Yaw Bill Limiting Firefighter Exposure to PFAS, Safeguarding Environment Passes Full Senate

HARRISBURG – A bill establishing statewide uniform requirements restricting the use of “Class B” firefighting foams containing added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for training purposes and testing was approved today by the full Senate, according to prime sponsor Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), Chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

Senate Bill 302, known as the Firefighting Foam Management Act, would restrict the use of foam containing PFAS chemicals beginning July 1, 2022 and direct the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), in consultation with the State Fire Commissioner, to assist firefighting entities with evaluating and determining how to transition to the use of class B firefighting foam that does not contain a PFAS chemical.  The legislation would not impact the continued use of firefighting foams during emergency situations. 

“Firefighters can face an extremely higher level of PFAS exposure compared to other emergency responders,” Sen. Yaw said.  “PFAS contamination is a national public health challenge, and this bill is a commonsense response, which has already been adopted by many states.  This bill will undoubtedly protect firefighters moving forward, while also safeguarding our ground and surface water from contamination.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.

If approved, Pennsylvania would follow Colorado, Kentucky, Virginia and Washington that have enacted laws banning the use of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foams.  The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

For more state-related news and information visit Senator Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.

Senate Approves Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal

The Senate today (June 14) approved, by a solid 35-15 bipartisan, veto-proof vote, a bill introduced by Senator Joe Pittman (R-41) that would require Legislative approval of the Governor’s proposal to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Senate Bill 119, which creates the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act, specifically prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from joining RGGI – or any similar pact — without Legislative approval.

The bill was supported by every Senate Republican and six Democrats: James Brewster, Wayne Fontana, Marty Flynn, John Kane, Tina Tartaglione, and Lindsey Williams.

“A carbon tax is a major energy and fiscal policy initiative that – if it is to be imposed on Pennsylvania employers – must be approved by the General Assembly. Beyond the severe financial impact this tax would have on coal and gas electric generation and consumers, it also creates serious constitutional questions of checks and balances between co-equal branches of government,” said Senator Pittman. “Senate Bill 119 restores that balance by requiring legislative approval before Pennsylvania imposes a carbon tax on employers operating in the Commonwealth.”

Under Senate Bill 119, the DEP would be required to publish its RGGI legislation in the PA Bulletin and provide a public comment period of at least 180-days. During the comment period, DEP would be required to hold a minimum of four public hearings in locations that would be directly affected economically by the proposal.

Following the public comment period, DEP would be required to submit a report to the House and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committees detailing the specific economic and environmental impacts that joining RGGI would have on impacted communities, the Commonwealth, and the PJM Interconnection region.

Since Pennsylvania’s deregulation of electricity, 19 coal-fired electric generating units (EGUs) have or are in the process of closing or converting to natural gas. If Pennsylvania adopts a carbon tax by joining the RGGI, the remaining coal-fired EGUs would be forced to close instead of paying hundreds of millions in additional taxes.

On October 3, 2019, Governor Wolf directed the Department of Environmental Resources (DEP) to join RGGI — a collaboration of 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. If Pennsylvania joins RGGI, it would be the only major energy producing state in the compact.

The RGGI states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia) set a cap on total Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power generators in their states. Power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance” for each ton of CO2 they emit.

Senate Bill 119 mirrors the language of Senate Bill 950 and House Bill 2025 that were introduced during the last Legislative Session. The Governor vetoed House Bill 2025 – which had received bipartisan support in both chambers – last September.

Audio of Senator Pittman’s comments from the Senate floor on his bill.

Contact:          Jeremy Dias                jdias@pasen.gov

Senate Agriculture Committee Approves Yaw Conservation Assistance Bill

Listen

HARRISBURG – Legislation creating a new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program was unanimously approved today by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, according to Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) who prime sponsored the bill.

If funded, Senate Bill 465 would provide additional technical support to expand on-farm conservation practices throughout Pennsylvania, including high-priority areas such as the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

“Agriculture is looked to for significant reductions to meet pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay and other major watersheds in the state,” Senator Yaw said. “Unfortunately, almost one-third of our commonwealth’s streams do not meet standards for drinking, fishing or recreation, and agriculture remains one of the largest sources of impairment. To meet the challenges, I have again introduced legislation to establish an Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program.”

The proposed plan would work similarly to the State Conservation Commission’s Dirt and Gravel Roads program. Funding would be distributed to county conservation districts throughout the commonwealth using a formula that benefits all parts of the state, while directing additional resources to areas with the greatest opportunity for improvement. Conservation districts would then partner with farmers and landowners in their communities to complete the conservation projects that make the most sense locally.  Funding could also be allocated using federal dollars. 

Earlier this year, Senator Yaw joined Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert; Shannon Gority, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Pennsylvania office; and local farmer Andrew Flinchbaugh for a press conference in York County to champion the bill.  To watch the press conference, click here.

For more state-related news and information visit Senator Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.

Senator Yaw

Senator Yaw spoke Monday on his bill, Senate Bill 465, that will create a new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program, during a meeting of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. 

 

 

Killion Pipeline Legislation Highlighted in PUC Administrative Decision

Bill would require pipeline operators share emergency response plans with PUC

In an initial decision regarding a leak from the Mariner East I (ME1) pipeline in Berks County, a Public Utility Commission (PUC) Administrative Law Judge cited Senate Bill 284, sponsored by Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester & Delaware) as a potential remedy to the question of what confidential security information pipeline operators are required to share with county emergency planning officials.

“County emergency officials must have the information they need to make sure first responders can effectively react to an emergency,” said Killion. “Currently, pipeline operators have the authority to decide what is or is not confidential security information. That’s unacceptable.”

Killion’s legislation would mandate pipeline operators provide current Emergency Response Plans to the PUC which could be responsibly and confidentially shared with county emergency services agencies for the purpose of coordinating a response to a pipeline incident. 

In mid-2019 it was reported that approximately 95 percent of an emergency management plan recently submitted to Chester County by Energy Transfer Partners for its Mariner East II pipeline was redacted.

“The plan submitted to Chester County was effectively worthless,” said Killion.

The reference to Killion’s legislation came in a December 18, 2019 Initial Decision in Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement v. Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. regarding an alleged incident involving a leak of highly volatile liquids of ethane and propane from the ME1 pipeline in Morgantown, Berks County on April 1, 2017.  It is one of a number of pipeline-related cases before PUC administrative judges.

“The legal basis for withholding this critical safety information is that the information could be accessed by competitors or those wishing to commit acts of terrorism,” noted Killion. “Our county emergency service directors are responsible, dedicated professionals. And clearly not competitors nor those who would do harm.”

“I’m gratified by this Initial Decision and its implications for the other pipeline-related cases under consideration. Protecting residents, their homes and property is my number one priority as an elected official, and I’ll vigorously fight actions that endanger those in the vicinity of these pipelines.”

Senate Bill 284 was approved by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee in June of last year and awaits consideration by the full Senate. Killion is hopeful the bill will receive a floor vote later this year.

PA Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee Advances Three More Bills to Full Senate

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), today held a voting meeting to consider and report three measures to the full Senate, including bills to promote stream cleaning, increasing the cap on grants for household hazardous waste collection events and requiring DEP to forward notices of noncompliance.

In his opening comments, Senator Yaw highlighted the bills on the agenda, starting with Senate Bill 679, which directs the Environmental Quality Board to develop regulations that authorize counties to adopt a program for “stream cleaning” and maintenance and the removal of obstructions and flood-related hazards from local waterways.

“Maintaining our streams and waterways has been an issue across my Senate District for years,” Sen. Yaw said.  “Just like we take care of roads, we need to have a program that takes care of our streams.  In recent years, there have been a number of instances where microbursts have created all kinds of issues, a lot of which are created due to obstructions in the streams.  We need to have them properly maintained and this bill will provide a framework.”

During the meeting, the Committee also considered Senate Bill 766, a measure updating the state’s household hazardous waste collection program.  The bill increases the cap on grants for household hazardous waste collection events during each fiscal year from $100,000 to $250,000.

Additionally, House Bill 476, which requires DEP to forward notices of noncompliance from the US EPA under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to the municipality where the violation occurred, was also considered.

All three measures were approved and reported to the full Senate for consideration. 

For more committee-related news and information visit https://environmental.pasenategop.com/, Senator Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.

 

Sen. Gene Yaw and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell (left) listen to Joe Reighard, Chairman of the Gamble Township Board of Supervisors, Lycoming County, during a tour of area streams and waterways, as well as surrounding infrastructure projects last year.

 

 

CONTACT:  Nick Troutman, Executive Director
(717) 787-3280

 

 

 

Senators Unveil RGGI, Carbon Tax Legislation

 

Senators Joe Pittman (R-41), Gene Yaw (R-23) and David G. Argall (R-29) and other legislators today (November 19) unveiled and discussed bills that will be introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives addressing Governor Wolf’s proposal to have Pennsylvania enter into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

On October 3, Governor Wolf directed the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join RGGI, a collaboration of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) set a cap on total Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power generators in their states. In order to comply, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance” for each ton of CO2 they emit. The most recent RGGI auction (September 4) resulted in a “Carbon Tax” of $5.20 per ton.

“While the debate about climate change needs to be taken seriously, this effort has much more to do with the authority vested in the General Assembly and accommodating the Governor’s desired request for a collaborative process in deciding whether we move forward in joining RGGI,” said Senator Pittman, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 950.  “The legislative process we are beginning today meets Governor Wolf’s oft stated desire to have a ‘government that works.’”

Representative Jim Struzzi is introducing the bill in the House of Representatives as House Bill 2025.

The bills focus on three main points:

  • Declares the legislature does not believe the Governor has the ability to unilaterally enter RGGI.
  • Codifies a process that allows the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to move forward with RGGI, which includes a public comment period, public hearings, and requires the DEP to submit their proposal to the General Assembly.
  • Requires legislative approval before the DEP can formally enter RGGI.

Senator Yaw, Chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, stressed that the Legislature must be an active participant in the process.

“The state legislature must be involved in any dialogue that would seek to impose a carbon tax, or similar tax, on in-state employers and citizens,” said Senator Yaw. “The Governor has unilaterally chosen a path forward to entering RGGI, and I have said before there remains a large number of unanswered questions as to what participating in RGGI would entail for the citizens of Pennsylvania.  I remain leery in entering into any consortium with New York, New Jersey and Maryland who thumb their nose at Pennsylvania energy and embrace energy from foreign markets.”

Senator Argall, Chairman of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, raised concerns about the impact of the Governor’s executive order.

“If the Governor insists on his plan, he will destroy the state’s struggling coal refuse industry. It is particularly disappointing in light of the fact that he previously supported federal plans to help these plants improve our local environment. Now he wants to put them out of business,” said Senator Argall, Chairman of the Senate Majority Policy Committee. “I recently asked the residents of Schuylkill and Berks Counties their opinions on the Governor’s executive order to unilaterally tax carbon through one of my monthly polls. Eighty percent of respondents said that they opposed the Governor’s executive order.”

The RGGI could have severe consequences in the state beyond impacting the viability of Pennsylvania’s 19 coal-fired electric generating units (EGU) – nearly one-quarter of the Commonwealth’s total electric generation capacity.

If they were forced out of business the burden of a carbon tax on power generation would be paid entirely by Pennsylvania’s natural gas-fired EGUs. That would likely make them less competitive with comparable plants in neighboring states and as such drive investment in natural gas electric generation to other states.

“This legislation is as much about separation of powers as it is about climate policy.  One of the key components of RGGI is a tax on carbon emissions.  The power to tax is a function of the legislative branch, not the executive branch,” said Senator Pittman. “Regardless of anyone’s position on climate policy, it is a dangerous precedent to assume the Governor can unilaterally impose a tax. A carbon tax is a major energy and fiscal policy initiative. Beyond the fiscal impact on Pennsylvania manufacturers, coal and gas electric generation, consumers, and future economic investments made in our state, it also creates serious constitutional questions of checks and balances between the co-equal branches of government.”

Click for video and audio of Senator Pittman’s comments at the press conference.

Click for video and audio of Senator Yaw’s comments at the press conference.

Click for video and audio of Senator Argall’s comments at the press conference.

Click here to view the entire press conference.

Contact:        

(Senator Pittman)        Carlton Logue             clogue@pasen.gov                  (717) 787-8724
(Senator Yaw)             Nick Troutman            ntroutman@pasen.gov            (717) 787-3280
(Senator Argall)         Jim Brugger                jbrugger@pasen.gov               (717) 787-2637

Senator Pittman to Unveil RGGI Legislation on Tuesday

 

Senators Joe Pittman, Gene Yaw and David G. Argall and other legislators will host a press conference at Noon on Tuesday, November 19, in the Media Center of the State Capitol East Wing.

The legislators will unveil and discuss bills that will be introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives addressing Governor Wolf’s proposal to have Pennsylvania enter into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and impose a Carbon Tax.

The press conference will be streamed live at: https://senatorpittman.com/.

Contact:           Carlton Logue             clogue@pasen.gov

Senate Committee Approves Bartolotta Bills to Prevent Environmental Permitting Delays

HARRISBURG – The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved two bills today that would limit unnecessary delays in the appeals process for permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), while also restoring accountability and integrity to the process, according to the bills’ sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).

Senate Bill 726 would bring Pennsylvania in line with the federal process for reviewing and appealing permit decisions, and provide more clarity regarding permit appeals from decisions made by DEP.

In some cases, environmental groups have created unnecessary and expensive delays for projects they opposed by filing numerous appeals on issues that were not raised during the permitting process, Bartolotta said.

“We need an appeals process that is efficient, predictable and reliable in order to ensure critical infrastructure projects can move forward with the proper environmental considerations in place,” Bartolotta said. “Limiting appeals to the issues that were raised in the public comment period is a simple, commonsense step to give businesses the clarity and certainty they need to invest in Pennsylvania projects.”

Bartolotta added that her bill would not limit the ability of concerned citizens to submit comments on proposed permits, nor would it limit their ability to appeal a decision. It would only ensure that if a citizen thought a decision was important enough to sue the DEP, that they voice the concerns during the comment period when there is a record of decision. This standard already exists under Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act.

The committee also approved Senate Bill 727, which would shorten terms on the Environmental Hearing Board from six to five years and restrict judges from serving more than two terms unless they began by filling in for a vacancy on the bench.

The original intent of the law was for judges to serve a single, six-year term. Instead, many of the judges appointed to the board remain in office for many years until a successor is appointed – including some who have been serving since the 1990s.

“The Environmental Hearing Board was never intended to be a lifetime appointment,” Bartolotta said. “This legislation restores the original intent of the law to ensure new judges are appointed and confirmed promptly.”

Both bills were sent to the full Senate for consideration.

 

CONTACT: Katrina Hanna (717) 787-1463

Senate Majority Policy Committee to hold public hearing on environmental issues in Pen Argyl on July 9

PEN ARGYL – Clean fill and regulated fill standards will be studied at an upcoming public hearing hosted by the Senate Majority Policy Committee on Monday, July 9, according to Chairman David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

The hearing, which is being held at the request of Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe/Northampton), will review the concerns of local residents and officials about the state’s regulations for clean fill and regulated fill.

The various classifications of fill are based on the level of contaminants of the materials. For example, clean fill is typically comprised of soil, rock, stone, dredged material, used asphalt and brick, block or concrete from construction and demolition sites.

Northampton County’s numerous abandoned slate quarries are prime dumping grounds for fill by both in-state and out-of-state entities.

“Many residents and elected officials in the region have raised concerns over the dumping of out-of-state fill coming to our area,” Scavello said. “I share the same concern over both the volume of fill and the impact it has on the environment. This hearing will be key to fully evaluate the state’s environmental standards to ensure our residents are protected.”

The hearing will feature representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, local elected officials, residents, business leaders and industry professionals. Representatives from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have also been invited to testify.

“I commend Senator Scavello for drawing the attention of the Senate Majority Policy Committee to this key issue,” Chairman Argall said. “We need to know why it’s okay to dump this material in Pennsylvania and why it is not okay to dump in New York and New Jersey.”

The hearing will start at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 9 at Wind Gap Middle School, 1620 Teels Road, Pen Argyl, PA. The public is invited to attend.

More information about the upcoming public hearing can be found at policy.pasenategop.com or SenatorScavello.com.

Listen to Senator Scavello discuss the upcoming public hearing here.

Scavello Bill Cracking Down on Littering Set to Become Law

Harrisburg – Legislation sponsored by Senator Mario Scavello (R-40) to reduce littering across Pennsylvania by requiring offenders to pick up trash received final legislative approval and will be sent to the Governor for enactment. 

“When you look at all of the trash along our roads, it’s clear that fines alone are not enough to deter this crime,” said Scavello. “Littering is like graffiti and other acts of vandalism – when people engage in it without fear of punishment, it sends the message that no one cares and leads to more litter. It’s time to show we really care.”

Senate Bill 431 requires that for a first offense of scattering rubbish, a person is required to pick up litter or illegally dumped trash for between five and 30 hours within six months, in addition to the existing fine of $50 to $300. For a second or subsequent offense, the offender may also be required to pick up litter or illegally dumped trash for 30 to 100 hours over one year, in addition to the existing fine of $300 to $1,000.

Furthermore, existing fines are doubled when committed in a litter enforcement corridor and tripled for litter that originated from a commercial business within a litter enforcement corridor.

To ensure safety when litter is being picked up, Senate Bill 431 requires that a vehicle must yield the right-of-way to any authorized vehicle or pedestrian engaged in work upon a highway within a litter enforcement corridor.

“We are grateful for Senator Scavello’s leadership and for the entire legislature’s willingness to work together to strengthen Pennsylvania’s litter and illegal dumping laws,” said Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful President Shannon Reiter. “The bipartisan and unanimous support for this bill underscores our shared commitment to keeping Pennsylvania beautiful.”

“The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau wholeheartedly supports SB 431 and is grateful for the Senator’s leadership,” said PMVB President/CEO Christopher Barrett. “This new law will add a very important arrow in the quiver of our ‘Pick up the Poconos’ anti-litter initiative.”

“I’ve been working for years to put some teeth in laws designed to combat littering. This crime is bad for civic pride and bad for the environment. I am grateful to my legislative colleagues for passing this legislation unanimously, and I look forward to a cleaner, healthier landscape that we can all be proud of,” said Scavello.

 

You can follow Senator Scavello on Twitter and Facebook.

 

CONTACT: Christine Zubeck czubeck@pasen.gov (717) 787-6123