methane, a powerful greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, is not the primary goal of the new rules, Williams says these new regulations will help.

“One of the policies that is included in the existing source proposal, the leak detection and control policy is directly related to cutting methane emissions,” he explains.

An Environmental Defense Fund study released early this year showed oil and gas operators in Pennsylvania emit more than five times more methane than is reported to the DEP.

Williams says an important next step will be rules that specifically target methane for further reductions, but the proposed rules are a significant improvement and send a powerful message.

“In my opinion, the proposal to bring thousands of oil and gas facilities under sensible safeguards will help communities across the state enjoy cleaner, healthier air, and it will serve as a backstop against efforts in Washington to undo really core climate protections,” he states.

Report: Private Community-Corrections Centers Failing to Rehabilitate

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A new study finds those released from private, residential community corrections centers are far more likely to be re-incarcerated.
By:  Andrea Sears
Harrisburg, PA – A new study finds that people incarcerated in privately-run residential community correction centers in Pennsylvania are much more likely to be re-incarcerated after release than those held in government-run facilities. Comments by Terrence Alladin , assistant professor of criminal justice at Lebanon Valley College.

Drinking Water at Risk? Groups Question Clean Water Rule Rollback

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Mehoopany Creek in Wyoming County is currently protected by the “Waters of the United States Rule.”
By: Mary Schuermann
Harrisburg, PA – Conservation groups say President Donald Trump’s rollback of protections for streams and wetlands will lead to more pollution in the nation’s drinking water. Comments by Jenifer Collins, legislative representative for the law firm Earthjustice.


A Win for PA Students with Disabilities

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By: Andrea Sears

PHILADELPHIA – Students with disabilities who are homeless in Pennsylvania have won an important victory.

Following an investigation into the plights of two students in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has been ordered to issue specific guidance to all school districts on their legal obligation to assign surrogate parents to students with disabilities who are living on their own.

Paige Joki, an attorney with the Education Law Center, points out that without surrogate parents, students have no way to enforce their legal right to get the educational services they need.

“It is our hope that by re-sending out this guidance, school districts are going to be better equipped across the Commonwealth to serve unaccompanied young people, and ensure that they’re prepared for their bright future ahead,” she states.

Federal law requires districts to appoint surrogate parents within 30 days to represent unaccompanied students throughout the special education process.

Joki notes that the two Philadelphia students, who were subjects of a complaint filed by the Education Law Center, were not assigned surrogate parents and suffered severe educational consequences.

“One student was wrongly graduated, which forced her to surrender her right to remain in school until age 21, which deprived her of years of educational services,” Joki relates. “And another student was forced to linger in a classroom that couldn’t meet her needs.”

The Bureau of Special Education investigation determined the students’ rights had been violated, and that the district did not have an adequate system to track and assign surrogate parents.

Joki says the state’s actions to remedy the problem represent vital progress for unaccompanied youth with disabilities across Pennsylvania.

“It is essential that we do everything we can to support these young people,” she stresses. “And part of the way that that needs to be done is that students need, and they have a legal right, to access a free and appropriate public education.”

In the 2016-2017 school year, there were more than 4,000 unaccompanied students statewide.

Department of Agriculture, GIANT Announce Multi-Year Farm Show Sponsorship Agreement

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Harrisburg, PA – Today, Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding joined Nicholas Bertram, president of GIANT Food Stores to announce that the Department of Agriculture and GIANT have entered into a multi-year sponsorship agreement at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center.

“GIANT’s investment in the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center demonstrates a commitment to Pennsylvania agriculture and the positive impact that public-private partnerships can have on this critical industry,” said Secretary Redding. “These partnerships allow us to introduce the world of agriculture to residents from all corners of the commonwealth, celebrating our rich heritage, telling our stories, and inspiring the future.”

Under the partnership, GIANT will become the official sponsor of the Exposition Hall in the complex, and will have a display during the Farm Show — located in the GIANT Exposition Hall — highlighting PA Preferred® vendors through product sampling.

“When you think of Central Pennsylvania and the Harrisburg area, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center almost immediately comes to mind,” said Nicholas Bertram, president, GIANT Food Stores. “As the market leader and as a company founded and headquartered in nearby Carlisle, we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to have our name on this iconic and important building as a public symbol of our longstanding support of the community as well as local farmers and food purveyors.”

The 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show runs January 5 – 12, 2019 and will honor agriculture’s rich heritage and promising future with this year’s theme, Inspiring Pennsylvania’s Story. The theme, which will be represented throughout of the weeklong event, will include related events like a daily story time for children, interviews with real Pennsylvanians working in agriculture, and opportunities for attendees to engage and tell their own stories.

“Each year, more than one million people walk the halls of this complex, and not just in January during the Farm Show. We host events throughout the year that not only showcase the best and brightest in agriculture, but also make a real economic impact on our local community,” said Sharon Altland Myers, executive director of the Farm Show Complex. “Through continued investments, we are able to provide visitors with experiences that they enjoy and will remember forever. This partnership will only build on those investments.”

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the nation’s largest indoor agricultural event, featuring 12,000 competitive exhibits, more than 5,200 of which are animal competitions, plus 300 commercial exhibitors. For more information, visit

Wolf Administration Invests in Income-Producing Stream Buffer Projects to Benefit Local Economy, Water Quality

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Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration today announced close to $1 million in grant investments to five recipients throughout Pennsylvania for planting trees and income-producing species along streams. Stream buffers help keep nutrients and sediments from the land from impacting water quality.

All projects include multi-functional buffers. They contain species such as nut trees, berries, and willows in buffer zones so that the landowner can sell these products, and realize some income from land dedicated to buffers.

“These grants are for some really unique projects to explore an added financial benefit to the farmer or landowner by including plant species that can be harvested and sold,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “Essentially, they let landowners take care of the land and water, and still pay attention to their bottom line.”

DCNR adminsters the grants with funding from PENNVEST.

“The PENNVEST Board approved funding for this innovative program, not only to address water quality issues, but also to provide the basis for the development of a long term sustainable fund    in order to support these sorts of projects into the future,” said PENNVEST Executive Director Brion Johnson. “We look forward to helping these projects get underway.”

The grants by county are:

  • Butler — Butler-Freeport Community Trail Council, $54,000, for approximately 6 acres of multi-functional riparian buffers in the Ohio River watershed. The council is partnering with the Audubon Society of Western PA (ASWP) to install buffers throughout the Important Bird Area and high-quality watershed of Buffalo Creek. Goods harvested from the buffer will potentially be sold at ASWP’s nature centers, local caterers, and farmer’s markets.
  • Westmoreland — Jacobs Creek Watershed Association, $172,000, for landowner outreach and construction of approximately 9 acres of multi-functional riparian forest buffers along waterways in the Ohio River watershed. The association aims to partner with several local organizations, such as the West Overton Village and Museum, to eventually sell the harvested products such as honey and jams, floral centerpieces, and brandy.
  • York — Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, $191,600, for construction of approximately 20 acres of multi-functional riparian forest buffers along waterways in the Lower Susquehanna River watershed. The plantings are part of a recently completed Land Use Management Plan for the 186 acre farm property, and will include a diverse array of harvested products from nuts and medicinal herbs to florals and biomass. In partnership with Franklin & Marshall College, data related to the ecological impacts of the buffers will be collected throughout the stages of buffer installation and growth.
  • Centre/Clinton Counties — Native Creations Landscape Services, $40,000, Construction of approximately 4 acres of multi-functional riparian forest buffers along waterways in the Susquehanna River watershed. In partnership with major land conservancies, the organization plans install income-producing buffers related to fruits, nuts and flowers, uniquely designed for each individual landowner’s interests.
  • Statewide/Regional — Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts Inc., $451,000, to support conservation districts in constructing approximately 85 acres of multi-functional riparian forest buffers along waterways throughout Pennsylvania. This sub-grant program will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to complete demonstration projects statewide, in partnership with local conservation districts. Each buffer will be designed for the needs of the watershed and interests of the landowner, resulting in a diversity of harvested products.

Pennsylvania has a goal of planting 95,000 acres of stream buffers by 2025.

Maintaining and restoring buffers along rivers and streams is a key strategy for improving water quality and aquatic habitat.

Buffer grants also are available in the DCNR grant round that will open in January, and close April 10.

Properly planted and maintained, streamside tree and shrub plantings filter the runoff of sediments and fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops; control erosion; slow stormwater runoff; cool stream temperatures; and improve fish habitat.

Wolf Administration Announces Investment in ATV Trails

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Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration today announced new grant funding that will support two recipients in Pennsylvania for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trails.

“Using funds from ATV riders when they register their vehicles, these grants will help improve riding opportunities,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “ATV trails draw visitors and can have a positive economic impact on nearby communities.”
The grants by county are:
Clarion and Jefferson – Piney Rail Riders, $64,000, to prepare a feasibility study for the Piney Branch ATV Rail Corridor, which approximately 24 miles from Piney Township to Brookville Borough in Clarion and Jefferson counties.
Northumberland —  Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area Authority, $25,000, for construction of approximately a quarter mile of the Boyers Knob Trail and rehabilitation of approximately half a mile of the Boyers Knob Trail at AOAA in Coal, East Cameron, Mt. Carmel, West Cameron, and Zerbe townships.
DCNR’s ATV and Snowmobile grant program can help to buy land; develop plans and surveys; construct and maintain ATV trails; buy equipment; and conduct educational programs relating to ATV use.
The department can award grants two times each year to municipalities and organizations for development of publicly accessible ATV trails and facilities.
With a few limited exceptions, all ATVs in Pennsylvania must have a registration issued by DCNR. Pennsylvania has around 285,000 registered ATVs. The grants are administered by DCNR with funding provided from ATV registrations.

Reentry Program Efficacy Reviewed after Successful Pilot

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Harrisburg, PA – A program aimed at helping inmates better themselves ended after a year of testing at five Pennsylvania state prisons and now Department of Corrections officials are evaluating the program’s effectiveness with the hope of acquiring funding to continue it into the coming year.

Beating the Odds, which began 30 years ago in the Pittsburgh area and mostly worked with young adults and students, was piloted at SCIs Coal Township, Greene, Muncy, Pine Grove and Smithfield from July 2017 to July 2018. At each prison 25 inmates were recommended by staff for the program that provides individuals with stepping stones to a better life, including mentoring during incarceration and upon release from prison, as well as assistance in obtaining employment.

“Ninety percent of our inmates will return home one day, and our preliminary evaluation of this program shows that participation has resulted in positive outcomes for inmates,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said.

“Most people want to succeed in life, yet some who have great potential have made serious mistakes,” said Rocco Scalzi, founder of Beating the Odds Foundation and motivational speaker through Quarterbacks of Life. “Through this reentry program, a flexible curriculum allows motivational speakers, program coordinators and prison teams to work with inmates to overcome obstacles and set their lives on paths to success.”

The program, which is a journey of success, helps inmates, particularly those age 18 to 27, to understand the nature of success, identify and challenge things that prevent success, and uses five powerful stepping stones to success to achieve dreams and goals. The program also assists inmates in finding employment and furthering their education upon release from prison.

“For people to be successful, even former inmates, they have to have dreams and be able to put those dreams into attainable goals,” Scalzi said. “We also help them to realize that they have potential, how to develop that potential, maintain a positive mental attitude and to never give up.”

The program works with inmates who have 12 to 18 months remaining on their minimum sentence expiration dates. At the end of this first year, several inmates have been released from prison. One, through contact with Scalzi and his connections, has gained employment with a business in the Philadelphia area. Another recently released inmate is beginning her mentoring opportunities with Scalzi. Other inmates who continue to serve their time are excited about the opportunity to mentor other inmates in the program if it is continued.

Scalzi is a former Altoona City police officer and a Vietnam veteran. He has worked for decades with individuals, schools, government entities and agencies to help anyone who has potential to set their life on a path to success.

Wolf Administration Announces Comprehensive Tool to Help Individuals Identify Resources for Substance Use Disorder Treatment, Related Support Services

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Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration today announced the launch of the Drug and Alcohol Referral Tool (DART), an online resource designed to help Pennsylvanians seeking substance use disorder treatment for themselves or a loved one find treatment options and other related services in their area. The tool is a centralized hub that consolidates available resources to assist people looking for services but are not sure where to begin.

“The Wolf Administration has been very focused on expanding resources for individuals with substance use disorder as we battle the opioid epidemic,” said Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. “A common concern that we have heard throughout the commonwealth is that individuals aren’t aware of the services and supports available to them. This web-based tool will allow individuals to have critical information on where to go and how to access the services they need.”

The DART tool provides resources based on a person’s age, county of residence, and veteran status, and can also list resources if a person is experiencing homelessness, has issues with transportation to treatment, or has legal concerns as well as programs that may be available depending on a person’s income. The tool does not evaluate eligibility for resources provided, but refers users to how they can obtain more information or assess their eligibility.

The tool is fully anonymous and can be translated into more than 100 languages.

“Substance use disorders often occur when a person experiences other medical and behavioral health concerns, and they may need additional resources to live a stable, healthy life in recovery,” said Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “Connecting people seeking treatment to comprehensive services that can help meet all of their needs from the start is critical as they work towards recovery.”

The DART tool can be accessed at

“Additionally, if an individual is need of a trained professional to assist them in finding substance use treatment or to learn more about programs, I encourage them to call Pennsylvania’s Get Help Now Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP. Regardless if an individual is insured, uninsured, or underinsured the hotline staff can connect you to the appropriate treatment resources you are seeking,” said Smith.

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