Here is a link to the 2008 Bureau of Water annual report.

http://www.hbgauthority.com/Monthly%20Reports/Water/2008%20Bureau%20of%20Water%20Annual%20Report.pdf

And here is a link to a consumer confidence report by United Water for 2008.

http://www.unitedwater.com/uploadedFiles/Localized_Content/UW_Pennsylvania/50/UWPA_Harrisburg_Consumer_Confidence_Report.pdf

Neither of these reports has direct information regarding the gas industry but there is some good information about water in PA and where it comes from, especially if you do not live in a rural area. Just some FYI as well as a few eye openers here and there that we rarely think about, yet drink every day. There are also some interesting findings on bottled water in PA especially in places like State College. Voices of Central PA, a public newspaper out of Centre County, is currently working on some research regarding this. Check out their website for details although the articles may not be up on the web yet.

Well permit fees rise in PA for the first time in 25 years

Hey, if they can hire more staff with this money maybe we’ll actually get a water specialist in north central PA within the next 5 years!
October 28th, 2009 by the gantdaily.com

DEP Announces New Oil and Gas Well Permit Application Fees Will Cover Cost of Permitting, Enforcement

First Fee Increase since 1984 Affects All New, Non-Marcellus Shale Wells

HARRISBURG– The Department of Environmental Protection has begun collecting higher permit application fees for all traditional vertical non-Marcellus Shale oil and natural gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania to cover the cost of the agency’s permitting and enforcement work.

According to Secretary John Hanger, the new fees based on well length and type replace a flat $100 fee established in 1984.

Under the new structure, which went into effect Oct. 26, vertical wells with a bore length up to 2,000 feet will now have a base permit cost of $250 with an additional $50 applied for each additional 500 feet of length.

“We have seen record growth in the number of oil and natural gas drilling permit applications over the past six years, and with the rapid development of the Marcellus Shale formation, we needed to establish a permit fee structure that will support the cost of permitting and inspecting both types of drilling operations,” Hanger said.

“The money generated from the new permit fees is allowing us to hire new staff at our Pittsburgh, Meadville and Williamsport offices to better manage and monitor the drilling industry as it expands into new areas of the state.”

The new fee structure for traditional vertical wells follows new fees the department imposed for Marcellus Shale wells in April. Marcellus Shale wells employ a horizontal drilling technology and, as such, are not considered vertical wells.

Marcellus Shale and non-vertical wells have a base permit cost of $900 for the first 1,500 feet of bore, with an additional cost of $100 for every 500 feet beyond that length.

Through Oct. 23, DEP issued 5,333 oil and natural gas drilling permits this year—1,516 of which are for the Marcellus Shale formation.

Of the 1,944 wells drilled in 2009, 403 are Marcellus Shale wells. The department has performed 10,365 inspections of drilling sites during that period.

Since 2005, DEP has issued 2,112 Marcellus Shale permits and there have been a total of 660 Marcellus Shale wells drilled.

DEP Revokes Erosion and Sedimentation Control Permits for Two Gas Companies

 

http://www.ahs2.dep.state.pa.us/newsreleases/default.asp?ID=5710&varQueryType=Detail

Three erosion and sediment permits have been revoked by the DEP in Tioga and Potter Counties. Above is the information at DEP’s website and it gives details about which companies and which sites are having these problems and why. The good part here is that the DEP was finally able to do something about these permits. The sad part is that they are permits that went into effect a couple of months ago and it has taken this long for lawyer Matt Royer from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to acquire the ability to do something about it. This is truly a huge problem and could have been avoided had the ability of the local conservation districts to review permits not been taken out of their job descriptions! I am happy that they are finally able to do something about it. I know the local folks in the DEP here have been very frustrated by this.

Here are a few more links about this issue from various newpapers.

http://www.thedailyreview.com/news/dep_revokes_three_permits_issued_to_ultra_resources_and_fortuna_energy

http://www.stargazette.com/article/20091028/NEWS01/91028017/Pa.+agency+revokes+erosion+permits+for+Fortuna+Energy++Ultra+Resources+

NCRO Weekly Report

NORTHCENTRAL REGIONAL OFFICE-WILLIAMSPORT

WEEK OF OCTOBER 26-30, 2009

Issues Requiring the Governor’s (or Governor’s staff) ACTION

 

Nothing new to report

 

Issues Requiring the Governor’s (or Governor’s staff) ATTENTION

 

Nothing new to report

 

Management and Productivity

 

Nothing new to report

Recovery Activities

 

DEP ARRA Grants Workshop, City of Williamsport, Lycoming County: Office of Energy and Technology Deployment Manager Dave Shimmel was invited by the Larson Design Group to present an overview of DEP grants funded by ARRA and the commonwealth.  On Oct. 27, Shimmel provided a PowerPoint overview and distributed handouts of the various DEP and DCED energy grant programs to more than 60 persons.  The audience consisted of contractors, local government officials, equipment vendors and technical consultants. A representative from PPL was also present to give a presentation on the company’s Act 129 plan.  (Dave Shimmel 570-327-3568)

 

What’s Hot/Major Actions

Ultra Resources Inc. and Fortuna Energy Inc. Permit Revocations, Gains, Elk, Jackson and Ward Townships, Tioga County and Pike and Abbott Townships, Potter County: On Oct. 28, the Oil and Gas program revoked three erosion and sedimentation control permits previously issued to Ultra Resources Inc. and Fortuna Energy Inc. due to technical deficiencies. The program also sent notice of violation letters to the three licensed professionals who prepared the applications. The permit revocations mean that the two gas exploration companies must immediately halt all earth disturbance activities at the sites except those necessary to install or maintain erosion and sediment control or post-construction and site restoration best management practices. Neither company is eligible to re-submit notices of intent requesting the expedited permit process for those locations. These three permits were appealed to the Environmental Hearing Board by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in August and September, prompting DEP to re-examine the permits to determine if they met the Chapter 102 requirements.  In its letter to the three licensed professionals, DEP advises them that additional enforcement action may be taken against them, including possible referral to the Department of State, Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs for disciplinary action.  (Jennifer Means 570-321-6557)

Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, Oregon Township, Wayne County: On Sept. 23, the Oil and Gas program received aerial photos depicting an area of leafless trees extending down gradient from the corner of a gas well pad located in Oregon Township.  The Robson well pad is operated by Chesapeake Appalachia LLC.  The well is drilled and shut in.  On Sept. 24, Oil and Gas program staff initially inspected the Robson well pad and the associated area of concern.  Based on this initial visual inspection, there was no evidence of a surface impact to the area with leafless trees, but the DEP inspector indicated the need for additional subsurface sampling.  DEP staff re-inspected the location on Oct. 15, collected soil samples that had a UV-IR analysis.  This analysis tests for the presence of petroleum products.  During this inspection, a faint petroleum odor could be detected in the soil where the DEP inspector disturbed the subsurface.  Sample results received on Oct. 22 confirmed the presence of a weathered petroleum product in these soil samples.  Chesapeake has been notified of the DEP sample results and the company has initiated an ongoing investigation at the well pad location.  DEP and Chesapeake have scheduled a meeting to discuss this issue on Oct. 29.  (John Ryder 570-327-0533)

 

Chief Oil & Gas LLC, Penn Township, Lycoming County: On Oct. 21, the Oil and Gas program finalized a $2,100 civil penalty with Chief Oil & Gas for past violations at the company’s Bower Unit 1H natural gas well site located in Penn Township.  On May 7, DEP conducted an inspection of the well site in response to a citizen complaint of a potential spill onto an adjacent farm field.  A Chief employee informed DEP that a subcontractor working at the well site had caused a spill while pumping drilling mud from one tank to another.  The spill of the drilling mud onto the ground was reported to Chief by the subcontractor to be insignificant and cleaned up.  Chief never reported this spill to DEP.  Chief submitted analytical results on June 12 of barium and chloride testing conducted on four soil samples, three from inside the spill site, and one from outside the spill site.  The analytical results indicated the barium and chloride levels to be within acceptable levels.  (Jennifer Means 570-321-6557)

Potential Problems/Potential Major Actions

 

Nothing new to report

 

Good News/Major Accomplishments

 

Fred Carson Disposal Services Inc., College Township, Centre County: On Oct. 28, the Waste Management program received a $2,000 civil penalty from Fred Carson Disposal Service Inc. for waste transporter violations.  A waste vehicle inspection was conducted at the Dale Summit Transfer Station in College Township, Centre County, on Sept. 9.  Carson owned two vehicles–a packer truck that did not have an operational record and a roll-off container truck that had a leaking load.  (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

 

Gerald Lane, Troy Township, Bradford County: On Oct. 21, the Waste Management program received a $2,113 civil penalty from Gerald Lane for violations of the Pa. Solid Waste Management Act.  In June, Waste Management staff observed a large plume of smoke from a distance and responded to a fire at Lane’s property in Troy Township.  At the time of the investigation, Lane was burning a barn that contained household waste, waste tires, a mattress, a propane tank and construction/demolition waste.  Lane was attempting to extinguish the fire but he was not making adequate progress and the Troy Fire Department responded to extinguish the fire.  Lane disposed of more than five tons of solid waste at the Bradford County Landfill from the clean up of the ash residue and remaining waste from the fire.  (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

 

Outreach/Upcoming Events

 

Act 537 Meeting, Centre Region Council of Governments, Centre County: On Oct. 26, Robert Everett, Daniel Thetford, and Robert Boos of the Water Management program’s Sewage Facilities Planning section, met with the planners of the Centre Region Council of Governments (COG).  The COG represents State College Borough, and College, Ferguson, Halfmoon, Harris, and Patton townships.  The COG has undergone some turnover in staff over the last few years as has the Sewage Facilities Planning section.  The purpose of the meeting was for new faces to meet and to have discussion on the historical, current and possible future developments in sewage facilities planning.  Topics of discussion included special protection waters/anti-degradation requirements; Chesapeake Bay Strategy requirements; review of sewage planning modules and their acceptable uses; Act 537 base plans and updates; current and alternate technologies in on-lot sewage disposal; soil and geology of the Centre Region; and the role of municipalities in the sewage planning process, among others.  The meeting was productive and appreciated by the COG. (Robert Boos 570-327-3399)

Central Pennsylvania Bankers Annual Roundtable Meeting, University Park, Centre County: Office of Energy and Technology Deployment Manager Dave Shimmel was invited by the Pa. Small Business Development Center to provide a PowerPoint overview of state energy programs to a regional banking group.  Shimmel highlighted those energy grant programs that would likely benefit from loan support and participation by these central Pennsylvania banking entities.  Twenty six persons were in attendance at the Oct. 23 session held at the Centre County Visitors Center.  (Dave Shimmel 570-327-3568)

Benton Area School District Biomass Project, Benton Borough, Columbia County: On Oct. 26, the Benton Area School District took one of the final steps in closing out its Pa. Energy Development Authority grants with a preview of its recently completed biomass boiler. The biomass unit is located in a renovated central heating plant that supplies hot water to both the junior/senior high school and the Appleman Elementary School.  The two PEDA grants totaled $700,000 towards an overall project value of just under $2 million. The project will save 45,000 gallons per year of No.2 fuel oil with projected savings of more than $90,000 even using the most expensive biomass fuel.  The system has the capability of firing a variety of biomass fuels such as wood chips, switchgrass or corn.  Office of Energy and Technology Deployment Manager and project advisor Dave Shimmel used the occasion to conduct a final site visit in conjunction with the eventual grant close out.  More than 40 persons attended the event.  (Dave Shimmel 570-327-3568)

Recertification Inspection, Milesburg Borough, Centre County: On Oct. 27, Emergency Response Manager Gerald McKernan participated with the PEMA Act 165 Hazmat Team recertification inspection for Eagle Towing and Recovery. Eagle’s Hazmat Team is contracted to Centre, Clearfield and Clinton counties in the Northcentral Region and several counties in Southcentral Region.  McKernan was tasked with reviewing their air monitoring instrumentation, calibrations records for each instrument, along with a demonstration of operation and data interpretation.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

 

Act 2

Basalla Property Act 2 Site, Snowshoe Township, Centre County: On Oct. 23, the Environmental Cleanup program approved an Act 2 Final Report that demonstrated attainment of the Statewide Health Standards (SHS) for soil and groundwater.  On Dec. 18, 2008, 250 gallons of kerosene was released when a valve on an aboveground storage tank was inadvertently knocked open during a fuel delivery by Lucas Oil Company.  Soil downslope and in the former septic leach field were contaminated by the release.  About 120 gallons of kerosene flowed to an unused septic tank that was located downslope of the storage tank.  About 124 tons of contaminated soil was excavated in late December 2008 and early January.  Soil samples were collected and demonstrated attainment of the SHS.  Water with kerosene pooled on top was encountered in the excavation closest to the storage tank.  The kerosene/water mixture from the excavation and unused septic tank was removed and properly disposed.  Groundwater characterization was conducted by installing one monitoring well within the former excavation.  All results were below the SHS.  (Randy Farmerie 570-327-3716)

Bailey Property Act 2 Site, Mt. Carmel Township, Northumberland County: On Oct. 23, the Environmental Cleanup program approved an Act 2 Final Report for the Bailey Property located in Mount Carmel Township.  During a delivery of home heating oil by Duke Oil, a seam ruptured on a 275-gallon aboveground storage tank releasing about 160 gallons.  Minuteman Spill Response, Response Environmental Inc., and Marshall Miller & Associates conducted the remedial activities at the site as well as the submission of the Final Report.  About 60 tons of contaminated soil was excavated and 22 soil samples collected as part of the cleanup activities.  Post-excavation soil sample results indicated that the diesel fuel compounds of concern were below DEP’s Residential Statewide Health Standards for soil, and the site received an Act 2 relief of liability.

(Randy Farmerie 570-327-3716)

Costy’s Used Truck and Auto Parts Act 2 Site, Richmond Township, Tioga County:  On Oct. 20, the Environmental Cleanup program approved the Act 2 Final Report for the Costy’s Used Truck and Auto Parts property along old Route 15 just south of Mansfield.  The final report demonstrated that the Site-Specific Standard had been attained for soil and groundwater on the 30-acre site.  On July 25, 2003, DEP had previously approved an Act 2 Final Report for a 7-acre portion of the auto salvage yard, also for the Site-Specific Standard.   Lowe’s Home Centers Inc. purchased six tax parcels and will retain 26 acres with two lots being subdivided for other commercial development.  The site will be developed into a Lowe’s Home Center retail store and will include a new public water line to service the store.  An environmental covenant was established for the deeds of the affected properties that restricts the use of groundwater and limits the use of the properties to non-residential purposes.  (Larry Newcomer 570-327-3418)

NPDES Majors Backlog Status

 

Number of Overdue Permits-0

Number of Permits Issued This Week-0

Number of Permits Newly Expired This Week-0

(Chad Miller 570-327-3639)

 

Items for the DEP Planning Calendar

 

Nothing new to report

NYC watershed may yet be saved

Here’s an article from the New York Times with some good/interesting information about not drilling for gas in the NYC watershed.
By JAD MOUAWAD and CLIFFORD KRAUSS

Published: October 27, 2009

Bowing to intense public pressure, the Chesapeake Energy Corporation says it will not drill for natural gas within the upstate New York watershed, an environmentally sensitive region that supplies unfiltered water to nine million people.

The reversal seems to signal a more conciliatory tone from the gas industry, which is facing mounting opposition in New York to its drilling practices. The decision also increases the pressure on state regulators to reverse their decision to allow drilling within the watershed.

“We are not going to develop those leases, and we are not taking any more leases, and I don’t think anybody else in the industry would dare to acquire leases in the New York City watershed,”. Aubrey K. McClendon, the chief executive officer at Chesapeake Energy, said in an interview on Monday in Fort Worth. “Why go through the brain damage of that, when we have so many other opportunities?”

He spoke on the eve of the first scheduled hearing on proposed state rules governing the drilling, on Wednesday in Loch Sheldrake in Sullivan County.

Chesapeake, one of the nation’s biggest gas producers, is the largest leaseholder in the Marcellus Shale, a subterranean layer of shale rock that runs from New York to Tennessee. The shale is believed to hold substantial natural gas reserves.

But extracting gas from shale relies on a method called hydraulic fracturing that has stirred broad concerns. Water, laced with chemicals, is blasted down gas wells at high pressure to break the rock and allow gas to flow out more easily. The technology has vigorously expanded in recent years, allowing for enormous growth in the nation’s natural gas reserves.

But the concerns include the use of chemicals, the disposal of wastewater and the danger of leaks and spills into groundwater and deep aquifers. There also has been a string of explosions from Wyoming to Pennsylvania.

Under energy legislation passed in 2005, the industry won an exemption from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Chesapeake acquired 5,000 acres in the watershed when it bought Columbia Natural Resources a few years ago, and it is currently the only leaseholder in the area.

Over all, Mr. McClendon said, the company’s holdings in the watershed are “a drop in the bucket” compared with the Marcellus field’s potential. He suggested that Chesapeake had more to lose by drilling there than by forgoing it, even though he contended such drilling would do no harm.

“How could any one well be so profitable that it would be worth damaging the New York City water system?” he said.

But Chesapeake and other companies are still expected to drill for gas in areas of the state outside the watershed.

State officials have been eager to embrace the drilling because of its potential economic benefits, especially in the current downturn. This month, the state’s environmental agency said it would allow companies to drill throughout the state, imposing few specific limits on operations.

The proposed regulations, which were requested last year by Gov. David A. Paterson, do not ban drilling in the watershed, as many New York City officials and environmental advocates had urged, but would require buffer zones around reservoirs and aqueducts.

Gas industry representatives say the rules, if enacted, will be among the most restrictive in the country. Opponents say they would be inadequate to prevent contamination.

The New York watershed is an area of about one million acres, representing 4 percent of the state’s total surface. Thanks to gravity, water from the region’s rivers and streams flows to six reservoirs in the Catskills, and then, through a series of aqueducts and tunnels, to the taps of New Yorkers. This system provides unfiltered drinking water for half the state’s population, including 8.2 million people in New York City and about one million people in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.

Some New York City politicians welcomed Chesapeake’s decision and said they hoped it would have a broader impact. “To proceed with drilling doesn’t make any business sense and doesn’t make environmental sense, and I think Chesapeake understands this, and I am happy they have come to that decision,” said James F. Gennaro, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection. “If only we could get the state government to come to the same realization. It is strangely ironic.”

Chesapeake’s announcement was also praised by environmental advocates. They said the company’s position should encourage the state to reverse its decision and impose an outright drilling ban throughout the watershed.

“When the industry says it will not drill in the watershed, it sends a strong message to state regulators that drilling there is inappropriate,” said James L. Simpson, an attorney at Riverkeeper, an environmental group.

Hydraulic fracturing pumps huge volumes of water laced with chemicals like benzene into the shale to break it and release the natural gas. The process has been linked to contamination of water wells and the death of livestock exposed to potassium chloride, one of the chemicals used.

State environmental regulators have said they saw no “realistic threat” to water quality that would warrant a drilling ban in the two watersheds in the Catskills region. Their review noted that the city controlled a large amount of the land surrounding the reservoirs and could deny permission to drill in those areas.

In addition to the forum on Wednesday, hearings on the state’s proposed regulations are scheduled Nov. 10 in New York City, Nov. 12 in Broome County and Nov. 18 in Steuben County.

Chesapeake said it had started to publicize the chemical components of the fluids it uses during drilling, down to the percentages for each chemical used since last year, acknowledging criticism that companies had not been transparent enough. “The industry is moving quickly to complete disclosure,” Mr. McClendon said.

What, we have regulations in PA?

Once again the gas industry representatives make note that having drilling regulations for natural gas at the federal level is ridiculous because it is already regulated at the state level…….except that states like PA can’t seem to regulate it at a state level! But what can you expect when the governor and various other politician’s elections have been paid for and supported by the natural gas industry. They would like us to think that it is “that simple” because that would make things simple for them all the way through this 30-50 year process. The Frac Act needs to happen sooner rather than later.

House caucus hopes to call attention to natural gas resources

Thursday, October 22, 2009
By Daniel Malloy, Post-Gazette Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — “We are swimming in natural gas,” declared billionaire oil man T. Boone Pickens at a House of Representatives hearing yesterday.

And Pennsylvania is the deep end of the pool.

The Marcellus shale deposits constitute enormous potential for domestic fuel production, and Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, formed a natural gas caucus in the House to call bipartisan attention to the issue.

At the caucus’ first hearing yesterday — borrowing a room from the Science and Technology Committee — the keynote witness was Mr. Pickens, whose high-profile “Pickens Plan” advocates energy efficiency and domestic resource production as near-term goals.

“Natural gas is going to be the bridge to the next transportation fuel,” Mr. Pickens said.

Mr. Pickens said the United States is home to the equivalent of 350 billion barrels of oil in domestic natural gas reserves, and much of that is in Pennsylvania. Penn State professor Robert Watson estimated that in 10 years, the Marcellus shale could generate 175,000 jobs per year and $13 billion in the commonwealth.

In order for that to happen, the gas advocates argued against strict regulation for the industry and for incentives to promote the fuel.

Ray Walker, vice president for Marcellus shale driller Range Resources, said federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas, would be a mistake, because it is already regulated at the state level and, he claimed, is environmentally sound when done correctly. He also argued against a proposed change in tax accounting methods for the industry.

Mr. Pickens said government can promote natural gas by giving incentives for companies to switch their diesel trucks to run on the cleaner-burning fuel over time. Such a measure, he said, can cut America’s oil imports in half.

“I went to the White House and they said, ‘It can’t be that simple,’ ” Mr. Pickens said. “But it is that simple.”

Advancing legislation is not that simple.

Natural gas is not addressed in the Waxman-Markey climate change bill that narrowly passed the House in June, and Mr. Murphy introduced a bill in May pushing for more efficiency and domestic fuel production from natural gas and offshore oil rigs — but it went nowhere.

He’s still holding out hope that some provisions for natural gas can make it into a final compromise energy bill, as the Senate has yet to move very far on climate change.

Mr. Murphy was able to bring in Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., as co-chair of the natural gas caucus, which now boasts 45 members, Mr. Murphy said. More than a dozen congressmen from both parties attended the hearing — including Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Centre.

“This is what I think the nation expects us to do,” Mr. Murphy said after the hearing.

“There was no jockeying for position there. Everyone just wants to be on board. We have almost a 50-50 split of Republicans and Democrats, and we expect it’s going to continue to grow.

“This is good news. You’ve got people who, if you didn’t know what initial was after their name, you couldn’t tell, in terms of what questions they were asking, the support that they were offering and the optimism that they feel for America. That’s really something.”

Funding Cuts Mean Potential Collapse of Environmental Oversight in Pennsylvania

October 15, 2009
Press Release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation expressed grave concern over environmental funding cuts in the recently adopted Pennsylvania budget that threaten to further reduce Pennsylvania’s commitment to clean up rivers and streams, and fail to provide much-needed environmental oversight and funding to limit impacts from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

“The budget approved last Friday rolls back years of progress in cleaning up Pennsylvania rivers and streams.” said Matthew Ehrhart, Executive Director of CBF’s Pennsylvania office. “It contains the biggest cuts ever made to environmental programs in the history of the Commonwealth.”

The new state budget reduces the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) personnel by $21.1 million, representing over 300 people responsible for implementing the agency’s environmental protection duties. The inequity of these cuts is stark—the 26.7 percent reduction in the DEP budget was nearly triple the average 9 percent cut other state agencies took in this budget.

“Not only has state government cut the Department of Environmental Protection by over 26 percent, it has failed to find the over $600 million in funding DEP says is needed by farmers and others to meet the mandates of the federal Clean Water Act to cleanup the watersheds contributing pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, Ehrhart said.”

The cut to DEP staff raises significant concerns about whether the agency can conduct basic and mandatory environmental protection duties. Without adequate staff, permits necessary for new business activity will not get reviewed and issued.

“Without the boots on the ground, full enforcement of environmental laws will not occur,” Ehrhart said.

Drastic cuts were also made to the only new resource the state has contributed to clean water in the last six years, namely the Resources Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) farm conservation tax credit program, which was cut by 50% to $5 million this year.

In addition to cuts at DEP, the already understaffed conservation districts, a key player in water cleanup efforts, were cut by $600,000.

“Without the on-the-ground help provided by the conservation districts, not only can’t we spend the state dollars we have for farm conservation work, we will not be able to take full advantage of funding available through the federal Farm Bill to help our farmers install conservation practices.”

The new budget also eliminates completely the modest $2 million available for county stormwater management planning, another key element in reducing nutrient pollution from runoff, and reduces basic sewage planning and enforcement by 40 percent.

These cuts exacerbate a trend of cuts to critical clean water programs seen in the last several years which total almost half a billion dollars. They include:

  • $376 million reduction in grants to support wastewater treatment plant operations over the last six years;
  • $100 million diverted from the Growing Greener Program to pay for other programs and pay down the debt on bonds; and
  • $5 million cut from the highly successful REAP farm conservation tax credit this year.

Another environmental funding crisis looms as Growing Greener funding will run out in 2010, leaving a gaping multi-million dollar hole that must be filled.

“We believe many of these clean water funding gaps can be filled through the adoption of a severance tax on natural gas production being developed by out-of-state companies in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas fields,” said Ehrhart. “These companies stand to make billions of dollars over the next several decades exploiting a Pennsylvania natural resource just like coal, timber and oil companies did in the past. This time, we need to be smarter and require these companies to contribute so that impacts to our land and water resources caused by their exploitation can be offset.”

Instead of passing a severance tax, lawmakers and the Governor agreed to open up our state forest lands to more drilling. While a valiant effort championed in the House of Representatives successfully limited the scale of this drilling, the severance tax ultimately did not meet demands of the Senate, nor the Governor, who had originally called for a severance tax as part of his initial budget proposed back in February. Yet the Marcellus Shale gas boom continues at an unprecedented rate, and environmental impact is mounting. In September, DEP ordered Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to cease drilling operations after three separate chemical spills polluted streams and wetlands and caused a fish kill in Susquehanna County.

“In order to ensure the protection of our rivers and streams and prevent a battle over our public lands every year, we call upon the General Assembly to pass a severance tax as soon as possible,” said Ehrhart.

“Balancing budgets in tough economic times means establishing priorities, holding the line on spending, being creative about new revenue sources, and cutting non-essential funding,” said Ehrhart. “But the cuts made in this budget fail to prioritize both federal and state mandates to clean up our most precious, fundamental resource—our water. Our state government is not doing the job it is required to do by law and we all will pay the price for years to come.”

http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=1453 This is the link to their website if you want more info or want to know more about the organization themselves. They also have a quarterly publication called “Save the Bay” that has an article about the gad drilling crisis. You can download it from their site or actually join the organization and get the quarterly publication in the mail.