October 30, 2015

Nov. 2 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The November 2 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Here are just a few of the headlines--

On Tuesday the five voting members of DEP’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board adopted a motion to move DEP’s Chapter 78 (Conventional)  and 78A (Unconventional) drilling regulations to the Environmental Quality Board for final consideration, with industry comments.

The voting members of DEP’s Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee Thursday adopted a resolution urging DEP to restart the rulemaking process for the Chapter 78 and 78a drilling regulations that have been under development since the Act 13 drilling law was adopted in 2012.

Last Monday, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council wrote to all members of the Pennsylvania Senate expressing its objections to House Bill 965 (Godshall-R-Montgomery) that would make it much easier for the General Assembly to block state agency regulations and statements of policy.

More than two dozen commenters participated in the fourth meeting of Gov. Tom Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force Wednesday held at DEP's Southcentral Regional Office in Harrisburg.  
Recommendations by members of the 11 workgroups are due November 2.  A draft report will be available for public comment on November 6.  The group’s final report is due to Gov. Wolf by February 2016.

The Penn State Master Well Owner Network had another successful year of education for private water system owners across Pennsylvania.  MWON is a volunteer program dedicated to providing unbiased, research-based education for the millions of private water well owners in Pennsylvania.

By Harry Campbell, Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA Office Director
As you find time to put away deck furniture, winterize gardens, and give the lawn its last good mowing, consider adding native plants to the landscaping. They can pay dividends for years to come.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Wednesday announced there was a 50 percent reduction in cigarette litter at the facilities of the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority in Erie County as a result of implementing a Cigarette Litter Prevention Program.

The PA Waste Industries Association and the PA Recycling Markets Center will host the 2015 PA Recycling Industries Congress in the Capitol Building Harrisburg on November 17 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

As part of its 13th year of “Prepare Now” education efforts, the Public Utility Commission Thursday urged utilities to take extra steps to help consumers – especially those on limited and fixed incomes – to prepare for winter heating costs.

(Budget Pumpkin: Eric Heisler, WHTM-TV photojournalist.)

To read the Digest, visit: www.PaEnvironmentDigest.com.  Click Here to print the entire Digest.

PA Environment Digest is edited by David E. Hess, former Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and is published as a service of Crisci Associates.

Additional Tools--
Click Here to sign up to receive the Digest directly by email.
Click Here for a Calendar of Upcoming Events.
Click Here to search back issues of the Digest.
PA Environment Digest Twitter Feed: Update on PA environmental issues.
PA Environment Daily Blog: Update on PA environmental issues.
Green Works In PA Google+ Circle: Update on PA environmental issues.
Questions?: Send email to David Hess at: DHess@CrisciAssociates.com

Friday PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Click Here for Updated Clips & PA Environmental News
Add Green Works In PA To Your Google+ Circle

October 29, 2015

Senate Committee Approves Bill Targeting Sanctuary Cities

The Senate Local Government Committee Wednesday amended and reported out Senate Bill 997 (Alloway-R-Franklin) that would prevent municipalities from hindering federal efforts to deport illegal immigrants who pose a danger to Pennsylvania communities.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Adams), targets “sanctuary cities” that refuse to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement for persons of interest who are arrested by local authorities.
Under the bill, governing bodies such as counties or municipalities would be prohibited from adopting rules or ordinances that contradict federal immigration policy. Municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration policy would not be eligible for state grants for law enforcement purposes and could be sued for negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who subsequently committed another crime.
“Cooperation with federal customs officials is the surest way to accomplish two goals shared by members of both political parties – promoting safer communities and holding criminals accountable for their actions,” Sen. Alloway said. “It is essential to draw a sharp distinction between those who come to our communities with good intentions and those who would do us harm. There is no good rationale for thumbing our nose at the federal government in order to protect criminals who have no legal right to be in our state or our country.”
Sen. Alloway introduced the proposal after the issue gained national attention when San Francisco resident Kathryn Steinle was shot by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico with seven felony convictions who has been deported five times.
Due to the municipality’s policy not to report Sanchez’s incarceration to the appropriate federal agency, he was promptly released just prior to Steinle’s murder.
A sponsor summary of the bill is available.
Senate Bill 997 was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) serves as Minority Chair.

Thursday PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

A new Franklin & Marshall Poll released Thursday found 62 percent of voters believe the state is on the wrong track, an 8 point increase from 2 months ago.  Only 36 percent said Gov. Wolf was doing a good or excellent job, but 51 percent blamed state legislators for the ongoing budget impasse.
51 percent said indicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane should resign.
71 percent of voters say they support increases taxes on smokeless tobacco and cigars, 67 percent favored a tax on natural gas.  Only 25 percent supported an increase in personal income tax and 34 percent supported an expanded sale tax.
52 percent of Democratic voters prefer Hillary Clinton and only 18 percent of Bernie Sanders.  23 percent favored Trump and 22 percent supported Ben Carson.  Jeb Bush was down at 3 percent.
Click Here for Updated Clips & PA Environmental News
Add Green Works In PA To Your Google+ Circle

October 28, 2015

Special Senate Committee On Kane Establishes Website, Email

The bipartisan Special Committee on Senate Address Wednesday announced the creation of a new website to present information from the Committee. The Committee will conduct a thorough and deliberative review of the issue of whether the Attorney General is able to serve in her position under a suspended law license.
The website will provide audio and video links for future public meetings and/or hearings. The site also will serve as a resource for Committee information including the Pennsylvania Constitutional provisions, the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, Rule 217 of the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, the Supreme Court order suspending Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s law license, as well as other information of relevance.
While the website will provide materials pertaining to the Committee, there will also be a Committee email address for the submission of information by the public.
The Senators encourage individuals who wish to submit information to the Committee regarding operations of the Office of Attorney General do so using the Committee’s new email address: senateaddress@pasen.gov.
For more information, visit the Special Committee on Senate Address website.

LCB Reports Record Sales For Fiscal Year 2014-15

The Liquor Control Board Wednesday released unaudited financial results for fiscal year 2014-15 that reflect record sales of $2.34 billion including sales and liquor taxes, a 4.2 percent increase over the prior year.
Net profit would have totaled $132.8 million, 2.5 percent more than last year, had accounting changes altering the agency's income statements moving forward not been implemented for fiscal year 2014-15.
Year-end cash and short-term investments increased $20.7 million, from $241.2 million to $261.9 million.
Net cash generated by operating activities totaled $139.1 million for the fiscal year. Such positive cash flow means the PLCB is in an excellent position to provide a transfer of at least $80 million in profit to the General Fund this year.
The PLCB also deposited $334.4 million in liquor tax and $130.2 million in state sales tax into the General Fund last fiscal year. Nearly $8.5 million in local sales tax was turned over to Philadelphia and Allegheny County.
Release of the year-end financials was delayed this year due to new pension liability reporting changes effective for all government employers this year as required by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, as well as workers' compensation actuarial valuation changes.
These changes, along with increases in the commonwealth's other post-employment benefit liabilities, required additional time for the Office of the Budget and the Comptroller to finalize year-end financial statements and may cause delays in future years.
This is the first year for the Commonwealth to report pension obligations on Pennsylvania's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and it is the PLCB's first year reporting its share of the obligation as required by the GASB's Statement #68.
The PLCB is the only Commonwealth enterprise fund whose financials are separately reported in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Therefore, the State Stores Fund is the only fund to separately report its share of the Commonwealth's unfunded pension obligation and changes to the unfunded obligation as expense or income on its fiscal year 2014-15 financial statements.  
For the year ending June 30, 2015, the PLCB's pension obligation was determined to be $362.7 million, 2.9 percent of the state's total unfunded pension liability of $12.3 billion.
In addition to requiring the PLCB to record its share of the commonwealth's unfunded pension liability, GASB #68 also requires that annual changes in the liability and other actuarial assumptions be reflected against the fund's net income.
State Employee Retirement System actuaries determine these adjustments after the close of the fiscal year. A charge of $16.8 million was recorded to the PLCB's net income for fiscal year 2014-15 as a result of this new GASB reporting requirement.
The Commonwealth is self-insured for workers' compensation benefits.  In 2014, a new method for determining agencies' contribution rates – one that relies more heavily on each agency's actual claims experience and requires every agency to contribute more to build up reserves – was implemented across the commonwealth.  This change doubled the PLCB's workers' compensation expenses.
Additionally, the Commonwealth's new insurance examiner determined the commonwealth as a whole had been insufficiently contributing to its self-funded workers' compensation liability and increased the total liability for the fund by $160.5 million to $861 million.
The combination of workers' compensation changes resulted in a $19.4 million increase in workers' compensation accrued expense for fiscal year 2014-15.
The Commonwealth's total costs for funding retirees' medical benefits were $341 million for fiscal year 2014-15, and the PLCB's portion of that expense was $13 million.
The net impact of all three benefit accounting and reporting changes, all outside the PLCB's control, totals a $49.2 million reduction in net income.
As a result, net income for the year totaled $83.6 million, down $40.1 million from the prior year.
Comparing against restated fiscal year 2013-14 financials using the same approach and methodologies, the PLCB ended fiscal year 2014-15 with net revenue of $132.8 million, a record amount, despite growing personnel costs.
The PLCB regulates the distribution of beverage alcohol in Pennsylvania, operates more than 600 wine and spirits stores statewide and licenses more than 20,000 beverage alcohol producers and retailers.
Taxes and store profits – totaling more than $14.5 billion since the agency's inception – are returned to Pennsylvania's General Fund and provide financial support for the State Police, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, other state agencies and local municipalities across the state.
More information will be posted on the Liquor Control Board website.