July 2016 Newsletter

(Jul 26, 2016)

July 2016 Summer newsletter Read more

 

Senate bill is a sneak attack to weaken drilling regulations

(Jul 12, 2016)

HARRISBURG, July 12 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, said a bill that passed the Senate yesterday would weaken the regulations on unconventional oil and gas drillers. Specifically, the new language in the bill, S.B. 1229 , would make three critical changes to the regulations, including limiting the reporting requirements for waste production from oil and gas drilling from once a month to twice a year. Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said reducing reporting requirements will make it more difficult for the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that waste is being disposed of properly. The bill also would increase the amount of time (from nine to 24 months) unconventional oil and gas drillers have to restore well sites, which will delay when a landowner can put the land to productive use, Vitali said. Lastly, the bill stops DEP from issuing adequate standards for the construction of fresh water storage impoundments for oil and gas operations. Vitali argued that adequate standards are important because a breach of water could jeopardize the health of nearby residents and pollute local streams. The regulations were fully vetted, having been subject to 12 public hearings and nearly 28,000 public comments, but this language that Vitali said weakens the regulations was added at the last minute in to an unrelated bill on horse breeding. “This last minute sneak attack on Read more

 

Vitali applauds House vote against bill to foster commercial development in state parks, but urges caution

(Jun 29, 2016)

HARRISBURG, June 29 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, today applauded the House vote against a bill that would promote commercial development such as amusement parks and office buildings in state parks, but he urges vigilance as the bill could be brought up for a vote again. Vitali, Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, noted that H.B. 2013 was defeated in the House by a vote of 123-77 with opposition from both parties. However, a reconsideration vote was immediately filed by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler, and House Majority Whip Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster. The reconsideration means that the bill can be voted on again this session, maybe as soon as this afternoon. “Passage of this bill would lead to improper development on state lands without any public input,” Vitali said. “People who care about state parks need to stay vigilant and urge their members to vote against it again.” Although the bill was amended to make it less harmful, it still contains language that considers the development of amusement parks, office buildings, hotels, inns, restaurants, water parks, sports facilities and golf courses in state parks, Vitali said. “State parks were created to preserve areas of the commonwealth with unique scenic, historic or geological characteristics,” Vitali said. “These types of developments are inconsistent with the mission of state Read more

 

Vitali warns that bill to foster commercial development in state parks is being fast-tracked in Harrisburg

(Jun 22, 2016)

HARRISBURG, June 22 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, expressed concern today that a bill promoting commercial development like amusement parks and office buildings in state parks is being fast-tracked without public input. Vitali, Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, noted that H.B. 2013 was voted out of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee today and is scheduled for a House vote Thursday. Specifically, the bill would create a “Public-Private State Park Partnership Board” comprised primarily of political appointees who would be charged with soliciting, evaluating and approving private development on state park land. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would also have to approve the projects. “Passage of this bill would lead to improper development on state lands without any public input,” Vitali said. The bill also requires DCNR to fund the activities of the board, which would drain its already limited resources. Projects that would be considered in addition to amusement parks and office buildings include hotels, inns, restaurants, water parks, sports facilities and golf courses, Vitali said. “State parks were created to preserve areas of the commonwealth with unique scenic, historic or geological characteristics,” Vitali said. “These types of developments are inconsistent with the mission of state parks.” He Read more

 

Vitali urges Governor Wolf to veto bad environmental bills

(Jun 15, 2016)

HARRISBURG, June 15 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, today urged Gov. Tom Wolf to veto two bills that would damage the state’s environment and adversely impact public health. The first bill, S.B. 279 , would cancel a portion of Chapter 78 regulations related to conventional oil and gas drilling. The regulations are designed to make both conventional and unconventional drilling safer in Pennsylvania Vitali said these commonsense regulations were recently approved by the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission, and should apply to conventional drillers because they are a significant part of the problem. “Cancelling any portion of these regulations would be very bad for Pennsylvania,” Vitali said. The second bill, S.B. 1195 , would allow the legislature to delay implementation of the state’s Clean Power Plan as long as possible without a federal plan being imposed on it. The federal Clean Power Plan, which was recently stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court, requires Pennsylvania to develop a state climate change implementation plan to reduce greenhouse gases. Under Environmental Protection Agency regulations, Pennsylvania is required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 33 percent by 2030. “This is an enormous challenge and every day we delay makes this task harder,” Vitali said. “Climate change is too serious a problem to delay.” Read more

 

Vitali: Committee passes bill delaying state climate change plan

(Jun 13, 2016)

HARRISBURG, June 13 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, said the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee today approved a bill supported by Gov. Tom Wolf that would delay the state’s plan to address climate change. Vitali, Democratic chairman of the committee, said the bill, S.B. 1195 , would allow the legislature to delay implementation of the state’s Clean Power Plan as long as possible without a federal plan being imposed on it. Vitali said Wolf indicated he will not oppose the bill, which marks the third time he has recently succumbed to the pressure of the fossil fuels industry. “First, it was the forced resignation of DEP Secretary John Quigley, next, it was agreeing to remove conventional drillers from the Chapter 78 regulations, and now, it’s agreeing to delay the Clean Power Plan,” Vitali said. “It is incredibly disappointing that the governor continues to side with the industry over the health and well-being of Pennsylvania citizens.” The federal Clean Power Plan, which was recently stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court, requires Pennsylvania to develop a state climate change implementation plan to reduce greenhouse gases. Under Environmental Protection Agency regulations, Pennsylvania is required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 33 percent by 2030. “This is an enormous challenge and every day we delay makes this task harder,” Vitali said. “Climate change is too Read more

 

Committee passes Wolf-endorsed bill to cancel drilling regulations

(Jun 08, 2016)

HARRISBURG, June 8 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, said that the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee passed a bill today that would cancel a portion of Chapter 78 regulations related to conventional drilling. The bill, S.B. 279 , is supported by Gov. Tom Wolf, even though the regulations were recently approved by the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Vitali, Democratic chairman of the committee, said he is very disappointed that Wolf has succumbed to the pressure of the drilling industry. “Cancelling any portion of these regulations would be very bad for Pennsylvania,” Vitali said. “I hope Governor Wolf reconsiders his support for this bill so we can protect public health and our environment.” The regulations are designed to make both conventional and unconventional drilling safer in Pennsylvania, but conventional drillers continue to fight attempts to regulate them. Conventional drilling is characterized by vertical wells into conventional rock formations. Unconventional drilling involves horizontal boring into tightly packed shale formations - most notably the Marcellus formation. Both use hydrofracking. About 12,500 conventional and 8,500 unconventional wells were drilled in Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2014. Vitali said the regulations should apply to conventional drillers because they are a significant part of the problem. According to the DEP: Conventional drillers were Read more

 

Group urges support for drilling regulations and expresses disapproval of Quigley resignation

(Jun 06, 2016)

HARRISBURG, June 6 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, along with a coalition of interest groups, today held a news conference to urge Gov. Tom Wolf to support proposed natural gas drilling regulations (Chapter 78 surface regulations), and to express disapproval of the forced resignation of DEP Secretary John Quigley. Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said that environmental supporters believe the regulations are on the chopping block, but so far Gov. Wolf has refused to commit to supporting them. He added that the forces that are trying to stop the regulations are the same forces that led to Quigley’s forced resignation. "Secretary Quigley was forced to resign because he was too effective," Vitali said. "He helped usher the regulations through the process, which upset many people in the drilling industry." Vitali questioned what Quigley’s resignation means for other important environmental policies that he had been working on, including the state’s Clean Power Plan, methane regulations, climate change, the Chesapeake Bay strategy and additional funding for the Department of Environmental Protection. Myron Arnowitt, state director of Clean Water Action, said his organization urges the legislature and the governor to support the drilling regulations. He said that after 30,000 public comments, 12 public hearings and approval by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, Read more

 

News conference to urge support for drilling regulations and disapproval of Quigley resignation

(Jun 02, 2016)

HARRISBURG, June 2 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, along with a coalition of legislators and environmental and other interest groups, will hold a Capitol news conference Monday to urge Governor Wolf to support proposed natural gas drilling regulations (Chapter 78 surface regulations), and to express disapproval of the forced resignation of DEP Secretary John Quigley. These drilling regulations have been strongly opposed by the conventional drilling industry and Quigley was a strong advocate for the regulations. The news conference will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, June 6 in the Capitol Media Center. Media coverage is invited. The news conference will be streamed live at www.pahouse.com/live . The stream will start shortly before the news conference begins. ### Read more

 

Conventional drillers must be regulated too

(May 26, 2016)

By Greg Vitali An independent state commission recently approved regulations to make natural gas drilling safer in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, an important segment of the drilling industry - conventional drillers - are attempting to exempt themselves. Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Legislature should stand firm and make sure these regulations apply to all gas drillers. On April 21, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved a set of regulations developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection entitled “Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites,” also referred to as the Chapter 78 regulations. IRRC found these regulations to be “in the public interest.” These commonsense regulations would require both conventional and unconventional drillers to, among other things: conduct a pre-drilling review of their sites to ensure abandoned and existing wells are not impacted, restore water supplies they have degraded to Safe Drinking Water Act standards, and comply with more stringent spill reporting and cleanup standards. Conventional drilling is characterized by vertical wells into conventional rock formations. Unconventional drilling involves horizontal boring into tightly-packed shale formations - most notably the Marcellus formation. Both use hydrofracking. About 12,500 conventional and 8,500 unconventional wells were drilled in Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2014. These Chapter 78 Read more

 

May 2016 newsletter

(May 16, 2016)

May 2016 newsletter Read more

 

Legislators urge approval of drilling regulations

(Mar 31, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 31 – A group of nearly 20 state House members led by state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, today sent a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission urging approval of regulations that would make gas drilling safer in Pennsylvania. IRRC, the agency created to review commonwealth agency regulations to ensure they are in the public interest, is scheduled to consider the regulations at its April 21 hearing. Vitali, Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said the regulations would enhance public resource protections, including those for state parks and forests, playgrounds, schools and public water supplies; provide for pre-drilling review of potential abandoned and operating wells; require water supply restoration standards for operators who degrade a water supply; and enhanced spill reporting and clean-up requirements. The Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites regulations were promulgated in accordance with Act 13 of 2012, and have not been updated since 2001, so modernizing them is critical to ensure protection of Pennsylvania’s environment, the group’s letter states. The drilling industry opposes the regulations and on March 24, the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association filed a suit in Commonwealth Court challenging them. The House and Senate can stop the regulations by passing a concurrent resolution disapproving them, which must be signed by Read more

 

Final IRRC Letter

(Mar 31, 2016)

IRRC Letter Read more

 

House committee questions need to incentivize natural gas

(Mar 21, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 21 – The House Democratic Policy Committee conducted a public hearing today to question if Pennsylvania should continue to incentivize natural gas. State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, who organized the meeting, said Pennsylvania currently incentivizes the production and use of natural gas through tax credits, grants and loans. “There is currently disagreement among those who want to combat climate change as to the role natural gas should play, and whether incentives for its production and demand are necessary,” Vitali said. Vitali also noted that every session, legislation is introduced to provide even more incentives for the natural gas industry. His goal for this hearing was to examine whether these incentives make sense for climate change and the health of Pennsylvania residents. Rob Altenburg, director of the PennFuture Energy Center, said that last year his organization released a report identifying over $3.2 billion in fossil fuel subsidies provided by Pennsylvania during fiscal year 2012-13. He questioned whether the industry requires all of these incentives. “As time and technology changes, subsidies that were once justified may no longer make sense,” Altenburg said. “Regular consideration of existing subsidies is needed to ensure we are spending money wisely and working towards our goals.” Mark Szybist, senior program advocate, energy and transportation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Read more

 

House committee to examine if state should incentivize natural gas

(Mar 16, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 16 – The House Democratic Policy Committee will conduct a public hearing at 10 a.m. Monday, March 21 in Harrisburg to discuss if Pennsylvania should incentivize natural gas. The issue will be examined from a climate change, economic, and health perspective. The hearing, organized by state Rep. Greg Vitali, will take place in the Minority Caucus Room, 418 Main Capitol. It will be led by Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and Policy Committee Chairman Michael Sturla. Confirmed speakers include: Rob Altenburg, director, PennFuture Energy Center Michael Griffin, associated research professor, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University (also executive director, Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making) Mark Szybist, senior program advocate, energy and transportation, Natural Resources Defense Council Don Brown, scholar in residence, Widener University Commonwealth Law School Robert Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Cornell University Dave Althoff Jr., manager, Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance, state Department of Environmental Protection Denise Brinley, special assistant to the secretary, Strategic Industry Initiatives, state Department of Community and Economic Development Tom Peterson, president and CEO, Center for Climate Strategies The hearing will be streamed live at www.pahouse.com/live Read more

 

PA Power Switch: Ask the right questions

(Dec 30, 2015)

In Pennsylvania, you can choose the company that generates your electricity – also known as your electric supplier. This means that you have the power to switch to a competing supplier who can offer the lowest price, or provide a specific service you want, such as “green” or renewable energy. Read more

 

Vitali: Budget bill would delay Pa. climate plan

(Dec 14, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Dec. 14 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, said while the landmark climate change agreement approved Saturday in Paris underscores the urgency of the world to act on climate change, legislation moving through the General Assembly would do just the opposite. Vitali said the Fiscal Code bill (H.B. 1327), which is part of the overall budget agreement, would further delay state implementation of the federal clean power plan, which is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emission from coal- and gas-fired power plants. "The EPA passed its regulations in August and it is now dependent on the states to develop their state-specific plans to reduce emissions," said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. "Pennsylvania planned to release its plan next September but this bill is part of a continuing strategy of delay by the coal industry." Additionally, the bill would take $12 million from Alternative Energy Investment Act, which is earmarked for renewable energy and energy-efficient buildings and it uses it to promote natural gas infrastructure development, Vitali said. "The Alternative Energy Investment Act is dedicated to promoting technologies like solar energy, wind energy and geothermal," Vitali said. "Natural gas is a fossil fuel, and our state needs to start moving away from all fossil fuels and focus on renewable energy. "This legislation also is Read more

 

GOP budget underfunds environmental protection

(Jun 27, 2015)

HARRISBURG, June 27 – The Republican-crafted budget poised to pass the state House significantly underfunds environmental protection, state Rep. Greg Vitali said. The budget does not fund Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed energy investment initiative, which would provide more than $140 million for renewable energy and conservation programs. Those programs would create good-paying jobs, save money and help the environment. “This budget continues to ignore Pennsylvania’s ethical responsibilities to address climate change,” said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. In addition, the GOP budget cuts funding for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from $147 million proposed by the governor to $143.5 million. Vitali said the budget continues the chronic underfunding of DEP, which had received $200 million in the 2006-07 fiscal year. DEP staffing has been reduced by about 10 percent since 2006. Vitali said the budget also continues to use the Oil and Gas Lease Fund as a “cash cow” to balance the budget, diverting $67 million from the fund to help pay the day-to-day operations of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This is an addition to the $50 million automatically transferred to DCNR from this fund. The Oil and Gas Lease Fund was established to provide money for conservation, recreation, dams and flood control projects. Revenue for this fund Read more

 

Wolf energy plan would create jobs, save taxpayer money and help the environment

(Jun 01, 2015)

The energy investment plan contained in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal would create good, green jobs, save schools and municipalities money through reduced electric costs and help the environment. Those conclusions came from a panel that included representatives of energy companies, a suburban Philadelphia school official, farmers and a high-ranking member of the Wolf administration. They testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee during a hearing Monday in the state Capitol. Read more

 

Wolf budget would improve environmental protection

(Mar 05, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 5 – State Rep. Greg Vitali commended Gov. Tom Wolf on proposing a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year that would increase environmental protection and invest in renewable energy and conservation. “Considering the difficult fiscal challenges the Commonwealth faces, Pennsylvania’s environment fares very well in this budget,” said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. The proposed budget increases state funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection by 5.6 percent to $147 million. The Department received about $200 million in state funding in fiscal year 2007-08 and has been cut most years since then. The budget also would provide an additional 50 oil and gas inspectors to DEP, with funding coming from a severance tax proposed by the governor, according to Vitali. Wolf’s budget increases funding for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by 10 percent, from $137 million to $151 million. Unfortunately, Vitali said, $117 million of this amount would come from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, which receives its revenues from gas drilling on public land. The other $34 million would come from the General Fund. “Funding so much of DCNR with Oil and Gas Lease Fund money is a big problem because this money should be used for conservation purposes only,” Vitali said. Wind, solar and energy efficiency Read more