Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)


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Session Daze Mast

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Bad news for farmland preservation
Gov. Corbett proposes to permanently eliminate funding for Pennsylvania's nationally recognized farmland preservation program in his 2012-13 budget plan. Our farmland preservation program currently gets its funding from a portion of the cigarette tax, but Corbett wants to transfer this money to the General Fund. The governor's budget proposes to backfill funding for the program from Growing Greener bond funds for this year. Secretary of Agriculture George Greig told members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees that a similar plan is proposed for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but no funding plan for farmland preservation is in place after June 30, 2014.

Development pressures on working farms in Pennsylvania are not letting up, and over 2,000 farm families who want to participate in the program are on a waiting list. This week, the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal reported on the great anxiety and consternation in the farmland preservation community over the proposal.

PennFuture is working with legislators and conservation organizations to protect this vital program.

Plain English summary and analysis of drilling/fracking law coming soon
The omnibus Marcellus Shale drilling legislation, known as Act 13 of 2012, is a 174-page bill full of surprises. It includes environmental regulations, the impact fee and uses of the revenue, local zoning (or, more accurately, the lack thereof), the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, and many other topics.

PennFuture's legal eagles have scrutinized the bill, and are producing a plain English summary and analysis. We know that citizens, municipal officials, and even legislators will find our document helpful. Watch for it next week.

Gas continues to gain market share from dirty coal; nukes are next
Figures released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that coal's share of monthly electricity generation dropped below 40 percent in November and December of 2011. This is the first time coal's share dropped below the 40 percent level since March 1978. Coal-fired generation fell by a remarkable 21 percent between December 2010 and December 2011. Meanwhile, natural gas generation rose by 12 percent over the same year, despite a drop in total electricity produced due to the mild winter.

The increasing supply and low price of shale gas is pushing dirty coal plants to shut down. A front-page story today in the Wall Street Journal showed that the much-heralded revival of the U.S. nuclear power industry is similarly being sidetracked by the low cost of natural gas.

Senate poised to pass stormwater legislation
The Pennsylvania Senate is expected to pass legislation giving municipalities another tool to address stormwater management when it returns to session the week of March 26. Senate Bill 1261, sponsored by Ted Erickson, R-Delaware, would allow municipalities to create stormwater authorities. Stormwater authorities could help fund stormwater projects and allow for multi-municipal planning that tackles stormwater management on a watershed basis.

Don't miss dinner and a movement – environmental, that is
Space is rapidly running out for PennFuture's Pittsburgh mini-conference, "The road ahead on drilling — and opportunities for action," set for Thursday, March 29, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Union Project in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood. This free community event features PennFuture's president and CEO George Jugovic; John Quigley, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and our western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator, Tiffany Hickman.

Yes, all this and dinner, too! But reservations are going fast. Sign up today.

The real wearing of the green
With Pittsburgh hosting the nation's second largest St. Patrick's Day parade tomorrow, you can expect just about everyone will be wearing something green — but our friends at Tree Pittsburgh win the prize. Look for the large contingent of trees — and tree tenders — marching down the street.

PennFuture's Session Daze is designed to be a brief, informative and occasionally humorous look at public policy in Pennsylvania. Please visit our website for more information about PennFuture.

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