On Transition in Harrisburg
Davitt B. Woodwell
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
November 4th brought to an end the 2014 election cycle. In Pennsylvania, the biggest winner is Governor-Elect Tom Wolf. With his win, Wolf now enters the vague time of “transition,” that period of a dozen weeks or so to shift from the single focus of a campaign to the broad management of governing.
In making that shift, the Governor-Elect will also have to balance his desire for change with the realities of executive agencies and programs already in place, and a legislature now more deeply controlled by another party.
From an environmental and conservation perspective, there are a good number of issues that Governor-Elect Wolf will have to address, and for several of which he has already signaled some of his intentions. First and foremost will be appointing Secretaries to manage DEP and DCNR. Both agencies have critical mandates in ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of the Commonwealth, and both face critical challenges.
While changing priorities is often the right of a new administration, both the DEP and DCNR have ongoing responsibilities that, while they may be tweaked, still must be carried out.
DCNR manages over 120 state parks and more than 2.5 million acres on behalf of Pennsylvanians. Keeping those parks and forests operating, and managing the multiple uses of the forests in a sustainable way in face of a variety of extractive uses, is foremost in the Department’s charge. It is incumbent upon the new administration to ensure the highest standards and practices for industries operating in, on, and under our common lands. It is also critical to reinstate the ban on any further leasing of state forest or park lands – 700,000 acres are well more than enough.
The DEP is charged with protecting human and environmental health through regulating, essentially, how much we can degrade the environment. They do this by setting rules, issuing permits allowing a certain level of impact, and then enforcing those permits. Unfortunately, the department does not have adequate resources to effectively complete these roles. By its own admission, DEP is understaffed in the areas of shale gas and water management, and has continued to receive budgets that are not enough to cover its needs. This has to change and offers a great opportunity for the Wolf administration to signal its support of Pennsylvania’s health by presenting the General Assembly with a budget that adequately funds and staffs DEP.
Governor Wolf will also be faced with fulfilling a number of commitments both made by and imposed upon the Commonwealth. Achieving pollution limits in the Susquehanna watershed to limit impacts on the Chesapeake Bay, and developing a plan to limit carbon emissions statewide,are but two of the federal programs in play. Finally getting long-overdue regulations out for the Oil and Gas Act, dealing with unwise legislation defining unconventional gas development, and continuing to address abandoned mine drainage and brownfield issues will also take the attention of the Governor and Department.
Finally, there are also the new initiatives at which the Governor-Elect has hinted at, or that he should be encouraged to undertake. In his election night speech, Wolf talked of all forms of fossil fuels playing a role in the Commonwealth’s future. Indeed, Pennsylvania’s energy economy was a staple of his campaign. How this is operationalized in the new administration will be critical to Pennsylvania’s environmental future.
As a major global emitter of greenhouse gases, it is incumbent upon Pennsylvania to use its considerable innovative capacity to reduce those emissions and indeed profit from doing so. A first step will be to limit methane emissions from natural gas development. Another, as he has said he will do, will be to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other states already ahead of us in addressing greenhouse gases. Governor Wolf will also need to recommit Pennsylvania to advancing renewable energy in our state.
The new administration must also take head of the impacts of the 25,000 to 50,000 miles of new pipeline that are coming to aright-of-way near you. While planning and siting of the interstate pipelines are governed by federal law, there is little to no control of where and how the intrastate lines are sited or installed. This has to change and soon.
In sum, Governor-Elect Wolf has many great opportunities to confirm his commitment to Pennsylvania’s long-held environmental and conservation values. It begins with picking leaders of DEP and DCNR who recognize and embody those values and can work to achieve results with a variety of stakeholders to protect and enhance our common wealth. It then carries on to developing policies and strategies that fulfill the promise of Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution:
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
As with every administration, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council looks forward to working with the Governor-Elect, his transition team, and DEP and DCNR as they move ahead.
Making Sense of EPA’s Clean Energy Plan
What it Means for Pennsylvania
Earlier this year, the Obama administration released its Clean Power Plan which proposes new standards for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants in the United States.
This plan calls for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 in order to enable the U.S. to meet its goals for curbing the progression of global climate change. The challenges posed by this plan have alarmed many in the electricity and fossil fuel sectors and will undoubtedly have a dramatic impact on the energy markets for years to come.
The authorizing legislation for the Clean Power Plan is Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which sets the emission goals for each state and then gives those states the power to determine how best to meet those goals.
Robert B. McKinstry, Jr., partner in the Philadelphia office of Ballard Spahr, LLP, practice leader of the firm’s Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative and PEC board member, presented a strategy for how Pennsylvania might successfully implement the standards in Section 111(d) at the PEC Policy Conference in Harrisburg in September. After his presentation, he sat down with Forum to explain what the president’s Clean Power Plan means for Pennsylvania and what the opportunities are for the Commonwealth.
Click here for the full interview.
Implementing Act 13
Enacted in 2012, Act 13 is a major revision to Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act that governs the exploration and development of deep shale reserves in the Commonwealth.
It enacted stronger environmental standards, authorized local governments to adopt an impact fee and built upon the state’s ongoing efforts to move towards energy independence as unconventional gas development continues. Among the Act’s provisions are increased setback requirements for unconventional gas development; enhanced protection of water supplies; and strong, uniform, consistent statewide environmental standards. As a result of these provisions, the Department of Environmental Protection will continue to ensure the responsible development of this important resource.
Putting this legislation into action has required the Department of Environmental Protection to develop specific standards and regulations that provide the necessary detail and measurements for enforcement. This is exhaustive and meticulous process that requires public comment, input from stakeholders and careful consideration.
Scott Perry, deputy secretary of DEP, gave an update on the department’s progress in developing these regulations at the PEC Policy Conference in September. Afterwards, he spoke with Forum to provide an overview of DEP’s progress in implementing Act 13.
Click here for our interview with deputy secretary Perry.
Purchase Renewable Energy…and Save!
If you follow PEC on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably noticed our announcements about our recent partnership with Groundswell, a non-profit organization that administers group purchases for renewable energy for businesses and homes.
PEC has partnered with Groundswell, a D.C.-based non-profit organization, to offer a group renewable energy purchasing opportunity in Pennsylvania. Groundswell will negotiate on behalf of a group of purchasers to get the lowest price possible for 100% renewable energy. The larger the group, the better the price! Any renewable energy provider can participate, and the best price wins. More than 2,000 individuals have participated already, saving between 1-15% on their monthly electric bills, all while supporting clean energy!
PEC chose to work with Groundswell because instead of choosing one energy provider over another, this option allowed any renewable energy provider to bid on the group purchase. The only requirement was that the power be Green E certified.
PEC is pleased to announce that through this program it will begin purchasing 100% wind energy to power its Southwest office!
Want to get in on this deal?
In late October the rate for residential customers was announced and made available at http://act.groundswell.org/pec-0. Residential customers can choose between 100% wind options, from either national sources or Pennsylvania-produced sources. Both have fixed rates and are available with either 12- or 24-month contracts. There is no commitment until you actually sign a contract.
Sign up here to see the rates and decide if renewable energy is right for your home. But hurry—the deadline to participate is November 21st!
Voting Underway for Pennsylvania’s 2015 River of the Year
Harrisburg – The public is invited to vote online for the 2015 Pennsylvania River of the Year, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state.
Nominated are: Conewango Creek, Lackawanna River, Loyalhanna Creek, Neshaminy Creek and the Ohio River.
The website www.pariveroftheyear.org facilitates voting and offers information on nominated waterways and the River of the Year program. Voting will be managed through Woobox, an online contest application that restricts voting to one vote per email address.
POWR, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. Presented annually since 1983, this year’s 2014 designation was awarded to the Schuylkill River in southeast Pennsylvania.
“It’s really great to see how engaged people are in campaigning for their local rivers,” said PEC President and CEO Davitt Woodwell.
The Schuylkill River Greenway Association (SRGA) served as the lead organization in presenting the Schuylkill River.
“Having the Schuylkill named River of the Year gave the SRGA the opportunity to reconnect the public with the river,” said SRGA Executive Director Kurt Zwikl. “The honor highlighted the value the Schuylkill has to the region historically, recreationally, and as a beautiful and vital natural resource.”
After a waterway is chosen for the annual honor, local groups implement a year-round slate of activities and events to celebrate the river, including a paddling trip, or sojourn. The organization nominating the winning river will receive a $10,000 leadership grant to help fund their River of the Year activities.
POWR and DCNR also work with local organizations to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the River of the Year.
The River of the Year sojourn is just one of many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year. An independent program, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, is a unique series of a dozen such trips on the state’s rivers. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers.
To learn more about the River of the Year program, visit www.pariveroftheyear.org.
River Towns Gaining Traction in Southeastern PA
PEC developed the River Town program to improve the vitality, stability and prosperity of communities in distressed regions along rivers and to support outdoor recreational activity, sustainable development and conservation.
Now PEC is utilizing lessons learned to adapt this program for urban communities in southeast Pennsylvania—working with
River Town Action Teams in developing and implementing projects that benefit their communities.
Over 90 action team members meet monthly to plan programs along the trail and river that encourage community stewardship of these assets. Teams are developing signage that lead people from town to river and from trail to town. They are working to find funding for physical improvements including floating docks, art on the trail, and clearing river views. The most significant result of the program after one year is its unique ability to bring community and regional residents together and help them work toward the same goal.
The long-range goal of the Schuylkill River Towns is to follow the example of the western Pennsylvania River Towns and “graduate” our towns as a community-sustained program that exists independent of PEC’s oversight.
“Pop-Up Greenway” Focuses Community Discussion on Public Space
For one day in September, Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia, between 9th and 10th Streets, was transformed into a vibrant block with a multi-use trail, street trees, benches, art installations, food vendors, and live music.
This “pop-up” event, held on September 20th, provided a glimpse of what the proposed Spring Garden Street Greenway could be and how it will catalyze economic development and strengthen the social fabric in adjacent neighborhoods. Over 500 visitors took part in the day-long festivities, prompting organizers to deem the pop-up a resounding success.
“The Pop-Up is trying to push toward something that looks better, feels safer, is more fun, inviting, and interactive” for Spring Garden Street, said volunteer Tony Montagnaro. “It helped create an atmosphere where people can have a conversation about what’s going on with the greenway, why it’s important, and how to support it.”
While PEC organized planning meetings, the entire event, from ideas to planning to implementation, was carried out with the help of community volunteers. Their efforts attracted significant media attention and helped raise awareness of the Greenway project.
This project was an important event in PEC’s efforts to engage the community and galvanize support of residents in a discussion about the current and future use of public space. When completed, the Spring Garden Street Greenway will be a 2.2-mile connection between the Schuylkill River and the Delaware River. It will be one of the most vibrant streets and commercial corridors in the City of Philadelphia, and a quieter and safer street along which to drive, bike, or walk. The Pop-Up Greenway event was the latest example of PEC’s commitment to connecting the East Cost Greenway through Pennsylvania, providing easy access for thousands of Pennsylvanians to the out of doors.
PEC Environment Ride Set for 2015
The fifth annual PEC Environment Ride is set to take place through the roads and trails of southeastern Pennsylvania next June!
Two-day riders will gather at the Lancaster Arts Hotel on Friday, June 5, arriving via Amtrak from Center City Philadelphia. After dinner out and a great night’s rest, the Ride will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Two routes will be offered: a faster, longer 65-mile ride, and a slower, shorter 40-mile ride. Either way, you will enjoy the Amish country of Lancaster County – farm vistas, stream valleys, and covered bridges. Nearly the entire route will be on scenic country roads and bike paths, ending in Philadelphia.
Your ride will be supported throughout the weekend. You will meet new friends along the way, take in stunning scenery and enjoy a fast-paced or leisurely ride. At midday, we’ll feed you a delicious, locally prepared lunch. Both Friday and Saturday evenings, you’ll be welcomed to our hotel by volunteers who will have your gear ready. From there you’ll head to your room and enjoy a night out on the town – and dinner is on us! Everyone will eat together in one room and share stories from the road.
Similarly, one-day riders may meet at our Chester County starting point (or pay for a shuttle from a convenient location in Center City) for a light continental breakfast and safety training. Two routes will be offered, a faster, longer one 50 miles in length and a slower, shorter ride 40 miles in length with stops at cultural, historic, and natural sites.
All riders will gather in Fairmount Park with a lovely view of the Schuylkill River for a closing celebration party. Invite your friends, spouses, kids, co-workers, and donors to attend and welcome you as you ride in!
Since it began in 2011, the PEC Environment Ride has raised more than $194,000 in support of the Council’s efforts to develop trails in southeastern Pennsylvania.
For more information, click here.
Northeast Pennsylvania Environmental Partners Honors Local Programs
An audience of 300 turned out at the Northeast Environmental Partners held its annual dinner in Wilkes-Barre last month to honor programs and individuals for outstanding service to the Pennsylvania environment.
Among those honored were;
- Bernard J. McGurl of Lackawanna County received the 20th Annual Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award for his dedication and commitment to the improving the health and quality of the Lackawanna River and its 350 square mile watershed.
- Emily Rinaldi, a senior at Keystone College majoring in environmental science, received the Emerging Environmental Leader Award for demonstrating leadership, initiative and dedication to protecting and promoting a healthy environment.
Additionally, five programs from the northeastern Pennsylvania area were recognized for their achievements in environmental stewardship. They are;
- Every Drop Counts! Use a Rain Barrel Project (Wayne and Pike Counties) Starting out as a simple partnership effort, Every Drop Counts! Use a Rain Barrel Project blossomed into a tremendous educational outreach opportunity that included the entire community and drew attention to the importance of water conservation and stormwater management.
- Lackawanna Valley Trout Unlimited (Lackawanna County) Lackawanna Valley Trout Unlimited has partnered with various organizations to conduct semi‐annual river clean‐ups, install benches and habitat and restoration projects, pilot a Trout Unlimited Teens program in Lackawanna County, and conduct an all-women’s fly fishing class. Lackawanna Valley Trout Unlimited successfully secured Class A designation for two sections of the Lackawanna River as Wild Trout Exceptional Value Waters.
- Newport Township Community Organization (Luzerne County) Over the past ten years the NTCO has established the Environmental Recycling program which not only improves but positively sustains the environment. This program has become the financial backbone and leading fundraiser for the organization allowing them to continue this and many other projects throughout the community.
- Pocono Avian Research Center (Monroe County) Pocono Avian Research Center formed partnerships with local civic associations, other non-profits, educational organizations, students and volunteers to conduct research studies, service learning projects and community education workshops to find solutions for complex environmental questions.
- Women & Their Woods – Delaware Highlands Conservancy (Wayne County) Women and their Woods is a network of forest landowners and professionals who work together to cultivate women’s connections to and care of healthy forests. Forest landowners learn about forest management topics such as forest ecology, tree identification, forest hydrology, wildlife habitat, silviculture as well as network and learn from professionals and forest landowner mentors.
Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, was the keynote speaker and Dr. David Coppola, president for Keystone College, served as the master of ceremonies.
The Northeast Pennsylvania Environmental Partners is a partnership of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Northeast Office, PPL Corporation, Procter & Gamble Paper Products Company, and Wilkes University.
PEC Profile: Tony Spagnoli
Tony Spagnoli is PEC’s program manager for greenways and trails, and when he’s not working on trail development you might just find this renaissance man trying his hand in the kitchen!
Name: Tony Spagnoli
Hometown: Athens, PA
Education: B.S., Communication, Mansfield University.
Master of Urban Planning, University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee.
Began Working at PEC: September 2013
Responsibilities: Trails, trails and more trails! Particularly development of the East Coast Greenway within Pennsylvania, regional trail planning and promotion, and community outreach.
Favorite Places in Pennsylvania: Pine Creek Gorge (AKA PA Grand Canyon), Worlds End State Park, Pennsylvania’s many historical sites.
Best Trail in Pennsylvania: I’ll be diplomatic and say I love them all! The truth is Pennsylvania is blessed with such an abundance of trails that I haven’t been on a majority of them. Because I live in Philadelphia I am fond of the vibrance and natural beauty of the Schuylkill River Trail as it snakes through Fairmount Park. I also love biking on windy country roads like the ones I grew up riding in Bradford County.
When I’m not working, you’ll find me…. Spending time with my family. I have a three year old and a seven month old. My wife and I just celebrated six years married. I’m a maker of things as well. Usually those things are edible like beer, and bread. I love being outdoors both in the city of the country. You’ll find me snapping photos where ever I land.
Web site that I hit the most: Reddit – it’s my one stop shop for everything.
Growing up, I wanted to be: A marine biologist (didn’t everyone though?) and later an actor.
I’m currently in search of: An opportunity to play in a band or perform on stage. Also a good recipe for homemade capicola.