April 29, 2017

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April 28, 2017

May 1 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The May 1 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Here are just a few of the headlines--

Winners Of 2017 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards Honored At Dinner
Department of Environmental Protection and the PA Environmental Council Tuesday honored the  21 organizations across the Commonwealth receiving the prestigious 2017 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for 16 projects at a special dinner in Harrisburg.

EARTH DAY Op-Ed: Sustainable Funding For Parks, Environmental Restoration Matters
Environmental health and sustainability is a growing priority for communities everywhere.  A recent poll conducted by the National Recreation and Park Association found that most Americans want their governments to prioritize sustainable environmental practices in such things as water quality monitoring, green space assessment, urban planning, eco-friendly buildings and lawn upkeep.

PJM: States Should Create Climate Benefit Markets If They Want To Subsidize Nuclear Plants
Representatives of the PJM Interconnection made a presentation before the Senate-House Nuclear Energy Caucus Wednesday showing how electricity generation fuel sources have become more diverse and the competitive market for power run by PJM has resulted in significant benefits to  reliability and in costs for consumers.

Pittsburgh 2030 District Saves Nearly $53 Million In Energy, $4 Million In Water Costs
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday the Pittsburgh 2030 District released its 2016 annual report documenting cumulative energy savings of nearly $53 million and $4.6 million in savings from water use reduction toward its goal of reducing energy and water use by 50 percent by 2040 in downtown Pittsburgh buildings.

EARTH DAY Op-Ed: Student To Instructor-Andre Carpenter-Energy Coordinating Agency
Some people become environmentalists; others like Training Center grad and new instructor, Andre Carpenter, are born. A young man with a well-honed sense of what he wants to see in the world, like the best teachers, he leads by example.
Report: Upstream Pollution Reductions Could Ease Effects Of Conowingo Reservoir Infill
Reducing pollution in the Susquehanna River watershed could ease the environmental effects of an essentially full reservoir behind Conowingo Dam, according to a final report from the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment Team released in March.

DCNR, PA Outdoor Corps Plant Trees Along Creek In Laurel Hill State Park For Arbor Day
To celebrate Arbor Day-- April 28-- Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Friday joined young adults participating in the PA Outdoor Corps planting trees along Laurel Hill Creek in Laurel Hill State Park, Somerset County, to protect and improve water quality.

Watch The Banding Of Peregrine Falcon Nestlings Live From Harrisburg May 10
Game Commission staff will band the peregrine falcon nestlings living on the Rachel Carson Building Harrisburg from 11:00 a.m. to noon on May 10.   And you can watch it live online!

PRC Celebrates 15 Years Of Household Chemical Collection Events In Western PA
The PA Resources Council celebrates its 15th year of holding household chemical collection events by setting 2017 collection dates for household chemicals.

Center for Responsible Shale Development Recertifies Shell, CONSOL Drilling Operations
The Center for Responsible Shale Development Tuesday announced both Shell’s and CONSOL Energy’s Appalachian operations have been recertified to the Center’s 15 Performance Standards focused on responsible stewardship of air and water resources.

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.

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Questions?: Send email to David Hess at: DHess@CrisciAssociates.com

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April 27, 2017

Senate Passes Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Legislation

On Wednesday the Senate passed Senate Bill 8 (Folmer-R-Lebanon) providing for what its prime sponsor called “unprecedented asset forfeiture reforms.”
“Senate Bill 8 makes significant and unprecedented asset forfeiture reforms,” said Sen. Mike Folmer. “This is a first step towards smarter forfeiture practices and to provide at least some level of due process for property owners.”
Some of the important reforms in Senate Bill 8 include:
-- Higher burdens of proof imposed on the Commonwealth;
--Protections for third party owners by placing additional burdens of proof on the Commonwealth;
-- Improved transparency in auditing and reporting at both the county and state levels;
-- Specific and additional protection in real property cases by prohibiting the pre-forfeiture seizure of real property without a hearing; and
-- Additional procedural protections for property owners, such as returning property to the forfeiture proceeding if there is undue hardship, and an extra level of protection for anyone acquitted of a related crime who is trying to get their property back.
“Today the Senate has advanced Senate Bill 8, which will take a positive step forward to increase transparency of how forfeited funds are used, as well as raising the burden of proof required to seize assets,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati. “I am pleased to work with Senator Folmer on this issue, and hope that our colleagues in the House of Representatives will take up this important legislation in the near future.”
“I thank my Senate leadership for helping this important legislation move forward, as well as all the groups who worked tirelessly on these reforms,” said Sen. Folmer.
The bill now goes to the House for action.  A Senate Fiscal Note and summary is available.

State Worker Retirement Fund Reduces Investment Return Assumption, Adds $1 Billion To Unfunded Liability

The Board of the PA State Employees’ Retirement System Wednesday announced it has reduced the long-term investment rate of return and the inflation assumptions and continued restructuring the public markets portfolio by shifting $2.1 billion into passive investments.
Capitolwire.com reported the change in assumptions will add $1.02 billion to PSERS’ unfunded liability, which at the end of 2016 stood at $19.5 billion.
The board moved to reduce the assumed rate of return from 7.5 percent to 7.25 percent compounded annually and the annual assumed rate of inflation from 2.75 percent to 2.6 percent compounded annually, effective with the December 31, 2016, actuarial valuation to be published in June.
“Adjusting the assumed rate of return is something this board considers very carefully and reviews each year,” explained SERS Board Chairman David Fillman. “The board feels a quarter percentage point reduction in the long-term rate is right for this fund at this time and reflects a reasonable long-term target to be achieved over the next 20-30 year period.”
Turning to investment activity, the board moved to reallocate $2.1 billion of the public markets portfolio into low-cost index funds. This action will occur over time, following the strategic initiative outlined in the 2016-2017 Strategic Investment Plan (pg. 9).
Both Gov. Wolf and State Treasurer Joe Torsella have been advocating for a change to index-type funds for the last two weeks to reduce investment management costs.
For more information, visit the PSERS’ Investment Program webpage.
Wolf, State Treasurer Push Pension Agencies To Cut Investment Fees, This Week Again

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