Harrisburg, PA – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn today announced the release of the department’s second Shale Gas Monitoring Report that outlines its efforts to track, detect, and report on the impacts of gas development on Pennsylvania’s state forest lands.
“Ensuring sound management of our state forests and park lands is one of the ways DCNR carries out the responsibility as trustee of the commonwealth’s natural resources,” Dunn said. “Using science to monitor how we manage our lands, specifically related to gas development, is an important way to assess the impacts of this activity, and adapt management practices to minimize those impacts to our state forests.”
The report was released during a presentation today to the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council.
Some insights from the report:
• Gas development on state forest lands has slowed considerably since the first monitoring report in 2014, due largely to market forces and a moratorium on new leasing which has been informally in place since 2010 and was formalized by Executive Order in 2015. Many leased tracts are only built out by about 30 to 35 percent.
• While shale gas infrastructure can result in improved access to forest interior, it can also conflict with the expectations of visitors who seek more primitive, undeveloped experiences undisrupted by industrial development.
• Invasive plants are of increasing concern as their presence and quantities are on the rise. Disturbed sites are ideal for the establishment of invasive plants that often emerge early in the spring and outcompete native plants through their rapid reproduction. Monitoring for invasive species and prioritizing the control of these plants based on the species and population size will continue, and strong governing lease provisions require operators to survey and treat invasive species.
• Water quality monitoring efforts by the bureau and its partners have not raised significant concerns on state forest headwater streams to date, however these results are still relatively short-term.
• Through planning and careful siting, forest fragmentation has been minimized. Those efforts need to continue as development proceeds on existing leases or where mineral rights are not owned by the commonwealth.
The department’s shale gas monitoring program began in 2011 and continues with a 15-member monitoring team. DCNR monitors repeated measurements over time to determine trends or patterns. The report notes that while certain trends can begin to be identified after eight years, natural resource monitoring is a long-term endeavor, and it may take longer to discern other trends in resource change and conditions, particularly if development under existing leases intensifies.
Of the state’s 2.2-million-acre system, there are approximately 600,500 acres of state forest land available for gas development, either through historic DCNR-issued leases, or on areas where the commonwealth does not own the subsurface rights.
The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, along with the numerous agencies and investigators who have contributed to the case over the years, announce charges filed today in the 1992 murder of Christy Mirack.
Lancaster County Detective Christopher Erb charged 49-year-old Raymond Rowe with criminal homicide regarding Mirack’s death.
Rowe, of Whittier Lane, Lancaster, was arrested at his home Monday afternoon. He was arraigned late Monday night and remanded to Lancaster County Prison without bail.
Rowe uses the professional handle, “DJ Freez,” in regards to his entertainment company. That is relevant to the investigation for reasons stated below.
He is presumed innocent.
“To say this is a major development would be quite the understatement. It is a huge step toward providing long-overdue closure for Christy’s family and friends who have spent decades wondering who brutally murdered their loved one,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said. “We must also remember this is one step in the process. We all must keep in mind the presumption of innocence for all individuals charged with a crime Pennsylvania. The next steps will be taken in court.”
Lancaster County Detective Larry Martin assisted Detective Erb as lead investigators in the case, with oversight from District Attorney Stedman, First Assistant District Attorney Christopher P. Larsen, and Assistant District Attorney Christine L. Wilson.
Mirack, 25, was found dead in her East Lampeter Township townhome on the morning of Dec. 21, 1992. She had been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted.
A number of agencies – to include East Lampeter Township police, Pennsylvania State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation – investigated the case before the Lancaster County Detectives, who work under District Attorney Craig Stedman, took over jurisdiction in 2016.
During that time, detectives commissioned multiple investigative tactics using DNA evidence left at the murder scene, not previously employed in the case.
Specifically, the DNA evidence was submitted to Parabon NanoLabs and a genotype file was generated. Using this file, Parabon created a DNA phenotype “composite” of the killer’s attributes, including hair and eye color and skin tone. The phenotype report included visual composites of what the killer would look like at various ages. That data and associated composites were released to the public in November 2017.
Based on Parabon’s recommendation, detectives subsequently authorized Parabon to upload the genotype file to a public, genetic genealogy database, which resulted in matches to relatives of Raymond Rowe. Parabon’s genealogical research determined that Rowe was a “strong viable suspect.”
On May 31, investigators obtained DNA surreptitiously from Rowe, from chewing gum and a water bottle Rowe used while working as a disc jockey at an event at Smoketown Elementary School.
That DNA was submitted to a Pennsylvania State Police crime lab. Testing revealed a match between that DNA and DNA found on multiple locations of Mirack’s person and on carpet underneath her dead body.
“We really cannot give enough credit to Parabon NanoLabs for the work they did which proved absolutely crucial to filing this charge,” District Attorney Stedman said. “Without their work and expertise, quite frankly, we would not be standing here today with the alleged killer of Christy Mirack charged and in custody.”
The following is additional background on the crime and more a detailed narrative of investigative steps taken:
Mirack, a teacher, was found on the morning of Dec. 21, 1992, when she did not report to school. A staff member of the school went to her home and found her on the floor of her living room. The staff member went to a neighboring home and called 9-1-1.
First-responders arrived and determined Mirack was deceased. She was wearing a coat and gloves, indicating she was leaving for work when she was confronted by an intruder. A wooden cutting board, a weapon used in the killing, was near Mirack’s body.
Mirack’s roommate told police that she left about 7 a.m. for work and that Mirack was still home at that time. Mirack typically left for work about 7:30 a.m., the roommate told police. The roommate reported that Mirack was getting ready for work that day, as she would any other day.
Also, two neighbors in the housing community told police they were walking near Mirack’s home that morning and heard a high-pitched, unexpected scream from the home between 7:10 and 7:20 a.m.
A day after Mirack was found, a forensic pathologist performed an autopsy and determined:
There was severe blunt force trauma to Mirack’s neck, back, upper chest and face;
Mirack sustained bruising, her jaw was fractured, and she had been strangled;
There was evidence that Mirack was sexually assaulted, and numerous sample swabs were collected;
Mirack’s death was ruled a homicide, caused by strangulation.
“We are not at a point where we are discussing or speculating about a motive. Considering the time that has past, some specific questions about motive might never be answered publicly,” District Attorney Stedman said. “I can say, in consideration of all the information and evidence – to include the DNA found at the scene – we know that this defendant raped and brutally murdered Christy Mirack.”
DNA collected from Mirack’s person and the scene was submitted to the PSP lab, where a DNA profile was generated. That profile was entered into a national database, but did not result in a match.
In 2016, when Lancaster County Detectives had jurisdiction of the case, they consulted with Parabon NanoLabs.
Following the phenotype work and genetic genealogy testing of the same DNA, Parabon submitted the following information to Lancaster County Detectives on May 14, 2018:
Matches had been made in the case from the suspect sample submitted;
The matches were of relatives of the suspect, who had voluntarily submitted their DNA to a publically-available genealogy database;
Parabon’s head genealogist, CeCe Moore, conducted the detailed ancestral and genealogical analysis of this submission and determined that Raymond C. Rowe was a strong candidate source of the unknown DNA found at the crime scene.
Regarding the comparison between Rowe’s DNA (collected at the Smoketown Elementary event) and the DNA found at the crime scene, state police lab experts stated there is:
A 1 in 200 octillion chance it was a person, not Rowe, of the Caucasian population;
A 1 in 15 nonillion chance it was a person, not Rowe, from the African American population;
A 1 in 74 octillion chance it was a person, not Rowe, from the Hispanic population.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The latest figures on the well-being of children show Pennsylvania ranks 17th in the nation, but children’s advocates fear trouble ahead.
In the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the Keystone State showed improvement in eight of 16 categories covering economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
But Laura Speer, the foundation’s associate director for policy reform and advocacy, is concerned that including a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census will discourage immigrants from participating and lead to an under-count of young children, endangering federal funding of programs affecting children.
“All people, including kids, have the right to be counted and represented,” Speer said. “But without any real political or economic power, kids rely on adults to protect and advocate for them, and they can’t fill out the census forms.”
Census figures are used to determine levels of federal support for child-focused programs, from school lunches to children’s health insurance.
“One in five children in our state, 20 percent of the kids, is still living in poverty,” said Benso, “and connected to that ends up being, oftentimes, a lack of opportunity.”
She added that nearly one out of every six children in Pennsylvania is at risk of being overlooked in the upcoming census count.
With more than 14 million children living in poverty nationwide, and more than 880,000 in Pennsylvania, Speer stressed getting the numbers right is critical.
“We want to do right by all kids and make sure that they have strong families, strong communities and the opportunities that will help them to thrive,” she said. “And many of the trends that we’re seeing are really good, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
While the percentage of Pennsylvania children living in poverty has declined, the number living in high-poverty neighborhoods has increased.
Lititz, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding continued the Planting the Seed Tour today at Oregon Dairy’s Family Farm Days, meeting with young people and their parents who came out to explore a working dairy farm and meet the people who care for animals, raise crops, and work in the many careers needed to produce the food, fiber, and fuel that powers our economy.
“Pennsylvania agriculture is a thriving, $135 billion industry, but our workforce is aging,” Sec. Redding said. “We will need young people like those here today to fill the more than 75,000 job openings we anticipate in the next decade. Today is a great opportunity to see firsthand what it takes to make a farm operate, and to meet the farm managers, veterinarians, soil and water conservationists, and others who make life happen on the farm and in the agriculture and food businesses that make our communities and economy strong.”
During the event, Redding talked with children and their parents about the diverse jobs and careers in agriculture, and offered examples of the STEM careers that will be in greater demand in coming years to service and operate increasingly computer-based farm technology, research and develop new methods to produce enough food to feed a rapidly growing world population, and manage limited land and water resources.
In his 2018-19 budget, Governor Wolf proposed PAsmart – a first-of-its-kind workforce development proposal to invest $50 million for STEM and computer science education, support hands-on technical education programs, and encourage employers and schools to work together to help students get the skills employers need. The proposal would invest an additional $10 million in career readiness programs, allowing high school students to earn both a diploma and post-secondary credentials and helping non-traditional students and workers earn post-secondary credits and credentials aligned to in-demand careers.
Barnesville, Schuylkill County, PA – Today, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and other state officials visited two projects underway by the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps at Locust Lake State Park, Schuylkill County, and Clarks Summit Borough, Lackawanna County.
The highly acclaimed Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps is a Wolf Administration initiative offering work experience, job training, and educational opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands.
The program helps protect and restore natural resources while providing young people with the knowledge to be good stewards of the environment.
“Beginning its third year of operation, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps certainly is emerging as a ‘win-win’ effort for all involved,” Dunn said. “You young men and women who will accomplish so much here at Locust Lake are indicative of the corps’ spirit and commitment I’ve seen in state parks and forests across the state.”
Dunn joined other participants at the state park event in meeting members of the Hazleton-based youth corps and visiting one of their project sites, where they are rebuilding trails and repairing fencing.
The DCNR group then traveled to Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County, where Wilkes-Barre-based youth corps members are helping the local shade tree commission inventory trees.
Employed across the state in paid positions, corps members have contributed to public lands by undertaking light construction, invasive species management, and the rehabilitation of green space, shorelines, nature trails, and park and forest structures.
Initial roll-out of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps in July 2016 was financed through the Department of Labor & Industry’s Reemployment Fund. The Department of Labor & Industry remains a program co-sponsor.
The corps is based in state park and forest locations in rural and urban areas, particularly those areas close to disadvantaged communities and school districts.
Crews are dispatched within the region, working on public lands with resource and infrastructure project needs.
The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps consists of two components: a seven-week, summer program for youth between the ages of 15-18; and a 10-month program for young adults ages 18-25.
Locations were set up across the state to help facilitate participation by youth and young adults in disadvantaged communities. Crew bases include:
To oversee the program, DCNR recently appointed Michael D. Piaskowski as manager of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps. Statewide efforts are overseen by the Student Conservation Association (SCA), America’s oldest and largest youth conservation organization. For more information, visit www.thesca.org.
For more details on the Pennsylvania Outdoors Corps, visit DCNR’s website.
King of Prussia, PA – Today, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) unveiled a new artwork, designed and created by students at Radnor High School. This is the fourth art piece created through Art Sparks, a partnership between the PCA’s Arts in education residency program and the PTC. Art Sparks was created to bring student-created artwork to service plazas across the PTC’s 550-mile system.
Coordinated through the PCA’s regional Arts in Education partner, the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership, students worked with teaching artist, Baily Cypress, and art teachers, Erik Barrett and Tracey Dean, to design and create the artwork. The finished mixed media mosaic, titled “the Gateway to the Main Line,” features 17 individual mosaics. Each mosaic depicts a landmark selected by the students based on its community, historic or aesthetic merit.
“Art Sparks presents students with the rare opportunity to create permanent artwork for public display,” said Karl Blischke, PCA executive director. “Not only did this experience help you grow as artists, but you’ve commendably highlighted your community’s many assets and landmarks for Turnpike travelers. I applaud you all for bringing this impressive installation to life.”
The unveiling event, which took place at the King of Prussia Service Plaza, drew individuals from the community to help celebrate, including students, families and local and state officials. “It’s amazing how art brings people together,” commented PTC CEO Mark Compton, who shared remarks at the event. “This project proves how young people can use their imaginations, work together and create something beautiful that motivates others. This piece, which now has a home at the King of Prussia Service Plaza, shows the world what this region has to offer.”
Art Sparks is a partnership between the PTC and the PCA. The program pairs K-12 art students and teaching artists from the PCA’s Arts in Education roster with the goal to install a local, student-created artwork in every service plaza, system-wide, over the next five to eight years. Schools near each respective service plaza host 20-day teaching artist residencies led by a local PCA teaching artist. Students work with the artist and members of the community to create artwork that reflects the region. For more information on Art Sparks, visit http://www.paturnpike.com/artsparks or http://www.arts.pa.gov/Pages/Art-Sparks.aspx.
Harrisburg, PA – As Pennsylvanians prepare to spend more time outdoors, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine shares important tips to keep families safe in extreme heat this summer.
“We want to make sure Pennsylvania residents enjoy these warmer months but also stay safe,” Dr. Levine said. “It’s important to protect yourself from harmful ultraviolet radiation and stay hydrated to prevent heat-related illnesses.”
Secretary Levine and the Department of Health recommend the following safety tips to help you and your loved ones prepare for the summer weather.
SPF 15 or higher sunscreen (reapply as necessary).
To stay hydrated:
Drink plenty of water throughout the day – don’t wait until you are thirsty!
Outdoor workers should drink between two and four cups of water every hour.
Avoid consuming caffeinated, alcoholic, or sugary beverages.
Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks.
To safely exercise:
Limit outdoor exercise, and stay indoors in air conditioning on hot days.
Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day. (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
Pace yourself when you run, walk, or otherwise exert your body.
To protect others:
Never leave children, older adults, or pets behind in a vehicle.
Check on those who may be more at risk from extreme temperatures like:
Infants and young children
People ages 65 and older
People with chronic medical conditions
It is also important to know the difference between heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Symptoms of a heat stroke include a high body temperature (above 103°F); red, hot and dry skin, but no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.
If you think someone is having a heat stroke, it is important to first call 9-1-1. After calling for help, get the person to a shady area and quickly cool them down by putting them in a tub of cool water or spraying them with a garden hose. You should not give the victim any fluids including water, to drink.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting, and nausea or vomiting.
Help the person cool off and seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, symptoms last more than one hour, or the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure.
During extreme heat waves, cooling centers are opened in cities across Pennsylvania for individuals without air conditioning. To find a cooling center near you, please contact your local municipality or county office.
Additional information on how to prepare for summer weather can be found on the Department of Health’s website at health.pa.gov
Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania State Police, Computer Crimes Task Force conducted a statewide enforcement detail targeting possession and online distribution of child pornography. The proactive detail resulted in the arrest of six individuals across Pennsylvania. These individuals were charged with a host of serious felonies associated with possession and distribution of child pornography.
Jack William Hunter, 54 years old, Athens Township, Bedford County
Mark Robert Lampi, 40 years old, Lehigh Township, Northampton County
Keith Richard Lanken, 46 years old, South Park, Allegheny County
Thomas Moore,44 years old, West View, Allegheny County
Ryan Redmond, 28 years old, Philadelphia City, Philadelphia County
Justin Suydam, 48 years old, Easton, Northampton County
The public is reminded that anonymous tips can be submitted over the phone to Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers at 1-800-4-PA-TIPS and online to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTips website.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Environmental advocates say the federal courts are serving an increasingly critical role in protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Since Scott Pruitt took over as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, he has repealed or delayed more than 30 environmental regulations, including bedrock provisions of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. According to Patrice Simms, vice president for litigation at the environmental law firm EarthJustice, that organization already has filed 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration to try to preserve regulations that protect public health.
“The agency is undertaking this effort largely without the benefit of clear justifications and detailed records and data that explain what the agency is doing, why it’s doing it and what the impacts will be,” Simms said.
The administration claims that environmental regulations slow economic growth. But critics contend that the EPA disregards the economic value of preserving public health and the environment.
For example, 17 Pennsylvania counties are out of compliance with minimum standards set by the Clean Air Act. Simms said when the EPA rolls back regulations, creates loopholes or delays enforcement of clean air rules, communities and individuals pay the price.
“It will be harder for those counties to come into compliance,” he said. “And that non-attainment, that dangerous level of air quality, will last longer and end up affecting more people.”
Smog increases the risk of heart disease, asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments.
Several states, including Pennsylvania, have joined in lawsuits challenging the repeal or delay of environmental regulations. Simms pointed out that non-governmental groups have turned to the courts as well.
“Our clients are often community groups, farmworker communities, sometimes other nonprofit environmental and public-health organizations, scientists,” he said; “and we will continue to hold the government accountable to the law.”
Simms added that the EPA is increasingly challenging the legal standing of those who file lawsuits against it, and bills introduced in Congress could block some legal challenges.
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