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Daily Archives: August 6, 2018

DCNR Offering Grants to Plant Trees Along Streams, for Snowmobile/ATV Trails

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​Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) today announced that $1 million in PENNVEST-funded grants are being made available to assist landowners with planting trees along streams in Pennsylvania to improve water quality.

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

“Simply put, we can improve the water quality in our rivers and streams by planting trees along them to slow down runoff and filter sediments and fertilizers we apply to the land,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.

To expand on the existing streamside buffer options for landowners, DCNR has a multi-functional buffer option that is eligible for these grant dollars to provide greater flexibility in landowner eligibility, buffer designs, widths, plant species and allows planting of some income-producing crops in the buffer zone. For the PENNVEST-funded grants, multi-functional buffers are preferred but not required.

“PENNVEST is pleased to be a part of this effort to expand multi-use buffers, as we believe it is imperative that we develop a sustainable funding source to support the streamside buffer goal for 2025 and beyond,” said PENNVEST Executive Director Brion Johnson.

The DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Program grant round is currently open and will close September 28.

Individual landowners; businesses; non-profit organizations; local governments; and educational institutions are all eligible for the buffer grants, but must be prequalified.

Information about how to prequalify is available online on the DCNR grant portal.

Forest buffers along stream banks provide critical barriers between polluting landscapes and receiving waterways. Properly planted and maintained, streamside tree and shrub plantings:

  • Filter the runoff of sediments and the fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops
  • Control erosion
  • Improve water quality
  • Reduce flooding
  • Cool stream temperatures
  • Improve fish habitat

The grant application period opening this week also includes $250,000 for trails and projects related to the use of snowmobiles and ATVs. Funding for Snowmobile/ATV projects is through the ATV Management Restricted Account and the Snowmobile Management Restricted Account as authorized by Act 97 of 2016. The accounts are supported by registration fees.

Trail projects include acquisition; planning; development; rehabilitation; or maintenance of designated routes on land for motorized recreation activities. This includes the purchase of equipment for trail construction or maintenance.

Interested applicants should visit DCNR’s grants portal to apply.

DCNR Releases Second Shale Gas Monitoring Report

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Reported:

07/25/2018

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.

Wolf Administration Recognizes Impact of Local, Healthy Foods During Produce Month

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Media, PA – Pennsylvania is home to more than 1,000 farmers’ markets, with local, nutritious, and affordable produce generating more than $140 million for the commonwealth’s economy. Today, in recognition of those significant contributions, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced that Governor Tom Wolf has declared August 2018 as Produce Month in Pennsylvania.

“The commonwealth is a leader in the production of fruits and vegetables, and the impact these products have on our communities is far-reaching and profound,” said Sec. Redding. “We continue to support the growth and consumption of Pennsylvania produce, and we continue to encourage Pennsylvanians to eat fresh, eat healthy, and buy local–three of the most important things a consumer can do for themselves and for their community.”

During his visit to Linvilla Orchards in Delaware County today, Sec. Redding noted that Pennsylvania farmers’ markets offer a variety of benefits to local economies. For instance, he said, every $100 spent at a farmers’ market contributes $48 to the local economy.

In addition to the economic impacts realized through the consumption of local produce, Redding also noted that farmers’ markets can help combat food insecurity by providing affordable, or even free, food to Pennsylvanians at risk for hunger.

He reminded eligible residents that they can access fresh, Pennsylvania-grown produce – at no cost — through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs. Participating markets can be found at pafmnp.com. Voucher holders can search for a participating market in their area or an area they are visiting. Participants may redeem vouchers from June 1 through November 30, 2018.

Text of the governor’s proclamation follows:

PENNSYLVANIA PRODUCE MONTH

August 2018

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania is a national leader in the production of quality, nutritious and affordable vegetables, a sector of the agriculture industry that generates more than $140 million for the Commonwealth’s economy; and

WHEREAS, nearly 4,000 farm families manage about 49,400 acres which produce well in excess of 200,000 tons of vegetables for fresh and processing use each year; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania’s vegetable growers are national leaders in the production of processing snap beans (3rd); pumpkins (7th), cantaloupes (7th), fresh market sweet corn (9th), fresh market tomatoes (11th) and fresh market cabbage (12h); and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania growers use integrated pest management and other good agricultural practices to provide an extra level of safety to consumers and the environment alike; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania vegetables are both delicious and nutritious, providing important vitamins, fiber and other dietary components that are essential to a healthy, balanced diet; and

WHEREAS, health authorities have long encouraged increased consumption of vegetables for both nutritional and disease prevention purposes; and

WHEREAS, many Pennsylvania fruit and vegetable growers market their produce as PA Preferred™, the official brand of agricultural goods grown and made in Pennsylvania. Buying PA Preferred ensures consumers have chosen food locally grown and processed and are investing their dollars back into the local economy by supporting Pennsylvania’s producers; and

WHEREAS, fresh Pennsylvania vegetables are available in abundant supply and peak quality at community farmers markets, roadside farm markets, and supermarkets throughout the Commonwealth during August.

THEREFORE, in recognition of our thriving vegetable industry, I, Tom Wolf, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, do hereby proclaim August 2018 PRODUCE MONTH in Pennsylvania, and encourage all citizens to enjoy the commonwealth’s plentiful supply of fresh and processed vegetables and vegetable products while recognizing the industry’s contributions to our economy and health.

GIVEN under my hand and the Seal of the Governor, at the City of Harrisburg, this first day of August two thousand eighteen, the year of the commonwealth the two hundred forty-third.

TOM WOLF

DEP Helps Improve School Safety with Laboratory Chemicals Training and Cleanout

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Harrisburg, PA – With the new school year approaching, 11 schools in seven counties are protecting students’ safety by improving management of laboratory chemicals in the 2017-2018 Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign led by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). By the time the campaign ends on August 9, 2018, DEP will have removed more than 57,000 pounds of outdated, excess, and high-risk chemicals and 158 pounds of low-level radioactive materials from 180 schools statewide since the annual program began in 2011.

“We’re committed to helping schools protect their students, faculty, and staff by preventing problems with mishandled chemicals,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Lab accidents can and do happen at schools. To help reduce risk, we train teachers and staff on the full spectrum of chemical use in teaching, from thoughtful purchasing to safe handling, storage, and disposal. We may provide further support by funding and coordinating a one-time chemical cleanout event.”

Schools must complete DEP chemical management training to be eligible to apply for the one-time cleanout. DEP provides the training to personnel in the fall, and the school completes a laboratory chemical inventory over the winter. DEP then coordinates a cleanout event at the school in the summer.

Eighty teachers and staff from 61 schools participated in DEP’s fall 2017 training. Earning continuing education credits, teachers learned procurement best practices; what to include in a chemical inventory; how to replace high-risk chemicals with lower-risk ones; correct spill response; and proper storage, use, and disposal.

The following schools were approved for the 2018 chemical cleanout:

  • Bucks County: Council Rock School District;
  • Huntingdon County: Mount Union School District and Southern Huntingdon County School District
  • Lackawanna County: Lakeland Junior/Senior High School;
  • Luzerne County: Crestwood School, Hazleton Area High School, and Northwest Area School District;
  • Mercer County: Mercer Area Middle School;
  • Montgomery County: Bala Cynwyd Middle School and Harriton High School;
  • Potter County: Coudersport Area Junior/Senior High School.

Cleanouts are carried out by approved contractors under DEP supervision, and hazardous and nonhazardous wastes are transported to appropriate permitted disposal facilities.

Teachers can return for chemical management continuing education even after their schools have had a cleanout under this popular program.

The DEP Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign is provided to schools at no cost.

Training for the 2018-2019 campaign will begin in October. Teachers interested in participating should consult their Intermediate Unit Continuing Education courses. DEP offers the campaign as part of the Department of Education’s Safe Schools Initiative.

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 Photo: Containers from 55-gallon drums to 5-gallon buckets filled with small canisters of laboratory chemicals (segregated into groups such as oxidizers, acids, and flammables) ready to be transported to disposal facilities.
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Photo: Hazardous chemicals from a previous school cleanout.

LONGHORNED TICK FOUND IN CENTRE COUNTY, PA

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 HARRISBURG, PA – Pennsylvania’s first longhorned tick has turned up in Centre County’s Potter Township.

The identification was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL).

A single longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) was identified on an adult, male wild white-tailed deer that was euthanized on July 10 by Game Commission personnel because it was exhibiting signs consistent with chronic wasting disease (CWD), according to Dr. Justin Brown, agency wildlife veterinarian. The deer was diagnosed with severe pneumonia and no CWD prions were detected.

Ticks were collected from the deer at the laboratory as part of the Game Commission’s active longhorn tick surveillance program. The suspected longhorn tick was sent to and first identified by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Ga., and subsequently confirmed at the NVSL.

The longhorned tick, also known as the “cattle tick” or “bush tick”, is an invasive parasite native to Southeast Asia. It currently is not known when, where or how this tick was introduced into North America. However, it was first found and identified on a sheep in New Jersey during 2017. Since then, it has been identified in wild and domestic animals in other states, including Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Arkansas and North Carolina.

The longhorned tick, during its three life stages can be found on birds, wild and domestic mammals and humans. To date, the tick has been identified on goats, raccoons, horses, cattle, sheep, humans, an opossum, deer and dogs.

The longhorned tick can negatively impact the health of humans and animals both directly and indirectly. Longhorned tick infestations can reach very high numbers on an animal host, which can result in disease and, in some cases, death.

The longhorned tick, in its native range, can carry many pathogens that may cause diseases such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, theleriosis, ehrlichiosis and Powassan encephalitis in animals or humans. To date, none of these pathogens have been identified in longhorned ticks from North America. However, testing has been limited.

“The preventive measures currently used for our native ticks are the best way to protect yourself and animals from the longhorned tick,” Brown said. “They include frequent tick checks, prompt and proper removal of any attached ticks, avoiding or removing the high grasses or brush where ticks concentrate, and tick treatments.”

Concerns regarding ticks on humans or domestic animals should be addressed through consultation with a physician or veterinarian.

The recent identification of the longhorned tick in multiple states throughout the eastern United States suggests that it is likely established. Many questions remain about the ecology of this tick and the impacts it will have on the health of humans and animals.

The Game Commission will continue to conduct active surveillance for the longhorned tick on wildlife in collaboration with multiple state and federal agencies and academic institutions.

Additional information on the longhorned tick can be found on fact sheets provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Penn State. Longhorned tick questions concerning wildlife should be directed to the Game Commission; humans, Pennsylvania Department of Health; and domestic/agricultural animals, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Releases Guidance on Sex-Based Discrimination under the Pennsylvania Fair Education Opportunities Act

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Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) today announced guidelines for handling discrimination complaints based on sex under the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act (PFEOA).

This guidance indicates the way the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission intends to exercise its administrative discretion in accepting complaints, investigations, and adjudicating cases. PHRC remains committed to ensuring that its adjudicative determinations are made on a case-by-case basis after consideration of all evidence of record in the given matter.

“This information is to provide clarity to all Pennsylvanians regarding their civil right to equality of educational opportunities regardless of their sex,” Executive Director Chad D. Lassiter said.

The entire document, including public comments and responses, is available on the PHRC website.

Find more information on the PHRC here.

Final Comment Response Document Sex Discrimination Guidance APPROVED

Approved Sex Discrimination Guidance PHRA

Approved Sex Discrimination Guidance PFEOA

Act 5 Requirement for School Districts Regarding 403(b) Plans

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​Act 5 of 2017 inserted Section 8411.1 into the Public School Employees’ Retirement Code that requires school districts, beginning July 1, 2019, to have a minimum of four separate “financial institutions or pension management organizations” for each 403(b) plan sponsored. The term “financial institutions or pension management organization” is intended to include providers of an annuity contract or custodial account (collectively referred to as “vendors”).

 

The Retirement Code also requires PSERS to select three “providers of investment options” for the School Employees’ Defined Contribution Plan (“DC Plan”), effective July 1, 2019.   If one or more of the providers selected by PSERS for the DC Plan is also a vendor that has a contract with a school district for the school district’s 403(b) plan, then the school district is required to seek additional vendors to ensure that the school district has four vendors plus the vendor that was selected to be a provider for the DC Plan.  In other words, the school district must maintain four vendors that are not also a provider for the DC Plan.

 

For example,

 

PSERS DC PLAN selects providers A, B and C for the DC Plan.

 

  • Employer 101 contracts with vendors A, B, E, F and G for its 403(b) plan.
    • Employer 101 must select one additional vendor, other than A, B or C, for a total of 4 vendors in addition to providers A and B of the DC Plan.

 

  • Employer 102 contracts with vendors H, I J, L, N and Q for its 403(b) plan.
    • Employer 102 does not need to select any additional vendors.

 

  • Employer 103 contracts with vendor C for its 403(b) plan.
    • Employer 103 must select four additional vendors, other than A, B or C, for a total of 4 vendors in addition to provider C of the DC Plan.

 

PSERS is in the process of selecting its providers for the DC Plan and anticipates that the remaining providers will be selected during the Board’s regularly scheduled meetings beginning in October 2018. Once the contracts with the providers are finalized, the information will be posted on PSERS’ website.  If you have a question regarding the number of vendors you may have or need to contract with, you can contact your third party administrator of your 403(b) plan.

HIT-RUN DRIVER WHO CAUSED CRASH WITH SCHOOL BUS-FULL OF STUDENTS JAILED UP TO 20 YEARS

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A Lancaster man who caused a multi-vehicle crash last year that tipped a school bus carrying 14 students will serve up to 20 years in prison.

Lancaster County Judge Howard Knisely sentenced James P. Irvin III, 48, to 5 to 20 years in prison regarding his conviction on 68 charges from the May 17, 2017, crash on Route 30 in East Lampeter Township.

Judge Knisely said Irvin showed “no regard” for anyone on the road when he drove 71 mph, while accelerating, during an illegal pass which caused the chain-reaction crash that led to a bus with Lancaster Mennonite School students tipping onto its side.

Judge Knisely pointed to Irvin’s poor driving record since 1988 and scolded Irvin for driving without a license since 2006 – driving 400 miles a week in recent years.

As part of sentence, Irvin is prohibited from driving during the period of supervision.

All students and the bus driver received medical treatment. Irvin fled in a white Chevy Malibu; he was arrested six days later.

Parents of the two children most seriously injured expressed forgiveness for Irvin at Friday’s hearing – one father offered to visit Irvin in prison to discuss the grace of God.

Irvin “must seek forgiveness to get it,” Don Cairns said, after describing the fractured vertebrae and other injuries his son sustained.

Sheri Weaver, mother of the 6-year-old boy most seriously hurt in the crash, said her son has taken steps in recovery, but she must apply lotion daily to the boy’s many scars.

When people see the boy’s apparent scar on his face, “the bubbly extrovert” becomes shy, Sheri Weaver said.

“We don’t hate him,” Sheri Weaver said of Irvin. “We will pray for him.”

The parents thanked the first-responders who rushed to the scene and a truck driver who quickly acted in using his jack to pry the bus off the 6-year-old boy, who was pinned underneath.

Irvin was convicted in May at a non-jury trial before Judge Knisely of 68 charges, including counts of aggravated assault and hit-and-run. Assistant District Attorneys Travis S. Anderson and Trista Boyd presented testimony, including from East Lampeter Township police Sgt. Bryan Kondras, lead investigator.

Irvin offered an apology Friday, saying, “I wasn’t raised to end up here.”

“I know I made a lot of mistakes,” he added. “I really don’t have any excuse.”

Irvin’s father also spoke, and started discussing his son’s lack of malice in the crash – before Judge Knisely intervened.

“There is malice,” the judge said sternly. “Malice has been established, as a result of trial.”

Later in the hearing, Judge Knisely peered at Irvin’s family while discussing Irvin’s lack of a license yet continuance to drive with a car registered to and insured by the parents.

Before Judge Knisely ordered sentence, Assistant District Attorney Boyd pointed to Irvin’s “repeated selfish and reckless actions” which caused the crash.

Boyd said Irvin has shown no remorse, which the judge agreed with.

Boyd asked for a sentence that serves as a deterrent not only to Irvin, but to all reckless drivers.

In an eloquent statement from a parent who had three daughters on the bus that day, Assistant District Attorney Anderson read: “This is not an event you want your child to experience, and now become a piece of their history.”

MAN JAILED UP TO 12 YEARS FOR FIRING GUN DURING STREET ROBBERY IN LANCASTER

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A Lancaster man will serve up to 12 years in prison for firing a gun while robbing a man last year on a city street.

Elias R. Brown, 21, pleaded guilty in May to felony counts of robbery, aggravated assault and possessing a firearm without a license regarding the Sept. 14, 2017, incident in the 100 block of South Christian Street.

On Monday, Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker sentenced Brown to 6 to 12 years in prison.

Brown and two juveniles, also charged, robbed the victim, taking Timberland boots, cash, and a jean jacket, according to Assistant District Attorney Travis S. Anderson, lead prosecutor.

During the robbery, Brown fired five rounds from a .40-caliber Glock pistol. No one was struck.

President Judge Reinaker, while ordering sentence, said it was Brown who held the gun and presented the biggest threat to the victim’s safety.

Lancaster city police Detective Robert Whiteford filed charges.