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PennFuture Facts :: brief, interesting looks at topical environmental issues PennFuture Facts :: brief, interesting looks at topical environmental issues

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A new day in PA: 5 Things Governor-Elect Wolf Can Do In 100 Days

November 4 saw the election of York County businessman Tom Wolf as Pennsylvania's next governor. Voters spoke loud and clear -- they want a governor who will hold industry accountable -- and that means making drillers pay their fair share, and also enacting tough, new regulations on industry. 

During his campaign, Wolf said he would fight for a cleaner energy future -- and promised new air and water regulations on the gas industry. 

A powerful coalition of some of Pennsylvania's most prominent environmental organizations came together last week to congratulate Governor-elect Wolf and to spell out five things the governor should do in his first 100 days in office. The groups involved: Clean Water Action, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, PennEnvironment, PennFuture, and the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter

The organizations urged Governor-elect Wolf to prioritize the following during his first 100 days in office. 

  • Save Pennsylvania's State Parks and Forests
  • Regulate Methane and Clean Up Pennsylvania's Air
  • Plan for the Future on Climate and Energy
  • Let the Department of Environmental Protection Protect the Environment
  • Keep Our Water Safe

Save State Parks and Forests
In 2014, Corbett overturned a 2010 executive order that created a moratorium on gas leasing in public lands managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Wolf should reinstate that order and make it clear that the order applies to both state parks and state forests, and to both surface and subsurface leases. Wolf should do everything in his power to prevent natural gas development in the Clarence Moore lands of the Loyalsock State Forest.

Regulate methane and Clean Up Pennsylvania's Air
Pennsylvania ranks among the worst states in the nation for air pollution and illnesses like asthma. Currently, Pennsylvania does not directly regulate methane pollution from natural gas operations and lags behind other states in controlling air emissions. Governor-Elect Wolf should work with DEP to directly regulate methane emissions from natural gas operations. Additionally, Pennsylvania should enact a strong "Smog Rule," to limit pollutants like nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds.  

Plan for the Future
Both state and federal laws will require Pennsylvania to adopt new plans to reduce global warming pollution in the coming years. Wolf should produce climate and energy plans based on sound science and focused on rebuilding the wind and solar industries in the state.

Let the Department of Environmental Protection Protect the Environment
Wolf can reverse Corbett's damage to the DEP's commitment and ability to enforce environmental regulations. He can start by implementing the recommendations of the state Auditor General to ensure both full transparency and strong enforcement of gas drilling rules. Wolf should overhaul the DEP's permitting process for gas drilling and create mandatory enforcement penalties to ensure that public health trumps politics and profits in gas operations. Finally, he should instruct the DEP to ban fracking waste pits, a simple way to significantly reduce the health risks of toxic fracking chemicals.

Keep Our Water Safe
The Delaware River Basin Commission currently prohibits fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, from which 15 million Americans get their drinking water. Wolf should publicly restate his support for the moratorium, seek to restore the Commission's budget, and ensure that the DRBC Commissioner from Pennsylvania works to keep our water clean. Additionally, he should push the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to launch a cumulative impact assessment of fracking on the Susquehanna watershed.

Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's director of outreach and is based in Philadelphia. He tweets at @RexBainbridge.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Save Allegheny Mountain

In Somerset County, the Mountain Field and Stream Club has been hiking, hunting, fishing, and hosting community gatherings since 1936. The club owns 1,400 acres of beautiful, forested land on top of Allegheny Mountain, part of the 180-mile ridgeline known as the Allegheny Front. For decades, club members have helped care for the land by cutting trails, maintaining meadows, and stocking streams where they teach the next generation of kids to fish. 
Fall on the Mountain Field and Stream Club's land
The Club's property sits on top of the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Allegheny Tunnel. This winter, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is expected to select a "preferred alternative" for its plan to expand Interstate 76. Three out of six possible routes involve abandoning the tunnel altogether and, instead, opening up a wide, v-shaped gash through the top of the mountain - and directly through the Mountain Field and Stream Club's forests - to allow for a multi-lane highway. 

PennFuture and the Mountain Field and Stream Club are working to ensure that the Turnpike Commission does not blow a hole through Allegheny Mountain. To learn more, visit

An open cut through the mountain would create an impassable barrier, fragmenting the landscape. The Allegheny Front extends across Pennsylvania and serves as a migration route not just for birds and mammals but for plant species as well. Furthermore, the Club's land is crossed by Deeter's Run, a tributary to the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, where native brook trout are abundant. Wetlands, meadows and other essential wildlife habitat dot the property. The Turnpike Commission's proposal puts all of this at risk.  

An open cut in place of the Allegheny Tunnel would be an environmental disaster and could:

  • Destroy hundreds of acres of vital forest habitat and wetlands 
  • Eliminate important wildlife migration routes
  • Risk harming a bat hibernaculum, home to the endangered Indiana bat 
  • Damage two high-quality streams
  • Threaten the source of Berlin Borough's public water supply
Want to get involved? E-mail Valessa Souter-Kline at souter-kline at pennfuture dot org.

Valessa Souter-Kline is western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Pittsburgh. She tweets @ValessaSK.

It's (almost) party time!

The leaves have fallen, the days are shorter, and there's a bite in the air. This can mean only one thing: It’s almost time for the annual PennFuture holiday parties. Each one of our offices will be hosting a terrific event with food, drinks, good conversation, and cheer, but it won’t be much of a party without you!

In Pittsburgh, you can ask our chief counsel, George Jugovic, about our recent local zoning victory, or discuss air quality with outreach coordinator Valessa Souter-Kline. In Philly, director of outreach Andrew Sharp can tell you everything you’d want to know about methane regulations, and in Wilkes-Barre, ask our attorney Mark Szybist about natural gas development. I bet you can’t stump him! In Harrisburg, our policy director Steve Stroman can bring you up to speed on our plans to protect state parks and forests, and CEO Cindy Dunn will be attending ALL of the holiday parties, so don’t miss your chance to tell Cindy and the rest of the staff what matters to you.

There’s no denying that we couldn’t do the work we do without the support of members and friends like you. So join us, as we raise our glasses to celebrate our work and as we look forward to the new year.
Where:  The Civic Club of Harrisburg
              612 North Front Street
              Harrisburg, PA 17101
When: Wednesday, December 3, 5:00 - 7:00pm
Where:  MainStreet Galleries

              370 Pierce Street

              Kingston, PA 18704
When: Thursday, December 4, 5:30 - 8:30pm

Where:  PennFuture Pittsburgh Office
              200 First Avenue, Second Floor
              Pittsburgh, PA 15222
When: Monday, December 8, 5:30 - 8:00pm

Where:  PennFuture Philadelphia Office

             1500 Walnut Street, Suite 502

              Philadelphia, PA 19102
When: Tuesday, December 9, 5:30-7:30pm

Jen Quinn is central Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Harrisburg. She tweets @QuinnJen1.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cindy Dunn: Election was a referendum on Corbett's handling of gas industry

In the aftermath of Tom Wolf's victory over incumbent Tom Corbett, StateImpact's Susan Phillips interviewed PennFuture's CEO Cindy Dunn to discuss what this means for Pennsylvania and the environment:

On the need for comprehensive methane regulations:
Dunn says in addition to CO2, Wolf needs to tackle greenhouse gas causing methane leaks from... gas infrastructure. “Top of the list is methane leaks,” she said. 
On the need for stronger leadership at DEP and DCNR:
The perception is that [Corbett] was very lax with the regulations, relied on self-policing, and did not promote renewables. It’s interesting for me because I’ve worked in a number of administrations and it is amazing how important direction from the top is when it comes to choosing agency leaders, and communicating high expectations of serving the public.” 
On the newly reinvigorated Environmental Rights Amendment:
“When Wolf is sworn in as governor, he will swear to uphold the state constitution, which includes the environmental rights amendment,” said Dunn. “And this is something that I think he will pay attention to.”
You can check out the entire article here

Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's director of outreach and is based in Philadelphia. He tweets at @RexBainbridge. 

Cleaning up Centralia: Local organization leads the way

Centralia holds a sad spot in Pennsylvania's environmental and social history.
Back in 1962, a surface fire started in the small Columbia County borough and spread to the anthracite coal seams below. Today, after monumental and unsuccessful efforts over the decades to extinguish the fire, the once-active borough has just three remaining residents after the rest were relocated by the state. Its zip code was cancelled, old State Route 61 was closed permanently, and the now-vacant lots, driveways, and streets are being reclaimed by new growth shrubs and trees. The 400-plus-acre underground fire continues to burn, and one estimate suggests it could burn for another two centuries.

Sadly, the near-empty town has become a haven for illegal dumping. But on a recent October weekend, thanks to the wonderful organizing work of Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR) and Pennsylvania filmmaker Joe Sapienza, Jr., more than 60 volunteers came together on a sunny Saturday for a community cleanup.

Robert Hughes and Mike Hewitt of EPCAMR and their staff did inspirational work in organizing volunteers, sponsors and all of the logistics. The day's work resulted in removing at least five tons of decades-old trash and 176 tires scattered on hills, empty streets, and ravines. The day was brightened by a surprising abundance of ladybugs alighting on our clothes and hair, and the quiet was broken mostly by the sounds of birds.

As Hughes put it, "’The Town That Was’ is still a town! …We were in Centralia to honor the families that have had to move on, and to do good for those families that remain in the community...”

I found it was a strong reminder of our shared environmental history in the anthracite region and of the power of this story. It was a great day of people coming together. Another cleanup is planned for Spring 2015 and we'll be happy to help get the word out.

Kate Gibbons is the northeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Wilkes-Barre.

Philadelphia: Striving for “Zero?"

We have some exciting news on an issue of great importance in our goal of achieving zero waste in the City of Philadelphia. This Wednesday, November 12, Philadelphia City Council is holding the first ever hearing on Food Waste Recycling and we want you to be there!

Compostable materials constitute roughly 23 percent of Philadelphia's waste composition — that's 507 pounds per ton of waste. Currently, all food waste is sent to landfills in the absence of a citywide food waste recycling program. This is a missed opportunity for the City of Philadelphia.

Composting can serve a dual purpose in helping us fulfill our zero waste vision and in spurring local, sustainable economic development. It is time that Philadelphia City Council addressed this important matter.

A strong presence at this first hearing will demonstrate that a citywide food waste recycling program is a priority for the residents of Philadelphia and give us an opportunity to be active participants in the discussion from start to finish.

Citywide composting is a very complex issue — we don't expect that the particulars will be fleshed out fully in this meeting. We do, however, expect that the process around designing and implementing a plan should be transparent and participatory to ensure that all conditions and stakeholders are given full consideration.

As member of the RecycleNOW Philadelphia campaign, we know that if done right, this is an issue where everyone in Philadelphia wins. Make sure your voice is heard on composting!

Katie Bartolotta is PennFuture's Philadelphia outreach coordinator and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.