HARRISBURG, Pa. - Hunters and anglers from Pennsylvania are among those urging national lawmakers to extend tax incentives that encourage the production of clean wind energy. The Production Tax Credit and the Investment Tax Credit promote renewable-energy production and energy efficiency, and are due to expire at the end of the year.
The director of policy for the National Wildlife Federation's Climate and Energy program, Joe Mendelson, says 37,000 jobs related to wind energy will disappear if the credits are not extended.
"We need Congress to act now, and they're sitting on their hands. It's time to take action, pass these credits, extend them so the industry can continue, the jobs can continue, and we have clean energy for the rest of the country."
The wind industry currently provides approximately 75,000 jobs nationwide.
In a letter to Congress today, 118 sportsmen's and conservation groups encourage lawmakers to continue the tax credits. They say investment and growth in clean energy and conservation are the best ways to fight climate change, sustain communities, create jobs and promote economic growth.
Ed Perry is Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. He says hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts understand the value of conservation better than most. He says aside from the 4000 jobs and power to 180,000 homes tied to wind energy in Pennsylvania, he supports developing clean, renewable-energy resources that are protective of fish and wildlife habitat.
"The reason I, as a lifelong fisherman and hunter, am so interested in wind power is that I'm concerned about the effects of climate change on our natural resources. "
A September poll released by the National Wildlife Federation found that 72 percent of hunters and anglers back renewable-energy solutions.
HARRISBURG, PA - Seeing, hearing and touching is believing. Nearly a half-million dollars has been added to a "mini grant" program to get students in grades K-12 interested in caring about the rivers and streams in Pennsylvania connected to the Chesapeake Bay. The money comes from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office.
Office Director Peyton Robertson says he's seen firsthand how "action learning" inspires stewardship.
"Getting young people out in the field and letting them hold a crab or a fish in their hand, and understand the connections we have to the ecosystem that those critters live in, really brings it home for 'em."
Robertson says that, while many projects focus on field trips and streamside testing and restoration, there's a classroom component, too.
"Come back and reflect on the 'so what?' of that. That is, what do I need to think about in terms of actions I take and decisions that I make every day, that might affect what I saw?"
Grants of up to $5000 are available to schools, organizations and agencies focused on K-12 environmental education. The money is available in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. It used to be limited to Maryland and D.C.
The grants can also be used to provide environmental education professional development for teachers.
Grant applications are being accepted through January 12, 2013.
HARRISBURG, PA - Pennsylvania collected about $200 million in local impact fees on Marcellus Shale wells drilled through 2011, about half of what the commonwealth could have collected had a more robust natural gas drilling tax been in effect.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center calculated that a natural gas drilling tax modeled on West Virginia's levy would have raised $387 million between July 2009 and December 2011, based on production data from the Department of Environmental Protection. More than $6 billion worth of natural gas was extracted from the state's share of the Marcellus Shale during that time period.
"There are real questions about whether Pennsylvania's fee is enough to pay for the impacts of drilling on local communities," said Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. "Local communities have short- and long-term issues to address and should not be shortchanged."
Because the 2011 drilling impact fee payment covered all Marcellus Shale wells drilled from 2006 through 2011, it is comparable to what a drilling tax would have raised through 2011, had one been enacted in mid-2009 when lawmakers first debated the issue.
In most energy-producing states, drilling tax revenue supports education and health care, funds environmental conservation and protection, and ensures that gas producers are paying for the impacts of drilling. Pennsylvania's drilling impact fee, enacted into law in February, gives the commonwealth one of the lowest drilling tax or fee rates on gas extraction in the nation.
"Pennsylvania can do better," Ward said. "A more robust drilling tax could have reduced deep cuts to education and human services, while ensuring that local communities are protected from drilling's impacts."
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is a non-partisan policy research project that provides independent, credible analysis on state tax, budget and related policy matters, with attention to the impact of current or proposed policies on working families.
Experts Say Pennsylvanians' Health Riding on Strong Soot Rules Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, PA - After collecting around 400,000 comments from people concerned about soot pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in the final stages of crafting new rules to curb the amount of soot in the air we breathe. The move gets strong support from doctors, such as Philadelphia-area pediatrician Dr. Denise Salerno, who says exposure to soot is a major health concern, especially for children.
"Short term, we can see irritation to their eyes, we can see exacerbations in people with chronic lung disease, especially asthma, which we see a lot of in children. It can cause things such as headaches, nausea, allergic-type reactions."
Dr. Salerno says a major problem with soot is that it's difficult to say that any amount is less than harmful.
"We don't really know the threshold below which is safe and doesn't have an effect on people's health, so I don't think that we could say that within this many miles, or within this threshold, everyone's fine."
Peter Iwanowicz, director of the Clean Air Campaign for the American Lung Association, some of the comments heard during testimony from opponents who feel new rules are unnecessary.
"We saw oil industry representatives at public hearings this summer saying a little soot is actually OK for you. Scientists tell us that's not the truth. Soot is a killer; it triggers disease, and we're really shocked to see industry try to trot out these arguments for further delay in cleaning up soot standards."
The American Lung Association says long-term soot exposure contributes to and causes chronic respiratory illnesses. Some studies have shown that it is associated with lung cancer and heart disease, and causes tens of thousands of premature deaths annually.
The EPA needs to determine what levels of soot pollution are acceptable and identify likely sources of that pollution. The rule has to be in place by the end of December.
HARRISBURG, PA - Summer in Pennsylvania is telling us a lot about climate change and where we're headed in the future, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Federation senior scientist Doug Inkley says the heat waves we've been experiencing are just the tip of the iceberg.
"We now have a record low amount of ice in the arctic, we have a record amount of ice melt in Greenland. You put all three of these together and global warming is extremely apparent."
Inkley says some scenarios we're seeing this summer, such as large fish kills, also lend insight into what wildlife face in the months to come.
"You have thousands of fish dying because the water is simply too warm for them. Wildlife throughout this coming winter will be stressed because the productivity of the natural foods they eat is way down because of the drought, and they could easily starve to death."
Inkley says the issue of climate change is collective in nature; we all face the consequences and each of us can participate in the solution.
"It hurts us in our pocketbook, it hurts us in our food sources, it hurts us in our ability to endure the hot summers, and we need to do something about it - and we can, but we need to have the guts, as a nation, to step forward."
Inkley says the same conditions are contributing to devastating wildfires, crop damage and an influx of destructive pests and the diseases some carry, like West Nile virus. NWF points out that the past 12 months are the hottest ever recorded in the U.S. In terms of financial impact, the report notes that the cost of battling wildfires, now about $3 billion a year, has tripled since the 1990s. The NWF report recommends Congress pass legislation that limits greenhouse gas emissions while spurring clean energy such as wind and solar power.
ALLENTOWN, PA - A standstill in Congress is taking the wind out of the wind turbine industry. The Production Tax Credit for wind and other renewable resources expires in about four months, unless it's renewed.
The uncertainty is affecting local businesses like Windkits in Allentown. CEO Eric Schwartz says the credit brings in private money, and he points out that it's not a handout, or a grant, since a track record has to be established before receiving the credit.
"There's a significant amount of investment, private investment. You have to hire people, they have to make product, they have to install product, and you're creating jobs, you're creating work, in order to even get the tax credit."
There is a bipartisan proposal in Congress to temporarily extend the credit. Those calling for it to expire cite budget concerns.
Dave Rosenberg, vice president for communications at wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa, says they're laying off 165 people this month at their plants in Pennsylvania, because there's no decision on the credit. He points out, though, that it isn't too late to keep the PTC in place, and predicts it would save thousands of U.S. jobs.
"The cycle time for a wind project is 12 to 18 months, and by passing the PTC now and not waiting until the lame duck (Congress), we can still have a very positive impact on 2013 orders."
Wind developers say the PTC is no different than tax credits offered to other industries, and has spurred growth and technology, and helped reduce the cost of wind energy.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania residents and business owners are among the 3 million people nationwide who've let the fecderal Environmental Protection Agency know that they support national standards to limit carbon pollution from new power plants.
Margie Alt, president of Environment America and chairman of the Green Group, says many people speaking in one voice are sending a powerful message.
"At its core, this is about Americans standing up and saying, 'We really want to see leadership on the issue of carbon pollution and on the issue of climate change here in this country.' "
Supporters of limiting carbon pollution say it contributes to climate change and makes smog pollution worse, triggering asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, especially in children. Companies that burn coal to generate power claim more regulation costs jobs and affects their bottom line, and that they already are working to reduce their pollution output.
Rolf Poeting, who owns two glass-manufacturing companies - Glassautomatic Inc./Rolf Glass - in western Pennsylvania, says his position on the issue comes from a broader platform of doing business with the environment in mind.
"We try to reuse and recycle as much as possible. We do a lot of repacking of glassware, so we try not to throw things out. Obviously, being alive creates pollution; we should at least minimize intelligently the effect we have."
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Alternative energy could take a step forward in Pennsylvania after the U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted late last week to renew a tax credit for wind power.
Several Republicans joined Democrats in support of extending the credit for one more year at a cost of $3.3 billion.
Larry Thomas, general manager of Energy Hardware, which manufactures supplies for GE and others in the wind industry, says renewable energies should be supported as is the fossil-fuel industry.
"There's permanent tax credits that have always been in place for coal and oil. Can we grab some of that that's already permanent? Can that be used over here on the renewable side?"
According to the American Wind Energy Association, letting the permanent tax credit expire would eliminate approximately 37,000 jobs nationwide. Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Environment Group's Clean Energy Program, says Congress needs to realize the impact this uncertainty is having on the market.
"Causing this kind of turmoil and uncertainty in a market is completely unnecessary. There've been really no new orders for wind, and that is going to have a significant impact on jobs."
Perhaps the bipartisanship surfacing around this issue in Washington shouldn't be a surprise. According to the American Wind Energy Association, more than 81 percent of the installed wind capacity in the United States is in congressional districts represented by Republicans.
House approval of the wind-power tax credits is not certain; their action will have to wait until Congress returns to Washington in September.
A 2011 report from the American Wind Energy Association estimates that wind power in Pennsylvania has created 3,000 to 4,000 jobs, and estimates those projects will help the state avoid more than 1.34 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
In our broken campaign finance system, Members of Congress know that they can introduce and advocate for legislation that benefits a certain industry or special interest group and then be lavished with campaign contributions from the same interests.
On June 11th, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a bill titled the "South Carolina Off-shore Drilling Act," which would authorize the federal government to include certain areas off of the coast of South Carolina to be opened up for oil drilling between fiscal years 2012 and 2017.
"We're not trying anything but fossil fuels in this state," complained state Sierra Club representative Susan Corbett said after Graham introduced his bill. "There has been virtually no investment in any alternative energy or energy efficiency that are the true home-grown, independent sources of energy."