September 30, 2016

October 3 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The October 3 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Here are just a few of the headlines--

The PA Independent Oil and Gas Association, representing conventional well operators, Friday delivered a letter to the Joint House Senate Committee on Documents objecting to the publication of DEP’s final Chapter 78a Marcellus Shale drilling regulations, now scheduled for the October 8 PA Bulletin.

Harry Campbell, executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania, issued this statement Wednesday after Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware) introduced Growing Greener III legislation that would provide $315 million a year for environmental conservation, recreation, and preservation projects in the Commonwealth.

Ad Crable on reported Friday Exelon Generation will provide Lancaster and York conservation districts each with $225,000 annually to help pay for on-farm conservation measures to help cleanup the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The funding is part of its commitment to $31 million in recreational and project initiatives as part of the Conowingo hydroelectric and Muddy Run pumped storage generation facility license renewals.

The Coldwater Heritage Partnership Wednesday announced it is now accepting applications for its two Coldwater Conservation Grant Programs to help protect and conserve the health of Pennsylvania’s coldwater ecosystems.  Applications are due December 16.

The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Monday recognized state and tribal abandoned mine land programs and mine operators who have innovated and performed notable reclamation of surface coal mines.  Two Pennsylvania projects were recognized by OSM—

By: Robert Hughes, Executive Director, Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation
The RECLAIM Act, currently before Congress, is an opportunity to create both immediate and permanent jobs in communities facing severe economic hardship due to the loss of coal mining jobs and lagging local economies.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful awarded 25 grants of up to $1,000 for community improvement projects in three focus areas of Prevent It, Clean It, or Keep It to tax-exempt groups across Pennsylvania.
Grants were awarded in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Blair, Cambria, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Huntingdon, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, McKean, Northampton, Philadelphia, Potter and York counties.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced it is accepting applications for approximately $7 million in rebates to public school bus fleet owners to help them replace or retrofit older school buses.  Applications are due November 1.

The Department of Environmental Protection is considering or approved 43 applications for natural gas-fired power plants* since January 2014 totaling 17,140 megawatts of electric generation capacity.  That capacity could entirely replace the 12,683 megawatts of coal-fired electric generation capacity now in Pennsylvania.

The Public Utility Commission Tuesday announced it will kick off its statewide annual PA “Be Utility Wise” events in October and November.  The theme for this year’s campaign is “Who to Turn To” – focusing on increasing community awareness of essential utility assistance programs.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Thursday posted its second Fall foliage report showing expected dates when the best forest colors can be found.  Fall foliage visitors can also get suggestions about the best spots to view foliage on DCNR’s Penn’s Woods Fall Foliage Story Map.

To read the Digest, visit:  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.

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PA Gaming Board Releases Annual Report On Diversity In Casino Industry

The PA Gaming Control Board Friday released its 9th Annual Diversity Report providing a description of each casino’s activities related to the implementation of their diversity plans and the action taken by the entities to achieve the Commonwealth’s goal of enhanced representation of diverse groups in the gaming industry.
Highlights from the Report are described in the bullet-points below:
-- Pennsylvania’s ten casinos and two resort casinos collectively employed over 18,000 persons at the close of the state fiscal year of 2015-2016;
-- 89 percent of casino employees are residents of Pennsylvania;
-- 43 percent of these employees are female while 36 percent are racial minorities; and
-- Casinos spent $573.7 million in 2015-2016 with other businesses for construction and non-construction expenses.
The 2015-2016 Diversity Report also provides casino-by-casino information for items such as employment trends over a four year period by race and gender and a detailed breakdown of minority, women, and local business expenditures.
A copy of the report is available online.
Related Story:
PA Gaming Board Releases 2015-16 Annual Report

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September 29, 2016

Three New Superior Court Judges Sworn Into Office

Three people were sworn in as the newest judges of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania during a special ceremony Thursday in Philadelphia.
Judges H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., Carl A. Solano and Lillian Harris Ransom were administered individual oaths of office by Superior Court President Judge Susan P. Gantman.
The investiture took place at noon in the Lincoln Room of the Union League of Philadelphia. Gov. Tom Wolf and dozens of fellow jurists from the federal, state and county levels attended — including Supreme Court Justices Kevin M. Dougherty and Sallie Updyke Mundy.
The three newest Superior Court judges were appointed this summer by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate to fill vacancies on the bench.
“These are excellent additions to our bench, who will allow us to continue to provide the timely delivery of justice in one of the nation’s busiest intermediate appellate courts,” President Judge Gantman said.
Judge Moulton had served as deputy general counsel since January 2015 in the Office of General Counsel, an agency that represents three dozen executive and independent agencies across the Commonwealth. Prior to that, he was a federal prosecutor for eight years and a Special Deputy Attorney General.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and a law degree from Columbia University School of Law.
Judge Solano had chaired the appellate practice and communications and media practice groups at a Philadelphia law firm prior to serving on the bench. He also has handled cases on matters of state and federal constitutional law and health care.
He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Scranton and a law degree from the Villanova University School of Law.
Judge Ransom served in the family division of the Philadelphia court system from 1996 to 2002 during which time she served as the statewide chair of the Model Dependency Court Project. She has presided over the court’s criminal trial division since leaving the juvenile division.
A recipient of numerous community service awards, Judge Ransom earned a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and a master’s degree from Temple University. She earned her law degree from St. Louis University School of Law.

Attorney General Beemer Promotes 3 Agents, Senior Attorney To Key Positions

Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer Thursday announced promotions for four senior employees who have collectively served the Office of Attorney General for many decades.
Amy Zapp has been promoted to the position of Senior Executive Counsel to the Attorney General.  David Ellis, Anthony Sassano and Robert Drawbaugh have been promoted to the position of Special Agent in Charge.
Ellis will lead the Bureau of Special Investigations, Sassano will lead the Bureau of Narcotics Investigations and Drawbaugh will lead the Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
"Dave, Tony, Bob and Amy are respected throughout the Office of Attorney General," Attorney General Beemer said. "They are all talented professionals who have long been assets to this office. I am confident they will continue to provide the leadership and integrity that have helped them earn the respect of their colleagues."
Amy Zapp
Zapp has been a Deputy Attorney General since 1978. Her tenure with the Office of Attorney General includes nearly 20 years in the OAG's Civil Law Division, where she primarily worked on cases involving state prisons and state agencies in the criminal justice system.
She was part of a team of attorneys that successfully fought the appeals of Lisa Lambert, a woman serving a life sentence following her conviction for the gruesome 1991 murder of her romantic rival in Lancaster County. The case garnered considerable attention, including from the national media.
Zapp in 2005 represented the Commonwealth before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Rompilla v. Beard, in which a convicted murderer challenged his conviction using the argument that his counsel failed to properly present mitigating evidence.
Recently, Zapp has successfully represented the Commonwealth in the case of Chester v. Wetzel, a class action in which death row inmates challenged the lethal injection process on the grounds that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Zapp in 1999 joined the OAG's Criminal Law Division, where she worked on capital litigation. She was appointed in 2003 to the position of Chief Deputy Attorney General of the OAG's Appeals and Legal Services Section.
Since 2009, she has served as the Chief Deputy Attorney General of the office's Special Litigation Section.
A Wilkes-Barre native, Zapp studied French at Wilson College, where she earned her bachelor's degree. She is a graduate of the Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law.   
David Ellis
Ellis joined the Office of Attorney General in 1990. He has worked in many roles, including as a supervisory special agent in the Environmental Crimes Section, supervisor of the Clandestine Lab Enforcement Unit, Deputy Chief of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Regional Agent in Charge of OAG BNI Region V, which is tasked with investigating narcotics trafficking in North Huntingdon and the surrounding areas.
Ellis was tasked to lead the investigation of the 2002 Quecreek Mine collapse in Somerset County. A rescue effort led to the safe rescue of nine miners who were trapped underground for more than three days.
A statewide investigating grand jury that probed the matter produced a report that recommended changes to improve the mining regulatory system to ensure the safety of coal miners in Pennsylvania. The investigation involved the testimony of 38 individuals and the review of thousands of documents.
Prior to joining the OAG, Ellis worked for the Altoona Police Department, where he served as a patrolman and later worked on vice and narcotics cases. He earned his Act 120 certification from the State Police Southwest Training Center.
Ellis will take over for David Peifer, whose retirement from the Office of Attorney General will take effect September 30.
The Bureau of Special Investigations was formed to support the investigative, regulatory programs and prosecutorial efforts of all of the various entities within the OAG Criminal Law Division.
BSI includes the units and programs that provide expertise and support in the areas of child predator investigations, intelligence gathering and analysis, special operations agents, computer forensics, electronic surveillance and technical support. BSI staff also provides training, research and planning programs.    
Anthony Sassano
Sassano has worked for the Office of Attorney General since 1999. He was the lead agent on the team that investigated and successfully prosecuted convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky.
Since 2012, Sassano has served as the Regional Agent in Charge of the OAG BNI Region IV that investigates narcotics trafficking in State College and the surrounding 14 counties. In this role, Sassano has led successful investigations of complex narcotics distribution rings and other drug traffickers.
He also has worked as the coordinator for the Blair County Drug Task Force.
Prior to joining the OAG, Sassano worked for 20 years at the Altoona Police Department. He worked for seven years as a patrolman and 13 years as a detective.
He was the lead detective in the case of James Franklin Rodgers, a Blair County man who was convicted in the 1988 fatal stabbing and robbery of a 72-year-old Altoona resident. The case was one of the first cases in Pennsylvania in which there was a judicial determination that DNA evidence is admissible.    
Sassano studied at Penn State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in law enforcement and corrections.
Attorney General Beemer thanked Barbara Connelly-Sessamen for her work as the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Narcotics Investigations. She will continue to serve the OAG as the Regional Agent in Charge of BNI Region VIII, which investigates narcotics trafficking in Erie and the surrounding areas.
The primary mission of the Bureau of Narcotics Investigations is to conduct comprehensive investigations into the illegal activities of drugs traffickers operating throughout the Commonwealth.
Robert Drawbaugh
Drawbaugh joined the Office of Attorney General in 2004. Prior to joining the office, he worked for 27 years at the Springettsbury Township Police Department in York County. During his tenure there, Drawbaugh spent 13 years working in the criminal unit, where he investigated a wide array of crimes, including homicides, thefts and child abuse cases.
After joining the OAG, Drawbaugh worked as an agent in the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. He was the lead agent on the "Bonusgate" investigation, which uncovered the illegal use of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and resources for political campaign work.
Recently, he has worked on the office's investigations of Harrisburg's finances and clergy sexual abuse that occurred within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.   
Drawbaugh since 2012 has worked as the supervisory special agent overseeing the Bureau of Criminal Investigations Criminal Prosecutions Section in Harrisburg. He also previously supervised the OAG's Harrisburg Child Predator Section. Drawbaugh is a graduate of the State Police Municipal Police Academy.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigations is tasked with conducting comprehensive investigations into organized crime, public corruption, insurance fraud, environmental crimes, child exploitation crimes and suspected violations of the Commonwealth's Medicaid Fraud statutes.