August 29, 2014

Sept. 1 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The Sept. 1 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print entire Digest.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Launches Clean Water For The Keystone State Campaign
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA has launched an exciting statewide campaign-- Clean Water Counts-- urging Pennsylvania officials to make clean water a priority throughout the Keystone State, and to commit the needed funding to ensure that all 83,000 miles of waterways in the state are clean.

DEP Lists Water Supplies Damaged, High Hydrogen Sulfide Emissions From Gas Drilling
The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday released a table listing the 248 water supplies found by DEP to be contaminated by oil and natural gas drilling from 2008 to 2014, about 1.2 percent of new wells drilled during that time period.  Other complaints are still being investigated. Attorney General Issues Subpoenas On Gas Well Royalty Payments reported late Tuesday and Thursday Attorney General Kathleen Kane has issued administrative subpoenas to Marcellus Shale drilling companies across the state as part of her Office’s review of gas well royalty payment issues.

EPA Presents President’s Environmental Youth, Environmental Ed Awards To 2 In PA
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday presented the President’s Environmental Youth Award to May Wang from Bucks County and the President’s Innovations in Environmental Education Award to David Andrews of Butler County.

Outdoor Celebration For Military Families Highlights Special Recreation Event Sept. 6
Military service members, veterans and their families are invited to a free day of recreation at Gifford Pinchot State Park on September 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with the PA Parks and Forests Foundation.

Friday NewsClips

Click Here  for Today's PA Environmental News

August 28, 2014

Corbett Announces Federal Approval Of New Healthy Pennsylvania Program

Gov. Tom Corbett Thursday announced the state has secured agreement with the federal government to implement the portion of his Healthy Pennsylvania Plan that will improve and bring financial stability to the state’s Medicaid program so that the state can increase access to quality, affordable health care through the private insurance market.
“From the beginning, I said we needed a plan that was created in Pennsylvania for Pennsylvania − a plan that would allow us to reform a financially unsustainable Medicaid program and increase access to health care for eligible individuals through the private market,” Corbett said.
In order to make the necessary changes to the state’s health care system, the Corbett Administration requested over the past year a waiver and associated state plan amendments from the federal government, which were then modified based on a comprehensive public comment process across the state.
Public input included seven public hearings and two webinars statewide with more than 1,000 attendees and 170 live testimonies. The waiver was officially submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on February 19.
“Health care is not a one-size-fits-all issue; the governor’s Healthy Pennsylvania plan meets the needs of Pennsylvania,” Department of Public Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackereth said. “Gov. Corbett is the first governor to tackle much-needed Medicaid reforms since the program’s creation, with the goal of protecting Pennsylvania taxpayers and looking ahead to maintain a safety net for those who most need public assistance.”
The Healthy Pennsylvania agreement includes two parts: reforming the current Medicaid program and offering the Healthy PA Private Coverage Option for eligible Pennsylvanians.
The Healthy Pennsylvania plan focuses on personal responsibility and healthy behaviors; aligning benefits to match health care needs; promoting financial independence through access to job training and employment resources; and increasing access to private, commercial coverage for eligible Pennsylvanians.
Medicaid costs account for 29 percent of the state’s general fund budget and have been growing at an average rate of 3 percent – more than $400 million – each year. Gov. Corbett has been clear that he would not expand Medicaid because it is an unsustainable entitlement program. Instead, the Corbett Administration sought common-sense reforms to the Medicaid program.
As part of the approved waiver, the Healthy Pennsylvania PCO will be created to increase access to health care through the private, commercial market for more than 600,000 eligible Pennsylvanians. This will help to reduce bureaucracy by relying on commercial insurance carriers and offer more provider options to recipients.
Currently, nine insurers have applied as providers of the Healthy Pennsylvania PCO, offering a minimum of two insurer options in each region of the state. Enrollment is expected to begin December 1.
Healthy PA PCO and Medicaid Reform Innovations
Both components of the plan include these four innovations:
-- Alignment with Private, Commercial Health Care Benefits: The current Medicaid program will change from 14 benefit plans into “low risk” and “high risk” benefit packages that include essential health benefits and meet standards for mental health and drug and alcohol coverage uniformity. This change will better tailor health care benefits to the needs of the different populations served in the program.
A new, innovative commercial benefit plan will be offered under the Healthy PA PCO to the more than 600,000 eligible Pennsylvanians.
-- Encouraging Employment: The Encouraging Employment program will assist low-income, able bodied Pennsylvanians to improve overall health and well-being and move out of poverty. Pennsylvania is the first state to advance an incentivized employment program to reduce health care cost sharing.
-- Cost Sharing: To encourage personal responsibility, individuals enrolled in the Healthy PA PCO and Medicaid program will participate in cost sharing:
    -- Year One: Eligible individuals will pay the same Medicaid copayments that exist today.
    -- Year Two: Eligible individuals with incomes greater than 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, unless otherwise exempt, will be required to pay 2 percent of their income toward a monthly premium. Current copayments will be eliminated. An $8 copayment for non-emergency use of the emergency room will be introduced. Individuals who do not pay premiums for more than 90 days will be disenrolled, with limited exemptions from premiums for individuals meeting certain criteria.
-- Cost-Sharing Reductions: Individuals in the Healthy PA PCO and Medicaid program will have the opportunity to reduce their cost-sharing obligations by engaging in certain healthy behaviors.
Medicaid participants and Healthy PA PCO enrollees will be able to reduce their health care cost-sharing obligations through job training and work-related activities, with each participant receiving assistance to do so from a Healthy PA Career Coach.
Paying cost-sharing amounts in a timely fashion and having an annual wellness visit in the first year of the program will allow for cost-sharing reductions in the second year. In future years, completion of approved healthy behaviors will continue the cost-sharing reduction and will be reassessed every 6 months.
“The Healthy Pennsylvania plan supports independence for all Pennsylvanians, utilizes the private health care market, and increases health care choices for consumers – all without expanding an entitlement program,” Corbett said. “This is truly a Pennsylvania solution.”
The Healthy Pennsylvania Private Coverage Option is contingent upon continued funding from the federal government.
For more information, visit the Healthy PA website.
Feds OK Corbett’s PA Medicaid Proposal

Sen. Fontana Supports Ride-Share Companies At PUC Hearing

Urging the Public Utility Commission to grant ride-share companies Uber and Lyft permanent operating licenses, Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) Thursday testified that the businesses provide citizens more transportation options, access and flexibility.
“Ride-share is an exciting transportation alternative that will revolutionize Pennsylvania’s transportation industry for years to come,” Sen. Fontana said in testimony before the PUC.
“To me, new business models such as ride-share make good use of cutting edge technology to help bridge some of the gaps, shortfalls and shortcomings in Pennsylvania’s public transportation network. It’s not fair or sensible to limit or ban these new alternatives from reaching their potential in our state.”
In July, Sen. Fontana introduced legislation-- Senate Bill 1457-- that would legalize, regulate and mandate that these new transportation network companies operate safely in Pennsylvania.
For example, the bill would require ride-share companies to establish driver training programs, have a zero tolerance alcohol and drug use policy, have adequate liability insurance coverage, implement a thorough background check system and maintain detailed records.
Sen. Fontana’s bill would also mandate that ride-share drivers have an updated photo in plain view; and ban drivers from picking up passengers who attempt to “hail” the vehicle while in use.
Senate Bill 1457 is currently under consideration in the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.
“As new transportation options and alternatives continue to make their way to Pennsylvania, I am hopeful my legislation can serve as a model for encouraging growth, while seeing to it that public safety remains the top priority,” Sen. Fontana testified. “Hopefully, the full Senate will act on Senate Bill 1457 when it reconvenes in September. The sooner we can enact the necessary safeguards and oversight, the better it will be for companies that offer ride-share services – as well as for people who rely on this new transportation option.”
The PUC is holding the hearings over Uber and Lyft’s request for a permanent license to operate in Allegheny County. Citing a no legal authority to operate under Pennsylvania law, the PUC ordered Uber and Lyft to cease and desist operations in June. At Fontana’s urging, the PUC earlier this month granted the companies emergency temporary authority to operate in Allegheny County for 60 days.
Uber and Lyft, and other ride-sharing service companies, use a software platform that enables riders to connect with drivers using smartphone technology.  The driver and rider connect and a fee is charged for the transportation.
PUC Grapples With Brave New Transportation World

Thursday NewsClips

Poll: Wolf Widens Lead: The August 2014 Franklin & Marshall College Poll of Pennsylvania registered voters shows little has changed in the Governor's race since June. Gov. Corbett is trailing his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, 49 to 24 percent, compared to 47 to 25 percent in June.  A majority of voters (61 versus 59 percent in June) continues to believe that the state is “off on the wrong track,” and only one in four (26 percent in both surveys) believes Gov. Corbett has performed sufficiently well to deserve re-election.
Click Here  for Today's PA Environmental News

August 26, 2014

PUC: Agenda For Aug. 28 Transportation Issues En Banc Hearing Now Available

The Public Utility Commission Tuesday issued the agenda for its en banc hearing Thursday, August 28 that will examine issues in the state’s transportation industry.
The hearing will be held at 9 a.m. in Hearing Room 1 of the Commonwealth Keystone Building, 400 North St., Harrisburg. The five PUC Commissioners will be presiding.
The public is invited to attend. The hearing also will be streamed live on the Commission’s website.
During the hearing, speakers are asked to highlight or summarize positions on current issues in the transportation industry and whether the Commission’s transportation regulations should be updated to address these matters. The issues include:
— Adequacy of driver integrity regulations;
— Adequacy of vehicle safety regulations;
— Adequacy of current insurance requirements;
— Elimination of the need standard;
— Rules for “Transportation Network Companies;”
— Enforcement of the Commission’s transportation regulations; and
— Geographic scope of authority.
The PUC has established a webpage for information and issued a Secretarial Letter outlining the process for the hearing as well as a comment period, which will close September 11. Interested parties who were not asked so speak as part of the hearing are invited file comments at docket number M-2014-2431451 for the Commission’s consideration.
The Commission will use the hearing to gather information as to whether existing transportation regulations should be revised or otherwise updated for the future. Participants will not be permitted to address any matters that are the subject of a contested docketed proceeding currently pending before the Commission.

Tuesday NewsClips

Click Here  for Today's PA Environmental News