CHESAPEAKE BAY PROTECTION AND RESTORATION

If you live in PA and are not aware of it…most of Eastern PA all the way up to New York is part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary______________________________________________
For Immediate Release             May 12, 2009

EXECUTIVE ORDER- – – – – – –

CHESAPEAKE BAY PROTECTION AND RESTORATION

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America and in furtherance of the purposes of the Clean Water Act of 1972, as amended (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.), and other laws, and to protect and restore the health, heritage, natural resources, and social and economic value of the Nation’s largest estuarine ecosystem and the natural sustainability of its watershed, it is hereby ordered as follows:
PART 1 – PREAMBLE
The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure constituting the largest estuary in the United States and one of the largest and most biologically productive estuaries in the world. The Federal Government has nationally significant assets in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed in the form of public lands, facilities, military installations, parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, and museums.
Despite significant efforts by Federal, State, and local governments and other interested parties, water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay prevents the attainment of existing State water quality standards and the “fishable and swimmable” goals of the Clean Water Act. At the current level and scope of pollution control within the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed, restoration of the Chesapeake Bay is not expected for many years. The pollutants that are largely responsible for pollution of the Chesapeake Bay are nutrients, in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus, and sediment. These pollutants come from many sources, including sewage treatment plants, city streets, development sites, agricultural operations, and deposition from the air onto the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the lands of the watershed.Restoration of the health of the Chesapeake Bay will require a renewed commitment to controlling pollution from all sources as well as protecting and restoring habitat and living resources, conserving lands, and improving management of natural resources, all of which contribute to improved water quality and ecosystem health. The Federal Government should lead this effort. Executive departments and agencies (agencies), working in collaboration, can use their expertise and resources to contribute significantly to improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Progress in restoring the Chesapeake Bay also

will depend on the support of State and local governments, the enterprise of the private sector, and the stewardship provided to the Chesapeake Bay by all the people who make this region their home.
PART 2 – SHARED FEDERAL LEADERSHIP, PLANNING, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Sec. 201. Federal Leadership Committee. In order to begin a new era of shared Federal leadership with respect to the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, a Federal Leadership Committee (Committee) for the Chesapeake Bay is established to oversee the development and coordination of programs and activities, including data management and reporting, of agencies participating in protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The Committee shall manage the development of strategies and program plans for the watershed and ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay and oversee their implementation. The Committee shall be chaired by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or the Administrator’s designee, and include senior representatives of the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Commerce (DOC), Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), the Interior (DOI), Transportation (DOT), and such other agencies as determined by the Committee. Representatives serving on the Committee shall be officers of the United States.
Sec. 202. Reports on Key Challenges to Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Within 120 days from the date of this order, the agencies identified in this section as the lead agencies shall prepare and submit draft reports to the Committee making recommendations for accomplishing the following steps to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay:
(a) define the next generation of tools and actions to restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and describe the changes to be made to regulations, programs, and policies to implement these actions;
(b) target resources to better protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary waters, including resources under the Food Security Act of 1985 as amended, the Clean Water Act, and other laws;
(c) strengthen storm water management practices at Federal facilities and on Federal lands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and develop storm water best practices guidance;
(d) assess the impacts of a changing climate on the Chesapeake Bay and develop a strategy for adapting natural resource programs and public infrastructure to the impacts of a changing climate on water quality and living resources of the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
(e) expand public access to waters and open spaces of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries from Federal lands and conserve landscapes and ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
(f) strengthen scientific support for decisionmaking to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, including expanded environmental research and monitoring and observing systems; and
(g) develop focused and coordinated habitat and research activities that protect and restore living resources and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
The EPA shall be the lead agency for subsection (a) of this section and the development of the storm water best practices guide under subsection (c). The USDA shall be the lead agency for subsection (b). The DOD shall lead on storm water management practices at Federal facilities and on Federal lands under subsection (c). The DOI and the DOC shall share the lead on subsections (d), (f), and (g), and the DOI shall be lead on subsection (e). The lead agencies shall provide final reports to the Committee within 180 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 203. Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The Committee shall prepare and publish a strategy for coordinated implementation of existing programs and projects to guide efforts to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. The strategy shall, to the extent permitted by law:
(a) define environmental goals for the Chesapeake Bay and describe milestones for making progress toward attainment of these goals;
(b) identify key measureable indicators of environmental condition and changes that are critical to effective Federal leadership;
(c) describe the specific programs and strategies to be implemented, including the programs and strategies described in draft reports developed under section 202 of this order;
(d) identify the mechanisms that will assure that governmental and other activities, including data collection and distribution, are coordinated and effective, relying on existing mechanisms where appropriate; and
(e) describe a process for the implementation of adaptive management principles, including a periodic evaluation of protection and restoration activities.
The Committee shall review the draft reports submitted by lead agencies under section 202 of this order and, in consultation with relevant State agencies, suggest appropriate revisions to the agency that provided the draft report. It shall then integrate these reports into a coordinated strategy for restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay consistent with the requirements of this order. Together with the final reports prepared by the lead agencies, the draft strategy shall be published for public review and comment within 180 days of the date of this order and a final strategy shall be published within 1 year. To the extent practicable and authorized under their existing authorities, agencies may begin implementing core elements of restoration and protection programs and strategies,
in consultation with the Committee, as soon as possible and prior to release of a final strategy.
Sec. 204. Collaboration with State Partners. In preparing the reports under section 202 and the strategy under section 203, the lead agencies and the Committee shall consult extensively with the States of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and Delaware and the District of Columbia. The goal of this consultation is to ensure that Federal actions to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay are closely coordinated with actions by State and local agencies in the watershed and that the resources, authorities, and expertise of Federal, State, and local agencies are used as efficiently as possible for the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality and ecosystem and habitat health and viability.
Sec. 205. Annual Action Plan and Progress Report. Beginning in 2010, the Committee shall publish an annual Chesapeake Bay Action Plan (Action Plan) describing how Federal funding proposed in the President’s Budget will be used to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay during the upcoming fiscal year. This plan will be accompanied by an Annual Progress Report reviewing indicators of environmental conditions in the Chesapeake Bay, assessing implementation of the Action Plan during the preceding fiscal year, and recommending steps to improve progress in restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay. The Committee shall consult with stakeholders (including relevant State agencies) and members of the public in developing the Action Plan and Annual Progress Report.
Sec. 206. Strengthen Accountability. The Committee, in collaboration with State agencies, shall ensure that an independent evaluator periodically reports to the Committee on progress toward meeting the goals of this order. The Committee shall ensure that all program evaluation reports, including data on practice or system implementation and maintenance funded through agency programs, as appropriate, are made available to the public by posting on a website maintained by the Chair of the Committee.
PART 3 – RESTORE CHESAPEAKE BAY WATER QUALITY
Sec. 301. Water Pollution Control Strategies. In preparing the report required by subsection 202(a) of this order, the Administrator of the EPA (Administrator) shall, after consulting with appropriate State agencies, examine how to make full use of its authorities under the Clean Water Act to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary waters and, as appropriate, shall consider revising any guidance and regulations. The Administrator shall identify pollution control strategies and actions authorized by the EPA’s existing authorities to restore the Chesapeake Bay that:
(a) establish a clear path to meeting, as expeditiously as practicable, water quality and environmental restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay;
(b) are based on sound science and reflect adaptive management principles;
(c) are performance oriented and publicly accountable;
(d) apply innovative and cost-effective pollution control measures;
(e) can be replicated in efforts to protect other bodies of water, where appropriate; and
(f) build on the strengths and expertise of Federal, State, and local governments, the private sector, and citizen organizations.
Sec. 302. Elements of EPA Reports. The strategies and actions identified by the Administrator of the EPA in preparing the report under subsection 202(a) shall include, to the extent permitted by law:
(a) using Clean Water Act tools, including strengthening existing permit programs and extending coverage where appropriate;
(b) establishing new, minimum standards of performance where appropriate, including:
(i) establishing a schedule for the implementation of key actions in cooperation with States, local governments, and others;
(ii) constructing watershed-based frameworks that assign pollution reduction responsibilities to pollution sources and maximize the reliability and cost-effectiveness of pollution reduction programs; and
(iii) implementing a compliance and enforcement strategy.
PART 4 – AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES TO PROTECT THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
Sec. 401. In developing recommendations for focusing resources to protect the Chesapeake Bay in the report required by subsection 202(b) of this order, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, as appropriate, concentrate the USDA’s working lands and land retirement programs within priority watersheds in counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These programs should apply priority conservation practices that most efficiently reduce nutrient and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay, as identified by USDA and EPA data and scientific analysis. The Secretary of Agriculture shall work with State agriculture and conservation agencies in developing the report.
PART 5 – REDUCE WATER POLLUTION FROM FEDERAL LANDS AND FACILITIES
Sec. 501. Agencies with land, facilities, or installation management responsibilities affecting ten or more acres within the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay shall, as expeditiously as practicable and to the extent permitted by law, implement land management practices to protect the Chesapeake Bay and its
tributary waters consistent with the report required by section 202 of this order and as described in guidance published by the EPA under section 502.
Sec. 502. The Administrator of the EPA shall, within 1 year of the date of this order and after consulting with the Committee and providing for public review and comment, publish guidance for Federal land management in the Chesapeake Bay watershed describing proven, cost-effective tools and practices that reduce water pollution, including practices that are available for use by Federal agencies.
PART 6 – PROTECT CHESAPEAKE BAY AS THE CLIMATE CHANGES
Sec. 601. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior shall, to the extent permitted by law, organize and conduct research and scientific assessments to support development of the strategy to adapt to climate change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay watershed as required in section 202 of this order and to evaluate the impacts of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay in future years. Such research should include assessment of:
(a) the impact of sea level rise on the aquatic ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay, including nutrient and sediment load contributions from stream banks and shorelines;
(b) the impacts of increasing temperature, acidity, and salinity levels of waters in the Chesapeake Bay;
(c) the impacts of changing rainfall levels and changes in rainfall intensity on water quality and aquatic life;
(d) potential impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, and their habitats in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed; and
(e) potential impacts of more severe storms on Chesapeake Bay resources.
PART 7 – EXPAND PUBLIC ACCESS TO THE CHESAPEAKE BAY AND CONSERVE LANDSCAPES AND ECOSYSTEMS
Sec. 701. (a) Agencies participating in the Committee shall assist the Secretary of the Interior in development of the report addressing expanded public access to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and conservation of landscapes and ecosystems required in subsection 202(e) of this order by providing to the Secretary:
(i) a list and description of existing sites on agency lands and facilities where public access to the Chesapeake Bay or its tributary waters is offered;
(ii) a description of options for expanding public access at these agency sites;
(iii) a description of agency sites where new opportunities for public access might be provided;
(iv) a description of safety and national security issues related to expanded public access to Department of Defense installations;
(v) a description of landscapes and ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that merit recognition for their historical, cultural, ecological, or scientific values; and
(vi) options for conserving these landscapes and ecosystems.
(b) In developing the report addressing expanded public access on agency lands to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and options for conserving landscapes and ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay, as required in subsection 202(e) of this order, the Secretary of the Interior shall coordinate any recommendations with State and local agencies in the watershed and programs such as the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, and the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.
PART 8 – MONITORING AND DECISION SUPPORT FOR ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT
Sec. 801. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior shall, to the extent permitted by law, organize and conduct their monitoring, research, and scientific assessments to support decisionmaking for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and to develop the report addressing strengthening environmental monitoring of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed required in section 202 of this order. This report will assess existing monitoring programs and gaps in data collection, and shall also include the following topics:
(a) the health of fish and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
(b) factors affecting changes in water quality and habitat conditions; and
(c) using adaptive management to plan, monitor, evaluate, and adjust environmental management actions.
PART 9 – LIVING RESOURCES PROTECTION AND RESTORATION
Sec. 901. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior shall, to the extent permitted by law, identify and prioritize critical living resources of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, conduct collaborative research and habitat protection activities that address expected outcomes for these species, and develop a report addressing these topics as required in section 202 of this order. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior shall coordinate agency activities related to living resources in estuarine waters to ensure maximum benefit to the Chesapeake Bay resources.
PART 10 – EXCEPTIONS
Sec. 1001. The heads of agencies may authorize exceptions to this order, in the following circumstances:
(a) during time of war or national emergency;
(b) when necessary for reasons of national security;
(c) during emergencies posing an unacceptable threat to human health or safety or to the marine environment and admitting of no other feasible solution; or
(d) in any case that constitutes a danger to human life or a real threat to vessels, aircraft, platforms, or other man-made structures at sea, such as cases of force majeure caused by stress of weather or other act of God.
PART 11 – GENERAL PROVISIONS
Sec. 1101. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) authority granted by law to a department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary,
administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
BARACK OBAMA
THE WHITE HOUSE,
May 12, 2009.
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Marcellus Hearing in Williamsport, PA

Anne Harris Katz attended the four-hour hearing on Marcellus gas impacts two days ago, in Williamsport.  Here are her comments:

“I was in the audience for the entirety of this hearing, the content of which is covered in the two articles below. Of all the public events I have attended on Marcellus Shale impacts, this one had the most balance among the perspectives of industry, regulators, and groups concerned about protecting the environment and economy.

The articles in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette do a reasonable job covering the approximately four hours of testimony and Q & A between testifiers and legislators. There was not time for questions or comments from the audience, but the legislators asked good questions and made useful comments. I take issue with referring to what went on in this event as a “lively debate”. This was a public hearing at which formal testimony was taken. In my estimation it was not a debate. It would be helpful for those who could not attend to have access to a transcript of everything said. ”   AHK


Here are the two links to the articles on the Sun Gazette that she mentions.

Gas industry’s potential impact on the environment discussed at public hearing

http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/542033.html?nav=5011


Impact on bay cleanup not known

http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/542034.html?nav=5011

Pennsylvania lawmakers say bill that halts drilling in Marcellus Shale aims to protect forests

By DONALD GILLILAND, The Patriot-News

March 28, 2010, 7:38PM

Pennsylvania lawmakers should learn from history and from Dr. Seuss, said Robert F. Davey Jr., a retired forester with 38 years of experience in Penn’s Woods. The state’s forests were decimated by rampant logging in the 19th century and a number of its streams were polluted by unrestricted mining, Davey said. He compared those scenarios to “The Lorax” by Seuss, the tale of a species of trees being nearly wiped out, with only one seed remaining.  Davey said lawmakers should be careful when profiting from the Marcellus gas boom “so that future generations won’t be saddled with mistakes we made because of a myopic view of natural-resource limitations or outright greed.”

To read the full article with comments, click here:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/03/pennsylvania_lawmakers_claim_b.html

Floodplain well permit violation

Muncy Creek floodplain, north of Tivoli, flooded on January 25th.

By February 21st,  XTO had a well in full operation.

Last spring, under pressure from the gas industry to speed up the permitting process, DEP took the permitting for land disturbance and run off away from the county conservation districts.  It is quite doubtful if the county’s conservation district would have permitted this site.

Although DEP took over this function they didn’t have the man power to actually do it. To compensate, any disturbance less than 5 acres can receive a permit, sight unseen, by the developer submitting plans from their own engineers.  Most well pads are less than 5 acres.

When this well is fracked, 18,000 to 20,000 gallons of toxic concentrated chemicals, (hydrochloric acid, biocides, petroleum distillates, methanol, a variety of alcohols, ethylene glycol and much more) will be brought on to this floodplain and mixed. Any spillage will end up in the creek.  Do spills happen? Ask the 17 cows in Louisiana who died horribly last spring after drinking chemicals that spilled into their pasture from an adjacent well.

Below is an excerpt from a joint letter from Trout Unlimited and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation decrying the situation.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Trout Unlimited

Call for Ban on Marcellus Gas Wells in Floodplains

Hydrofracking in floodplains is an environmental disaster waiting to happen

(HARRISBURG, PA)  —  In the rush to develop the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania, natural gas wells are being permitted and drilled in floodplains. Two such wells, one operated by Stone Energy along Wyalusing Creek in Rush Township, Susquehanna County, and one operated by XTO along Muncy Creek in Shrewsbury Township, Lycoming County already experienced flooding events.  The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Trout Unlimited (TU) call upon the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to remedy this clear environmental and public health hazard.

“The handling of fracking chemicals and highly contaminated drilling wastewater in floodplains is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.  It has to stop,” said Matt Ehrhart, executive director of CBF’s Pennsylvania Office.  “Permitting well pads in floodplains causes a very serious threat of pollution.  We call upon DEP to use its authority under the Clean Streams Law to order the companies operating these wells to permanently cap and abandon them, and then reclaim the sites to their natural condition.” (excerpt RDA)

http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=1651

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.

Foundation alleges rubber-stamping, challenges 2 gas-drilling permits

Here is an article from the Sun Gazette written by David Thompson. I find it very entertaining in a demented way that the comments Everett makes about miles and miles of state land that no one can get to, is the exact point and reason that some folks are against drilling in these areas! The other comment that caught my eye was the idea that we should allow these companies some time to get their foot in the PA door before we go taxing them. I’m no expert, but last time I checked the gas and oil industry was the only only one in this country that was making any money during this  period of  economic recession and I just can’t bring myself though any logical thought process to understand why we should give them a break on some taxes for a few years. Maybe Yaw and Everett are afraid these companies won’t be able to afford it and they’ll up and leave the state in search of another Marcellus Shale? Somehow, I highly doubt that they have any intentions of leaving before they have taken what they came for and the possibility of them not having the funding for it? Please, I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry over that one.

P.S. How come the Democrat has no timely response?

Foundation alleges rubber-stamping, challenges 2 gas-drilling permits

Environmental group PennFutures and Chesapeake Bay Foundation officials recently called for state lawmakers to abandon plans to lease state land to gas drilling companies and instead raise money for the state by implementing a severance tax on gas removed anywhere in the state.

At least two local lawmakers disagreed on both counts.

“I’m still unconvinced for the need for a severance tax,” said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy. “Maybe (it can be implemented) in a few years when the industry is up and running and producing something.”

Everett said he wants to see the industry gain a foothold in the state, then study the impacts the industry has on other types of taxes such as the corporate net income tax.

State Sen. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock, agreed.

The industry should be allowed to develop before such a tax is implemented, Yaw said.

“I don’t think there is any question that down the road when the industry is established that there’ll be a tax,” he said. “I’ve talked to people in the industry. They expect it.”

Yaw said if there was the potential for any other job-producing industry to move to the state, they would be offered incentives such as tax breaks to come here.

“You can’t have an industry come in and then tax them to death,” he said. “Now is not the right time.”

“There’s not really a huge industry to tax,” Everett said. “Basically, today a severance tax would hurt the shallow well business in the western part of the state.”

Both Yaw and Everett said leasing state land for gas exploration should be done and can be done responsibly.

“I think it would be irresponsible if we didn’t lease some state land,” Everett said. “There is a humongous amount of state land in Pennsylvania that can be developed responsibly and I think it should be.”

“I think some people get confused between (the words) ‘state forest land’ and ‘state park,'” he said. “There is just miles and miles and miles of state forest land that nobody sees. You can’t get to it right now.”

“There’s no question there is a lot of activity and a lot of equipment and a lot of things that go on for a couple months,” Yaw said. “Once drilling is completed, those sites are reclaimed. The ones I’ve seen are grass.”

Yaw said he understands concern about land disturbance related to the building of pipeline infrastructure, but added that pipelines should be installed, when possible, along pre-existing rights-of-way such as roads and power lines.

The foundation recently filed a legal challenge to the issuance of erosion and sediment control permits by the state Department of Environmental Protection to gas-drilling companies in Tioga County.

Fortuna Energy Inc. was issued a permit to move earth related to the installation of a pipeline in Jackson Township. Ultra Resources Inc. received a permit for drilling operations in Gaines and Elk townships.

The foundation contends the state is jeopardizing the bay watershed by “rubber-stamping” permits without proper review.

Foundation attorney Matthew Royer said the DEP should restore review responsibility to the county Conservation Districts. The agency took over permit review responsibilities from the districts earlier this year.

“Conservation Districts have the local knowledge and experience to review permits and manage the program,” Royer said. “What we see here is a clear failure by DEP to meet fundamental review obligations. DEP should restore (review) authority to Conservation Districts.”

“I didn’t understand why the Conservation District folks were taken out of the loop,” Everett said. “The explanation (by the DEP) was that there was uneven enforcement from county to county, but I think Conservation District folks can be trained to put an extra pair of eyes and pair of boots on the ground.”

“I don’t have a problem with the Conservation Districts,” Yaw said. “My experience is they did a good job.”

Yaw added that both the DEP and Susquehanna River Basin Commission have “been very responsive” in streamlining their permitting process “without compromising the environment.”

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, did not respond to the Sun-Gazette’s request for comment as of deadline for this report.

Williamsport Meeting

http://www.paenvironmentdigest.com/newsletter/default.asp?NewsletterArticleID=13314

There are two different meetings, both held in towns called Williamsport. One is in PA and one is MD. The above link gives information on the meeting to be held in Williamsport, PA.  My last meeting post has info about the one in MD.