PA Legislature Dealing with Environmental Issues this Week

by Nicholas A. Dulepski

The PA General Assembly is making determinations on several state environmental policies this week. H.B 1237, sponsored by Rep. Dawn Keefer- R- York, allows the General Assembly to now either vote on an “economically significant” environmental regulation or simply do nothing, which would disallow the regulation’s enforcement (Hess, 2018). A house committee approved and amended the bill, along with similar bills, such as House Bill 209, a bill cosponsored by Keefer (Hess, 2018). H.B 209 establishes The Independent Office of the Repealer, whose sole purpose is to review both old and new environmental regulations and suggest to the GA or governor’s office that they be repealed (Hess, 2018). The committee is yet to act on H.B 1959 (Rep. Rothman- R) which would roll back state agency permit- issuing authority on hazardous waste, underground mining, safe drinking water, oil and gas, sedimentation and more by instead giving the authority to a third- party. The bill hopes to cut long wait times for permits from the DEP. Reading through the bill, Rothman defines a third- party as “any individual in the Commonwealth who possesses the requisite certifications and qualifications of an occupation relating to a permit administered by a state agency.”.

It’s hard to make sense of these bills especially after Duke University, in January of this year, released a report on damages to water sediments downstream of PA oil and gas sites. The report confirmed that these sediments were 650 times more radioactive than the control sediments (Lucas, 2018). I understand that some will argue restricting environmental regulations is necessary for good business, but do these laws put our health at risk?

https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2017/10/13/bill-would-overhaul-pennsylvanias-regulatory-process/

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States Pick up Slack with Federal Enviro Cuts

by Remo Diventura

The Trump Administration’s budget cuts include reducing federal environmental protections by millions of dollars. As a result, state governments are filling the gaps, with 23 states (including PA) proposing a combined total of 112 new policies to limit exposure to toxic chemicals. This isn’t about emissions or pollution specifically, but about what one is calling “common sense chemical reform”. This includes banning some pesticides, paint removers, fire-retardants, plastic additives, and water regulations. The belief behind this is to help not only the environment by removing harmful chemicals, but with public health. Many of these regulations are aimed at fixing the overburdened healthcare system. In Pennsylvania specifically, two bills have been proposed. One bans the use of a certain chemical (bisphenol-A) in food and beverage containers. The other requires the Environmental Quality Board to adopt a limit on perfluorinated chemicals in drinking water.

What these regulations will do to either public health or the environment is not really known. But the fact this is panning out in the current presidential administration is interesting to see, especially with many of these states also vowing to continue with the Paris Agreement regardless.

http://www.ehn.org/states-toxic-chemicals-legislation-epa-2534500012.html

Trump Administration Takes Action on Gas Flares and Leaks

by Luciano DiElsi

The Trump administration is attempting to remove Obama era rules on how gas and oil companies deal with methane leaks, gas flares, and oil leaks. When drilling and fracking occur the pipelines used to extract the gas or oil often times leak; In the case of fracking, additional pockets can open within the earth between the gas suppositories and surface away theses are called gas flares. Before the Obama Administration these flares were allowed to spew out millions of gallons of resources into the atmosphere increasing greenhouse emissions and wasting precious domestic resources. When Obama took office, he set forth a number of provisions which forced the gas and oil industry to recapture and put into circulation the gas and oil ordinarily lost in flare offs and leaks. The Obama administration framed the plan as a win-win, greenhouse emissions were drastically reduced and the oil gas industries profited from the recaptured gas and oil.

However, in recent weeks the Trump administration has sought to lift these provisions clamming that the cost of recapturing the gas flares and oil leaks have turned out to be higher than sales received for the recaptured gas. The Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals gave this quote, “In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations not punitive regulations,” said Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management. “We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”

Currently the Secretary of Bureuer of Land Management Ryan Zinke is facing a number of attempts to block the proposal from the Trump Administration. Critics of the proposal are demanding that a serious explanation and detailed reasoning be set down on why the Obama Provisions should be replaced which would result in an increase of greenhouse Emissions.

The natural gas industry in the state of Pennsylvania would be greatly impacted by this legislature both economically and environmentally, what are your guys thoughts? Do you think the lifting of cost incurred by the gas and oil industry under the Obama Administration would result in job growth in rural America? And if the provision is lifted and job growth increase would it offset the millions of gallons of lost resources? And lost royalty fees for the American tax payer?

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13022018/methane-leaks-monitoring-global-warming-oil-gas-flares-air-pollution-trump-greenhouse-gas

Pennsylvania and Water Testing

By Wil Cacciatore

Pennsylvania Calls for More Water Testsexplains how Pennsylvania wanted to run tests involving treatment plants and drinking water facilities to monitor for any radioactive pollutants that are ending up in the satellite rivers in that area. Since this article was written in 2011, Barack Obama had established a policy for stabilizing the environment regarding the water systems, air pollution from harmful fumes from factories, and also dumping grounds for sludges and other disastrous actions. Pennsylvania also made new guidelines for the factories for how to detect these harmful substances, so the E.P.A wouldn’t have to intervene with the regulators for the state. Although these policies and guidelines were set, E.P.A officials heard that a Johnstown plant was receiving biosolids sending them to fields for spreading them. During Barack’s terms, Pennsylvania and even the whole nation has seen an improvement in environmental regulation, but the overall contributing factor is not keeping up with regulations and not being aware of the surroundings. Regulators have to realize that long term effects can be prevented with one simple change. An example of this would be waste treatment plant operators didn’t define radium as a harmful containment for the production of fertilizer. This one arrangement could have conveyed a long period of change for the environment as a whole.

Pennsylvania DEP Proposes Increase to Shale Gas Well Permit Fee

by Othniel T. Degahson, Jr.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is proposing an increase in the price of a shale gas well permit from $5,000 per well to $12,500 per well. The Department of Environmental protection justifies this as a necessity to keep the state’s oil and gas oversight program from operating at a deficit, as permit fee revenue has seen a large decrease since 2014-2015. As the DEP gets a large amount of its funding from permit revenue, they have had to decrease the amount of employees in their oil and gas program.

Permit fees for shale gas wells are paid once at a well’s birth and inspection responsibilities continue until the well is plugged decades later.

The state government under Governor Tom Wolf has known that the DEP needed more money, yet they delayed on permit fee increases due to state budget negotiations that had the possibility of a severance tax on shale, which would have a portion of those funds allocated to the DEP’s oil and gas program.

Industry representatives are generally supportive of a fee increase “to provide DEP’s oil and gas program with the resources it needs” but were blind sighted by the size of the fee increase, especially given what they viewed as excessive amounts of time for the permits to become approved. Marcellus Shale Coalition data shows the average permit wait time increase from 57 days in 2016 to 111 days in 2017.

http://www.post-gazette.com/powersource/policy-powersource/2018/02/05/DEP-proposes-doubling-permit-fees-Marcellus-shale-drilling-permit-Pennsylvania-oil-gas/stories/201802050085

State Legislators and Sexual Harassment

by J. Wesley Leckrone

Jen Fifield of Stateline has done extensive research on sexual harassment in state legislatures and measures to stop it. In an article today she states

[w]hile anti-harassment training has long been standard in corporate America, that’s not the case in politics. In a sector that mostly polices itself, the lack of regular discussion about what constitutes inappropriate behavior is likely to have contributed to the long-standing misogynist culture that has allowed harassment to fester, according to many female state lawmakers, as well as psychologists who study how to best prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Fifield’s reporting shows that female legislators “say training alone will not stop harassment”. According to Ohio State Senator Charleta Tavares

[t]he Legislature also needs to create better procedures for reporting harassment to make it clear that women will not face retaliation or threats when they come forward, she said. ‘They are afraid of being blackballed.’

Fifield also provides a Twitter string of recent allegations of sexual harassment in state legislatures. You can find it here.