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Wolf Administration Officials Visit State Park, Borough Job Sites of Young Workers Employed by the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps

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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:

  • Altoona
  • Erie
  • Greensburg
  • Harrisburg
  • Hazleton
  • McConnellsburg
  • Meadville
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Reading
  • Renovo
  • Saint Marys
  • Uniontown
  • Wellsboro
  • Wilkes-Barre
  • Williamsport
  • York

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

For more details on the Pennsylvania Outdoors Corps, visit DCNR’s website.

Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Joins Rite Aid to Launch In-Store Medication Disposal Unit

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Lemoyne, PA – Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith today joined Rite Aid’s President and Chief Operating Officer Kermit Crawford, United States Representative Scott Perry, and State Representative Sheryl Delozier to launch the pharmacy’s first in-store medication disposal unit. Rite Aid’s unit – with a total of 100 planned at stores nationwide – joins the more than 730 prescription drug take-back boxes available in pharmacies, Pennsylvania State Police barracks, and local police and government offices around the commonwealth.

“As the Wolf Administration fights the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic, we need strong partnerships between the public and private sectors to maximize response on all fronts,” said Secretary Smith.  “Increasing availability and awareness of take-back boxes makes Pennsylvanians safer, and I thank Rite Aid for their commitment to fighting this crisis.”

Medication disposal units, or take-back boxes, allow people to take an active role in making their homes and communities safer by lowering the risk of prescription drug misuse. More than 52,000 pounds of prescription drugs have been disposed of in 2018. To date, 400,000 pounds of prescription drugs have been safely disposed of at Pennsylvania’s take-back boxes since 2014.

Secretary Smith encouraged Pennsylvanians with unused and unneeded medications to utilize this and other safe disposal units around Pennsylvania.

“Prescription drug misuse is a major catalyst for the heroin and opioid epidemic that we are fighting every day, and too many people with an opioid use disorder obtain medicine from family and friends’ medicine cabinets,” she said. “Disposing of medication is a small step that can make a big difference towards protecting yourself and loved ones. I strongly encourage all Pennsylvanians to look through your medicine cabinets, find old or unneeded medications, and locate a take-back box near you.”

A map of take-back box locations searchable by county and zip code can be found on the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs’ website.

For more information on the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania, visit

Wolf Administration Offers Advice on How to Spot Potential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Scams

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Harrisburg, PA – Wolf Administration officials with the mother of a Pennsylvania man who was recruited to an out-of-state treatment facility today issued a warning to Pennsylvanians to be wary of predatory practices used by some addiction treatment centers and sober living homes, many of which are located outside of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman were joined by Lizz DeWolfe, founder of Not One More in Wyoming County and mother of J.J. Baker, who died of an opioid overdose at 23 after having sought treatment at a Florida treatment facility.

“The opioid epidemic has made families desperate to get help for their loved ones and has unfortunately opened the door to unscrupulous people who prey on these families to lure unsuspecting individuals in need of treatment to facilities that may provide little or no treatment, and can lead to more problems, including financial ruin, and even death,” said Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman.  “Operators of these facilities have also found ways to bilk insurers and consumers out of hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars, through fake and inflated insurance claims.”

“While there are many reputable facilities in other states, instances of individuals being recruited to other treatment centers with offers of payment for travel or health insurance coverage can lead to insurance fraud, misleading or dangerous living conditions, and individuals with substance use disorder failing to receive the treatment they need,” Jennifer Smith, Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs said.

“Individuals affected by substance use disorder and seeking recovery are among our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. Entering treatment can be a pivotal step in one’s recovery journey, and we must be sure that they are able to do so in a safe and supportive environment. I strongly encourage Pennsylvanians seeking treatment for themselves or a loved one to utilize their Single County Authority (SCA), the local drug and alcohol treatment information centers in Pennsylvania’s counties to help locate a DDAP-licensed treatment facility, or the free PA Get Help now at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SCAs receive funding through DDAP that will help if you are not sure how you will pay for treatment.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year federal and state authorities in Florida charged the operators of one bogus operation alone with $58 million in fraudulent insurance claims. Facilities have been charged for billing insurers for services never provided, filing multiple claims for the same service, and charging exorbitant rates for drug testing.

A survey of Pennsylvania’s major health insurers, which cover approximately 70 percent of the commercial health insurance market, shows 7,157 Pennsylvanians insured by these companies received substance use disorder treatment out-of-state over the past two years. This is nearly 17 percent of all Pennsylvanians receiving substance use disorder treatment under insurance coverage from these insurers.

Despite the availability of treatment centers in Pennsylvania, recruiters will often use the lure of a sunny climate, free air travel, covering insurance payments, and a fresh start to lure people in need of treatment to facilities in other states, particularly Arizona, California, and Florida.

“Addiction is really complicated, and sometimes in our efforts to get our loved ones into recovery, we don’t see things that should make us ask questions,” DeWolfe said. “J.J. was offered free rent but we all know that nothing is free. Remember if they offer anything free, it is a sign that it may not be a reputable facility.”

After an initial, successful rehab, Baker relapsed, and returned to Florida in 2015, where he was offered a rent-free room at a recovery home while getting treatment. During this time, Baker’s parents received a bill of more than $208,000 for drug testing. In August 2015, he received a prescription from a doctor for testosterone. He showed the prescription to the house managers. The next day, he was evicted because the prescription violated the home’s rules.  Three days later Baker was found dead in his car from a heroin overdose.

“My hope is by telling my story other parents won’t go through what I did. Other parents need to know how important it is to do your research, ask questions, get referrals, see what the laws are in that state,” said DeWolfe. “If you receive a bill from the insurance company that feels out of the ordinary, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If I only would have known what I know now there is a chance my son would still be here.”

Smith and Altman said that there are several things people should look for to avoid falling victim to an out-of-state addiction treatment scam. These include:

  • Any unsolicited referral to an out-of-state treatment facility;
  • Someone offering to pay for airfare or other travel expenses to an out-of-state facility;
  • Someone offering to pay for insurance coverage — these payments could end at any time leaving you with no coverage;
  • Someone asking you to provide personal information, such as your Social Security number or insurance policy ID number.

Solicitors may also attempt to lure someone to a recovery or sober home. Be wary of homes claiming insurance will pay rent or other costs of staying at these homes because they provide no medical treatment and do not receive payment from insurance. Also ask if the sober or recovery home is registered or certified by a state agency or designee. In Florida, this is the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, which certifies sober homes meet 38 standards for recovery, housing, administration, training, finance and good-neighbor practices.

Keep a close eye on medical bills and insurance payments and question any that seem out of line. Altman said private insurance payments for tests will vary, but Medicare typically pays about $80 for screening tests to detect the presence of drugs, and between $117 and $254 for a more sensitive confirmation test to determine the amount of specific drugs present.

Governor Wolf signed a bill in December giving DDAP authority over recovery homes located in Pennsylvania that receive public funding. The department has until June 2020 to promulgate regulations for recovery homes, but many already exist and operate in Pennsylvania and may work with a county’s SCA. Smith encouraged consumers considering a recovery home for themselves or a loved one to contact their SCA before making a financial commitment.

“Getting timely help can be key to saving a loved one’s life, but families need to be sure they are dealing with a reputable facility,” Altman said.  “The bottom line is, if someone is being paid to recruit you or a loved one to an out-of-state facility, they may not have your best interests in mind.”

Pennsylvanians looking for treatment for themselves or a loved one can call the PA Get Help Now helpline toll-free, 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Information on questions to ask if consumers are solicited for an out-of-state recovery home or addiction treatment center are at, on the Health page. A list of licensed treatment facilities in Pennsylvania is also available at Suspected insurance fraud can be reported to the National Insurance Crime Bureau at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422).

PA Council on the Arts and PA Turnpike Commission Unveil Student-Created Artwork at King of Prussia Turnpike Service Plaza

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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 or

Education Secretary Rivera to Serve on National Safe Schools Steering Committee

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Harrisburg, PA – Building upon the Wolf Administration’s commitment to safe schools and classrooms, Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera is joining other states’ education officials on the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) newly formed School Safety Steering Committee.

“We need to work together with a holistic approach to keep our schools safe, so children and teachers can focus on learning in the classroom,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Secretary Rivera’s service on the CCSSO steering committee will bring the Pennsylvania perspective to this national conversation on school safety”

“Not only does he bring decades of experience in classrooms and school buildings, he will share the work Pennsylvania’s Task Force has undertaken in communities across the commonwealth.”

Secretary Rivera is one of twelve members as part of a national effort to collaborate on best practices and innovative measures to work towards creating a safe and supportive learning environment for students.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ensuring school safety, but as educators and leaders we need to take a comprehensive look at the measures schools can thoughtfully implement to improve the culture in their hallways, classrooms and athletic fields where everyone feels valued, and every student has their social and emotional needs met,” said Secretary Rivera.

The School Safety Steering Committee will determine what guidance or support CCSSO will offer to numerous states around school safety. In addition, the steering committee also will inform how CCSSO will continue to support states in efforts to prevent violence from ever taking place by fostering safe, supportive schools that address the emotional well-being of all children.

CCSSO is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education. Its mission is to create a more equitable education system for all children, and provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues.

Earlier this year, Governor Wolf launched the state School Safety Task Force that brings together government officials, statewide education organizations, law enforcement, community members, school officials to talk about ways to improve school safety and security.

Wolf Administration Kicks Off Computer Science for All Summit with Former Obama Administration Advisor for Technical Education

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Harrisburg, PA – Today, Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Deputy Secretary Matthew Stem joined with former White House senior policy advisor for tech inclusion, Ruthe Farmer, and hundreds of educators and school leaders to kick off PDE’s Computer Science for All PA Summit.

During the three-day summit, education professionals will learn innovative approaches for providing students with computer science experiences in classrooms across the commonwealth.

“In the next ten years, over 71 percent of new jobs will require computer science skills,” said Deputy Secretary Stem. “The Wolf Administration as well as our school leaders are rising to the challenge to ensure all students have access to a high-quality education, are college and career ready, and will thrive in an ever-changing workforce.”

Since taking office in 2015, Governor Wolf has championed to expand access to computer science and STEM education. This year he introduced PAsmart, a $30 million investment to develop and expand computer science and STEM in K-12 education, to prepare and train educators to teach in computer science, STEM, and to offer job training for adults in computer science.

Also, to address the findings of a 2015 report indicating that only one in 10 Pennsylvania students in grades 7 through 12 were enrolled in a computer science course, with significant gaps for girls, students of color, and low-income students, Governor Wolf requested that the State Board of Education endorse Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) K-12 Standards, and in January Pennsylvania joined fewer than a dozen states in to have endorsed the standards,

“We cannot further STEM education with out equitable access to computer science for all students,” said Deputy Secretary Stem. “This week’s summit will teach our educational professionals how to encourage our students to become tomorrow’s industry leaders.”

Governor Wolf is also a member of the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science, a bipartisan, multi-state initiative organized by, to build the commonwealth’s existing commitment to STEM education, where Pennsylvania has been recognized as a national leader.

Throughout the summer, PDE leaders will visit educational camps, libraries, and colleges to highlight the importance of STEM education as part of the #SummerOfSTEM tour.

Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force Calls for Strengthening Security, More Mental Health Services, Community Connections

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Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today announced the common themes that will be addressed in an upcoming report from the Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force, created by Gov. Wolf and the Auditor General in February after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. This announcement comes following the passage of Gov. Wolf’s 2018-19 bi-partisan budget, which includes $60 million for a School Safety Fund to strengthen security and mental health services in schools.

Appointed by the governor, the task force held a series of six regional roundtables at schools from April through June to listen to students, parents, school officials, school nurses and other health care professionals, law enforcement, education organizations and community members about their ideas to improve safety and security.

“I commend the work of all those who participated in the task force – especially the students – for providing their incredible perspectives,” said Governor Wolf. “It was clear in every region of the state that keeping our schools safe requires a holistic approach focused on students and our communities so that our classrooms can be focused on learning.

“While I will continue to push for progress on gun safety reform, including universal background checks and keeping guns from dangerous individuals, this work is important to ensure we’re doing everything we can to protect our students and teachers.”

“In the last few months, it’s been my privilege to travel the state meeting students who are deeply invested in each other’s safety,” said Auditor General DePasquale. “This generation of students is smart, informed, and eager to positively impact the world around them. It’s become clear to me during these discussions that each school has its own unique set of challenges – but some major themes remain consistent across the state. Our regional conversations helped identify those themes; now it’s time to take what we learned and turn it into action.”

Based on the expertise and opinions shared during the regional roundtables and hundreds of comments provided through an online feedback form, the task force identified multiple themes, including recommendations, barriers and opportunities. The overarching themes to strengthen school security heard by the task force include:

  • Improved communication and information sharing
  • Enhanced social and emotional learning
  • Increased access to mental health services, including more health professionals in schools
  • Building community connections
  • Effectively integrating law enforcement and school resource officers
  • Providing guidance on establishing priorities for schools
  • Providing schools with more resources

Read the full content of the initial findings here.

Other members of the task force included vice-chairs Derin Myers, Acting Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency; Mark DiRocco, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Bonita Allen, President of the Pennsylvania Parent Teacher Association; Judy Morgitan, Immediate Past President of the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners; and Dolores McCracken, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Each meeting included over 40 community participants invited by the vice-chairs to create a discussion focused on the needs of that region.

Several members of the Wolf Administration provided support to the task force, including Homeland Security Director Marcus Brown, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, Acting State Police Commissioner Colonel Robert Evanchick, and Human Services, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Deputy Secretary Lynn Kovich.

The task force plans to release its final report before the start of the 2018-19 school year.

The 2018-19 budget, which the governor signed last week, includes the newly created School Safety Fund, a $60 million investment to help individual school districts meet their local needs by funding a wide variety of programs aimed to keep students and teachers safe.

The funding will be awarded to schools in the form of grants to cover numerous expenses and programs, including physical building upgrades, security equipment, violence prevention education programs, teacher training, alternative education programs, and special and individualized mentoring programs.

Also included is a new program that will allow the Pennsylvania State Police to create three regional Risk and Vulnerability Teams to help schools undergo security and safety assessments.

And, the state will be creating a confidential, statewide tip line that will allow students and teachers to anonymously report potentially dangerous situations or individuals that involve schools.

“This new money aligns with the themes we heard during the task force and will help address the needs of school districts by providing an immediate infusion of funds, so our schools can increase security while creating programs that meet the safety needs of their schools and communities,” Gov. Wolf said.

Education Secretary: State Budget Continues Strong Investments in Students, Job Training

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Harrisburg, PA – State Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera today outlined the investments in education championed by Governor Tom Wolf in the 2018-19 budget and over the last four years that are helping Pennsylvania’s students by restoring education funding, increasing enrollment in kindergarten and pre-k, bolstering graduation rates, and training more students for careers.
“Over the past four years, Governor Wolf has fought hard to reinvest in Pennsylvania’s schools,” Rivera said. “With this increased support, students across Pennsylvania are now learning in smaller classes, with more teachers, and from new and innovative programs developed by their schools.”
Rivera noted that in this year’s budget, Governor Wolf secured an additional $100 million in basic education funding, bringing the total increase over four years to more than $538 million that will be distributed using the fair funding formula enacted by the Wolf Administration in 2016. The formula provides for equitable funding for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.
Secretary Rivera added that the 2018-19 budget also lays out a plan to re-imagine how the commonwealth provides workforce training, as well as advancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.
The budget strengthens the state’s investment in workforce development and job training with a $10 million increase for secondary CTE programs and $30 million to launch the governor’s PAsmart initiative. PAsmart is a first-of-its-kind investment to align and strengthen workforce efforts at multiple state agencies by providing $20 for the fast-growing fields of STEM and computer science education and $10 million to expand apprenticeships and job training.
“By connecting business and industry leaders with educators in our classrooms we ensure our students are learning the skills that are in demand by Pennsylvania employers, specifically STEM and computer science professions,” said Rivera. “In today’s job market, it is more critical than ever that students leave high school with strong academic and technical skills that prepare them for success in college, career and community.”
Pennsylvania has more than 16,000 approved career and technical education programs, and over the past three years the number of CTE students earning industry-recognized credentials has increased by 32.2 percent and the number of credentials earned by students enrolled in CTE programs has increased by 28.4 percent.
The demand for STEM-trained workers also continues to grow, including an estimated 300,000 STEM related jobs available in Pennsylvania in 2018. The commonwealth is a national leader in STEM education, producing the fifth highest number of STEM graduates and is home to second highest number of nationally-recognized STEM ecosystems.
In addition to the PAsmart initiative, the 2018-19 budget includes increases of:
·         $42.5 million for higher education;
·         $15 million for special education;
·         $25 million for pre-school and Head Start programs; and
·         $21.6 million to support early intervention services.
Since Governor Wolf took office, $115 million has been invested in the Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs.
The budget also maintains $1 million in grant funding for It’s on Us PA, launched by the Wolf Administration in 2016, to combat campus sexual violence.
The budget also invests more than $61.4 million for school and community safety, including a $1.4 million increase for the Safe Schools Initiative, which provides grants to schools, police departments, and municipalities to support safer schools.
“This year’s investments further demonstrate the Wolf Administration’s commitment to investing in Pennsylvania’s schools and ensuring students are college and career ready when they graduate,” he added.
For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs please visit the Department of Education’s website at

DEP Reminds Homeowners to Check for Mine Subsidence Risks

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Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania homeowners have new tools at their disposal to identify risks and insure their property from underground mine subsidence, thanks to a newly revamped website from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The new website –  – contains information for residents about known underground mine locations and possible risks for subsidence. Recently updated maps show historic mining and known coal-bearing areas that could be affected by mine subsidence from old and abandoned mines.

“Underground mining has a long history in Pennsylvania, and historic mines can still cause subsidence today,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “I encourage all Pennsylvanians to log on and see what their risk is, and to sign up for mine subsidence insurance if needed.”

Cracked foundations, collapsed walls, and even homes sinking into the ground are all possible impacts of underground mine subsidence, which is not typically covered by homeowner’s insurance policies. A subsidence event can occur at any time and cause sudden, significant damage, often exceeding $100,000 or total loss of the structure. Mine subsidence occurs when the ground above an old or abandoned mine cavity collapses.

“DEP is continuously improving our maps and data for underground mining,” said McDonnell. “Our goal is to have the best underground mine mapping easily accessible to anyone who wants to view it, so that residents can know if they could be affected and can easily sign up for mine subsidence insurance if they need it.”

DEP administers low-cost mine subsidence insurance (MSI) coverage through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The average policy of $160,000 costs about $7 a month, and senior citizens are eligible for discounted rates.

Homeowners should visit or call 1-800-922-1678 to check if their home is over an abandoned mine and for more information on the Mine Subsidence Insurance Program.

Wolf Administration to save $27.2 Million Through Innovative Electricity Purchasing

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Harrisburg, PA –  Through an innovative approach to shopping for electricity, the Wolf administration will save an estimated $27.2 million through 2022 –  including $4.3 million in savings over the next four years for commonwealth facilities and municipal members of the COSTARS program. This is the third consecutive year the commonwealth will increase savings and decrease per kilowatt hour costs.

“My administration is continuously searching for ways to reduce costs and use innovation to improve efficiencies,” said Governor Wolf.  “This new approach to buying electricity has delivered long-term savings to the state and local governments, and I commend the Department of General Services for implementing this process.”

Before the Department of General Services launched the new approach to shopping for electricity in 2015, the commonwealth purchased electricity on shorter term, 1-2-year contracts. In 2015, the commonwealth adjusted its purchasing approach to longer term, 4-year fixed-price contracts that result in better pricing and budget stability. In addition, the volume of the commonwealth’s purchasing power is leveraged by bundling accounts to receive more favorable pricing – similar to the practices employed by large commercial electric consumers.

The commonwealth also has started the practice of shopping earlier in advance of the current contract expiration dates, allowing for more flexibility in seeking favorable rates.

The energy shopping events are held in cooperation with the Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute (PSFEI) where the institute solicits the electricity accounts of the commonwealth agencies and COSTARS members for lower electricity supplier pricing.

The $27.2 million in total savings covers numerous accounts and term lengths that began to accrue in 2016 and will continue through December 2022.  These savings were generated by lowering the commonwealth’s average load-weighted cost per kilowatt hour from 5.6 cents in 2015, to a current average of 5.2 cents. This average cost includes capacity and transmission charges.

“Through our partnership with the Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute, we’ve been able to develop improved approaches to how we purchase electricity and take advantage of the wholesale market in terms of favorable pricing,” Topper said. “In addition to generating these positive results, we’ve been able to expand the program to COSTARS members and pass the ability to experience those savings onto them.”

In November 2017, the commonwealth expanded its Electricity Procurement Program to COSTARS members. Since the expansion, more than $580,000 in electricity cost savings vs. prior rates have been generated. The COSTARS program allows its members – including municipalities, public authorities, school districts, and certain non-profits – to use state-awarded contracts to purchase a large variety of materials and services at lower prices.