May 30, 2019 Facebook
Today marks my 150th day of the legislative session! I am honored to serve as your state representative for the 156th legislative district. I pledge to continue to do all I can to support and improve the everyday lives of residents in the 156th and across our Commonwealth. As always, my office is here and ready to assist you with any state-related issues.
You can call or visit us at any time!
West Chester District Office:
(Located in the Washington Square Apartment Building)
21 West Washington St., Suite A
West Chester, PA 19380
April 17, 2019 phillytrib.com Sen. Haywood joins call to support of renewable energy legislation
HARRISBURG − Art Haywood (D-4) along with State Senators Steven J. Santarsiero (D-10), Thomas H. Killion (R-9), and state Representatives Steve McCarter (D-154) and Carolyn Comitta (D-156), were joined by renewable energy advocates in the Main Capitol Rotunda recently to express their support for expanding the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS).
Through an upcoming bill, the legislators aim to boost the use of clean, sustainable energy, create thousands of new jobs, and set Pennsylvania’s renewable energy goal at 30% by 2030. The legislation would also direct the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to study the benefits of a renewable energy storage program and provide for several protections that control costs for electricity customers. The AEPS was originally initially enacted in 2004, but has since become outpaced by neighboring states.
“It is long overdue for Pennsylvania to implement new clean energy goals to create good jobs, cut pollution, and ensure we are a sustainable and prosperous state for the future of everyone,” Sen. Haywood said.
“Expanding renewable energy is critical to Pennsylvania’s future,” said Sen. Killion. “Modernizing our energy standards will protect the environment and create thousands of jobs. Substantially boosting renewable energy is absolutely the best way to provide cleaner air for our families while growing our state’s economy,” he added.
“The fierce and immediate urgency of climate change requires a fierce and immediate response,” Rep. McCarter said. “Thirty by ’30 is an excellent immediate goal. It’s reasonable and achievable. It creates jobs in Pennsylvania. And most importantly, it sets the stage for the much tougher work to come.
“I am proud to join my fellow colleagues in supporting legislation that calls for modernizing the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards,” said Rep. Carolyn Comitta. “Our state has already made important investments in alternative and clean energy technologies, but we must do more. Adjusting our electrical energy requirements to 30% by 2030 will solidify our path to reducing our carbon footprint and advance Pennsylvania toward becoming a national energy leader.”
Our message is simple: put public safety first. The Mariner East 2 pipeline has already caused so many problems and raised so many concerns for our communities. I proudly rallied with advocates in Harrisburg to put families first and fight for a better path forward.
March 12, 2019 DLN Chesco, Delco lawmakers urge Wolf to halt Mariner pipeline operations
WEST CHESTER — Pennsylvania lawmakers representing 11 House and three Senatorial districts across Chester and Delaware counties have signed a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf asking him to impose a moratorium on the transmission of natural gas liquids products through the Mariner East pipeline system until the mandated protocols are in place for local responders to properly manage a pipeline emergency.
Chester County Emergency Services and local school districts along the pipeline, including Downingtown Area School District, Rose Tree Media School District and West Chester Area School District have requested Energy Transfer Partners’ subsidiary SPLP to provide its Emergency Response Plan for the Mariner East project, which the responders and school districts need to complete their comprehensive All Hazards Emergency Response Plans and fulfill their statutory requirements under Title 35 of state law.
The letter urges Wolf to preserve the health, welfare and safety of constituents who live, work and raise their families in the high-consequence areas of Chester and Delaware counties within the impact radius of Mariner East. The pipeline also runs through Berks County.
“We have pipelines currently transporting highly volatile products through our communities, and our local first responders are not able to adequately plan their emergency response or mitigate our risk because the operator has failed to cooperate with repeated requests for their Emergency Response Plan,” said state Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester County. “Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco are risking a catastrophe, which is a criminal offense.
“I am grateful to my colleagues for their collaboration on this request. The bipartisan support for this moratorium underscores how important it is to take every possible step to ensure the safety of our communities and our first responders.”
The letter was signed by the following state representatives Rep. Steve Barrar, R-60 of Concord; Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156 of West Chester; Friel Otten, D-155 of West Whiteland; Rep. Kristine Howard, D-167; Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26; Rep. John Lawrence, R-13; Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown; Christina Sappey, D-158; Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-157; Rep. Dan Williams, D-74; and Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, as well as state Sens. Andy Dinniman, D-19; Katie Muth, D-44; and Tim Kearney, D-26 of Swarthmore.
Mariner East spokesmen did not return a call for comment as yet.
The company is building and operating the controversial Mariner East project, transporting volatile liquid gases across the full width of Pennsylvania, from the Marcellus Shale region to a facility in Marcus Hook.
Residents have opposed the project for years, saying the pipeline never should have been routed through densely populated neighborhoods, in close proximity to schools and senior centers.
Mariner East 1, which is a decades old smaller pipe that has been retrofitted to carry the new materials, has been shut down for weeks since a sinkhole formed in a Chester County neighborhood for the second time.
Mariner East 2 came online the last week of December, albeit not in the form Energy Transfer originally proposed. Mariner East 2 was proposed as a 20-inch pipe, but because of constant delays and other problems, Energy Transfer plugged in a hybrid version of several smaller pipes to fill in the gaps. Completion of the full Mariner East 2 pipeline now likely will not take place until 2020.
Mariner East 2x remains under construction.
In February the state Department of Environmental Protection halted all permits for the Mariner East 2 project, saying Energy Transfer had failed to take proper actions after an accident that caused an explosion in western Pennsylvania.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan last month announced he was launching a criminal investigation into the construction of Mariner East 2, noting his belief that state officials had not adequately protected citizens rights and safety. He now is impaneling an investigative grand jury to hear testimony from witnesses and review documents. Source
March 3, 2019 miamiherald.com With nuclear power plant owners seeking a rescue in Pennsylvania, a number of state lawmakers are signaling that they are willing to help — with conditions.
Giving nuclear power plants what opponents call a bailout to ensure they stay open could mean a politically risky vote to hike electric bills across the state. One key motivator for lawmakers could be attaching it to a package that steps up the fight against what some see as a bigger crisis: climate change.
“The crisis is here and we need … to deal with it,” said Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester. “Even things we thought were problems in the past need to be part of the solution.”
Conversations among lawmakers in the state Capitol now include provisions to impose limits and fees on carbon emissions, or expand on 15-year-old requirements to subsidize renewable energies, such as wind and solar power.
Comitta and others in a potentially sizeable clean-energy bloc say that legislation that raises electricity bills strictly to rescue nuclear power plants won’t cut it for them, even if they embrace nuclear power as a non-carbon power source helpful in curbing global warming.
Lawmakers’ immediate deadline is June 1.
That’s when Chicago-based Exelon Corp., the owner of Three Mile Island, has said it will begin the four-month process of shutting down the plant that was the site of a terrifying partial meltdown in 1979, unless Pennsylvania comes to its financial rescue.
Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. has said it will shut down its Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in western Pennsylvania — as well as two nuclear plants in Ohio — in 2021 or before unless Pennsylvania steps up.
Nuclear power plant owners say their fleets are being buffeted by a flood of cheap natural gas plants entering competitive electricity markets, relatively flat post-recession electricity demand and states putting more emphasis on renewable energy and efficiency.
They are fresh off winning subsidies in New Jersey, New York and Illinois, in compromise packages that brought environmental or ratepayer groups on board by advancing renewable energy or energy efficiency goals.
The debate could follow a similar path in Pennsylvania.
“It’s the first time that we’ve seen a great sensitivity to and even seen a great interest in beginning to deal with climate change,” said Rep. Stephen McCarter, D-Montgomery.
Pro-nuclear lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature expect to introduce a bill within the next two weeks.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, isn’t publicly taking a position on rescuing Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plants.
But Wolf is making fighting climate change a top second-term priority, and his administration suggests that keeping the nuclear power plants operating will help Pennsylvania slash greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades.
Opponents to a nuclear power rescue are already lined up.
They include anti-nuclear activists, the AARP, business groups including the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association and the state’s considerable natural gas industry groups.
A bailout, opponents say, means investing in outdated, inefficient and expensive power plants to supply a regional power grid. It will benefit shareholders of profitable companies and largely profitable plants on the backs of Pennsylvania ratepayers, they say.
Independent analysts do not foresee much effect, if any, on ratepayer bills if Three Mile Island and Beaver Valley shut down. What they foresee, however, is nuclear power being replaced by electricity from carbon-emitting natural gas- and coal-fired plants that typically run below capacity in a saturated market.
For two years, Exelon and FirstEnergy — both prominent campaign donors in Pennsylvania — have been working to build support for a financial rescue in Pennsylvania, enlisting a team of lobbyists.
Perhaps the strongest supporters are lawmakers — including influential Republicans — whose districts are home to nuclear power plant workers or subcontractors who live in their districts.
Blue-collar labor unions whose members service the plants are on board, although labor-friendly lawmakers may insist on guarantees that owners keep their nuclear power plants operating, invest in them and retain the workers.
The bloc of clean-energy Democrats may insist that subsidies for nuclear power plants be temporary, say for 10 years until more wind or solar power comes online.
Others say the legislation may need something else to win over enough opponents: concessions for the natural gas industry.
“It’s got to help everybody,” said Rep. Robert Matzie, D-Beaver. Source
February 25, 2019 TRIBLive Letter to the editor: Commit to 100 percent renewable energy
I want to thank the following Pennsylvania House representatives for co-sponsoring Rep. Chris Rabb’s House Bill 2132, to transition Pennsylvania to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. If passed in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, it will add 380,000 good-paying jobs to Pennsylvania’s existing 60,000 clean-energy jobs, while saving all of us more than $12,000 per year, by 2050.
This well-thought-out bill is currently co-sponsored by Patrick Harkins, Adam Ravenstahl, Austin Davis, Carol Hill-Evans, Jeanne McNeill, Steve Samuelson, Thomas Murt, Danielle Otten, Carolyn Comitta, Melissa Shusterman, Gene DiGirolamo, Sara Innamorato, Elizabeth Fiedler, Austin Davis, Steve McCarter, Tina Davis, Stephen Kinsey, Jared Solomon and Greg Vitali.
I have contacted my representative, Anita Astorino-Kulik, to request that she quickly join them. If you do not see your representative listed here, please join me in contacting him/her with an urgent request that they co-sponsor this historic bill to benefit all current and future Pennsylvanians.
February 8, 2019 pahouse.com Legislators respond to DEP decision to suspend review of Energy Transfer permits
HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – State Reps. Carolyn Comitta, Danielle Friel Otten, Kristine Howard, Leanne Krueger, Christina Sappey and Melissa Shusterman met with Gov. Tom Wolf and his staff last week to address the growing problems with Energy Transfer’s Mariner East project.
Today, those representatives have issued the following statement regarding news that the Department of Environmental Protection has suspended review of permit applications and other pending approvals for Energy Transfer due to noncompliance:
“We applaud the unwavering efforts of community members who continue to make their voices heard and draw attention to serious hazards and areas of oversight that need improvement.
“The action taken by the Department of Environmental Protection today is a step in the right direction.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to have a seat at the table for our communities and we look forward to continued collaboration with our state agencies and the governor’s staff to put the interests of the people of Pennsylvania first and foremost. There is still a lot of work to be done and we will use every tool available to us to make our community’s voice heard.”
The same six representatives sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission earlier this week, urging action related to a recent sinkhole along the Mariner East 1 pipeline. The letter can be found here.Source
January 29, 2019 Facebook
Oct 11, 2018 DLN 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
October 10, 2018 DLN Democratic candidates discuss issues at public forum
WEST GOSHEN — Christina Sappey, a candidate running for state representative for the 158th Legislative District, waited until the very end of the program to emphatically state what all five candidates at a forum had voiced earlier, to a lesser degree.
“Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote,” Sappey, a Democrat running against incumbent Republican Rep. Eric Roe, implored an audience of 150, at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, Monday night.
The forum was organized and run by the Chester County League of Women Voters and the West Chester Chapter of the NAACP.
During the 2½-hour forum, five Democratic candidates, all of whom are women, answered questions posed by the audience and event organizers about topics including, health care, water quality, literacy, business taxes and incarceration.
All the candidates in the county were invited. There will be a similar forum with different speakers at St. Paul’s, on Monday, Oct. 15, at 6:30 p.m.
Democratic state Rep. Carolyn Comitta is running against Republican Nick Deminski in the 156th District, and told the attentive audience to vote for people who share their values.
“Your state representative is your last stop from protecting all the people,” Comitta said. “Elect someone who gets it.
“Your vote is your voice.”
Kristine Howard is a Democrat running in the 167th District against incumbent Republican Rep. Duane Milne.
“We need to elect the right legislators,” she said, “We need to take back our power from some extremists.
“This is a really important election.”
Democrat Danielle Friel Otten is facing off against Republican Rep. Becky Corbin in the 155th District.
“Educate yourself about who is on the ballot, vote, and talk to your neighbors,” Friel Otten said.
Sappey said that it all depends on who the public votes for.
“It’s time for us to start electing people who are going to work together,” Sappey said.
Democrat Chrissy Houlahan is facing off against Republican Greg McCauley to fill the seat vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello in what she said is the “new and improved” 6th Congressional District, referencing a state Supreme Court decision to draw new congressional districts after finding the state’s previous congressional map violated the state constitution due to partisan gerrymandering that favored Republicans over Democrats.
The business owner, MIT graduate, former teacher and veteran, listed health care, decent jobs, a great education and a safe planet as her priorities.
The candidates were asked about “reaching across the aisle.”
Friel Otten suggested that more women should be elected and that politics is not just a Democratic or Republican issue.
“We have the opportunity to look each other in the eye,” she said.
Said Comitta: “It’s all your perspective. It’s about being in this role for the right reason.”
Sappey was a stay-at-home mom and said becoming a state rep is not her dream job.
“You have to enter every conversation knowing that you have to give something up,” she said.
The candidates were asked about incarceration. Howard talked about “super long” prison sentences.
“We had more juvenile lifers than any other state,” Howard said. “We have a very, very harsh justice system in this state and prosecutors hold all the cards.”
The group of candidates talked about supporting small businesses.
Friel Otten said that when manufacturing goes overseas, people on “Main Street” can no longer exist.
“The burden of taxes is on the small business owner,” Friel Otten said. “Close the loopholes (for big businesses) and take the pressure off of small businesses.”
Sappey is a proponent of businesses.
“We need to make it more attractive for businesses to come to Pennsylvania,” Sappey said.
Comitta said that when you buy local, you make an investment in the community.
“For every dollar you spend in a local business, 68 cents goes back into the community,” Comitta said.
Education was also discussed.
“Our municipal government is in a position to choose between the youngest and oldest residents and that is a crime,” Friel Otten said.
Howard favors fair funding for schools.
“We know this is the right thing to do, we have the wrong people,” Howard said.
When asked about the natural gas boom and enacting an extraction tax, Comitta said Pennsylvania is “sitting on a gold mine.
“I’m not against people making a lot of money, but it needs to be done safely and cleanly and (any proposed tax) should be used for kids in schools.”
While Howard said the liquid gases need to be taxed, Friel Otten said that several alternatives should be addressed, such as, creation of siting agencies, oversight of out-of-state companies, and taking any new tax revenue to build renewable energy alternatives.
Sappey reiterated the need to vote for reps supporting the Affordable Care Act.
“Make sure we vote for people who understand how important this issue is — the costs are through the roof,” Sappey said.
St. Paul’s Pastor Wayne E. Croft Sr. welcomed the guests and said he was pleased that the NAACP and League of Women Voters had crafted a platform enabling voters to make informed decisions.
Cassandra Jones, NAACP chair for political action committee, said that the audience was pleased to ask questions, face-to-face.
Pamela Gray, president of the Chester County League of Women Voters appreciated the “very engaged candidates” and the turnout of prospective voters. Source
April 30, 2018 StateImpact House panel OKs bill to gut environmental standards for conventional driller
PA DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Dead vegetation around a conventional well site in Warren County indicates a possible brine spill.
A state House committee has approved a controversial bill to eliminate many environmental requirements for Pennsylvania’s conventional oil and gas industry.
Rep. Martin Causer (R- Cameron) is the bill’s prime sponsor. He said conventional oil and gas companies are distinctly different from the larger corporations that drill deeper, Marcellus Shale wells. Causer’s bill is aimed at reinstating 1984-era standards. An identical measure is before a Senate committee.
“This legislation would create a separate Oil and Gas Act,” Causer said. “I think that’s very important.”
In 2012, the state passed Act 13, a major overhaul of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas law. At the time, the law had not seen significant changes since the 1980s, despite technological advances in the industry. Act 13 placed new environmental requirements on both conventional and Marcellus drillers.
Creates exemptions from Pennsylvania’s Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act.
Exempts certain wastewater treatment facilities from water protection
Removes language requiring additional review by environmental regulators of well site impacts to public resources, such as state parks.
Removes a requirement for drillers who negatively impact a water supply to restore it, in some cases, to standards exceeding the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Replaces the current “notices of violation” given out by state environmental regulators with a new warning system for “minor violations.” Prohibits the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from using those warnings when calculating penalties.
Puts a three-year expiration date on all DEP policies relating to conventional operations that were adopted after April 16, 2012.
SourceJan 4, 2018 Daily Local News Local officials turn up heat to ensure safety of pipeline process
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. Source
Jan 3, 2018 Daily Times News Pennsylvania DEP shuts down construction on Sunoco gas pipeline
WEST GOSHEN >> Already several months behind schedule, construction of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline was hit with another major setback Wednesday when the state Department of Environmental Protection shut down all construction on the project.
Work on the pipeline was indefinitely suspended statewide by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which said the project would remain stalled until Sunoco complies with the terms of its permitting process.
The ruling comes in the wake of the most recent problem with the project, with the DEP citing the company for drilling without the proper permitting in a section of the pipeline near Harrisburg.
The company has said it is trying to abide by the DEP permitting rules and regulations. The state is now demanding Sunoco come up with a plan to address the problems with Mariner East 2.
Sunoco Pipeline LP can do only basic maintenance of equipment on-site, maintenance of erosion control and limited maintenance of horizontal drilling, according to the state agency’s edict.
Under the order, the DEP noted that construction will cease until Sunoco submits a detailed operations plan outlining additional measures to control and minimize inadvertent returns.
Sunoco has discharged drilling fluid more than 100 times, including four times this fall, during a four-day time period, at the same location in East Goshen Township.
Sunoco also must also address the impact to private wells in Silver Spring Township, near Harrisburg, where a recent spill occurred during drilling that was outside the scope of the permits issued to Sunoco, according to DEP.
Earlier this summer, Sunoco fouled drinking water wells in about 30 West Whiteland Township wells and then hooked up homeowners to public water and awarded each homeowner $60,000.
The pipeline company will also need to better address environmental permitting regulations, the DEP order stated.
GOVERNOR WEIGHS IN
Gov. Tom Wolf has been under increasing pressure from elected officials and citizen groups to halt construction on the pipeline until a new safety study on the project could be completed.
Wolf’s press secretary J.J. Abbott issued a statement Wednesday.
“Gov. Wolf has made clear from the onset that he expects DEP to hold all permittees accountable to the conditions and requirements of Pennsylvania law which are implemented in all permits that are issued. DEP today is doing just that,” Abbott said. “This suspension will remain in place until the operator demonstrates compliance with the administrative order that DEP issued. This provides assurance that going forward it will uphold all obligations under the strict permits issued for this project.
“It is incredibly important that operators adhere to the terms of their permit. A failure to do so puts jobs for the citizens of our commonwealth and investment in our communities at risk.”
The head of the DEP said in light of recent reports of new problems with pipeline work, the state had little choice.
“Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We are living up to our promise to hold this project accountable to the strong protections in the permits.”
Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline Communications Manager responded.
“We received an order this morning from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that instructed us to suspend construction activities in Pennsylvania with respect to Mariner East 2 until reauthorized by the Pennsylvania DEP,” Shields said. “The order requires us to submit various reports related to current and future construction activities. We intend to expeditiously submit these reports and we are confident that we will be reauthorized to commence work on this project promptly. We also reiterate our commitment to the highest levels of construction expertise and our dedication to preserving and protecting the environment in which we conduct our work.”
SAFETY A PRIORITY
State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, along with six Chester and Delaware county residents, met with Gov. Wolf on Dec. 20.
“I thank the people for speaking loudly and persistently,” Comitta said. “I also thank the governor for listening to the concerns of our citizens and making public safety a priority.”
Melissa DiBernardino, of East Goshen Township, also spoke to the governor on Dec. 20.
“This is absolutely needed but it’s only a small part of it,” DiBernardino said. “It’s not addressing what is rightfully ours – our safety.”
Karen Feridun, Pennsylvania resident and founder of Berks Gas Truth, added: “The Department of Environmental Protection’s temporary suspension of Sunoco’s permits is a toothless act that falls far short of providing any real protection to communities in the path of the Mariner East 2 pipeline. The company has demonstrated itself to be indifferent to public health, safety, and property rights and to the regulatory process. It’s time for the DEP to shut down this unnecessary and dangerous pipeline once and for all.”
Eric Friedman is spokesperson for the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety has been busy fighting the pipeline from his home turf in Delaware County.
“The governor has been asked by thousands of concerned Pennsylvanians to halt the construction and assess the risk to vulnerable, dense populations across our commonwealth,” Friedman wrote. “Rather than addressing this request, Gov. Wolf directed his Department of Environmental Protection to take long-overdue enforcement action with respect to massive destruction associated with Sunoco’s botched and willfully noncompliant construction activities.”
State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, has helped lead the charge against construction.
“Residents in Chester County and throughout the commonwealth have built a strong and widespread grassroots coalition dedicated to asserting their rights and voices in the face of the growing network of pipelines crisscrossing our state,” Dinniman sated Wednesday. “This latest development is a testament to their strength, determination, and advocacy. We called for a halt to the pipeline in July, we took the message directly to Harrisburg in the fall, and I personally pushed for it again as early as yesterday.
“Although I am thrilled to see these efforts gaining traction and getting results, this is by no means an end to this process. And I, as state senator, will continue to meet my constitutional responsibility to stand with and for the health, safety and well-being of my constituents, while demanding that others, including state departments and agencies do the same.”
State Rep. Duane Milne, R-167, also commented on Wednesday.
“In conjunction with other public officials, I have been expressing my concerns and raising objections to this project, given the numerous problems encountered along its path. This was the right decision at this point. As I have called for in the past: this project needs a complete reboot.
“Numerous concerns regarding public safety, geological conditions and environmental protection continue, quite rightly, to be raised. These must be addressed in the process of determining the future viability of this particular pipeline route. Until a thorough review takes place, the project should not move forward.
“Rather than changing the subject, the governor should recognize and act on his responsibility to assess new threats to public safety, like those imposed by Sunoco’s recklessly conceived Mariner East.”
State Rep. Becky Corbin, R-155, issued a Wednesday statement: “I’m pleased to see that DEP has taken action against Sunoco to protect the health and safety of the commonwealth’s residents and visitors. On numerous occasions, I wrote to DEP regarding concerns I had about work on the project in my legislative district. Sensitive environmental features cannot be replaced once lost. In addition, it is important that potential public safety concerns are addressed to prevent a tragedy.”
VICTORY FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
State Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr., R-44, said the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s decision to temporarily suspend construction permits associated with the Mariner East 2 pipeline is a victory for public safety and environmental protection.
“The safety and well-being of our citizens should always be our top priority and I commend the governor for his action today,” Rafferty said. “I and my colleagues, Senator Andy Dinniman and Representative Becky Corbin, along with our engaged citizen pipeline safety coalitions, have specifically requested that the governor take the necessary step that he took today. Now before moving forward, we must make certain that Sunoco complies with our laws and regulations and respects the health and welfare of all of our citizens.”
State Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168, suggested a course of caution.
“Once Sunoco corrects all of its violations, and allows drilling to occur in a safe manner, the company must remain vigilant and continue to responsibly operate and maintain the pipeline to ensure public safety,” Quinn said. “I am calling on Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration to conduct a full risk assessment to analyze the potentially catastrophic harm that a leak or other malfunction could cause.
“This pipeline will run directly through densely populated neighborhoods and right past schools, leaving our children highly vulnerable. We must know the risk and we must know it before drilling resumes.”
State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, said she was “relieved” to see construction halted.
“Construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline across Pennsylvania — but especially in Delaware and Chester counties — has impacted drinking water, wreaked havoc on private property, and posed a grave danger to our citizens,” she said. “Sunoco Logistics has shown a blatant disregard for these things that we hold dear and which are protected by our state Constitution. I thank Governor Wolf and Secretary McDonnell for their attention to this issue and for suspending the construction of this pipeline.”
Sam Rubin, of the environmental group Food and Water, went a step further, urging Wolf to shut down the project altogether.
“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but the only responsible course of action for Gov. Wolf is to stop the Mariner East 2 altogether,” Rubin said. “This project, which was greenlighted with flawed permits, was never going to be safe for the people of Pennsylvania.
“What we really need is a full and permanent halt to construction and a full, transparent, and public assessment of the risks associated with the Mariner East 2. The movement to stop the pipeline will be using this temporary halt to build the power we know we’ll need to protect communities from Mariner East once and for all.”
Kurt Knaus, a spokesperson of the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, offered a contrasting opinion, urging a quick settlement of the dispute so work on the pipeline can resume.
“Sunoco and DEP should work expeditiously to resolve this matter in order for safe pipeline construction to continue – not just for the benefit of the workers who may be idled, but also for the full protection of Pennsylvania’s environment,” Knaus wrote in a Wednesday release. “Industry experts agree that actions that cause construction and horizontal directional drilling to start and stop, start and stop have the potential for even greater harm.
“This project remains critically important for our commonwealth. Sunoco and DEP should work expeditiously to resolve this matter so safe construction can resume and this vital project can get back on track.”
The $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 project is projected to ferry as much as 250,000 barrels of gases such as butane, ethane and propane across the full width of the state, from the Marcellus Shale regions to the former Sunoco refinery complex in Marcus Hook.
CLEAN AIR COUNCIL CLAIMS VICTORY
“Clean Air Council applauds Governor Wolf’s DEP for finally standing up and taking this necessary action in response to Sunoco’s pattern of blatant disregard for public health and safety, Pennsylvania drinking water supplies, and other natural resources,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “We look forward to DEP holding Sunoco accountable on this suspension and all future actions that may need to be taken to protect Pennsylvania residents.”
Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Director Joanne Kilgour issued the following statement: “The spills and legal violations of the Mariner East 2 are exactly why Pennsylvanians and the Sierra Club opposed this project from the beginning. Local residents along the pipeline route have organized to defend the health and safety of their communities, warning that the Mariner East 2 would cause pollution and impact private water supplies. DEP’s decision to suspend the permits required for construction affirms that the concerns raised by these community members were valid, and that the pipeline should never have been approved in the first place. We hope the Wolf Administration will take this opportunity to re-evaluate its insufficient approach to the permitting of pipeline projects and other fossil fuel projects throughout Pennsylvania.”
Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said Wednesday that the organization helped negotiate some of the permitting rules.
“Today’s order from DEP ultimately represents DEP’s understanding that Sunoco shamelessly broke a number of terms and conditions that Delaware Riverkeeper Network and others helped secure through litigation with the department in a settlement agreement, van Rossum said. “This project was flawed from the start, and it is disgraceful that these flaws have manifested themselves in such a way that the public’s health, and environment have been significantly impacted.
“This order provides further evidence that the project should never have been authorized by DEP in the first place.”
West Goshen activist Tom Casey had the last word: “It would seem that the efforts of so many people, who are fighting for our rights, have gotten through to state officials. Due to Sunoco’s low standards, lack of expertise in pipeline coordination, and inability to follow the rules, the DEP has provided a crucial first step in holding them accountable. But there is more that needs to be done. We are demanding, for the sake of the countless thousands of residents, workers, and commuters who are near these lines, that the governor has a quantitative risk analysis completed for every township. We still do not know the extent of the danger that hardworking Pennsylvanians are being asked to accept along the Mariner East 2 pipeline path. Source
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
Dec 12, 2017 WHYY Pa. lawmakers send Wolf abortion restrictions he plans to veto
Pennsylvania’s House on Tuesday voted after an impassioned debate to send a bill limiting abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy to Gov. Tom Wolf, who immediately repeated his threat to veto it.
The measure would keep in place exceptions under current law for when a mother’s life is at risk, or if she could suffer a serious, permanent injury without an abortion. It does not allow exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.
Supporters said medical advances mean premature fetuses are now able to survive at an earlier point in the pregnancy than previously possible.
The strong feelings and stark language that characterizes the abortion discussion on the national level were reflected in the House debate.
“As people try to frame this debate in terms of women’s rights, the question that begs to be asked is, what about the rights of those preborn women in the womb being exterminated?” said Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York.
Opponents argued that parents should be allowed to make their own abortion decisions with medical input and by consulting their sources of spiritual advice.
“We have to be careful in this body that we don’t put an ideology on everybody and say that everybody has to live like this,” said Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny.
Planned Parenthood said the bill would make Pennsylvania’s abortion law among the nation’s most restrictive.
Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, said a House that is “80 percent men and 0 percent physicians” should not be making decisions for women about terminating their pregnancies. She noted that a tiny fraction of abortions currently occur after 20 weeks.
The bill “does not protect women,” said Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery. “It attempts to control them by imposing the views of some legislators on women, and I think that’s wrong — that’s morally wrong.”
The legislation also would outlaw what the bill terms “dismemberment abortion,” a phrase not used by medical professionals. It would effectively ban dilation-and-evacuation, a procedure that is the most common method of second-trimester abortion.
“Dismemberment abortion is completely inhumane, it’s barbaric,” said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York.
Some opponents noted that the bill had not received public hearings, while supporters said the issues have been discussed in depth for years.
“These women deserve our support, not to be maligned by politicians in Harrisburg for making medical decisions about their bodies for their families with their doctors,” Wolf said in a written statement.
The bill passed the Senate in February by a 32-18 vote. The margins in both chambers raise doubts about whether supporters will be able to muster sufficient votes to override Wolf’s promised veto. Source House votes here
Nov 29, 2017 Daily Local News WCU to get funding to train veterans to be teachers
West Chester >> State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, announced that West Chester University will receive approximately $112,000 in funding under the federal Troops to Teachers grant program as part of a more than $272,000 award shared with Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
The universities will partner with Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Delaware County Intermediate Unit, Pittsburgh Public Schools and Chester Upland School District to prepare military veterans to be teachers.
“I am very pleased that West Chester University has been awarded this important funding to help assist veterans and address Pennsylvania’s growing teacher shortage,” Comitta said. “This program meets two critical needs and I am very proud that West Chester was selected.”
The Troops to Teachers grant program, managed by the Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support, provides institutions with the funding needed to implement an alternative post-baccalaureate program to prepare eligible veterans to teach in one of Pennsylvania’s subject shortage areas. Additionally, it aims to provide hard-to-staff schools with appropriately certified teachers. The program will enable veterans to gain critical skills and experience in the classroom, and help them with everything from navigating the certification process to securing a job in the field. Certification costs will also be discounted, and application processing will be expedited.
Under the program, veterans can earn a Pennsylvania instructional certificate to teach mathematics and the sciences in grades 7-12 and foreign languages across the K-12 spectrum. Veterans must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and register on the National Troops to Teachers registry to participate.
As part of the program, and for the first time, teacher preparation institutions will partner with high-need local education agencies to provide a year-long residency program for new educators. Slippery Rock University will also provide teacher mentees with support in interview techniques and resume writing, in addition to instructional coaching. Read more
Nov 6, 2017 The Quad Governor Wolf signs legislature to balance Pa. budget
On Monday, Oct. 30, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf signed off on several pieces of legislature needed to balance Pennsylvania’s proposed $32 billion budget that was approved on July 1 without a plan to pay for it.
The Republican-controlled legislature has proposed legalizing and expanding online and casino gambling as well as borrowing $1.5 billion against the proceeds of the state’s tobacco companies which Wolf signed despite proposing to borrow $1.25 billion and reimbursing those funds through the revenue from the state’s Liquor Control Board.
The tobacco-funded loan plan is subject to approval by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
Two bills are still in limbo, one of which mandates Wolf to withdraw $300 million out of dedicated funds ranging from transportation to environmental cleanup. Wolf indicated that he may veto the other bill, the education code, for a variety of reasons that he has not stated in detail.
The effort to produce a plan to finance Pennsylvania’s budget has been long overdue and has resulted in a credit downgrade. Wolf stated at a monthly press-club luncheon in Harrisburg on Monday, Oct. 30 that he is “sick and tired of special-interest politicians, self-interest, political games trumping the public interest here in Harrisburg,” according to Philly.com.
Tensions have been rising in the commonwealth as a result of this dilemma as shown through the governor’s comments. Upon reaching out to Democratic State Representative Carolyn Comitta for comment, she stated that, “the lack of fiscal responsibility demonstrated by the House Republican leadership, especially their choice of balancing the budget by borrowing and adding little recurring revenue, has led to a credit downgrading of PA by Standard & Poors. This downgrade raises the interest rate and makes it more expensive for our state to borrow money–adding millions of dollars in costs to PA taxpayers.” When asked about the specifics of the plan, she said, “This is not the budget I or my constituents wanted. There is little recurring revenue, lots of borrowing and no severance tax. There are some good things included in this budget including funding for valuable pre-K programs and much needed additional funding for services for people with disabilities.”
Republican State Representative Duane Milne explained this situation “reflects the difficult, political and monetary times we are in.” He then went on, “For this year, all things considered, it’s generally about as fair and reasonable of a budget as one can expect. It’s not perfect, but in my 12 years I’ve never found a perfect bill. It funds the areas that need funding without major tax increases and without reckless borrowing.”
The 2018 elections have been looming over Wolf and other state legislators, many of whom are up for re-election in the coming year. Read more
Oct 30, 2017 Coatesville Times The Times’ Magazine: A sit down with Carolyn Comitta
By Emily Pisano, Special to The Times
Clad in armor of a black romper and color-blocked slides, I scroll through photos of my cat while I wait. Made apparent by my shaking foot, the feelings I’m experiencing are a cocktail of excitement and anxiety. As a girl with the simple dream of writing for Vogue, The Cut, or Harper’s Bazaar this is what I consider a major moment. Having arranged this interview, done the research, and prepared the questions, all that’s left to do is wait for her to arrive.
“Emily, it is so good to see you again! How is the new store?” Carolyn asks. The energy in the office elevates instantly as the subject of my interview, PA House of Representative’s Carolyn Comitta, breezes through the door. “Off to a good start,” I think to myself. “She knows who I am!” Ushering me deeper into her West Chester, PA office, I’m thankful for what is Carolyn’s ability to instantly put me at ease. When she begins by asking me about myself, I forget for a second who is supposed to be interviewing who.
Soft spoken, Carolyn has an unbelievably warm presence. Giving me her full attention and interested in what I have to say, I begin to feel less like a wannabe writer and more like the writer I’ve imagined myself becoming.
It also doesn’t hurt that Carolyn (like me) enjoys vintage scarab jewelry and like all greats (Oprah, Sting, Lady Gaga), she and I are both left-handed.
With my phone set to record, I kick the interview off with the very light topic of the Cold War. It is Carolyn actually who brings up this rather tense moment in regard to the event which sparked her political interest. “I would walk to school and remember looking up at the sky and wondering, ‘Is there going to be a bomb dropped today?’ It was pretty heavy duty. It’s no wonder that I would have been aware.”
While seeing her parents head out at night to attend civil defense meetings, Carolyn went to sleep with one issue plaguing her. “I often thought that if I could have an opportunity to meet Mr. Khrushchev that we could become friends and we could solve the problems and we would no longer have a war hanging over our heads.” Instantly, I begin to laugh as I too have had a similar thought. My problem-solving mindset, however, was activated by Russia’s current leader, Mr. Vladimir Putin. You see, I had a dream where Putin and I were best friends, and because of our friendship, peace between our two countries was finally achieved.
Looking back, it is easy to see Carolyn’s desire to build a friendship with Khrushchev lay the groundwork for the rest of her career. Often, at least for me, when we look at someone else’s success it is easy to see how they ended up where they did. But, when we reflect on the future of our own careers, it can resemble staring into a thick impenetrable fog. Even after narrowing down the industry we wish to be a part of, finding that thing that makes us get out of bed on the coldest of days can be daunting.
“I didn’t realize it until a third grader asked me when I was mayor, “Did you always know you wanted to be mayor?” and I said well, no, I actually, you know come to think of it, I think that I pictured myself being a Secretary of State.” Realizing over time that her talent and passion laid with building relationships while bringing people from all backgrounds together to solve problems, Carolyn saw that becoming the Mayor of West Chester would allow her to do just that. Although, if you don’t think some convincing was required, well…keep reading.
Dr. Madeline Wing Adler and Bill Scott. One was the first female president of West Chester University, the other a local political leader. Both have one thing in common, they asked Carolyn to run for office. Bill recruited Carolyn for Borough Council and Dr. Adler recruited her for mayor two years later. “He didn’t ask me once. He asked me four or five times before I said yes. I kept making excuses and really, honestly, the reason I kept saying no was because I was terrified, and I wasn’t sure if I could do it.”
Two years ago, I was given the opportunity, with my business partner, to start a company and become a full-fledged entrepreneur. Here’s a little secret, I came extremely close to turning down the offer. Like Carolyn, I was asked by people I admired to make a career shift based on talent they saw within me. It took many family and friends convincing me for two weeks that I should go for it.
As a professional perfectionist since birth, my main reason for shying away from this once in a lifetime opportunity was that I did not feel as prepared as I wanted to be. There were classes to take and millions of books to read on how to fully grasp my new profession as the Business Director for a start-up company. All the time in the world would not have made me feel as prepared as I felt I needed to be. My perfectionist tendencies have been both a blessing and a curse throughout my education and career thus far. Perfectionism, to me, has more often than not been a badge of honor. According to Barbra Streisand, perfectionism should be a positive, never a negative connotation (and if Barbra, my hero, said it, obviously, it’s true). Well, Barbra, I hate to rain on your parade, but you’re kind of wrong. Perfectionism can be a problem. It has taken me weeks longer than expected to write this post because I wanted it to be so good I couldn’t even start it. Not a very productive way of thinking.
“If you are going to wait until you have lost your fear, you will wait forever. It will never happen.” Hearing these words without fully understanding them, I scribble them into my notebook. “Women will usually wait until we are 100% sure that we are ready to run for that office, ask for a promotion, open that business. We make sure we are 100% prepared.” My mind begins to short circuit. Carolyn continues. “What we don’t realize, and studies show, is that men wait until they are about 60% prepared. But they think they are 100% prepared. It’s a testosterone thing actually.”
Just like the college kids say, I’m shook.
Over the years, Carolyn has devoted part of her research to women, leadership and the confidence gap. Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on how women can boost their testosterone (the confidence hormone) is a must watch. Carolyn recommended it to me as Cuddy has been part of Carolyn’s research. “If you sit in a chair and put your feet up on the desk, you know, like the classic cartoon of the business mogul man, arms behind his head feet on the desk. If you do that for three minutes, her research shows your testosterone level goes up 20%.” I have yet to put this research to the test, but I have complete faith it will work. As Carolyn suggested to me, it’s a great thing to do before an interview, speech, or anything you are terrified to do. “We perceive that we aren’t quite up to par, but we are. We perceive it. It’s not reality.”
Imagine all we could accomplish if we had just that much more confidence in ourselves.
The threat of failure is a big contributor to the fear we feel when we are about to make a big life change. Actually, failure can also contribute to fear in the smaller moments of our lives. The fear of failure I have felt before many, many French tests is not a part of my education I would like to relive. But, you know what? If you don’t go for it and make that change you’ll always wonder, ‘what if?’ “Another quote I love,” says Carolyn as she leans just an inch forward in her chair, “is if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. And I would much rather be at the table.”
The night of November 8th was bad, but the morning of November 9th was even worse. I know this was not the case for all of you reading this, but personally, I was ready for the glass ceiling to shatter. November 9th brought with it a feeling of defeat. It was like when you are playing Candyland and you’re all the way at the top near King Candy, but in the final hour you draw a Plumpy card and are sent back to start. That is how I felt the morning of November 9th. So close yet so far.
Wallowing in your sorrows and complaining about things gets you nowhere. After doing just that for a respectable amount of time, I did a little research and found ways to get involved. The more I reached out to people, the better I felt. The glass ceiling may not have shattered the night of November 8th, but that ceiling, is riddled with cracks. And smaller glass ceilings are being shattered every day. In fact, Carolyn Comitta has done just that here in West Chester. She is the OG Girlboss of Chester County.
You were the first female mayor ever in West Chester, I tell her as if she didn’t already know. “Yes, after 210 years. And Emily, in my opinion,” Carolyn begins as her piercing blue eyes grow wide with excitement, “the most important first, I was the first bi-partisan elected Mayor of West Chester. I won the Democratic and Republican Primary twice. I had the support of all the voters.”
Most definitely this is something to be proud of. In a time of such chaos and unrest in the world, especially between our two political parties, it is hopeful to know that finding common ground is not impossible.
Bringing people together to solve problems, a method Carolyn has used throughout her twelve-year long career as an elected official, has proven itself an effective way to lead. She has won over both parties in their respective primary and secured the 156th, which is typically gerrymandered for a Republican. Now, Carolyn has brought people from different sides to the table yet again to discuss the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
The pipeline, which is scheduled to deliver about 350,000 barrels of propane, ethane, and butane per day through 11 miles of Delaware County and 25 miles of Chester County, has brought up many concerns throughout the region. One of the main concerns when it comes to the pipeline is the rather important issue of public safety. This pipeline will be running uncomfortably close to family homes, elementary schools, and nursing homes, which has left many residents uneasy.
This past July, Carolyn proposed four pieces of legislation in regard to the pipeline. These proposals aim to strengthen the state’s ability to protect the private wells of citizens, create a pipeline siting authority and amp up interagency communication between those involved with the pipeline. “We need to have clearer, more timely access to answers for citizens that live along the pipeline, for local elected officials, and for the state reps as well. Communication is always the key.”
The bill Carolyn spoke about in most detail will create a board “that would include the head of the DEP, the PUC, Department of Health, PEMA, and all of the agencies at the state level that deal with pipeline issues separately and don’t usually have an occasion to get together and talk.”
It makes sense, yes?
“You get people who don’t regularly talk with each other together at the table and it creates an opportunity for some very important new ideas and better communication.”
We have all seen this idea play out at one time or another. Remember all those fun group projects you had to do in college? When you were lucky enough to be paired with people who really cared it was almost fun to discuss and brainstorm the things you could do and play off each other’s strengths. By bringing together all those whose jobs touch on some aspect of the pipeline, locally elected officials will have much clearer answers when responding to the concerns of the citizens. So, you see, even when you graduate group projects never really go away.
Speaking of group activities, it would be criminal of me not to mention the most important group event there is, voting. Yes, the physical act of voting is something you do as an individual, but the months leading up to an election call for some serious group rallying. The importance of getting your friends, family, and community to the polls is a responsibility we as citizens should eagerly fulfill, and not just for national elections.
Carolyn, having won the 156th district by a mere twenty-five votes, cannot emphasize the importance of voting in local elections enough. “Local elections are usually not a landslide…and the local elections are really where the decisions that impact our lives every day are happening.” That pothole you seem to hit every Monday on your way to work? The President of the US is not going to fix it for you, but your local elected official can.
Your vote matters. Your vote is your voice.
“If you don’t vote and you don’t express your political voice, someone else will select who is going to be making all the decisions for you, so, if you’re ok with that…most people are not.”
If you don’t like the way something is being done or feel you aren’t being heard, get involved. Read up on your candidates and the issues they stand for. A wonderful thing about local elections is that the candidates are–wait for it–local! Go to their individual Facebook pages and find out where their next event is being held. They are accessible to you and they want to talk to you.
Now is actually the perfect time to start your research, as Election Day quickly approaches. November 7th, mark it on your calendars.
Grab a coffee on your way to work that day and stop off at your designated polling location. Once you get in the booth it takes less than two minutes to cast your vote. If you fear there will be a long line (I hope there is!), start answering your emails while you wait. Or text your friends to make sure they too are making their voices heard.
“When you vote, you are shaping the future.”
As my interview with Carolyn comes to a close, we chat about what a wonderful 1.8 square miles West Chester Borough is and how lucky we are to call this town home. I learn that she prefers hot coffee over iced, salty vs sweet and red wine over vodka and tequila. Most importantly, I begin to process all she has said to me over the past fifty minutes.
Leaving Carolyn’s office, I feel incredibly inspired and happier than I have been in some time. She is living proof that when you begin to believe in yourself, what you can achieve is unlimited.
Now more than ever it is paramount to remember that you are just as prepared as the person sitting next to or across from you. You are up to par. There is nothing stopping you from pulling out that chair and taking a seat at the table. So go for it. Source
Oct 19, 2017 citizensvoice.com Boback among 13 commission appointees
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday the appointment of 13 new women to serve on the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the return of 20 commissioners.
The commission consists of volunteer members and advises the governor on policies and legislation that impact women.
State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, and Grace McGregor Kramer of Lackawanna County were among the new appointees.
Other appointees included state Rep. Carolyn T. Comitta, D-Chester County; Read more
Sept 9, 2017 Daily Local News East Goshen getting state-of-the-art playground, including a zipline
EAST GOSHEN >> Township staffers and officials expect to attract kids and their parents, from both near and far, to a now-under-construction “destination playground.”
The younger crowd will play like Indiana Jones, searching for a buried dinosaur, ride a 75-foot zip line, or climb and slide, at the $715,000 tot lot, at East Goshen Park.
Parents will be able to oversee the action protected from the sun in a centrally located and covered area.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Saturday, with completion of the park expected during late October, weather permitting.
On Tuesday, the ground was leveled, and old equipment from the park built in the ‘90s was trucked away. Read more
August 31, 2017 Daily Local News A.G. rolls out roundtable to tackle campus problems, sex assaults during forum at WCU
WEST CHESTER >> It’s not just students and parents who have thoughts and concerns about heading back to college campuses. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is serious about preventing drug and alcohol abuse on campus, while at the same time addressing mental health issues and sexual assault.
During a Thursday press conference at West Chester University, the state’s top cop told a packed meeting room about a new campus safety initiative.
Shapiro unveiled plans for a series of roundtable discussions across the Commonwealth will involve the input of students, law enforcement personnel, victim advocates, teachers and other staffers to identify strategies to promote public health and safety issues.
The roundtable will take place during the current academic year at Dickinson College, Lincoln University, Slippery Rock College and the University of Pittsburgh. Read more
August 31, 2017 Southern Chester County News Attorney General visits Kennett to wage war on opioid crisis
KENNETT SQUARE >> Determined to curb an opioid epidemic that is now the leading cause of death for all Americans under age 50, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro came to Kennett Square to discuss the crisis with state lawmakers, municipal officials and law enforcement officers.
“I need to know what’s happening on the ground and how my office can assist in the local efforts,” said Shapiro, who has visited eight counties in the past two days. “We need to have a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to deal with the number one public health threat in Pennsylvania – the heroin and opioid epidemic. And these forums provide a great opportunity.”
The discussion, which coincided with International Overdose Awareness Day, took place at Kennett Fire Company’s Red Clay Room, and included almost the entire Chester County legislative delegation, state Rep. Steve Barrar, state Rep. John Lawrence, state Rep. Harry Lewis, state Rep. Becky Corbin, state Rep. Warren Kampf, and state Rep. Carolyn Comitta. Also in attendance were local police chiefs from throughout Chester County and Chester County Commissioners Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell.
“I can’t think of a family that hasn’t been affected by this,” said Barrar.
New Garden Police Chief Gerald Simpson said more efforts must be put into educating the younger set.
“We had five (opioid-related) deaths last year,” Simpson said. “If had five fatal accidents in one year, my community would be outraged and would ask me what I plan to do about it.”
Simpson said 25 percent of the opioid-related cases his department worked on last year resulted in death.
“That’s a scary number,” he said.
Shapiro told the panel that the crisis is taxing law enforcement and first responders in a significant way. He said police sometimes return to administer Narcan to the same person multiple times. There were 4,642 drug-related deaths in Pennsylvania last year, and if nothing is done, that number will skyrocket, he said.
Dinniman said he was glad to see Shapiro make the opioid crisis a priority.
“It was a productive and comprehensive discussion,” Dinniman said. “At the end of the day, solving the opioid crisis is not going to be a one-agency issue. Rather, it’s is going to take multi-pronged and cooperative effort between law enforcement personnel, public health officials, educators and others. And one of this morning’s overriding themes was how can we take what is working in Chester County and replicate it throughout the state.”
Shapiro cited his office’s and other local and state law enforcement departments’ efforts to crack down on illegal drug dealers amid the continued use and abuse of prescription medicine.
“We’ve arrested 844 drug dealers since I took office eight months ago. We could do that every day on and on, but at the end of the day it’s not going to solve it,” he said. “Prescription drugs are the root cause of so many of these problems.”
He also discussed efforts to deactivate and dispose of unwanted or unused prescription drugs, holding opioid manufacturers accountable, and working to improve access to addiction treatment and recovery options.
Cozzone expressed concerns about young people and students being prescribed opioids for sports injuries.
Dinniman discussed Senate Bill 535, legislation that calls for opioid awareness and addiction prevention education in Pennsylvania schools. That bill was incorporated in the Pennsylvania School Code, which recently passed the Senate.
Comitta, who said she plans to talk to the local medical community about the problem, said the roundtable discussion is a great start to eradicating the problem.
“We all need to put our heads together to figure out how to combat this very complicated, very distressing opioid epidemic,” Comitta said. “It’s multi-faceted and it will take every level of government and every level of law enforcement. This is a public health crisis.”
Lawrence said here is bipartisan support among local lawmakers to attack the opioid problem.
“There are a lot of callenges, but we are talking about people’s lives,” Lawrence said. “I can tell you there is a united front on this and we will move forward. It’s an issue that all of us are searching for solutions.”
Thursday morning’s discussion was one of several events involving combating opioid abuse in Chester County that day. Later that afternoon, Dinniman joined Shapiro to announce a series of roundtable discussions at Pennsylvania colleges and institutes of higher education aimed at addressing drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and sexual assault on campus. Source
July 22, 2017 Daily Local News Comitta joins call for halt to pipeline construction
WEST CHESTER >> Add state Rep. Carolyn Comitta to the list of those calling for a halt to construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
Comitta, D-156, cited several of what she claims are safety issues related to the Sunoco Logistics’ project in Delaware and Chester counties in making her decisions.
More than a dozen West Whiteland well water users first complained of damage to their tap water sources on July 3. Sunoco has agreed to hook up impacted residents to public water and pick up their water bill tab for 20 years.
Comitta wants Sunoco to stop drilling until a Department of Environmental Protection investigation is complete. Yesterday the DEP indicated they have filed four notices of violation against Sunoco in conjunction with pipeline work across the state.
“I am deeply concerned about making sure our drinking water is safe,” Comitta said in a press release. “Yesterday, (it was) reported there have been 61 incidents during the construction of the Mariner East 2 in Section 6 (including Chester and Delaware counties) since pipeline construction began in April, with the vast majority of those incidents resulting in water problems. Read more
July 17, 2017 Daily Local News State lawmakers want to beef up protections for pipeline neighbors
Local legislators are looking for new ways to create a greater level of transparency of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project after multiple incidents of fluid leaks have affected both private and public waterways in Chester and Delaware counties in recent weeks.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, submitted a list of concerns to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection after he claimed the agency both failed to protect the well water of residents on Valley View Drive in West Whiteland Township and failed to hold Sunoco Pipeline L.P. accountable.
“Following reports of groundwater impact and wells running dry, I immediately began investigating what DEP requires to protect homeowners with well water,“ Dinniman said. “I was shocked to discover that while notification is required, Sunoco was taking advantage of a significant loophole in the permitting process by claiming they were unaware that these wells existed.” Read more
July 11, 2017 The Times Herald Uwchlan charts a new ‘road map’ for gas pipelines
UWCHLAN >> Board of supervisors Chairman Joe Toner said Monday that he wants the township to take a lead in limiting future pipelines shipping highly volatile fuels on a statewide scale.
Toner spoke to about 50 concerned residents following Sunoco’s recent contamination of drinking water to several homes served by wells, as the company constructs the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
He said that when the township drafts policy regulating pipelines that other municipalities in the county might use the Uwchlan version as a template.
“It is a dangerous product,” Toner said about the colorless, odorless and heavier-than-air product Sunoco plans to ship. “This is not a good thing for our community.” Read more
July 8, 2017 Daily Local News Local lawmakers call on Sunoco to halt pipeline drilling until aquifer issues resolved
West Whiteland>>Two local lawmakers are calling on Sunoco Logistics to halt construction of the Mariner II pipeline project in Chester County, and one has introduced legislation for creation of a board to oversee communication of pipeline activity to residents.
This comes on following reports of water quality issues close to the pipeline route. Local officials on Friday discovered that recent construction activity may have impacted the quality and safety of drinking water for homeowners on Valley View Drive, Exton that rely on water from their wells. Read more
April 24, 2017 The Mercury News House Bill 1071, ‘bag bill,’ would prevent municipalities from banning, taxing plastic shopping bags
A plastic shopping bag bill introduced in Harrisburg has members of a set of environmentally-focused legislators hopping mad at its “overreaching” aims.
According to a press release, members of the state House Climate Change Caucus on Tuesday voiced their opposition to what they called an environmentally hazardous bill that would prevent communities in the state from protecting land and water from pollution caused by plastic shopping bags — the ubiquitous “T-shirt” bags given at area grocery and retails stores.
House Bill 1071 would permanently prohibit municipalities and other local authorities from banning or applying any surcharge or tax on the use of plastic grocery bags. Among those in the caucus opposing the bill is state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, of West Chester. Read more
March 17, 2017
Daily Local News Local reps take pipeline issue to the state level
WEST GOSHEN >> With several township residents strongly opposing installation of the proposed Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline, a pair of elected representatives is fighting to improve safety and a public sharing of the financial bounty generated by pipelines.
Two Chester County elected officials, Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, and new Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, have taken the fight to Harrisburg. Read more