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Category Archives: Environment

PA Agriculture Secretary Issues Statement on 2018 Federal Farm Bill’s Introduction in U.S. House

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Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding today commended the U.S. House of Representatives for the initial release of a draft federal Farm Bill, legislation that provides funding and guidelines for farm and food programs in the United States. While noting the challenges of crafting such a wide-ranging piece of legislation, Redding said the bill contains a number of positive aspects for Pennsylvania agriculture, but also areas that are in need of improvement and that require further evaluation.

“The importance of the federal Farm Bill to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry cannot be overstated,” said Redding. “Farm Bill programs are investments in production agriculture, our environment, our economy and our people. I appreciate the work of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture to get us to this point, including the members of our own delegation who serve on the committee, Congressmen Glenn Thompson and Dwight Evans.

“Passing a final bill is never an easy task, but we look forward to working with our U.S. representatives and stakeholders to ensure the best interests of our food and agriculture industries, as well as rural Pennsylvania, are considered throughout the process.”

At the direction of Governor Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has been actively engaging in conversations around the Farm Bill. Secretary Redding has written to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to convey the commonwealth’s priorities, such as ensuring that resources, support, and tools are available to dairy farmers; that industrial hemp be classified as an agricultural commodity; that more funding more funding is made available to combat invasive species like the Spotted Lanternfly; and that the federal government continue to support vital farmland preservation and conservation programs that benefit water quality. In addition, the department is eager to see that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food assistance to nearly 2,000,000 Pennsylvania residents, while also supporting Pennsylvania growers, processors, and distributors, is fully funded.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s programs and services, or to read the state’s Agriculture Economic Impact Study, visit the department’s website at agriculture.pa.gov.

DEP to Host Public Hearing on Brunner Island Draft Discharge Permit

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Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will host a public hearing to collect comments on the draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued to Brunner Island LLC. The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Union Fire Company, 201 York Street, Manchester, PA. Doors will open at 6:00 PM.

Brunner Island LLC operates a 1,490-Megawatt coal- and natural gas-fired power plant which discharges treated industrial wastewater and cooling water to the Susquehanna River. DEP issued the draft NPDES permit on January 5, 2018 and published notice of it in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on January 20, 2018. The draft permit has been available for review on the DEP website since the date of issuance.

Individuals will have the opportunity to present up to five minutes of verbal testimony. Comments must be limited to the contents of the draft permit. Groups are asked to designate one speaker. Relinquishing of time to other speakers will be prohibited. All presenters should bring at least one copy of their comments and exhibits for submission to DEP. The hearing may conclude earlier if all testimony is completed prior to the designated end time.

Those who wish to present testimony are asked to register in advance by contacting John Repetz at jrepetz@pa.gov or 717-705-4904, at DEP’s Southcentral Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110. Registration will be taken through Tuesday, April 24. Individuals will be called to testify in the order they register. Time permitting, those who did not register in advance will be given the opportunity to testify.

DEP received written comments on the draft permit during a 30-day comment period after the draft permit was published in the PA Bulletin. The comment period ended on February 20, 2018 and DEP is reviewing all comments received.

The draft permit and fact sheet are available for public review at the DEP Southcentral Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110, Monday through Friday between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Please call 717-705-4732 to make an appointment. They can also be accessed on DEP’s Southcentral Regional Office webpage at

http://www.dep.pa.gov/southcentral

Individuals who need an accommodation for the hearing as provided for in the American with Disabilities Act should contact Mr. Repetz at the number listed, or make accommodations through the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at 1-800-654-5984.

WHAT:
 Public hearing on Brunner Island draft NPDES permit
WHEN: Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 6:30 PM
WHERE: Union Fire Company, 201 York Street, Manchester, PA 17345

DEP Seeks Public Comment on Draft Final Methane General Permits

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Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is accepting public comments on the draft final general permits (GP) that address methane emissions and other air pollutants from unconventional well sites and from midstream and natural gas transmission facilities. The additional comment period is opening to provide the opportunity for public comment on the updated documents and to comply with the publication and notice requirements in DEP’s regulations.

The 45-day public comment period, which closes May 15, 2018, is to receive comment on the updated draft final versions of GP-5, which is applicable to midstream and natural gas transmission facilities, and the proposed GP-5A, for unconventional well sites and pigging stations. Both general permits incorporate the most current state and federal requirements.

DEP received more than 10,000 comments on the proposed general permits during the initial comment period in 2017. Based on these comments, DEP made several changes to the general permits and the Air Quality Permit Exemptions List, which can be found here: http://www.depgreenport.state.pa.us/elibrary/GetFolder?FolderID=3632 

Interested persons may submit written comments on the Draft General Permits and Air Quality Permit Exemption List by Tuesday May 15, 2018. Comments submitted by facsimile will not be accepted. Comments, including comments submitted by e-mail, must include the originator’s name and address. Commentators are encouraged to review the proposed General Permits and Air Quality Permit Exemption List and submit comments using DEP’s online eComment system at www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment or by e-mail to ecomment@pa.gov. Written comments should be submitted to the Policy Office, Department of Environmental Protection, Rachel Carson State Office Building, P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2063.

Interfaith Protesters Call for Investment in PA Solar Jobs

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By: Andrea Sears

PHILADELPHIA, – Interfaith protests and arrests marked the week before Easter as clergy and congregants demanded investment in a clean-energy grid for Philadelphia’s low-income communities.

Twenty-five people with the Power Local Green Jobs campaign were arrested for acts of peaceful civil disobedience over three days this week as they demanded more investment in local solar energy.

Greg Holt, communications manager for the Earth Quaker Action Team, points out that PECO, the Philadelphia Electric Company, gets almost two-thirds of its power from fossil fuels in a city where dirty air contributes to high rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

“Solar is an opportunity that can bring a lot of jobs and other economic benefits, and health and life benefits, to residents,” says Holt, “and PECO needs to lead the way.”

The demonstrators want the company to aim for getting 20 percent of its energy from solar by 2025. PECO says it agrees with the goals of the campaign, but questions the timeline.

PECO did give a grant for solar jobs training in North Philadelphia last year. But Holt notes that the company is still only getting one-half of one percent of its power from solar, the state-mandated minimum.

“When one in four families are experiencing deep poverty in Philadelphia, that’s not a time to wait,” says Holt. “That’s a time when action is needed, when vision is needed, and investment.”

The campaign organized the three demonstrations this week under the title “We Won’t Wait.”

While the protests are over for now, Holt says they will return, putting their bodies on the line for clean energy and economic opportunity.

“The company’s dirty energy business won’t go unchallenged,” says Holt. “And we will stand in the way until it’s changed direction and commits to a future for green jobs and for justice in our communities.”

Environmental Groups Sue to Close EPA Loophole

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By: Andrea Sears

Harrisburg, Pa. – Clean-air advocates want the federal courts to stop a new rule that would allow major polluters to turn their pollution controls off.

Since 1990, the Clean Air Act has required major sources of pollution to reduce their emissions by the maximum amount possible.

But, according to Tomas Carbonell, director of regulatory policy and lead attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, a new rule issued in January, with no opportunity for public comment, allows those major polluters to reclassify themselves as smaller sources.

“In doing so, they avoid complying with the most protective emission standards that EPA has issued to reduce emissions of pollutants like Mercury, benzene, arsenic and other dangerous compounds,” he says.

The EPA claims the rule is required by its new interpretation of the Clean Air Act. But environmentalists say Congress intended tighter emission controls to be permanent.

Carbonell says under this new interpretation of the Clean Air Act, once polluters achieved required emission reductions, they may be subject to weaker standards or none at all.

“Simply by virtue of complying with these standards, under this new loophole these major sources can avoid those standards entirely and actually increase their emissions up to the point where they would become major sources again,” he explains.

The Environmental Integrity Project estimates the loophole will allow a dozen large industrial facilities they studied to more than quadruple their emissions of toxic pollutants.

Carbonell points out that eleven years ago the EPA proposed a similar interpretation of the Clean Air Act, and EPA’s own staff and regional offices submitted comments raising concerns about the change.

“They raised the same concerns that we’re raising now about the potential for this policy change to lead to significant emission increases at major industrial facilities across the country,” he adds.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Comment Period on Delaware Watershed Fracking Regulations Ending

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The Delaware River watershed provides drinking water to 17 million people. (Perkons/Pixabay)

The Delaware River watershed provides drinking water to 17 million people. (Perkons/Pixabay)

 

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The period for submitting written comments on the Delaware River Basin Commission’s draft natural-gas drilling regulations ends Friday.

Environmental groups are enthusiastically supporting the commission’s proposal to ban all high-volume hydraulic fracturing in shale within the boundaries of the Delaware River watershed. But according to Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, they are adamantly opposed to draft regulations that would let gas and oil companies withdraw millions of gallons of Delaware watershed water for fracking in other locations, and allow the treatment, storage and disposal of fracking wastewater within the watershed.

“Fracking wastewater is so toxic that even the industry barely knows what to do with it. For the most part, they either re-frack or they send it off to places where they try to inject it into the ground to try to hide it away,” she says.

The Commission says the new rule actually would tighten restrictions on bringing fracking waste into the watershed. Help in filing written comments is available through the Delaware Riverkeeper website.

Van Rossum points out that even the Commission’s material supporting the proposals clearly says all aspects of fracking are dangerous, so allowing any waste to come into the watershed, or water for fracking to be removed, makes no sense.

“It would allow our watershed to be used to induce and support drilling and fracking in other watersheds,” she says, “wreaking the horrible havoc on communities and on the environment that’s happening there.”

In 2010, the Delaware River Basin Commissioners voted to delay any decisions on gas drilling in the Basin until new regulations were adopted.

Van Rossum says that constituted a moratorium on all fracking activity in the watershed that has been in effect ever since.

“We want the moratorium that we have in place today to be turned into a complete ban, which means a complete ban on all aspects of the industry,” she says.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service – PA

Eastern Panhandle Pipeline Expansion Raises Concerns

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A TransCanada pipeline extension is the subject of protests from Pennsylvania through Maryland to West Virginia. It would enter Maryland just west of Hancock. (Stacy Miller)

A TransCanada pipeline extension is the subject of protests from Pennsylvania through Maryland to West Virginia. It would enter Maryland just west of Hancock. (Stacy Miller)

March 28, 2018

BALTIMORE – A natural-gas pipeline expansion that would run from Pennsylvania through Maryland and into West Virginia is raising concerns about its potential environmental impact.

TransCanada wants to build the Eastern Panhandle Expansion, and says increasing the natural-gas supply in the area will support growth.

Opponents call it the “Potomac River Pipeline” because it would run underneath the river, with the potential of affecting the drinking water in and around Washington, D.C.

Rianna Eckel, a Maryland organizer for the group Food and Water Watch, said reliance on fossil fuels is moving backwards from a healthier environment.

“We believe that further investing in pipeline infrastructure, natural-gas infrastructure, locks us into a system where we are then dependent on fossil fuels,” she said.

Food and Water Watch called on Gov. Larry Hogan to begin an investigation into whether the pipeline would negatively affect water quality, but the governor declined. Emergency legislation has been filed in Annapolis to require that the more extensive Water Quality Certification be conducted, and currently is in the House Rules Committee.

If the legislation doesn’t pass, only the federal government would have the ability to halt the pipeline’s progress.

Environmental groups are worried about the method known as horizontal directional drilling that TransCanada would use to dig under the Potomac. They have said that on previous pipelines, thousands of gallons of drilling fuel leaked into water sources. In this case, Eckel said, that would affect millions of local residents.

“The Potomac River is the main drinking-water supply of more than 6 million people who live downstream,” she said, “so anything that happens to that water can quickly impact the drinking water of almost 6 million people.”

The pipeline would connect with the Mountain Valley Pipeline that begins in northwestern West Virginia, which also has been the subject of recent protests by environmental groups.

Information about House Bill 1826 is online at mgaleg.maryland.gov.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service – MD