Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The DEP will hold three public hearings on these latest revisions. This is our last chance to weigh in on Chapter 78 and 78a of the PA code (78a, which addresses unconventional “fracked” wells, begins on page 121).
Add your voice at the upcoming hearings to submit concerns about the final rule and to show your support for strong drilling standards. We need our regulators to prioritize our health and communities – to reduce toxic air pollution, preserve our waterways and prevent the harmful fragmentation of our natural lands.
Listed below are a few of our comments and concerns. We continue to review the proposed rule and will incorporate updates here. You are welcome to use these points to guide your testimony. Feel free to contact us at souter-kline [at] pennfuture.org, with any questions.
PennFuture Chapter 78 and 78a rulemaking comments and concerns:
- We support the DEP’s decision to prohibit new on-site pits for storage of flowback wastewater at unconventional operations, and to require those pits that are currently in use to be closed.
- The revised rule makes clear that earth disturbance operations must comply with the agency’s Chapter 102 regulations, use best management practices for erosion and sedimentation control and stormwater management, and incorporate the agency’s forest buffer guidance. Further, unconventional well operators that propose to work in a high quality or exceptional value watershed must comply with the anti-degradation requirements of Chapter 102.These improvements will help to protect our most pristine waterways from degradation due to erosion and deforestation.
- The revised rule recognizes that schools and playgrounds are important public resources, and requires an operator proposing to locate a well within 200 feet to demonstrate what will be done to avoid or mitigate harm to that resource. PennFuture continues to have serious concerns about the impact of air pollution caused by shale gas drilling operations on our children. Young lungs are especially vulnerable to pollution and we would like to see expanded buffers around schools.
- PennFuture supports the proposal that any affected drinking water supplies must be restored either to Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards or, if pre-existing water quality was higher than SDWA standards, to the better pre-existing condition.
- While we support including a noise mitigation plan requirement, we are concerned that the provision will not result in meaningful noise reduction or control at well sites. As outlined, the noise requirement is vaguely worded and fails to set an objective standard for evaluating problems, making it difficult, if not impossible, to assess compliance.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
There is a rare bat hibernaculum adjacent to the Allegheny Tunnel, known to house the endangered Indiana bat. Now, the Northern Long-Eared bat will be another protected species in harm's way if the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission cuts an open highway gash through 1,400 acres of roosting, swarming and migratory habitat found above the tunnel. Bat populations are dwindling at an alarming rate due to white-nose syndrome and habitat degradation. Let's not make the problem worse.
Valessa Souter-Kline is western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Pittsburgh. She tweets @ValessaSK.
|Photo of Cheswick Power Plant from the author's home|
Major point source pollution makes a major impact on a community. In 2010, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Cheswick’s mortality rate was 87 percent over the national average with diseases linked to air pollution such as cardiovascular disease, COPD, and asthma. Allegheny County has some of the highest rates for asthma in the states and a growing number of cases in children.
Allegheny County currently violates federal safeguards for particulate and smog standards of the Clean Air Act.The Cheswick Power Plant is a source of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide in the county. In 2013, the plant accounted for half of the nitrogen oxide pollution in the county and was the third largest contributor of fine particles. Upgrades at the plant to limit emissions have helped but Cheswick continues to rank among the highest polluters in the county.Though not a violation, the plant's sulfur output has almost tripled between 2013 and 2014, a worrisome trend.
There are limits to the amount of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide that a power plant can emit. To meet those limits, plants can install and run pollution control technology or, in some cases, purchase credits to pollute. Currently, Cheswick’s permit allows the facility to emit unhealthy smog-forming pollution (NOx) at a rate that exceeds the capacity of the technology installed to control that pollution. Worse yet, the plant does not consistently run the pollution control technology that is installed onsite. This has contributed to the region’s ongoing elevated smog levels, which continue to violate federal safeguards.
The Title V permit for the Cheswick Power Plant expires at the end of 2015. These permits are required under the Clean Air Act to establish pollution limits for large emission sources. Environmental groups in the region are reaching out to the Allegheny County Health Department to strengthen the polluting limits of the plant. The permit will be drafted this summer and meetings will be held to collect public input. If you'd like to get involved, email Valessa Souter-Kline (souter-kline[at]pennfuture.org) or add your name to Sierra Club's email campaign to clean up the Cheswick Power Plant.
Guest post by Courtney Mahronich, Project Coordinator for the Trail Town Program and PennFuture volunteer extraordinaire. Courtney lives near the Cheswick Power Plant.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
The event is sponsored jointly by the church, the Pennsylvania Sierra Club, and Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture).
Jennifer Quinn is central Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Harrisburg. She tweets @QuinnJen1.
Filthadelphia. We’ve all heard the nickname before. It’s a moniker our city can shed if we enact smart policy solutions but, thus far, efforts to curb improper litter and trash disposal have hardly topped the list of pressing concerns dominating this mayoral season. While no one can say that schools and the economy should not be priority issues, a sound leader will be able to manage these agenda items alongside other issues that persist and add to the top tier problems the city faces.
Katie Bartolotta is southeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.