Pennsylvania’s Environment - 2013 Year In Review
2013 ended with a bang as the PA Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion on the Act 13 Marcellus Shale drilling law and the application of the Environmental Rights Amendment that is likely to have implications far beyond the oil and gas industry.
But there were other major milestones, anniversaries, changes and actions in 2013 as well covered by the PA Environment Digest.
2013 saw a change in leadership at the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources with the resignation of Richard Allan at DCNR and his replacement with Ellen Ferretti. Chris Abruzzo replaced Michael Krancer at DEP in April. Both Ferretti and Abruzzo were confirmed by the Senate in December.
The Executive Directors of both the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Delaware River Basin Commission also announced their retirements. Long-time SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz retired and was replaced by Andrew Dehoff. DRBC’s Executive Director Carol Collier announced her retirement in 2014.
Both Commissions have a significant role in regulating water withdrawals by the Marcellus Shale drilling industry and in the case of DRBC, managing the drilling moratorium that has been in place since December of 2011.
Carl Roe, who for 8 years served as Executive Director of the Game Commission, announced he would retire in January 2014.
Changes in leadership were also announced by several non-profit environmental groups, including Harry Campbell taking over at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA, Cindy Dunn at PennFuture and the retirement of David Mazza in the PA Resources Council’s Pittsburgh office.
In August, Caren Glotfelty, a long-time leader in Pennsylvania’s environmental community, announced her departure from the Heinz Endowments after serving 13 years as the head of environmental programs. She has been a significant force in supporting Pennsylvania non-profit environmental groups.
Another long-time leader in state parks and forests, Patrick J. Solano, was honored for his lifetime of service by having the Environmental Education Center at Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County named after him.
Pennsylvania’s environmental community also lost a number of environmental pioneers including Dr. Ruth Patrick, William M. Heenan, Bruce Leavitt, Jim Holden and Walter Lyon.
Pennsylvania celebrated the 45th anniversary of Project Scarlift and mine reclamation in the Commonwealth, a York County homeschool group won with 30th Pennsylvania Envirothon and we celebrated the 25th anniversary of both the Recycling Program and the Farmland Preservation Program and the Keystone Fund marked its 20th anniversary.
Other anniversaries and milestones commemorated during 2013 include--
-- 11th anniversary of Quecreek Mine Rescue;
-- 100th anniversary of the 1913 flood in Sharon;
-- Titusville remembers 40th anniversary of oil embargo;
-- 80th anniversary of Civilian Conservation Corps;
-- Golden anniversary of Pine Grove Furnace State Park;
-- Pinchot Institute’s 50th anniversary; and
-- A century of elk in Pennsylvania.
2013 was the eleventh year in a row environmental funding has been cut, starting with the 2003-04 budget under Gov. Rendell. So far $1.9 billion in environmental funding has been cut or diverted over the last 11 years to balance the general state budget or to support programs that could not get funding on their own.
On the positive side of the ledger, the $2.3 billion transportation funding plan signed into law in November included a $30 million increase in funding for the Dirt and Gravel Road Program and an increase in dedicated funding for the Fish and Boat Commission.
In addition, the Public Utility Commission distributed $102.6 million in drilling impact fees to local governments and another $94.7 million to state agency programs.
There were other significant environmental program milestones, changes and actions in 2013, some of which are outlined here.
DEP published a comprehensive update to Chapter 78 drilling regulations in December required by Act 13 laying out new environmental protection and permitting requirements and fundamentally changing the Marcellus Shale regulatory program.
DEP also announced the first comprehensive study in the country to look at the naturally occurring levels of radioactivity in by-products associated with oil and gas development.
The DEP Citizens Advisory Council made a series of recommendations to DEP on improving public participation in the agency, including asking the public directly for ideas on improving the process for developing regulations and policy development.
In response to the Council’s recommendations, DEP established an online Public Participation Center to make it easier for the public to learn about what issues are in front of the agency and how they can get involved.
DEP also started a biweekly online newsletter distributed by email, something the agency had not done for at least 8 years.
In another important court decision, Commonwealth Court ruled the City of Reading may no longer charge a recycling fee to support its city-run recycling program putting in doubt the fees charges by other municipalities and counties, including the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Other milestones, changes and actions of note--
-- A Federal Court turns back a challenge to Chesapeake Bay cleanup standards, but decision was appealed;
-- DEP finalizes air quality permit criteria for Marcellus gas well sites;
-- An Independent review of DEP’s Oil and Gas Program says the program well managed;
-- The Center For Sustainable Shale Development is formed to provide independent certification of drilling best practices;
-- Drilling fees fund more than $28.5 million in environmental, recreation projects;
-- Attorney General files criminal charges against XTO Energy drilling company;
-- Gov. Corbett urged DRBC to finalize drilling rules;
-- The William Penn Foundation announced the creation of a new vision for the Delaware Watershed.
--The Stroud Water Research Center forms Watershed Restoration Group to ensure water quality;
-- The Academy Of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia leads regional watershed protection efforts;
-- REAP farm conservation tax credit reduces over half million pounds of nitrogen;
-- PA’s biggest Chesapeake Bay cleanup challenge: 609 million pounds of sediment;
-- EPA agrees Lower Susquehanna River is not impaired at this time;
-- DEP proposes Nutrient Trading Program changes;
-- Rediscovered technology makes mine drainage treatment more effective, less costly;
-- DCNR, CONSOL agreement to repair mining damage to Ryerson Station State Park;
-- Corbett urges EPA to take action to protect Pennsylvania Air Quality;
-- DEP Secretary takes steps to end 10-year information drought;
-- 18 States, PA: EPA cannot dictate greenhouse gas standards for existing power plants;
-- The update of Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Plan moves to completion;
-- EQB accepted a petition from a 19-year old on setting greenhouse gas reduction goals in PA;
-- Coal production is projected to drop 25 percent and gas production to increase 800 percent in Pennsylvania by 2017;
-- 95 percent of DEP permits reviewed on time, backlog of permits cleared;
-- Keep PA Beautiful completes statewide county illegal dump survey;
-- Lancaster County preserves 100,000th acre of farmland; and
-- Game Commission film celebrates Bald Eagle restoration success.
Analysis And Opinion In 2013
The PA Environment Digest published a number of articles and op-ed pieces on environmental issues in 2013. Here is a sampling--
NewsClips:StateImpact: Top 10 Stories Of 2013 Part IV