July 27, 2012

July 30 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The July 30 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print the entire Digest.

Court Strikes Down Drilling Law Limit On Local Zoning, Corbett Appeals

Commonwealth Court Thursday struck down provisions of the Marcellus Shale Drilling law enacted in February which would have further restricted the application of local zoning to drilling operations and a provision requiring DEP to issue waivers to setback requirements of the state Oil and Gas Act.
The decision leaves in tact stricter environmental standards for drilling operations and the county-adopted drilling impact fee.
One day later, Gov. Corbett announced his Administration was appealing the ruling, saying--
"The provisions struck down by the Commonwealth Court are critically important for job creators who are employing more than 240,000 Pennsylvanians, for landowners seeking to exercise their property rights, and for local governments looking for guidance on how they may reasonably regulate oil and gas operations," Corbett said. "The provisions are also integral to the enhanced environmental standards and impact fee revenue portions of the Act. Indeed, there would be no Act without each of these crucial pieces."
"It is important to note that the provisions casually set aside by the court were the result of months of compromise and negotiation, with significant input and support from Pennsylvania's local government associations," Corbett said. "Both the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, which represents 1,455 municipalities, urged passage of the law. This decision endangers the jobs of tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians and deprives citizens of their property rights.
"It is the General Assembly and Governor's prerogative to establish policy; it is the court's job to pass judgment on the constitutionality of this policy, not its merits. Act 13 clearly meets the constitutionality test, and I am confident the Supreme Court will adhere to its responsibility in a prompt and timely manner."
The legal challenge to the Chapter of Act 13 that took over municipal zoning of oil and gas operations was challenged by Delaware Riverkeeper Network and seven municipalities: Township of Robinson, Washington County; Township of Nockamixon, Bucks County; Township of South Fayette, Allegheny County; Peters Township, Washington County; Township of Cecil, Washington County; Mount Pleasant Township, Washington County; and the Borough of Yardley Bucks County.  A doctor from southwestern Pennsylvania also was a plaintiff, Dr. Mehernosh Khan.  Unfortunately the Court did not reach the physician gag rule issue, finding the doctor did not have standing.  Counsel for Petitioners are John M. Smith, Esq., Jonathan M. Kamin, Esq., Jordan B. Yeager, Esq., William A. Johnson, Esq., and Susan Kraham of the Environmental Law Clinic, Columbia University School of Law.
A copy of the decision is available online.

Friday NewsClips

1 Million Voters Don’t Have ID To Vote
Study: 14% Lack Proper Voter ID In PA
Testimony: More PA Voter ID Hurdles, Fewer Voters
Editorial: Replacing Orie- Vulakovich
Editorial: Waiting For Corbett’s Welfare Options
242,000 In PA Eligible For Students Scholarships
PA’s Smoking Law Effects Debated
Click Here for today's Environmental News

July 24, 2012

Corbett Issues Order Requiring DEP To Implement Permit Decision Guarantee Program

Gov. Corbett Tuesday issued Executive Order 2012-11, which requires the Department of Environmental Protection to immediately begin assessing how best to make timely permitting decisions.
The order establishes a Permit Guarantee Program, in which DEP will strive to make permitting decisions within established processing times for complete and technically adequate applications.
“One of the biggest complaints I have received over and over again is the time it takes for businesses, non-profit organizations and local governments to work through the permitting process,” Corbett said. “I promised to correct this, and today we are setting the wheels in motion to deliver on that promise. At the same time, DEP will continue its longstanding mission to protect our environment.
“While DEP will be working hard to become even more efficient, the new program also must make clear our expectations from those seeking permits. Full and complete applications are necessary for DEP to be able to make a timely decision without sacrificing their duty and commitment to protect the environment,” Corbett said. “Complete applications mean DEP can make a sound decision quickly.”
The order also requires DEP to coordinate the review of applications for projects with multiple permits; establish performance standards for staff engaged in permit reviews; and where possible, develop and improve electronic permitting tools.
Gov. Corbett’s Executive Order builds on Executive Order 1995-5 issued by Gov. Tom Ridge creating the Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program which put obligations on both permit applicants and DEP during the review process.
Under the 1995 Order, if DEP failed to make a decision on a permit during the required review period applicants were given their permit application fees back.  During the operation of the program, there were 22 fee refunds out of 125,000 permit actions taken through mid-2002.

Robert D. Behen, director of The Governors Center at Duke University, lauded the Money-Back Program in a 1997 article in “Governing Magazine” as evidence that a public agency can dramatically improve efficiency with the dedicate work of committed managers and staff.
Executive Order 1995-5 has been in force since 1995, although there was significantly less emphasis on the program during the Rendell Administration.
The last version of the Money-Back Guarantee Policy Guidance is available online.

Capitolwire: Credit Downgrade Adds Marginally To The Cost Of State Borrowing

Capitolwire reported Tuesday the Moody’s and Sandards and Poor’s rating services downgrade of Pennsylvania’s credit rating will only marginally affect the Commonwealth’s borrowing costs.
“In reality, just given the fact that interest rates are near zero, the marginal costs of the downgrades are not substantial,” said Budget Secretary Charles Zogby. “It adds marginal cost to the cost of borrowing. Certainly as a state we pride ourselves on well managed, well-structured debt (and) their concerns are what we are concerned with.”
He also noted pension reform was “very much on our minds” for the remaining legislative session.

Tuesday NewsClips

PA’s Voter ID Law Goes To Court This Week
Feds Seeking Data On Voter ID Law
PA’s Voter ID Law Will Be Scoured
Casey Hopes  Court Delays Voter ID Law
Hearing Set On Rep. Murphy Assault Charges
Click Here for today's Environmental News

July 23, 2012

Corbett Names James D. Schultz General Counsel

Gov.  Corbett Monday named James D. Schultz, 40, of Philadelphia, as General Counsel of the Commonwealth.
"Jim has a tremendous record of service and success in my administration, in his community and in the legal world," Corbett said. "His experience and guidance are valuable assets to our team, and his talents will suit him well as General Counsel."
Schultz previously served as First Executive Deputy General Counsel, responsible for overseeing the operation and management of the Office of General Counsel's executive office and the chief counsel offices of commonwealth agencies. Schultz was also responsible for providing legal counsel to the governor's executive staff and Cabinet members.
"It has been an honor to serve the Corbett administration as First Executive Deputy General Counsel," Schultz said. "I look forward facing new challenges and continuing to serve the governor in his effort to ensure a bright and prosperous future for all Pennsylvanians."
Schultz has spent the majority of his career handling complex litigation throughout the United States in both state and federal courts, most recently with the Cozen O'Connor law firm in Philadelphia.
In addition to his experience in private practice, Schultz served nearly three years as an aide in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  While there, he worked closely with the U.S. Attorney on the development and implementation of Department of Justice programs and policy initiatives throughout the region.
Schultz has also served the community throughout his career, taking on leadership roles for various nonprofit and community organizations in the past, including: The Stewards Alliance for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Chairman; The Christian Street YMCA, Board Member; The YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity, Facilities Committee Member; The Athletic Advantage Fund, Board Member; and American Red Cross, Delaware County Chapter, Clara Barton Ball Committee Member.
Schultz earned his bachelor's degree from Temple University and his J.D. from the Widener University School of Law.
Schultz resides in Philadelphia with his wife of nine years, Michelle Albright Schultz, and their two daughters.
Schultz succeeds Stephen S. Aichele, who recently became the Governor's Chief of Staff.

Monday NewsClips

Pension Gap Lowers PA Credit Rating
League Of Women Voters Spreading Voter ID Info
Lead Plantiff In Voter ID Lawsuit Speaks Out
Corbett Concerned Over Possible NCAA Sanctions Over Sandusky
Penn State Could Be Fined $30-$60 Million
Bumsted: The Penn State Sandusky Probe
Penn State Verdicts Could Top State Highs
Senator Protects Casinos From Reform Bills
Take-Out Beer Sales Stuck In Liquor Law Overhaul
Editorial: Towns Using State Police Get Off Easy
State Studies Role In Human Trafficking
Click Here for today's Environmental News

July 20, 2012

July 23 PA Environment Digest Now Available

July 23 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print the entire Digest.

10th Anniversary of the Quecreek Mine Rescue July 23-28.

DEP Declares Drought Watch For 15 Western PA Counties

The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday issued a drought watch for 15 Western Pennsylvania counties.
The 15 counties under the drought watch issued today are Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset, Venango, Warren and Washington.
"A hot, dry summer made it necessary to take this first step of declaring a drought watch in the affected counties," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. "This measure will alert the public and water suppliers that there are voluntary, common-sense ways to conserve."
A drought watch declaration is the first and least severe level of the state's three drought classifications. It calls for a voluntary five percent reduction in nonessential water use and puts large water consumers on notice to begin planning for the possibility of reduced water supplies.
Precipitation deficits over the past 90 days are as great as 5.5 inches below normal in Beaver County and 4.9 inches below normal in Lawrence and Mercer counties.
DEP is notifying all water suppliers in the affected areas of the need to monitor their supplies and update their drought contingency plans as necessary.
Through a cooperative program with the U.S. Geological Survey, DEP helps fund a statewide network of gages to monitor groundwater levels and stream flows. This network provides the state's drought coordinator with comprehensive data that is used to determine drought classifications.
In addition to precipitation, groundwater and stream flow levels, DEP monitors soil moisture and water supply storage. This data is shared with other state and federal agencies.
Residents can take a number of steps to conserve water, including:
-- Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets;
-- Check for household leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day;
-- Take short showers instead of baths;
-- Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40 to 50 percent less energy;
-- Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads; and
-- Keep water in the refrigerator to avoid running water from a faucet until it is cold.

DEP also offers water conservation recommendations and water audit procedures for commercial and industrial users, such as food processors, hotels and educational institutions.

These recommendations and additional drought information are available by visiting DEP's Drought webpage.
For current drought conditions, visit the U.S.G.S. Pennsylvania Drought Monitoring webpage.

Friday NewsClips

Corbett Did Not Tell Penn State Trustees Of Investigation
Editorial: Bond Rating Calls For True Pension Reform
State Jobless Rate Rises For First Time In A Year
More Hiring In PA, But Employment Mostly Stagnant
Legal Services Groups Say PA Slow To Pay Unemployment
PA Officials To Unveil New Voter ID Card
Editorial: Voter ID Law Should Be Delayed
Rep. Mike Gerber Chooses Not To Run For Re-Election
Smith Attacks Casey On Legislative Results
GOP U.S. Senate Candidate Sticks To Conservative Stance
Dent Challenger Barely Raising Money
Editorial: Taxpayers Should Not Over-Fund Charter Schools
Corbett Launches Program To Aid Small Business
Op-Ed: Why Corbett Should Expand Medicaid In PA
HBG Incinerator: From Feasilble To Financial Fiasco
HBG Receiver Asks Judge To Dismiss Council Hearing Extension
HBG Authority Appears Ruling In Waste Facility Loan Dispute
Drought Watch Declared In 15 Western PA Counties
Click Here for today's Environmental News

July 18, 2012

Rep. Metcalfe: Philadelphia Voter Fraud Report Confirms Need For Voter ID Law

Immediately following the release of City Commissioner Al Schmidt's report identifying hundreds of voting irregularities during the recent 2012 primary election in Philadelphia, House State Government Committee Majority Chairman, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), announced that there will be future hearings to consider additional solutions to combat election fraud throughout Pennsylvania.
"Commissioner Schmidt's report finally confirms what leading Democrat opponents of voter photo ID and those in the mainstream media have been denying all along," said Rep. Metcalfe. "Philadelphia is without question one of our nation's most infested epicenters for rampant election fraud and corruption."
Originally drafted to model Indiana's photo identification law, which was upheld as Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, Metcalfe's Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act (Act 18 of 2012) was signed into law by the governor on March 14.
Act 18 requires voters to present valid photo ID before voting to ensure that each legally cast vote is protected from the forces of corruption. It also requires those using absentee ballots to submit proof of identification.
"Commissioner Schmidt's findings add to the ever-growing collection of indisputable evidence proving that requiring the display of valid voter photo ID at the ballot box is essential to deterring election fraud," said Rep. Metcalfe. "Most importantly, these findings demonstrate that we must develop additional solutions that go beyond voter photo ID to stamp out corrupting influences."
Expert testimony presented to the House State Government Committee confirmed that requiring valid photo ID at the polls, as made possible through Act 18, can prevent the four most widely documented types of voter fraud, including: impersonation at the polls, fictitious registrations, double-voting and voting by illegal aliens.
Secretary Of The Commonwealth
Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele issued the following statement on the Philadelphia Voting Irregularities Report:
"As the state's chief election official, I commend Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt on his efforts to investigate alleged election crimes in Philadelphia.  His report is a chilling reminder of the many ways in which election fraud has been committed in our state. The commissioner deserves much credit for tackling this tough issue, and it is my hope that Philadelphia continues to be vigilant.
"Reading this report, it is clear that some of the alleged crimes would have been prevented if Pennsylvania's voter ID law had been in place in previous elections.  The simple act of voters showing a photo ID before they vote will help detect and deter voter fraud. Our voter ID law will help restore people's faith in our elections."
Philly Election Official Details Examples Of Voter Fraud
1 Million Pennsylvanians Lack Valid Voter ID