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DEP Secretary Talks About Clean Power Plan, More, With York Daily Record

DEP Secretary John Quigley talked with the York Daily Record editorial board for nearly an hour on Monday in connection with the York listening session, one of 14 listening sessions the agency is holding around the state on EPA’s Clean Power Climate Plan.

Secretary Quigley talked about the Wolf Administration’s approach to developing a Pennsylvania plan to meet these new federal requirements, but also other issues.

Quigley said the listening sessions are being held in areas which could be disproportionately affected by the Clean Power regulation and environmental justice areas.

Among other questions, he was asked about the future of nuclear power facilities like Three Mile Island near York County as DEP considers its Plan.  He said he met with Exelon officials and asked them to provide information on the economics of their operations.

He noted nuclear, carbon-free power facilities were very important in Pennsylvania and DEP is very concerned about the continued viability of nuclear plants as they write the Clean Power Plan.

Quigley was asked what the major themes have been so far during the listening sessions and he listed--

1. Strong support for Clean Power Plan rule in all areas of the state;

2. He heard concerns from the coal industry, but Quigley noted they are not opposed to the rule, but want DEP to request a two-year extension of the deadline to submit a Plan;

3. There was very limited outright opposition to the EPA Plan from some “special interests;”

4. There was strong support for energy efficiency; and

5. Pennsylvania’s electric industry is asking DEP to submit a Plan so they have more certainty in the future on what the rules will look like.

On other issues, the York Daily Daily Record asked-

-- Does DEP have adequate staff: Quigley said DEP was disproportionately affected by budget cuts over the last 10 years losing 675 positions, 480 of those he said were “boots on the ground.”  He said he thought DEP was “singled out” for staff reductions.  He said further cuts would jeopardize protection of the air and water of the Commonwealth.

-- Making appointments for inspections: He said a suggestion by Sen. Wagner (R-York) for inspectors to make appointments for inspections was something he disagreed with and has not a suggestion he heard from anyone else.  Quigley said the agency is committed to creating a “culture of compliance,” and enforcing the laws to protect air, water and land.

-- Timely review of permits: The Secretary said DEP is reviewing 89 percent of the complete permit applications on time under the agency’s Permit Decision Guarantee Program.  He noted that was down a little from the beginning of the year because the volume of permits has increased and he has fewer staff.

Quigley said a big issue is having a complete permit applications.  He said a recent study of over 2,600 randomly selected permit applications for Chapter 102 erosion and sedimentation control and Chapter 105 water obstructions and found 39 percent had technical or completeness deficiencies that prevented them from being reviewed right away.

Forty-seven consultants submitted the applications.  Quigley said if he had to grade their performance on the completeness of their applications, he would give 1 consultant an A, 5 consultants a B, 7 at C, 8 a D and 26 an F.

“There are a lot of businesses that aren’t getting their money’s worth out of their consultants,” Quigley said.  “We’re not getting good permits coming in the door.”

-- Moving away from paper: Quigley said he is trying to move aggressively to put as many processes as possible online and get away from paper.  But, he pointed out DEP, 11 years ago, was judged to have the best IT department with a budget of $23 million.  With inflation, that should be somewhere around $29 million.  DEP’s budget now is $16 million, one-third less than it was more than a decade ago.

-- Chesapeake Bay cleanup: Quigley said simply, “We’re going to miss our 2017 (Chesapeake Bay) goals,”  noting this is a problem the Wolf Administration inherited.

He followed up by saying there is a need to reboot the Chesapeake Bay Program and noted he has been reaching out to all Bay stakeholders to develop the revised plan from “square one.” 

Among other things, he said, DEP needs to get more data about the practices farmers already have on the ground.

“We also need more resources,” said Quigley. “Over the last 20 years Pennsylvania has spent $4 billion cleaning up the Bay.  The average cost-share BMP (best management practice) is $45,000 to $55,000. There are a lot of farmers for whom a $45-$55,000 expenditure would put them out of business.

 “Gov. Wolf campaigned on the need for a Growing Greener III to put more resources into BMPs and to help the agriculture community,” said Quigley.  “At the same time there needs to be an expectation that farmers will do the right thing.

“Really it’s not about the (Chesapeake) Bay, it’s about water quality in Pennsylvania,” said Quigley.  “We all have a responsibility to take ownership and responsibility for Pennsylvania’s water quality.”

In response to a question, Quigley said the work in York County on reducing nutrient pollution should be commended.  He said he would like to see that model applied statewide.

He said he hoped to announce a new Chesapeake Bay Plan before the end of the year.

Click Here to watch the video.

The next listening sessions will be held October 22 in Lehigh County, October 28 in Schuylkill County, October 29 in Erie, October 30 in Clarion and Clearfield counties and November 4 in Lycoming County.

Comments on the Clean Power Plan can be submitted onlineClick Here to see comments submitted by others so far.

Click Here for a complete schedule and more information.


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