Pennsylvania’s Fight Over the Eastern Hellbender

by Matthew White

Last year Pennsylvania Senator Yaw of Williamsport advocated for the instatement of the eastern hellbender salamander as the state amphibian for Pennsylvania. This bill easily passed through senate, but has been contested in the house. The eastern hellbender is an evasive species to PA so some believe that it is not fit for the job of state amphibian. The eastern hellbender is a freshwater salamander that is very sensitive to the purity of the water it lives in. Some states have already put this salamander on their endangered species list because they have been dying due to unclean waterways. The main reason for the advocacy of this salamander is to cause awareness of the pollution in Pennsylvania’s waterways. Although being evasive, this amphibian has been found all over western PA waterway, but that has been cut in half because of pollution.


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purpose is to review both old and new environmental regulations and suggest to the GA or governor’s office that they be repealed (Hess, 2018).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?

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.

GOP Challenges to PA Gov Wolf’s Reelection Now at Four

Mike Turzai, the Speaker of Pennsylvania’s House, is the fourth candidate to announce a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination next spring. He joins Scott Wagner, Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth in the race for the opportunity to unseat Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in November 2018.

Delco, Donald Trump & the 2017 Elections

by J. Wesley Leckrone

Delaware County (PA) Democrats had a good day at the polls on Tuesday November 7. They captured seats on the county board and a number of row offices. There are a number of explanations in this article from the Delaware County Times.  Here is some commentary related to how I interpret the results:

“I think one thing that’s really important to keep in mind here is that suburbs in general and Philadelphia suburbs, including Delaware County, have been trending Democratic anyway,” he said. “This is not the beginning of a trend. This is a trend in a sense that has been going on for more than a decade. Basically what Trump did was to accentuate and accelerate the Democrats against the Republicans.”

What occurred Tuesday, Leckrone said, was a long-term process coming to fruit.

“This is probably the beginning of a long term change that’s been following the voter registration,” Leckrone added. “I think a lot of it has to do with cultural and social values that people have … It’s almost as if geography determines the way people vote nowadays.”

On a cultural basis, Republicans tend to fare more conservatively with values centered on religion, marriage and guns while Democrats, a substantial number of whom live in metropolitan areas, are more cosmopolitan and less tied to these issues, but of course, he said, Republicans can be found in cities and Democrats can be found in rural areas.

Yet, Leckrone warned Republicans still have traction, adding that even in this environment, Delaware County’s election results were relatively close.

“If you take a look at the numbers – county council, it’s only 2,000 votes,” Leckrone said, adding that the Libertarian candidate received 2,040 votes. “I think you still have remnants of people voting Republican.”

Leckrone said this election showed that Democrats do come out to vote.

“I think for the Democrats, it’s a good sign that they were able to get their voters out,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a voter registration edge, it’s another thing to get them out.”

“If they can continue to turn people out and they can tap into anger against the Republicans, they could potentially have a shot at next year,” he added, although he said that will be tough because of the way the district is drawn.

However, if voters retain a large feeling of angst, that could translate at the polls.

“People are more motivated by what they oppose,” Leckrone said. “That could be a big driving factor next year.”

Governor Thornburgh at Widener’s 1983 Commencement

Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh spoke at Widener University’s 162nd Commencement on May 21, 1983. His address focused on how to successfully navigate the challenges of the economic changes of the early 1980s.

His advice was to “build a new generation of competence” to adapt to “an economy in transition.” He said

“Competence — just plain old-fashioned competence — is what is most required of the generation that would make our state and nation work again. Those who display it will be the real heroes of our time.”

Thornburgh urged the students to

“Tackle the challenge of an economy in transition by working harder, thinking deeper, managing better, producing more abundantly, and caring more intensively than you ever have done before.”

In Cold War parlance he stated that “the quiet and competent heroes of this particular struggle will claim their rightful places as keepers of freedom’s flame.”

Governor Thornburgh congratulated Widener University on helping with the transition to the new economy by adding a Computer Science major for the 1983-84 academic year.

Material from this post comes from a May 21, 1983 Press Release from The Dick Thornburgh Papers at the Pennsylvania State Archives.