Year In Review: DEP Puts Miners To Work, Protects Air, Water, Boosts Energy Economy
Department of Environmental Protection Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell Tuesday announced the following accomplishments by the agency in 2016.
“This year was tremendous year for the DEP, and we have many things to be proud of” said McDonnell. “From putting miners back to work reclaiming abandoned mine lands for communities to work to continuing to safeguard the state’s drinking water to kick-starting efforts to clean up Pennsylvania waterways, DEP has made great strides in 2016.”
-- Putting Coal Miners Back to Work on Abandoned Mine Lands: Together with the federal Department of the Interior, Gov. Tom Wolf and DEP announced mine land reclamation projects in 14 Pennsylvania communities. They will result in new or upgraded water supplies for more than 600 homes and businesses, reforestation and restoration of public lands, significant stream water quality improvement, restored fisheries, and increased tourism through public trail development and mining heritage preservation.
-- Investing in PA’s New Energy Economy: In February, DEP and the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force sent nearly 200 recommendations for pipeline safety, construction, permitting, and siting to Gov. Tom Wolf. The task force presented the 184 recommendations in six major categories, designed to drive wider public discussion on the critical, complex, and interrelated environmental and community issues that Pennsylvania faces in the development of the infrastructure needed to transport gas to market.
DEP was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy for a $550,000 grant for a project called “Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future.” The project will bring together stakeholders to envision ways to increase solar deployment in the Commonwealth.
-- New Methane Rules to Improve Air Quality, Reduce Industry Loss: Gov. Tom Wolf announced a nation-leading strategy to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and has been implicated in health risks. The plan is designed to protect the environment and public health, reduce climate change, and help businesses reduce the waste of a valuable product by reducing methane leaks and emissions from natural gas well sites, processing facilities, compressor stations and along pipelines.
-- Improving Local Water Quality in Central PA: DEP, along with the Departments of Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources released a new plan to improve local water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The plan brings new focus to the state’s efforts to help protect the Chesapeake Bay while emphasizing the need for balance and resilience. The strategy relies on a mix of technical and financial assistance for farmers, technology, expanded data gathering, improved program coordination and capacity and – only when necessary – stronger enforcement and compliance measures.
-- Safeguarding Drinking Water: Amidst ongoing concerns about the safety of drinking water in Pennsylvania, DEP informed residents of how to protect themselves and their families from exposure to lead in drinking water, and conducted investigations into other contaminants. Residents should follow common sense tips posted online and have their water tested if they are concerned about lead exposure.
-- New Shale Drilling Regulations: In October, DEP released updated regulations for unconventional (shale) drilling. These regulations were the result of five years of deliberation, several public comment periods eliciting more than 25,000 comments, and more than a dozen public hearings and meetings with citizens, stakeholders, and companies. While parts of the new regulations have been enjoined by a lawsuit, many other parts are in effect today.
-- Climate Change Action Plan: DEP released a detailed plan outlining ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania by 2030. Recommendations include 13 work plans endorsed by the Climate Changing Advisory Committee and range from improving energy efficiency to increasing methane capture from coal mines, as well recommendations for how residents can reduce their contributions to climate change.
-- Agency Modernization to Help Public, Businesses: Digitizing DEP operations has been a priority in 2016, with several new online tools to aid both Pennsylvania residents and regulated industries. Part of the updated shale drilling regulations included online permit applications for operators to cut down on physical paperwork sent to DEP and streamline processing.
The 2016 Integrated Water Quality Report, which identified impaired waterways and the causes of impairment, launched with a companion web-application for residents to find out more information about their home waters.
[Posted Dec. 13, 2016]
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