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Marcellus Shale Bill Passed
Under Act 13 of 2012, a county may impose the impact fee if unconventional gas wells are located within its borders and an ordinance is passed within 60 days of the effective date of the act. If a county does not impose the fee, municipalities within the county may impose a fee. A county that does not pass an ordinance imposing the fee is prohibited from receiving funds.
Under the law, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) administers the collection and disbursement of the fee. The PUC also is given the role of reviewing ordinances at the request of a county or municipality, as well as complaints filed by a well operator or other aggrieved party.
A significant portion of the funds generated by the impact fee will be used to cover the local impacts of drilling while several state agencies will receive funding for a variety of purposes.
Several important community and environmental protections that I have previously supported in legislation were included in the new law:
Baker Sponsored Bills Signed into Law
As the Marcellus Shale industry continues to grow in our area, the protection of our communities must be a priority.
Many residents inquired about the regulation and oversight of related infrastructure and were dismayed to discover alarming holes in the system that needed to be addressed.
With that goal in mind, I'm very pleased that the governor has signed into law a pipeline safety bill that will strengthen standards and oversight, as well as a law to improve wellsite safety.
Act 127 of 2011 gives the Public Utility Commission (PUC) expanded authority to enforce federal pipeline safety laws and conduct safety inspections of gas pipelines, equipment and facilities. The Commission must now maintain a registry of pipeline operators and pipeline miles within Pennsylvania, including the Class 1 lines prevalent in our area which are not regulated by the federal government. Watch
Act 9 of 2012 requires drillers to implement the most basic rules of public safety: to plan for disaster, to share their emergency plans with the people who will implement them, and to have 911 information at their fingertips.
The act also requires drillers to inform state and local officials of wellpad locations and access roads. In this way, the Commonwealth better protects the health and safety of first responders and the public.
The best weapon against injury, environmental damage and property destruction is information. When something goes wrong, having emergency information posted at the site, and a plan that is shared with key emergency personnel, are vital to risk reduction. Watch
Public Hearing Explores Ways to Eradicate Homelessness Among PA Veterans
The ranks of Pennsylvania's homeless include an estimated 1,400 military – a figure far too high despite our best efforts to meet the needs of our veterans. Recently, I joined my fellow members of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee to discuss ways we could reduce these numbers.
We heard from veterans' advocates, operators of homeless shelters, two former homeless veterans and others as we sought approaches to expand outreach and connect more veterans with the services they earned.
Many very good community organizations are working to deal with the problem. We heard about successes they have had, and their views on how we might do more to help more individuals in need.
Various veterans' organizations have pressed for added funding, so they can expand outreach efforts. Their commitment to this mission is commendable. They know that glory comes not in documenting how much has been done for our veterans, but in finding ways to reach those who remain beyond existing services.
Especially now, with servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, we must find a way to keep veterans off the streets, even in tight budget years. You can view video of the hearing here: Watch | Watch
New Law Will Help Volunteer Organizations With Fundraising
I recently voted for legislation which will help our volunteer emergency responders and community organizations by increasing prize limits allowed under the state's Small Games of Chance law.
Act 2 of 2012 will increase the individual prize limit from $500 to $1,000; the weekly games of chance prize limit from $5,000 to $25,000; and the monthly prize limit for raffles from $5,000 to $10,000. The bill also allows additional raffles for volunteer fire, ambulance and rescue organizations.
Many of our local volunteer emergency responders, veterans' organizations and non-profit charities rely on revenue from small games of chance to reduce significant financial burdens that come from serving our communities. Increasing the prize limits will help these organizations better serve their communities make a bigger impact on the lives of local residents.
The legislation also requires organizations that conduct small games of chance to keep more detailed records to ensure the proceeds benefit local communities. Under current law, proceeds from small games of chance must be used to serve the public interest.
Listening Session Focuses on Stream Cleaning
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania recently held a listening session in Dushore on "Stream Cleaning." This has been the topic of much debate and discussion following the recent flooding across Pennsylvania and in our region in particular.
Local elected officials from Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Susquehanna counties, members of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, local businesses and residents, many of whom lost homes and businesses because of the flood damage, discussed ways how proper local stream maintenance can help when flooding occurs.There is strong evidence that flood damage could have been minimized, if not prevented, had stream cleaning taken place on a regular basis. Obstructions in the streams were a contributing factor to the heightened devastation. Working with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, we hope to address this environmental issue and give local communities the tools they need to properly clean streams and prevent flooding.