Rafferty in the News

Oct 11, 2018
Bill in Harrisburg would make protesting at pipeline site a crime

HARRISBURG — The Senate and House are grappling with legislation that would make it crime to protest at a pipeline site.

SB652 passed the Senate 28-20 in May and was on Wednesday’s House calendar but did not come up for a vote.

The House and Senate differ on the versions of the bill, and if the House votes affirmatively, the bill will need to again be voted on by the Senate. Representatives meet three days next week for the last time in 2018.

Sens. Andy Dinniman, D-19, John Rafferty, R-44, and Tom Killion, R-9, voted “no,” and Reps. Becky Corbin, R-155, and Carolyn Comitta, D-156, voted against the bill in committee.

Dinniman released the following statement on Wednesday:

“This is part of a concerted effort that is going not only in Pennsylvania but across the nation to silence and stifle any opposition, criticism or concerns related to growing network of pipelines crisscrossing our communities. Yes, our critical infrastructure needs to be safe and secure, but this isn’t the way to do it.

Furthermore, if pipeline companies, like Sunoco, are so concerned about safety why haven’t they taken the necessary steps to ensure that our schools and local emergency first responders have access to the information they need to adequately respond to potential emergencies? Instead, we want to throw people in jail for up to a year for peaceful protests or ‘trespassing’ on an easement that may be in their own backyard? That’s not only wrong; it’s downright un-American.”

Comitta is opposed to the bill.

“I opposed in committee and will oppose on the floor,” Comitta said Wednesday. “I believe this bill is unnecessary and serves only to bully pipeline protesters.

“The crimes code already addresses penalties for trespassing and vandalism. In addition, this bill also adds felony charges for certain vandalism — that level of severe punishment is not appropriate for such crimes.” Source

Sept 19, 2018
The Mercury
Politicians deliver grants, awards in time for election season

As the legislative session winds up in Harrisburg, and state representatives and senators return to their districts, many to run for re-election, they are also bringing announcements about grants and state aid packages.

In just 48 hours time, no fewer than 10 different grants and awards from several state agencies were announced for Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties in press releases from area representatives and senators.

The region’s total take is $2,500,193 according to an analysis by Digital First Media.

Here’s a look at what has been announced:

Berks County
• A $93,500 grant for improvements to water supply and service to the concession stand at Union Township’s recreation area and an irrigation system for area’s recreational fields. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority. Politicians making announcement: state Rep. David Maloney, R-130th Dist. and state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist.

“Union Township’s project will enhance a recreational area for the benefit of the community,” Maloney said. “I want to thank the CFA board members for recognizing the value of these improvements.”

• $125,000 to Robeson Township Municipal authority for sewage pumping station No. 1 and No. 2 improvements. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program.

Chester County
• $154,836 for the Borough of Phoenixville for security cameras and upgrades at its water treatment plant. Funding source: Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program. Politician making announcement: state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D- 19th Dist.

“Access to clean water and safe water treatment systems is vital to the health and quality of life in our communities. These funds will help local municipalities provide necessary water and sewer infrastructure upgrades,” Dinniman said. “The improvements mean more efficient, more reliable, and more secure water systems for local residents and families.”

• $50,000 for the Borough of Phoenixville for playground improvements at Reeves Park. Funding source: Financed under the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund, through the Commonwealth Finance Authority. Politician making announcement: state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D- 19th Dist.

“These grants will help build on our Chester County tradition of preserving open space and providing top-notch parks and outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and families,” Dinniman said.

• $100,000 for Woodridge wastewater lagoon repair in South Coventry. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program. Politician making the announcement: state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist.

DEP has identified a number of serious problems with the system which include leaks in the lagoon treatment system, deteriorating piping and changing standards for the system, according to Rafferty. The project will drain and clean the treatment lagoon, replace the piping and valves between the two lagoons, replace deteriorating valves in the influent and disposal lines and seal both lagoons. The total project cost is $216,695.

Montgomery County
• $61,948 to Lower Frederick Township for manhole lining project. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program.

• $200,000 to Regal Oaks II sewer extension in Upper Pottsgrove Township. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program. Politicians making the announcement: state Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th Dist. and state Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-147th Dist.

“This project will make a positive impact on commercial and residential users,” said Mensch. “I applaud Upper Pottsgrove Township for taking the necessary steps to move this project forward and I am pleased that we are able to provide state funds for this essential community plan.”

“Sewer projects are costly, and the burden to pay for them typically falls on customers in the form of system improvement charges that appear on their bills,” Toepel said. “These grants work to offset project costs and minimize any impact on residents of the 147th District.”

• $419,909 for Lower Pottsgrove’s North Valley Road sewer replacement project. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program. Politicians making the announcement: state Rep. Tom Quigley, R-146th Dist. and state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist.

“I worked to secure this grant because I knew it would reduce the responsibility customers would otherwise face through system improvement charges on their bills,” Quigley said. “The grant will almost cover the total project cost of $494,011.”

• $195,000 for Upper Providence Schuylkill River Trail east construction. Funding source: Financed under the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund, through the Commonwealth Finance Authority. Politician making the announcement: state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist.

The township, in cooperation with Montgomery County, proposes to construct a pedestrian trail along the Schuylkill River to link the Upper Schuylkill Valley Park with the Schuylkill Canal Towpath Trail, according to Rafferty. The project will begin at the Black Rock Dam and extend to the Upper Schuylkill Valley Park parking area for a total length of approximately 8,000 linear feet. The project is an important link in creating a loop trail with the Schuylkill River Trail West. The total project cost is $650,000.

• $100,000 to Royersford borough’s Riverfront Park and trail phase IV projects. Funding source: Financed under the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund, through the Commonwealth Finance Authority. Politicians making the announcement: state Rep. Tom Quigley, R-146th Dist. and state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist.

“The project, impacting a mile-long trail beginning at Main Street and First Avenue and ending near an existing trestle bridge, will consist of the installation of 750 linear feet of a 10-foot wide ADA-compliant trail of a paved, slip-resistant surface. Trail amenities will include a pavilion with four picnic tables, two trash receptacles and three benches along the trail, as well as interpretive signs. The total project cost is $572,300” according to Quigley.

• $1 million in additional state funds for Pottstown School District. Funding source: Pennsylvania General Fund budget. Politician making announcement: state Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th Dist. at Thursday press conference.   Source

Jan 4, 2018
Daily Local News
Local officials turn up heat to ensure safety of pipeline process

BILL RETTEW JR. – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA The Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline sits prior to burial in East Goshen Township.
BILL RETTEW JR. – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA The Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline sits prior to burial in East Goshen Township. 

WEST CHESTER >> In light of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s decision yesterday to shut down construction on the controversial Sunoco Mariner East 2 statewide, state Sen. Andy Dinniman has decided to turn up the heat on Sunoco.

Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, said Thursday that the state has not, and is not, fully overseeing the safety of the pipeline process. The senator is inviting a group of citizens, civic leaders and elected officials to meet next week at his office to consider funding a study of the pipeline project with private money.

“The governor didn’t solve the problem in terms of protecting public safety, and if the state doesn’t do it we’ll perform a risk assessment ourselves,” Dinniman said.

Dinniman said that while other states regulate pipeline construction in high-density areas and consider an area’s geology, there is very little oversight in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday the DEP indefinitely suspended work on the pipeline statewide until Sunoco complies with the terms of its permitting process.

The ruling comes in the wake of a DEP violation notice served to Sunoco concerning the company’s using the controversial horizontal directional drilling method without the proper permitting out near Harrisburg.

Dinniman also is working closely with state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44, to propose a series of pipeline bills to be considered when the Legislature returns to session in late January.

“The reason we will have the bills – more pipelines will be built and we have to have protections that do not exist in this state now,” Dinniman said.

Dinniman feels that it’s important for citizens to know who was responsible for decisions being made every step of the way in the approval process leading up to construction of Mariner East 2.

Sunoco Pipeline LP’s $2.5 billion project is expected to deliver as much as 250,000 barrels a day of ethane, butane and propane from the state Marcellus Shale regions to the former Sunoco refinery complex at Marcus Hook.

“Who made the decision to allow for such an easy process?” Dinniman asked. “It’s a little late for the DEP to start acting tough when for six months they didn’t enforce. They still haven’t taken care of adequate enforcement in our area.”

Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline communications manager, insisted Thursday that the company is working with DEP to resolve the problems.

“We continue to work with the DEP to resolve all issues connected with our environmental permits and look forward to promptly returning to work on this important pipeline project,” Shields said. “Safety is our first priority: The safety of those in the community, the safety of our employees and the safety of the environment.”

Lynda Farrell is executive director of Pipeline Safety Coalition. Both she and Dinniman pointed to a group of citizens in Chester and Delaware counties that has created a united front against pipeline construction.

This shows that people have different approaches to the basic problems of this project, Farrell said.

“All worked together for a common goal with our legislators saying, ‘enough is enough.’” she said.

In Delaware and Chester counties, there are now 50,000 residents in the loop and connected to grassroots organizations, raising their voices, largely in opposition to the pipeline project. Their concerns center on safety, including the proximity to densely populated neighborhoods, schools and senior centers.

“This is just the first step,” Farrell said. “As much as this has been a long haul, it’s a stellar achievement by our citizens and legislators. This is the first step to make a real difference. When a collective community works together, things happen.”

“This is the most amazing, dedicated and organized group I’ve seen in 30 years of public service,” Dinniman said.

State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, is also meeting with stakeholders next week.

“I’m pleased that the administration is responding to the violations and safety concerns that have been raised by so many people, however, we still don’t a have a risk assessment and it’s essential that it happens,” Comitta said. “This is a step that needs to be done.”

Farrell pointed to a letter that Dinniman wrote to the governor asking him to pull the plug on pipeline construction. After that letter was posted, other legislators decided to fight pipeline construction.

Dinniman isn’t getting complacent.

“While we certainly appreciate the actions of the governor taken thus far, much needs to be done in term of public safety,” Dinniman said. “We need to go even further in terms of protecting the health and safety of residents.”

State Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, and state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, Thursday joined the chorus of voices stressing public safety following the DEP action to suspend construction.

“From the beginning of this regulatory process, we have insisted that the job creation and energy development that come from this project must not occur at the cost of health, safety or protecting the environment,” their statement points out

“We still believe that the economic benefits can co-exist with safety and environmental protection, but this pause ordered by DEP seems necessary to ensure that this occurs. It is critical that Sunoco Pipeline L.P. follow all permit conditions.

“Pennsylvania can be a leader in natural gas development, but we must get it right. That is why we are co-sponsoring several bills to ensure pipeline safety across Pennsylvania and hold pipeline owners accountable if anything goes wrong.”

Senator McGarrigle and Senator Killion are co-sponsors of legislation that would:

• Strengthen the pipeline siting review process.

• Require pipeline operators to conduct proper studies of aquifers that may be impacted by construction.

• Make owners and operators of pipelines liable for contaminating water supplies.

• Establish notification requirements for residents impacted by pipeline construction.

• Ensure pipeline construction in densely populated regions includes automatic or remote control safety valves.

• Require pipeline companies to provide funding to support emergency responders.

• Improve communication and coordination between emergency management agencies and pipeline companies in the event of an emergency.

Dec 22, 2017
Daily Times
Groups put pressure on Wolf to halt Mariner East 2 construction

HARRISBURG >> Six community members and two elected officials met face-to-face with Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday as they ratcheted up the pressure to halt construction of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline until a new safety assessment can be performed on the controversial project.

The residents from Delaware and Chester counties asked the governor to use his executive authority under Title 35 to immediately halt pipeline construction and operations, and to assess the risk the project poses to the safety of communities along the route.

“The residents, all members of the bicounty, bipartisan coalition Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety, additionally demanded that the commonwealth mitigate that risk to vulnerable populations impacted by the hazardous, highly volatile liquid export pipeline,” reads a coalition release.

State Reps. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, and Carolyn Comitta, D-156 of West Chester, joined the residents.

The governor was presented with letters from a bipartisan group of elected officials. Urging action were U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, state Sens. Andrew Dinniman, D-19, and John Rafferty, R-44, and state Reps. Becky Corbin, R-155, Duane Milne, R-167, and Comitta.

“During the meeting, residents repeatedly stressed the urgent need to address the threat to densely populated communities, and once again handed Gov. Wolf a petition containing over 6,000 signatures asking him to protect the safety of schools,” reads the release.

J.J. Abbott, Wolf’s press secretary, released the following statement Thursday afternoon: “Gov. Wolf has met with elected officials from this area and wanted to also hear from residents. He appreciated the meeting. As we have said previously, any safety assessment would have to be conducted by the PUC and Gov. Wolf would support such an assessment being done. As the PUC is the relevant authority with safety oversight over this project, if they were to perform this evaluation we would coordinate with them on how to proceed to safely and adequately assess safety concerns with this project.”

The now-under-construction Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline will carry highly volatile liquids and snake 350 miles across from Marcellus Shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline communications manager, again repeated the company’s stance that construction is being done to the highest safety standards of the industry.

“We understand there are varying opinions on infrastructure projects such as ours, however, pipelines are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to transport the oil and gas products we use every day,” Shields said. “The mainline construction of ME2 is approximately 91 percent complete and our HDDs (Horizontal Directional Drilling) are approximately 62 percent complete. We look forward to completing our project in a timely manner. The safety of all pipelines is built into the strict federal regulations for the construction, operation and maintenance of transmission pipelines. Those include not just the Mariner East 2 system but the many natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines that have operated safely for decades throughout the commonwealth. It is well documented that we exceed those federal safety regulations in many areas, including pipe thickness, depth, weld testing and pipeline inspection.”

The company picked up a legal victory Thursday when the state Public Utility Commission lifted an injunction against that had halted construction in West Goshen Township.

Work had been stalled since July in a dispute between the township and company over the installation and location of a valve station.

Bibianna Dussling is a Middletown resident and co-president of the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety.

“We’ve seen a rapidly growing bipartisan consensus to halt the construction and properly assess the risk of the Mariner East project,” Dussling said. “We hope the governor will take these concerns seriously and take immediate action to protect our safety.”

Caroline Hughes of East Goshen also attended the meeting.

“We expect the governor to take swift action, to use his authority to protect us, as mandated by his oath and his office,” Hughes said as leader of Goshen United for Public Safety. “Citizens are prepared to escalate our voices and demand representative action.

“We’re getting the attention of people in office that have an ability to make a change and we’re taking every opportunity to communicate the urgency of the situation.”

Comitta called on the governor to halt construction.

“I have been talking and meeting with constituents, state agency heads, township officials and Sunoco representatives regarding the Mariner East 2 project since I took office,” Comitta said. “Unfortunately, this project has experienced a record number of incidents and that is completely unacceptable.

“It’s past time to assess the safety risks so that our first responders and residents have the information they need to be safe, and it’s regrettable that this wasn’t done prior to the start of the project.”

Rebecca Britton of the Uwchlan Safety Coalition said Wolf seemed eager to learn about the group’s presentation.

She talked about Wolf’s role, and the need for him to halt construction under Title 35.

“The governor has the ability and primary responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Pennsylvania,,” Britton said.

Melissa DiBernardino said she will pull her kids form SS. Peter and Paul Elementary School if the new pipeline goes through. The planned pipeline runs less than 100 feet from several schools and a senior care center.

“While Gov. Wolf wouldn’t give an answer today, he assures us we’ll get one soon,” she said. ”I hope he sees the urgency in this. Every day he lets this continue, my children are at risk while Mariner 1 runs. Our children (and people of all ages) need a hero right now. Let’s hope he comes through within two weeks.”   Source

The Times-Tribune
Sept 2, 2017
Donors share wealth, skimp on transparency

In July, we wrote about attorney Larry Moran Jr.’s True Solutions Project, the nonprofit 501 (c) (4) he set up that’s politically active but doesn’t have to report its donors publicly.

True Solutions’ organizing statement lists Heritage for the Blind and Miles for Michael Cancer Support as examples of charities that it supports and Scranton’s First Friday as an example of community pursuits.

It doesn’t say anything about the political candidates True Solutions supported, but we found local politicians — mostly Democrats — who got campaign money from True Solutions. The recipients, the dates they got money and the amounts are:

■ Committee to Elect Patrick O’Malley County Commissioner, Sept. 27, 2016, $2,500.

■ Committee to Elect Tarah Toohil, Oct. 12, 2016, $50. She’s a Hazleton area state representative.

■Josh Shapiro for Pennsylvania, Oct. 13, 2016, $500. He’s state attorney general.

■Eugene DePasquale for Pennsylvania, June 24, 2016, $200, and Nov. 4, 2016, $2,000. He’s state auditor general.

■ Committee to Elect Kevin Haggerty, Nov. 4, 2016, $1,500. He’s the representative for the 112th state House district.

■Friends of Marty Flynn, Nov. 9, 2016, $1,500. He’s the representative for the 113th state House district.

■ Friends of Sid Kavulich, Nov. 12, 2016, $1,500. He’s the representative for the 114th state House district.

■ Friends of Mike Carroll for State Representative, Nov. 20, 2016, $1,500. He’s the representative for the 118th state House district.

■ Friends of Senator John Blake, Dec. 8, 2016, $1,000. He represents the 22nd district.

■ Judge Joe Cosgrove for Pennsylvania, Dec. 22, 2016, $1,000. He’s a Commonwealth Court judge who lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to a full 10-year term.

In May, Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon, a Republican, got a $12,000 campaign contribution from the Northeast Leadership Fund, a Plains Twp.-based political action committee funded mostly by Republican businessmen.

A deeper look shows that one of the biggest contributors to the fund was, drum roll please, Louis DeNaples, who donated $10,000. It’s a lot harder to prove that DeNaples gave to the fund so it could give to Scanlon.

First, the donations don’t match up. Second, DeNaples was one of seven people who gave to the fund on Oct. 14, three weeks before the presidential election that also included statewide races for attorney general and auditor general.

Four of the seven who gave that day live in Lackawanna County. The other three and their donations were John J. Lennox of Clarks Summit, director of Roamingwood Water and Sewer in Lake Ariel, $1,000; attorney Thomas P. Cummings Jr. of Dunmore, $1,000; and Gregory E. Gagorik of South Abington Twp., general manager of Toyota of Scranton, $5,000.

The leadership fund donated to eight political action committees besides Scanlon’s. The recipients were Friends of John Rafferty, the state senator and Republican attorney general nominee, $5,000 on Nov. 4 and $6,500 on Dec. 7; the state Republican Party, $10,000 on April 14; the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, $5,000 on April 1; Friends of Lisa Baker, the Republican state senator, $5,000 on April 14; the Committee to Elect Eugene DePasquale, the auditor general, $2,500; Friends of David Parker, the Monroe County state representative, $2,000 on Oct. 18; Friends of Tarah Toohil, the Hazleton area representative, $2,000 on Oct. 18; and Friends of Tony George, Wilkes-Barre mayor, $1,000 on Oct. 18.

Read more

August 23, 2017
New measures countering drunk driving become effective Friday, Aug. 25

HARRISBURG, Pa. — New measures to counter drunk driving will become effective Friday, August 25.

The new legislation, which was sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty, requires first-time offenders with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) higher than .10 percent to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their vehicles, the release states. Previously, the IID was required for only second and subsequent offenders.

According to the release, first-time offenders are now allowed to drive immediately with the IID rather than wait until after serving a driver’s license suspension. Read more

July 6, 2017
Rafferty Concerned About Budget Expenditure Plan

Montgomery County State Senator John Rafferty is talking up the expense budget approved by the legislature in Harrisburg just before the deadline last week.

He says it continues to fund human service programs while increasing spending on public education. The expenditure plan is just half though because state lawmakers are more than two billion dollars short in funding it. Rafferty says legislative leaders are putting together the means to close the budget gap.

“They’re working out the details of a funding package, it doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with it. Borrowing is an option, I don’t like to do that, but it is an option to plug part of the hole.”

Rafferty also says generating more revenue by the expansion of gambling is another option for closing part of the budget deficit. Source

June 30, 2017
Dinniman, Rafferty Bill for Civics Education Passes Senate Committee

HARRISBURG (June 30, 2017) – Bipartisan legislation to ensure that Pennsylvania high school students receive strong civics and American history education unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee this week. Read more

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