Dinniman in the News

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

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

August 23, 2018
MyChesCo.com
Dinniman: Nearly a Dozen Chester County Schools Near Pipeline “Blast Zone”

Dinniman: Nearly a Dozen Chester County Schools Near Pipeline “Blast Zone”

WEST CHESTER, PA — As students and their families plan to return to school, state Senator Andy Dinniman stated that nearly a dozen schools and daycare facilities in Chester County are located dangerously close to or within the thermal impact or “blast zone” of the Mariner East pipeline project.

“We have Drug-Free School Zones. We take steps to keep crime, violence, and weapons out of our school. We have background checks of teachers, staff, and volunteers. We even have special speed limits. But when it comes to hazardous material pipelines, there are no rules whatsoever,” Dinniman said. “It’s definitely a major concern because there are pitifully lax laws and safety regulations regarding pipeline placement in Pennsylvania. And now we have both decades-old pipelines and new pipelines brushing up against our schools, playgrounds, and playing fields.”

The Chester County schools are part of a list of almost 40 total public and private schools and daycare facilities statewide located near the 350-mile path of Mariner East 2 pipeline, according to information compiled by the FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit organization that studies the risks of oil and gas development.

In Chester County they include:

  • Exton Elementary School
  • Lionville Middle School
  • Hildebrandt Learning Center in Exton.
  • The Goddard School in Exton.
  • Kindercare Learning Center in Exton
  • East Goshen Elementary School
  • Ss. Peter and Paul School
  • Ss. Simon and Judge School
  • Goshen Friends School
  • The Kanner Learning Center
  • Twin Valley Elementary School

Earlier this year, the superintendents of two Chester County school districts – Jim Scanlon of the West Chester Area School District (WCASD) and Emilie M. Lonardi of the Downingtown Area School District (DASD) separately wrote to Governor Tom Wolf requesting a comprehensive independent risk assessment of the Mariner East project in order to prepare the best possible emergency response and evacuation plans for their schools.

According to Scanlon, the WCASD has four buildings within 3,000 feet of the pipeline and more than 25,000 residents living on or near the pipeline.

According to Lonardi, the Mariner East 2 project is approximately 500 feet from one of their middle schools. Lionville Middle School (986 students) is located in a campus-like setting, next to Downingtown East High School (1,788 students), and nearby Lionville Elementary School (674 students).

Lonardi even wrote a second letter over the summer when Sunoco announced plans to repurpose an existing 12-inch decades-old petroleum pipeline to carry hazardous natural gas liquids – a pipeline that runs very close to five of its school buildings. She wrote that that pipeline presents an “even larger safety threat” to the district as it runs very near to five of its school buildings.

Wolf responded to the first letter, writing, “The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) alone has the authority to perform a risk assessment or safety study, and we have agreed with others’ calls for such a study to be undertaken. However, it should be noted that under state law, state employees are barred from releasing ‘confidential security information’ under penalty of criminal prosecution, information which includes these types of studies.”

While the governor has urged the PUC to conduct a risk assessment, it has refused to do so.

Meanwhile, Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee and as a member of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, has already introduced a legislative package to address the concerns about the confidential nature of pipeline safety information.

Senate Bill 930 requires pipeline companies to meet with the county emergency coordinators and provide the necessary information. Similar measures are already in place in California. And in Texas, pipeline companies can meet with school officials to discuss safety concerns. Dinniman said he plans to introduce legislation based on the Texas model.

Senate Bill 931 calls for incorporating automatic or remote shutoff valves on pipelines in high consequence areas throughout Pennsylvania to better protect the public and prevent potential emergencies. In addition, this legislation calls for pipeline companies to test the reliability of shutoff valves annually, provide the results of these tests to the local municipality, and impose penalties for non-compliance.

In terms of the almost 40 schools near the blast zone, the PUC could have and should have required automatic shutoff valves since the pipeline comes so very close, Dinniman said.

Both Senate Bill 930 and Senate Bill 931 were overwhelmingly passed by the Senate Consumer Affairs and Professional Licensure Committee earlier this year.

“I understand that pipelines, by and large, represent the safest way to transport these materials. And I know that they have economic benefits for the entire state,” Dinniman said. “But that does not outweigh the need to ensure that they are installed and operated as safely as possible, especially when they’re within feet of parks, shopping centers, churches, libraries, rail lines, bus routes, and schools. For example, Mariner East runs directly next to the Chester County Library’s Exton Branch, which is visited by nearly 600,000 residents a year, many of them children.”

Sunoco’s Mariner East project includes an 87-year-old repurposed petroleum pipeline (Mariner East 1) and a newer, parallel pipeline (Mariner East 2) carrying ethane, butane, and propane to be exported to Europe for plastic manufacturing. In addition, Sunoco is planning a third pipeline, called “Mariner East 2x,” and seeking to activate and repurpose an existing 12-inch petroleum pipeline. All these pipelines either already are or soon will be carrying highly-volatile, odorless natural gas liquids. And if the 12-inch pipeline is activated, additional Chester County schools will be impacted, as indicated in Lonardi’s letter.

“When Mariner East 2 was constructed, Chester County was mostly farmland with a population that was only about a quarter of what it is today. Now, we don’t only have more pipelines carrying far more dangerous materials in a smaller space, but they’re also coming closer to our community centers,” Dinniman said. “We must do more to protect our residents, families, and kids. The bottom line is it would be foolhardy not to, especially considering the litany of safety issues, geologic problems, violations, and suspensions the Mariner East project has experienced and continues to experience on regular basis.”

According to federal statistics, Sunoco has one of the worst pipeline safety records of any pipeline company.

Even more troubling is that fact that the superintendents WCASD and DASD – Chester County’s two largest school districts and two of the largest in the state – have asked officials in Harrisburg for safety information and protocols and never received an adequate response, Dinniman said.

“If there is a leak of highly volatile, odorless gas, any spark can create a firewall. The question is: what should an emergency plan entail? And right now, with students returning to school in a matter of days, we still don’t have an answer,” Dinniman said. “Meanwhile, the PUC and DEP continue to grant permit after permit for Mariner East with seemingly little regard for public safety. The governor says the PUC is responsible for a risk assessment and issuing safety protocols when pipelines are located near schools and places of assembly, but the PUC continues to sit on its hands.

Since officials in Harrisburg fail to take their responsibility for our safety seriously, we need to stand up and make sure our schools and children are safe from potential pipeline emergencies. The bottom line is pipelines must be built with safety as the number one priority,” he added.
Source

July 5, 2018
delcotimes.com
Mariner East 2 pipeline may take alternate route

This is part of the 20-inch pipeline that will make up Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 project. The company is now considering using a smaller, existing pipeline to fill in gaps in the pipeline project.
This is part of the 20-inch pipeline that will make up Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 project. The company is now considering using a smaller, existing pipeline to fill in gaps in the pipeline project.PETE BANNAN – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

WEST WHITELAND >> After falling more than 18 months behind schedule, Sunoco has decided to use a portion of an existing 12-inch pipeline to connect and bypass yet-to-be-completed portions of the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Sunoco plans to use a portion of the 12-inch line only in Chester and Delaware counties, from Wallace Township in Chester County to Middletown Township in Delaware County.

Sunoco spokesperson Lisa Dillinger said that plans to complete the ME2 pipeline remain in place, as the company responds to customer demand.

“We have identified an existing pipeline that will allow us to meet our customer obligations to get natural gas liquids to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex while work on the Mariner East system continues,” Dillinger wrote, in a Thursday release.

The 12-inch pipeline underwent a $30 million upgrade in 2016. It carried petroleum from east to west. Most of the 12-inch pipeline weaves through the same right-of-way as the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The shipping direction will be reversed to carry ethane, butane and propane, by-products of fracking, from Marcelus shale deposits in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio to Marcus Hook.

Dillinger said that a “minimum amount of work” will be needed to convert the 12-inch line from a “refined projects line” to NGL shipments.

Connection pipeline construction and five new mainline valves can be completed “quickly and safely,” Dillinger said.

Mimi Gleason is township manager in West Whiteland Township where none of the proposed pipeline has been completed and there is a June 14 PUC halt on construction.

“We don’t have any say in the process, that’s the frustrating part,” Gleason said.

East Goshen Township Manager Rick Smith said that Sunoco is “reevaluating all horizontal directional drilling” work for feasibility, statewide.

“There are only two ways to get pipe in the ground,” Smith said.

The township manager said there are pluses to horizontal directional drilling, including the depth of pipe, at 30-40 or 50 feet deep, which would prevent pipeline strikes, but still this construction technique is “not utopia.”

Smith said that trench digging, which places pipe at four, five or six feet and prevents inadvertent returns, while the process moves along from area to area rather than impacting a single set of residents for months at a time, also has its advantages.

Rebecca Britton of Uwchlan Safety Coalition said Thursday that the 12-inch pipeline veers away from the original right of way used by Mariner East in Uwchlan Township and impacts residents who were not to impacted as intensely.

“If a leak event should occur, the Hankin Group Eagleview development, multiple other residential neighborhoods, and Lionville Middle School will be particularly vulnerable as they lie between the swaths of the lines,” Britton said. “New residential subdivisions will now be exposed to living in the probable impact radius here in Uwchlan.

Britton said that Sunoco has “crossed the line” with this proposal.

“It is their misconduct, poor planning and transgressions that lead to this haphazard decision. The answer from our legislators and state agencies on the proposed switch needs to be a resounding ‘NO.’”

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, shot off a letter Thursday to Gladys Brown, chair of the PUC, after not getting a response to his week-old missive which asked about the new route of the 12- inch pipeline and whether Sunoco needs PUC approval to finish linking the 12-inch pipeline to Mariner East 2.

Dinniman asked in Thursday’s letter when the PUC first knew of Sunoco’s intent. The senator did not know when the 12-inch pipeline was built.

“The repurposing of an antiquated pipeline to carry a highly volatile material under extreme pressure places entire communities at significant risk,” Dinniman wrote. “Once again, I must express my disbelief how our Commonwealth, through the PUC, continues to place the public in harm’s way.”

Dinniman said during a Thursday phone interview that residents shouldn’t be subject to such “risky maneuvers.”

“We are especially concerned whether the PUC is exercising its responsibility in terms of the safety of an older pipeline in a high densely populated, high consequence area,” Dinniman said. “After all, this repurposed pipeline will be carrying highly combustible materials.”

Eric Friedman, of Del-Chesco United, released the following statement on Thursday: “Under knowingly deficient permits issued by Gov. Wolf’s Department of Environmental Protection, Sunoco has damaged and destroyed property across Pennsylvania while continuing to have pipeline accidents at a frightening rate. Clearly this company is no better at constructing pipelines than it is at operating them. After failing to execute on its schedule, Sunoco now proposes to repurpose an ancient, leaky pipeline to transport industrial quantities of very dangerous materials through densely populated areas full of schools, senior living centers and residential subdivisions. Del-Chesco United calls on Gov. Wolf to end his support for this reckless project.”

Sunoco has submitted the required notification to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and has notified Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.   Source

June 5, 2018
pennlive.com
Pa. students would need ‘perfect score’ on civics test, Senate bill says

To become a United States citizen, each applicant must take a citizenship test about their knowledge of America’s history, democracy and freedoms.

Members of the state Senate want students to take that same test – and earn a perfect score.

On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed an amended version of House Bill 564, which originated in the House of Representatives.

The original House bill only required students grades 7 through 12 to score a passing grade. But the Senate’s version requires them to earn a perfect score on the same test immigrants must pass to be granted U.S. citizenship.

Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester County) said on the Senate floor that the lack of civic education in schools has led to “a population that knows very little about the fundamental substance of the government of our nation.”

“That is sad, indeed,” he added. “What we’re saying is to become a citizen of the United States, you have to pass a test showing you know the constitution, then every student in this commonwealth should pass the same test. Because that’s what is part of being a citizen. A citizen is not just ‘rights,’ a citizenship is also a responsibility.”

Middle or high schools would add a civics component to its curriculum and administer a citizenship test at least once to students. The exams would test a student’s understanding of the “nature, purpose, principles and structure of the United States constitutional democracy… and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship,” according to House Bill 564.

Once a student earns their perfect score, they’ll be issued a certificate of recognition from the state’s Department of Education.

The House passed its version of the bill on April 16 by a 191-4 vote. The Senate’s version will now return to the House for final passage before becoming law.  Source

 

June 5, 2018
pahomepage.com
Lawmakers Take Action on “Safe Harbor” Bill

HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) After more than a year of being stalled — a bill designed to protect victims of human trafficking is moving through the State Capitol.

It would protect child victims of trafficking from being prosecuted for crimes they were forced to commit. Eyewitness News State Capitol reporter Matt Heckel takes a look at the bill.

Senate Bill 554 was introduced last spring and quickly and unanimously passed the Senate. It then stalled in the house until today.

“I just got word that the house judiciary committee, reported out Senate bill 554 just minutes ago.” Said Senator Stewart Greenleaf, (R Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

Senate bill 554 finally passed the house judiciary committee on Tuesday. After sitting there for more than a year.

“We have children in this commonwealth that have not been treated as children. Who have not been treated as victims.” Rep. Joanna McClinton , (D) Delaware and Philadelphia Counties.

The bills introduced by Senator Stewart Greenleaf protects child victims of human trafficking… For being prosecuted for crimes they were forced to commit.

Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne County noted “They are child victims. They are not prostitutes. This is not their fault.”

34 other states have already passed similar “Safe Harbor” laws. With 273 human trafficking cases reported in Pennsylvania since just 2016. Supporters of the bill say it’s past time for Pennsylvania to take action.

“Either you care about the children of our commonwealth or you don’t,” said Senator Andrew Dinniman, D Chester County.

And with lawmakers breaking for the summer at the end of the month… Bill co-sponsor Senator Andrew Dinniman” is putting other lawmakers on notice. To get the bill passed. “We’re going to ask, did you vote for this or not? And if you didn’t vote for it, then don’t ask for us to vote for you.”

Now that the bill has been voted out of committee… It goes to the full house. Supporters hope to see it pass in the next two weeks ”   Source

 

May 29, 2018
KallanishEnergy
Mariner East 2 Pipeline construction halted again

Construction on the Mariner East 2 liquids pipelines in Pennsylvania has been halted again, Kallanish Energy reports.

The Mariner East 1 liquids pipeline that has been in operation was also shut down.

Administrative law Judge Elizabeth Barnes stopped construction in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township until the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) determines the twin pipelines under construction are safe.

She ruled on an emergency petition filed by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, a Democrat who represents that section of Chester County, and ruled the three pipelines are “an imminent risk” to the public.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners knocked the judge’s decision. Her ruling was a “significant departure from the law” and from the PUC’s due-process procedures, it said.

The company said it would ask the PUC to review the order. “The entire energy industry should be concerned about (Thursday’s) order and consider this result when making decisions regarding future capital investments in the state as it upends Pennsylvania’s entire regulatory environment,” it said, in a statement, according to StateImpact NPR.

The company said the pipelines are still scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2018.

ETP subsidiary Sunoco says the pipelines are safe and meet or exceed federal and state regulatory standards.

The PUC had shut down operation of Mariner East 1 last March after sinkholes appeared in Chester County. That order was lifted last May, after investigators found no problems with that line.

Last summer, Pennsylvania shut down construction on the Mariner East 2 pipelines after multiple spills were reported along the 350-mile pipeline route across southern Pennsylvania.

Last January, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection shut down construction on Mariner East 2 for about a month and fined Sunoco $12.6 million. Alternate water was provided to some homeowners.

The $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 projects calls for two liquids pipelines to move natural gas liquids from the Utica and Marcellus shales from southwest Pennsylvania and nearby states to Marcus Hook near Philadelphia where the liquids, mostly butane and propane, would be exported for sale.

Construction began in February 2017, although the project has run into strong opposition in some areas. Mariner East 2 is designed to handle an additional 345,000 barrels per day.

The company’s Mariner East 1 Pipeline is transporting ethane and propane to Marcus Hook.

The two new pipelines and the one existing pipeline will largely follow the same route through 17 counties. Source

 

April 8, 2018
Altoona Mirror
Bills would give options for students to graduate

The state Legislature has already tossed out the requirement for career and technical education students to pass the state’s standardized Keystone Exams in English, algebra and biology.

Now, bills in the state Capitol are aimed at giving all students multiple pathways to graduate if they don’t pass Keystone Exams.

A bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Thomas McGarrigle, R-Chester, was met with statements of support from the state’s teacher union and school boards association.

Local school officials, too, support efforts to put less importance on standardized test scores.

“Since the inception of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement, we have seen the negative impact of the one size fits all measure of success,” Hollidaysburg Area Superintendent Bob Gildea wrote in an email Thursday. “Countless students, who are great kids with amazing talents outside the tested content areas, are deprived of opportunities to pursue their interests due to our overemphasis to succeed on the exams. Elective courses are omitted from their schedules to make room for Keystone remediation courses. This does nothing to help us accomplish our mission of preparing our students to be successful and productive members of society,” Gildea stated.

McGarrigle’s bill proposes four pathways to graduate if they don’t pass Keystone Exams.

But it’s not the only bill in Harrisburg that aims to address the issue, said Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, Senate Education Committee chairman.

“The bill (McGarrigle’s bill) was just introduced, and it hasn’t been assigned to a committee yet. I expect to get it in the Education Committee, but that is up to the Pro Tem’s Office. I have not looked at it, but there are a number of bills that deal with the Keystone Exams, including one that I sponsored.”

Eichelberger’s bill, SB 756, which he co-sponsored with Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester, “eliminates the Keystone Exams or any composite of these exams from being taken or used as a high school graduation requirement,” a memo seeking co-sponsors said. A variety of other measures could be used to show student competency to meet federal standards.

The statutory requirement for students to pass Keystone Exams isn’t yet in effect; it’s been delayed until the 2019-20 school year.

The alternate graduation options in McGarrigle’s bill — or any similar legislation — would take effect when the current Keystone Exam delay expires.

According to McGarrigle’s plan, one way to graduate would be to achieve an established composite score based on performance on all three of the Keystone Exams. A second option entails achieving established equivalent scores on a variety of alternate assessments, acceptance in a registered apprenticeship program after graduation or attainment of a career readiness certificate. The third option is a clarification of what passed last year — it allows students who are career and technical education concentrators to demonstrate competency through evidence specific to their trade.

A fourth option students could take is to present at least three approved pieces of rigorous and compelling evidence relating to a student’s postsecondary or career objectives that reflect readiness for graduation.

The bill further provides for the elimination of project-based assessments, places parameters on supplemental instruction relating to Keystone Exams and prioritizes student college and career planning while tying that to the graduation requirement options.

Pennsylvania State Education Association supports the proposed changes.

“Standardized tests aren’t the only way to measure students’ abilities, and they’re certainly not the best way to do it,” read a statement attributed to PSEA President Dolores McCracken. “This is a solid proposal,” McCracken stated.

Such proposals are forward looking, according to Hollidaysburg Area School District curriculum director Francine Endler.

“The movement in education is to personalize instruction. The next logical step would be to offer options to demonstrate readiness for success after high school in each student’s chosen pathway.”    Source

March 2, 2018
StateImpact
Sunoco to residents near sinkholes: We’ll pay to relocate you during investigation

Sunoco is offering to relocate residents at a Chester County site where drilling for the Mariner East pipelines has caused sinkholes to open up in recent weeks.

The company sent at least one letter to homeowners at Lisa Drive, West Whiteland County last week, saying that it would pay for their relocation, plus a food allowance for an estimated four to six weeks while it conducted an “additional investigation” of geological conditions behind their houses.

“To alleviate any inconvenience to you, SPLP has offered to relocate you and provide a per diem reimbursement for the food for the duration of the scheduled work,” said a letter dated March 30.

The letter said the company will be looking for “any subsurface anomalies and additional areas that should be investigated further.”

Sunoco spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger confirmed that the company sent the letters to Lisa Drive residents. She did not respond to questions on the reasons for the new investigation.

The company has already been working to secure the site since the Public Utility Commission ordered a halt to the operation of the Mariner East 1 pipeline on March 7 because of its concern that the sinkholes, unstable geology, and the adjacent construction work for two new Mariner pipelines could endanger public safety.

The PUC ordered Sunoco to check the integrity of ME1 – which carries natural gas liquids – for a mile either side of the Lisa Drive site.

The pipeline right-of-way where the work will be done lies in the backyards of five houses whose owners agreed to Sunoco’s offers of compensation. By early March, the area was already filled with fenced enclosures around the sink holes which are as deep as 15 feet, according to the PUC.

Critics including State Sen. Andy Dinniman say the geology is limestone “karst” that is too unstable to support the horizontal directional drilling for the new pipelines, Mariner East 2 and 2X.

John Mattia, a resident whose home backs on to the investigation site, said Sunoco had given him very little time to decide whether to move himself, his two teenage children, and the family dog out of the house where they have lived for 17 years.

“I was a little upset that they are telling me two days before proposed construction is scheduled to begin that I leave the house,” Mattia said. “It has caused a bit of stress.”

Mattia said on Sunday that he hadn’t decided whether to move out or endure what he expects will be even more disruption than he has experienced during the investigation so far.

He expects the work in his back yard to be “noisy and intrusive” and to go on from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. six or possibly seven days a week. “It sounds like it’s going to be a little disruptive,” he said.

Mattia, 48, a computer programmer, said he is trying to get more information from the PUC on the nature of the investigation and the reason for it, but assumes that it has been ordered because the regulator is not satisfied with the results of the work so far.

If he moves his family out, he said they won’t go to a hotel but he has the option of rented accommodation. He described the Sunoco’s offer of compensation for the move as “adequate.”

Andrew Neuwirth, an attorney for Mattia’s neighbors, Russell and Mary March, issued a statement saying:

“Sunoco still does not seem to know the extent of the destruction it caused five months after the sinkholes first appeared. This new ‘investigation’ is long overdue. But to add insult to injury, the ‘investigation’ may force the residents of Lisa Drive to have to relocate from their already-damaged properties. We hope Sunoco will be forthcoming about the investigation’s results.”

In its letter, the company said the investigation will include “small excavations” and “geotechnical studies” during the week of April 2-6.

It said the project “may take up to approximately 4-6 weeks.”

Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesman for the PUC said the investigation is ongoing. “An active and ongoing investigation is continuing by the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement (Pipeline Safety Division) – which includes geophysical testing and analysis addressed in the Commission’s Emergency Order,” he said in a statement.
He declined to say whether PUC had ordered the new investigation, why the work is being done, or whether it indicates that the geological problems at Lisa Drive are more serious than the initial work indicated. Hagen-Frederiksen did not respond to a question on whether Mariner East 1 would remain shut down until the current investigation is complete. When it issued its emergency order on March 7, the PUC estimated the shutdown would last 10-14 days.
On Monday afternoon, about a dozen workers using heavy equipment probed the ground behind the Lisa Drive homes. A short distance away, several more workers stood on the train tracks which pass over the planned pipeline route.

Read the letter to Lisa Drive residents below:

Source

Feb 18, 2018
Daily Times
Uwchlan residents rally against Sunoco pipeline project

UWCHLAN >> More than 200 activists held signs high and chanted in unison on Sunday afternoon to support the township’s board of supervisors in a fight to halt construction of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline at the intersection Crump and Whitford roads.

The three member board voted unanimously last week to enforce a township zoning ordinance forbidding Sunoco Pipeline from constructing the Mariner East 2 pipeline in the in the township.

The current route of the pipeline violates the township’s 2014 zoning ordinance which forbids pipeline construction in high-density areas and near occupied structures such as houses and schools, supervisors said. The issue will likely end up in court.

Pipeline construction was halted for more than a month until recently when Sunoco and the state Department of Environmental Protection agreed to a $12.6 million civil penalty as part of a settlement agreement that lifted a Jan. 3 suspension stopping most work on the 350-mile-long project.

“The people know this is in violation of our local ordinances,” Rebecca Britton, of event organizer Uwchlan Safety Coalition, said.

Britton said that three goals of the coalition were met — to educate, bring people together and have people understand the risks.

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, and Daylin Leach, D-17, addressed the crowd for what Dinniman said is the “strongest citizen-backed movement” he has witnessed during his 30-year career as a public servant.

Dinniman called for an “end to the craziness.”

The senator pointed to the empty swath of vegetation that had been cleared to make way for drilling, at the rally site.

“In Pennsylvania there is no protection that prevents pipelines from going into high-impact areas,” Dinniman said. “When there is no protection from the government, it is up to the citizens to act.

“You’re the citizens’ army — the national guard.”

Leach talked about the 2,700 properties the pipeline will cross on its 350-mile and 17 county trek from Marcellus Shale sites in West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania and Ohio to the refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

Sunoco Pipeline was granted public utility status giving the utility the right to build where it chooses.

“This is just catastrophic and mind-blowing and a boneheaded decision that this was approved in the first place,” Leach said.

With a bullhorn-led cheer, ralliers were asked, “What do you do when Sunoco forces you to live in a blast zone?”

“Stand up, fight back,” roared the protestors.

Sharon Soper lives next to pipeline construction.

“Speak up before our children and citizens are injured,” Soper told the crowd. “This is human life.”

Ten-year-old Lucille Obenski and her brother, Miles Obenski, 6, held homemade signs that their mother Laura said they had spent the morning making.

Lucille’s sign showed cut down trees.

“If too many trees are cut down then there is not enough air to breath,” Lucille said. “If people do not speak up against this project, the people who build pipelines will never stop.”

Danielle Friel Otten and her young children live 40 feet from the pipeline easement.

“The most important thing you can teach is that there is not a certain age to advocate for the community,” Laura Obenski said about her kids who attend Lionville Elementary School.

Signs were held high and several alluded to the butane, ethane and propane to be shipped overseas to make plastic bottles.

“Nobody can stop it. I’m nobody,” reads a sign, “Enforce local safety ordinances, SuNOco,” and “Stop this unsafe pipeline, people not plastics.”

Newly appointed Supervisor Kim Doan serves with newly elected supervisors Mayme Baumann and Bill Miller. Members of grassroots organizations knocked on more than 10,000 doors running up to the election in support of anti-pipeline candidates. This is the first time ever that the township’s board of supervisors is controlled by Democrats.

“We are here to represent your interests,” Doan said, “and what is right for the residents of the township.”

“When the people stand — even though we’re the underdog — we have to refuse to sit down,” Otten said.

Eve Miari, Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, handed out “Notice of Violation” issued to Sunoco by order of the citizens of Pennsylvania.

The bright orange placards are issued, not by a governed entity, but instead by the citizens of Chester and Delaware counties.

“Therefore notice is served that the operator Sunoco/ETP is in violation of the Constitutional rights of the citizens of the commonwealth, including the right to private property, the right to public safety, and the right to clean water.”

Melissa DiBernardino has fought pipeline construction running within a 100 feet of her children’s school.

“The citizens of Pennsylvania who are being forced to live with the Mariner East pipelines are practically being experimented on,” she said. “The content, pressure and method of installation are unheard of in an area like this for a reason.

“How can we be ensured safety while pipes are being blindly forced through bore holes in geology that Sunoco clearly has not researched appropriately? It’s up to us and if we don’t take our safety into our own hands. Nobody else will.”

Grassroots activist organization Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety favors a public risk assessment be performed and issued the following statement:

“As shown by the crowd gathered here today, Sunoco’s appalling safety record — 296 pipeline leaks since 2006 alone — continues to cause concern across Chester and Delaware Counties. And Sunoco received three new federal enforcement actions in Jan. 2018 for probable violations of safety regulations. Gov. Wolf has disregarded the requests of his constituents and bipartisan members of the General Assembly for a risk assessment of this property value-killing project. This election year, perhaps Gov. Wolf should do his own assessment of the risk to his chances of re-election.”

Source

Feb 12, 2018
The Inquirer
Civil Service Commission reform has bipartisan backing

Pennsylvania State Sens. Mike Folmer (R., Lebanon) and Randy Vulakovich (R., Allegheny) — with the backing of Gov. Wolf’s administration and a number of Democratic senators such as Daylin Leach (D., Delaware) and Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester) — have introduced legislation they say will “modernize” the independent Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission by taking away its hiring, application, certification, examination, and promotion responsibilities and transferring them to the Governor’s Office of Administration.

The proposal would limit the commission to handling appeals by disgruntled candidates or employees.

Language in the bill appears to allow both the commission and the administration department to audit state hiring. If the governor’s office is given full powers, a future governor could return the state to an old-fashioned political patronage system for filling and vacating jobs, current commission chairman Bryan Lentz and former chairman Marwan Kreidie have both warned.

Who will control audits and have the power to stop prospective hiring abuse? Audit is “an area we may need to look at. A number of people have highlighted that is an area where we might need more clarity,” said Fred Sembach, an aide to State Sen. Folmer. He said there would be a hearing to review bill provisions.

State Sens. Folmer and Vulakovich and Gov. Wolf’s Secretary of Administration, Sharon P. Minnich, a former executive at Deloitte Consulting, one of the state’s leading suppliers of outsourced information technology employees, all say the reforms are supposed to speed hiring by allowing more job applicants to apply online or via smartphone. They say the commission has taken too long to help implement online hiring.

But Lentz says the commission and most of the state’s departments have already moved to accept remote job applications. He also says corrections officer positions at the state’s 25 prisons and many other state jobs still require in-person applications and shouldn’t be forced to go all online prematurely.   Source

Feb 1, 2018
newburghgazette.com
Senate beginning process of redrawing district lines

Senate beginning process of redrawing district lines”

In their brief filed yesterday, the Republican legislators – who include the president pro tempore of the state senate and the speaker of the state’s house of representatives – told the justices that the state supreme court’s decision “has cast Pennsylvania’s Congressional elections into chaos on the eve of the 2018 primary elections”, which are scheduled for May 18; March 6 is the deadline for candidates to file to run in the primaries.

Although the recent decision by the state Supreme Court is expected to result in new maps for this upcoming election cycle, the decision does nothing to change the partisan way that Pennsylvania voting districts maps are drawn.

“We’re getting a vehicle moving”, said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, following the committee meeting. Both of these bills remain in committee.

Fair Districts PA advocates for an independent citizens commission to draw congressional maps. Scarnati said about the legislation Monday. However, at least from the perspective of the majority Republicans, they’re mostly operating in the dark right now, as they don’t yet have an opinion from the state Supreme Court explaining how the current maps were unconstitutional, which they say is necessary to avoid drawing another map that doesn’t meet with the court’s definition of “constitutional”. They, along with the state’s lawmakers, ask to put off redrawing the map for a few more years. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, and Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, said the state Supreme Court was left with no choice but to rule the congressional district map unconstitutional given what both senators characterized as the obvious appearance of an unconstitutional map. “However, one of the advocacy groups chose to file a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the 2011 lines”.

He said closed-door discussions with advocacy groups left him additionally frustrated as they failed to answer some of his more pressing questions about reform bills now introduced in the General Assembly, particularly what happens if a citizens’ commission can not agree to a map, and a special master has to step in and create a map to a court’s satisfaction.

The court order, issued January 22, gives the Republican-controlled Legislature until February 9 to create a replacement map, and Gov. Tom Wolf until February 15 to submit the revised map to the court. “If this is the reform those who have been scorching me in the press and on social media want, then we’ll see”.

The state Senate is getting on with the process of altering Pennsylvania’s current congressional districts, should the U.S. Supreme Court not put a halt to the process started by last week’s state Supreme Court order. “In a district where you can create a scenario that you know you’ll get elected if you only appeal to a certain portion of the population, you don’t have a lot of incentive to go out and work with the full, diverse spectrum of people’s backgrounds, interests and needs”.

This comes back to the core issue that needs to be addressed by the General Assembly – who should draw the maps?

The movement of the bill at the state level occurred while the Legislature awaits a potential stay in the enforcement of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order from the US Supreme Court. They need additional support from legislators to get them onto the floors of the House and Senate for a vote.

Six Republican secretaries of state ― from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and SC ― filed a joint amicus brief on Monday arguing that Pennsylvania could reasonably wait another few years to fix its congressional map. Source

Feb 1, 2018
The Car News
Pennsylvania legislators go to justices on redistricting The recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court discarding the congressional maps merely serves to reaffirm this position.With a court-mandated deadline for a new Pennsylvania congressional map just two weeks away, Gov. Tom Wolf was in State College on Tuesday to join a panel for a town hall-style meeting on redistricting.Wolf has enlisted Tufts University mathematician Moon Duchin to advise him in evaluating the fairness of the new congressional map and he said Duchin has also told him there is no objective way to draw the map. They, along with the state’s lawmakers, ask to put off redrawing the map for a few more years.The Senate State Government Committee on Monday unanimously advanced a vehicle bill for any redistricting plan that may or may not be agreed to in the coming days.In their amicus brief, they argue that the “Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order imposes an impossible schedule on state and local election officials”.“All of us in government are stewards of a democratic tradition, and if that democratic tradition is somehow sullied, for whatever reason, then all of us, Democrats and Republicans, are worse off”, Wolf said. “It also comes on the eve of a midterm election. An orderly electoral process is an essential function of our Democracy”. Glenn Thompson (Pa. -05), Mike Kelly (Pa-03), Scott Perry (Pa. -04), Ryan Costello (Pa. -06), Patrick Meehan (Pa. -07), Bill Shuster (Pa. -09), Tom Marino (Pa. -10), Keith Rothfus (Pa. -12), Charlie Dent (Pa. -15) and Lloyd Smucker (Pa. -16). Twelve of the 18 districts are now represented by Republicans.Approval of a final plan would then require at least seven votes, and at least one vote from each of the three groups.
Pennsylvania’s fair district representative Debbie Trudeau said while there is no flawless answer, there are options that would be better than the current political map.Although he favors any ruling to eliminate partisan gerrymandering, Roe said that a “temporary fix” is not the answer to a centuries-old problem. “More than half of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has co-sponsored my bill because the majority of my colleagues recognizes the need for a permanent solution”.“This court decision shouldn’t be treated as a reason to sit back”, said panelist Zak Kalp, a Penn State student and founder of the nonpartisan student organization Better Politics. It is why I am a proud prime sponsor of SB 22.“The state court’s directive will forestall and impede the possibility of a full and vigorous campaign in the various congressional districts, which will not only harm the candidacy of numerous Amici Members, but will also significantly hamper the ability of the Amici Members’ constituents and voters to fully engage in the political process”, they wrote. “While other redistricting initiatives have been introduced that address some of these concerns, they fall short of resolving the core conflicts of interest in today’s process”. “We’re sorting ourselves into polarized communities”. “The only way that elected officials are going to do that is that if they feel a certain amount of pain. It’s about what are our values and how do we put them into practice”.Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester) noted, however, it was the secret political process used that was the constitutional flaw in the maps – something that should not be repeated regardless of who draws the new and future maps.“It’s forcing their hand, to go back to the table for now”, he said.  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.
Source

Jan 3, 2018
Daily Times News
Pennsylvania DEP shuts down construction on Sunoco gas pipeline

The Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline along Route 352 near Eldridge Drive in East Goshen. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has shut down all work on the pipeline project.
The Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline along Route 352 near Eldridge Drive in East Goshen. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has shut down all work on the pipeline project.PETE BANNAN – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

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.

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.”

DINNIMAN ELATED

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.”

WORKERS IDLED

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
Times Herald News
Program helps residents of Phoenixville Senior Center and pets stay together

Senator Dinniman and members of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation deliver pet food to seniors at the Phoenixville Senior Center. Pictured (from left to right) Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation; Sharon Kelly of Phoenixville, Bill Sadler of Phoenixville, Dr. Malcolm Kram, Chair of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation Board of Trustees; Senator Dinniman with Jaegger, Helen Hurst of Phoenixville, and Kate Wallace of Phoenixville. Kelly, Sadler, Hurst and Wallace all received food for their dogs and cats through Henry’s Helping Paws Fund.
Senator Dinniman and members of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation deliver pet food to seniors at the Phoenixville Senior Center. Pictured (from left to right) Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation; Sharon Kelly of Phoenixville, Bill Sadler of Phoenixville, Dr. Malcolm Kram, Chair of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation Board of Trustees; Senator Dinniman with Jaegger, Helen Hurst of Phoenixville, and Kate Wallace of Phoenixville. Kelly, Sadler, Hurst and Wallace all received food for their dogs and cats through Henry’s Helping Paws Fund. Submitted photo By Digital First Media

PHOENIXVILLE >>Henry’s Helping Paws Fund is now making it easier for seniors to stay together with their pets.

State Senator Andy Dinniman was joined by his trusty poodle, Jagger, and representatives from the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation to make the first delivery of dog and cat food to the Phoenixville Senior Center as part of the Henry’s Helping Paws Fund program.

“This is our early Christmas present to senior citizens in need who are struggling to afford food and pet care items for their beloved cats and dogs,” Dinniman said. “It’s the season of giving and a celebration of the importance of love and companionship. And we couldn’t think of a better time to launch this latest initiative.”

About a half-dozen senior citizens from the Phoenixville Senior Center will receive pet food and care items from Henry’s Helping Paws Fund, which was launched in conjunction with Meals on Wheels of Chester County last year. Currently, the program — named for Henry, the Dinniman family’s 9-year-old standard poodle who died in December 2014 and was well-known throughout the Chester County region — delivers pet food to about 30 senior citizens who are homebound or lack transportation.

“Sen. Dinniman has always been very active in promoting causes for animals. When Henry died this was a way to memorialize him and to help our seniors keep their pets in the process,” said Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation.

The delivery to the Phoenixville Senior Center marked the latest expansion of the program, which organizers and supporters plan to grow to include pro bono veterinary care and house calls to those who can’t afford or access medical services for their pets.

“I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful idea,” said Irene Hartman, a Phoenixville senior citizen who has a dog, Archer, and a ferret named Juan.

Edie Hartman, Executive Director of the Phoenixville Senior Center, said the program would go a long way in assisting seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, with the financial expense of feeding and caring for a pet.

“Sen. Dinniman has been such a part of our center and we thank him for this opportunity,” Hartman said. “Our seniors tell us every day just how much their pets mean to them.”

Dinniman said he got the idea for a mobile food pantry when he heard about senior citizens, and disabled residents on low or fixed incomes who are homebound and struggle to afford adequate food, pet care items and veterinary medical services for their pets.

“Some of these seniors were taking their meals from Meals on Wheels and splitting the food with their dogs or cats. Now, both the people and their pets can eat,” Dinniman said. “And most importantly, we’re keeping people and their pets together in their homes. Not only does it have therapeutic value for our seniors but, it also takes the burden off rescue organizations that are overwhelmed with surrendered animals.”

Pet food and care items for Henry’s Helping Paws Fund are funded by private and corporate donors through the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation (the charitable arm of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association), while Meals on Wheels will make the actual deliveries. In addition, representatives from local senior centers, senior housing facilities, and other nonprofits are identifying homebound pet owners in need.

“We’re just glad to help and be part of an initiative that is already taking off and which we expect to be replicated elsewhere,” Dr. Malcolm Kram, Chair of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation Board of Trustees.

To learn more about Henry’s Helping Paws Fund, visit www.pavetfoundation.orgSource

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 7, 2017
WHYY
Day three of Pa. gerrymandering trial brings insights to legislative process, but secrecy remains

On day three of the federal trial contesting Pennsylvania’s congressional map, key Republican staffers testified that partisan data was used during the 2011 redistricting process.

Behind the scenes, a dispute over the depositions of House Speaker Michael Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) has bubbled up in court documents.

In the case, a group of Pennsylvania voters claim they have been harmed by partisan gerrymandering and are calling for a new map in time for the 2018 congressional midterm elections.

At the time of the last redistricting in 2011, Scarnati held his current leadership role and Turzai was majority leader in the House.

In the lead-up to the trial, there was fierce debate over whether and to what extent the two leaders would participate. Both hoped to avoid the proceedings altogether by claiming “legislative privilege.”

The court denied that claim, compelling both to be deposed.

But during their depositions, both leaders declined to answer several questions about the redistricting process, again claiming “legislative privilege” despite thecourt order.

Attorneys representing Turzai stated they interpreted the court order to allow legislative privilege when it came to communications with members and staff of the legislature.

Pending a court decision, these depositions remain inaccessible to the public.

In the meantime, plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a request for sanctions against Turzai and Scarnati for failing to comply with court orders.

“Defendants’ actions show a bad faith disregard for the Orders of this Court, and a sanction is called for,” plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in the sanction request. “Defendants are trying to hide evidence of their intent to gerrymander in enacting the 2011 redistricting plan, and they are ignoring Court Orders to allow discovery on the issue.”

That request has produced a court document that at least sheds light on what Turzai wouldn’t say during his Nov. 28 deposition.

Here are the questions Turzai declined to answer:

  • Who gave direction to the staff on what map should look like?
  • Did Congressman Bob Brady support the bill?
  • How did anyone communicate to you that a group of Democrats supported the bill?
  • Are the state rules as to setting district lines good rules that are important to follow?
  • What did you do to get the Democrats on board for bipartisan support?
  • What are the names of staff members who worked on the map?
  • Was any partisan intent at the play in the creation of the 17th district?
  • Were some legislators upset that the Lehigh Valley was being divided between two congressmen?
  • Was the 17th district intended to concentrate Democratic votes?
  • Do you know why some Democratic members voted for the map?
  • Did Bill Schaller (“the head of our redistricting”) meet with members of Congress or their staff?

The three-judge panel has not ruled on the call for sanctions against the lawmakers.

Keystone Crossroads reached out to Speaker Turzai’s office in an attempt to clarify his rationale for not answering these questions, but did not hear back before publication of this story.

Partisan data

In Wednesday’s court proceedings, judges heard testimony from two high-level Republican staffers.

Neither William Schaller, director of Republican district operations, nor Erik Arneson, top aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pillegi, were present in the courtroom.

Instead, in a scene reminiscent of a drama rehearsal, attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants, took turns acting out the staffers’ testimony before the gallery.

At one point, defense attorney Brian Paszamant asked the judges if he should play the part of himself in the reading. Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith responded that he “fit the part,” which drew a few chuckles from all sides.

Schaller, director of reapportionment services for the House Republicans at the time, testified that he was tasked by leadership with developing the western half of the 2011 congressional district map. He said the Senate developed the eastern half of the state.

“They had their part and we had our part,” Schaller testified.

In his deposition, Schaller affirmed that partisan data — voter party registration information and election results broken down by the county, municipal, voting precinct and census block level — was one of many factors considered in creating the map.

Others included: population, past districts, U.S. Census data by race, incumbents’ residencies, and the Voting Rights Act, which holds that redistricting shouldn’t disenfranchise minority voters.

Schaller said he began working on the map over the summer of 2011 and produced multiple drafts. After consulting with caucus members, he made revisions and those conversations drove the final version of the map.

Erik Arneson, former communications and policy director for Pileggi, testified in his deposition that he had minimal input in the 2011 redistricting process.  But he also confirmed that partisan data was considered and said leaders “intended to respect incumbency” in the new map.

He testified to meeting with Republican Congressman Bill Shuster (PA-9) about redistricting and to receiving input from Democratic Congressman Bob Brady (PA-1). Schaller recalled meeting with U.S. Rep Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-5) about the map.

Both Schaller and Arneson characterized their roles in redistricting as a part of the overall legislative processes in Harrisburg.

“We got a bill enacted to law. As far as I’m concerned, that was a success,” said Arneson, who now heads the state’s Office of Open Records.

Appearing in person, attorneys representing the voters called State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester) — a member of the State Government Committee — as a witness to testify about the process in which the congressional district map was enacted.

Senate Bill 1249 was first introduced by Pileggi, Scarnati, and State Sen. Charles McIlhinney (R-Bucks) on Sept. 14, 2011. Dinniman said it was nothing more than a “shell” lacking any detail or descriptions of the districts.  In that version of the bill, each congressional district name is listed with the nondescript placeholder: “is composed of a portion of this Commonwealth.”

Dinniman testified that he did not receive any details about the makeup of the congressional districts until the bill was amended on Dec. 14, 2011, the same day it was passed.

“I felt the partisan matter was an inappropriate — whether by Republicans or Democrats — way to do business,” he said.

In the three months between the time the bill was introduced and passed, Dinniman said he remembered inquiring about it with McIlhinney, the majority chairman of the State Government Committee at the time.

According to Dinniman, McIlhinny told him Republican congressmen in the 6th,7th, and 16th districts, “were each at each other trying to get the maximum number of Republican votes in their district.”

Defense attorneys protested this part of Dinniman’s testimony since the court did not hear directly from McIlhinny.

During cross examination, defense attorney Brian Paszamant pointed out that Dinniman voted for the “shell” bill.

He did not, though, vote for the final version of the bill in a sharply divided contest to move it out of committee. Republicans Mike Folmer (Lebanon) and Michael Brubaker (Lancaster) crossed party leadership to vote against the bill. Philadelphia Democrat Christine Tartaglione, who lives in Brady’s congressional district, voted for it.

It squeaked out of committee by a 6-5 tally with the help of Scarnati’s ex-officio vote.

Also, testifying in court on Wednesday were two more plaintiffs, John Gallagher, a Democrat and Ani Diakatos, a Republican, both who reside in the 1st congressional district in Delaware County.

The defense called expert witness, James Gimpel, a professor at the University of Maryland, who studies elections and political behavior. He disagreed with the conclusions of the plaintiffs’ first expert witness, Daniel McGlone, and did not see an intentional partisan gerrymander in the 2011 congressional district map.

Several national studies have concluded the opposite, ranking Pennsylvania as one of the most gerrymandered states in the county.

Currently, despite a 25 percent edge for Democrats in statewide voter registration totals, Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation includes 13 Republicans and five Democrats.

Closing arguments are expected on Thursday.
Source

Dec 6, 2017
Patch
Funding Sought For New Phoenixville Rec Center, Fire Station
Local leaders are working to gain support for a proposed new senior center, a combo fire station-recreation center, and a transit center.

PHOENIXVILLE, PA — Local leaders are working to gain support for a proposed new senior center, a combo fire station-recreation center, and a transit center.

Both State Rep. Warren Kampf (R-Chester/Montgomery) and State Rep. Becky Corbin (R-East Brandywine) have presented a pair of projects for funding to Harrisburg.

“Over the last 20 years, the Borough of Phoenixville has undergone very significant changes and growth,” Kampf wrote in a statement. “Population has increased, the downtown bustles with retail, restaurants and new multi-family developments, and what was once a struggling former manufacturing town has transformed itself.”

Kampf’s office added that State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) also supports the project, giving it bipartisan support.

Funding would come through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).

Lawmakers noted that increased population has meant more and more people driving, increasing area traffic. A multi-modal transportation plan would incorporate more parking, public transit, additional trails, and other projects to make the area more walkable and bikeable.

“As Phoenixville has transformed into a thriving suburban town that serves residents from throughout the region, the need for capital improvements has increased,” Corbin said in a statement. “The Phoenixville Fire Department is in serious need of a new building given that its current home is more than one hundred years old. A multi-modal center with additional parking would alleviate some of the congestion and parking problems residents, merchants, and commuters face.”

Officials are hoping for an $8.3 million grant for the fire station and recreation and senior center, plus $4.2 million for the transit center.  Source

Dec 4, 2017
WHYY
Battle over Pa.’s congressional district map begins in federal court in gerrymandering cas

Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district was among those criticized in federal court on Monday as a possible partisan gerrymander. An expert witness pointed to Erie County in the far northwest corner of the state. The county was split during the 2011 redistricting process. The result, the witness said, dilutes a concentration of Democratic voters and instead favors Republican voters. (Pa. Redistricting website)
Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district was among those criticized in federal court on Monday as a possible partisan gerrymander. An expert witness pointed to Erie County in the far northwest corner of the state. The county was split during the 2011 redistricting process. The result, the witness said, dilutes a concentration of Democratic voters and instead favors Republican voters. (Pa. Redistricting website)

Trial began in federal court on Monday in a legal battle over Pennsylvania’s congressional district map.  A group of Pennsylvania voters claim that the map created during the 2011 redistricting process is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The plaintiffs are calling for a new map before the 2018 midterm elections.

In his opening statement before a three-judge panel, attorney Thomas Geoghegan, who represents the voters, argued that the outcomes of Pennsylvania’s congressional district elections are predetermined.

“These maps are weaponized to be voter proof,” said Geoghegan.

He pointed out that in the last three elections, Republicans have maintained 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives regardless of the swings in the number of Republican and Democratic votes recorded.

Geoghegan predicted the same outcome for 2018.

He said the plaintiffs intend to show how the map was created and how gerrymandered district lines affect the political process.

The plaintiffs’ case hinges on the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which they interpret as protecting voters from having the state come between the people and their national government.

House Speaker Michael Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), defendants in the case, argue that voters decide who represents them in congress, not a map.

They say the maps are constitutional and question the standard that the plaintiffs are presenting for what constitutes a partisan gerrymander.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Jason Torchinsky reminded the judges that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that politics plays a role in determining district boundaries.

“Political considerations are part and parcel of the redistricting process,” said Torchinsky.

‘A map like Pennsylvania’

As their first witness, plaintiffs’ attorneys called Daniel McGlone, an analyst with the mapping and data-processing non-profit Azavea.

McGlone testified that the congressional district map shows a clear pattern of using election results and voter registration information based on past election returns and party registration information. He says this was used to pack Democratic voters into as few districts as possible and split voters in communities of interest such as: Harrisburg, Bethlehem, Chester, Erie County, and the suburbs surrounding Philadelphia.

District by district, McGlone was asked to compare changes between the 2011 congressional map with past maps. The use of partisan data, he said, resulted in a map that consistently favors Republicans over Democrats in most districts.

During cross examination, Torchinsky asked the witness what happens when partisan data is used the redistricting process.

“You get a map like Pennsylvania,” McGlone responded, with laughter erupting in the courtroom.

McGlone also testified that partisan data produced by Turzai under court order showed election returns and party registration down to the U.S. Census block level — equivalent to about one city block.

Torchinsky noted several times that although partisan data may have been considered in the 2011 redistricting process, it’s still unclear what exact criteria was used to make the map in question.

Congressional redistricting occurs every 10 years following the U.S. Census. When the current map was drawn, Republicans controlled all three branches of Pennsylvania government. The map, though, did garner significant support from Democrats, especially in areas where lines were drawn seemingly to keep incumbents safe.

Also expected to testify during the trial are Erik Arneson, a former staffer for Delaware County Republican Dominic Pileggi, who was senate majority leader when the map was created, State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D -Chester), State Sen. Daylin Leach (D -Montgomery), and State. Rep. Greg Vitali (D- Delaware), among other witnesses.

The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.  A similar case in state court will begin next week.  Source

Nov 28, 2017
patch.com
Pennhurst State Hospital To Be Redeveloped Into Park
96 acres of the former Pennhurst State Hospital will become a township park.

EAST VINCENT, PA — The state announced recently that 96 acres of the former Pennhurst State Hospital will be redeveloped into a township park.

The hospital, previously owned by the state, has been conveyed to to East Vincent Township. The project has been granted $4 million for the project to improve the grounds, build roads, and execute necessary demolition.

“I look forward the development of a new, spacious park that can be enjoyed by all Chester County residents and, in so doing, closing this dark chapter in Pennsylvania’s history – the past treatment of those with physical and mental disabilities,” State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) said in a statement.

The new park is anticipated to include both “active and passive” recreation.

Pennhurst opened as a treatment facility for individuals with mental and physical disabilities in 1906. It was shut down in 1987.  Source

Nov 28, 2017
StaleImpact
Sunoco proposes construction change for Mariner East 2, but meets fresh resistance

Sunoco’s plan to change the construction of its Mariner East 2 pipeline in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township is stirring opposition from residents and local lawmakers only five months after a botched drilling operation there spilled fluid, punctured an aquifer and turned drinking water cloudy in some private wells.

The company wants to abandon its controversial method of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) at two West Whiteland sites where a court temporarily halted the practice last summer as part of a statewide action in response to dozens of spills along the 350-mile route.

The Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco to conduct a “re-evaluation” of 63 sites where fluid was spilled, in an effort to determine whether local geology was suitable to the drilling technique even though state permits were issued and construction was underway.

At the points where the pipeline route crosses North Pottstown Pike and Swedesford Road, an independent geologist hired by Sunoco concluded, horizontal drilling should either be sharply curtailed or scrapped altogether, because continuing the work would likely result in more spills.

At the Pottstown Pike site, the consultant said, the drilling would likely have the same result because of a “fractured” geological formation some 70 feet below the surface.

“Based on the further analysis of the underlying geology and hydrogeological factors such as fractured geology, cobble and voids, the original design was determined to pose a moderate to high risk of subsurface and/or surface loss of drilling fluid,” the report by Groundwater & Environmental Services said.

At the Swedesford Road site, the drilling technique is unsuited to the limestone geology, and a method should be used that won’t spill drilling fluids, the report said.

Sunoco has accepted the geologist’s reports, and is now proposing to build the pipeline in an open trench and through a conventional bore at the West Whiteland sites, according to two “re-evaluation” documents on the Department of Environmental Protection’s web site.

But the new plan has already sparked protests by West Whiteland residents and some of their elected representatives even before DEP decides whether to approve it.

“While Sunoco has gone through the motions of re-evaluation, it is clear that the information provided is insufficient,” said State Senator Andy Dinniman, a Democrat whose Chester County district includes West Whiteland.

In a Nov. 22 letter to DEP, Dinniman said Sunoco’s plan for the Pottstown Pike site does not examine the environmental impact of open-trench and conventional bore construction, fails to discuss the possibility of sinkholes – one of which recently opened up on private property in the township – and urged officials to take stronger measures to ensure that pipeline construction does not affect private water wells.

He called on DEP to reject the report as incomplete, to require Sunoco to do a “complete” impact evaluation, and to hold public hearings. DEP did not respond to a request for comment.
Read more

Oct 28, 2017
DLN
County officials debate opioid epidemic at Coatesville VA

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, joined U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, officials from the Coatesville VA Medical Center (CVMAC) and other state, local, and federal representatives and officials for a panel discussion on the opioid epidemic and what the VA is doing for veterans.

The panel, which also included U.S. Reps. Llyod Smucker, R-16, and Patrick Meehan, R-7, Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline and Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine, heard from VA addiction specialists, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers and local law enforcement, as well as two veterans who are in recovery.

Last year, nearly 20 out of 100,000 people in Chester County died of a drug-related overdose, according to recently released figures by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. And it’s worse in nearby counties. In Delaware County, nearly 37 out of 100,000 people died, and in Montgomery County, nearly 29 out of 100,000 people died of drug overdoses.

In Chester County last year, 97 people died of drug-related overdoses, said Cathy Vaul, program specialist for Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services. The vast majority of the victims – 77 percent – were white males.

Lori Craig, a veteran who is in recovery and works at the Coatesville VA, recounted her experience battling opioid addiction after she was prescribed pain medication following a car accident.

John Kruzel praised the team at the Coatesville VA and the credited the inpatient treatment he received in aiding in his recovery after he became physically dependent on and addicted to opioids.

“I don’t know what it is about this VA, but all the people care,” he said. “When you come here, you really feel like you’re part of a family.”

Dinniman proposed increased cooperation between the Coatesville VA and the greater Coatesville and Downingtown area in sharing information and working together in the fight against opioid addiction.

“There is no doubt that this is an epidemic,” he said. “We need to also reach veterans in our homeless shelters and those who may be incarcerated, as well as other members of the community who are suffering from addiction. There are some great things going on at the VA and we need to share information, methods, and strategies on what works in helping our residents on the path to recovery.”

Secretary Shulkin and CVMAC officials endorsed Dinniman’s proposal and the idea of increased cooperation with the community across the spectrum of public health, social services, law enforcement and recovery services in assisting those suffering from addiction.

Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, also said he was interested in sharing information with the CVMAC involving the treatment of trauma as he is spearheading efforts at the state level to address the impact of trauma on students in the classroom.

Upon a request from CVMAC, Dinniman and Levine also pledged to help get the anti-opioid overdose drug Narcan (Naloxone) into the hands of social workers.

Shulkin praised the Coatesville VA and its staff for providing extensive treatment options and a continuum of care that is both unique and effective in combating opioid addiction.

“In the private sector, with the way our reimbursement system works, this continuity of care just doesn’t exist,” he said. “Here you have people who not only have the strength to seek help, but that help is available here.”  Source

Oct 24, 2017
Morning Call
School ‘voucher’ bill fails to make it out of Senate committee by one vote

A school choice bill that is being closely watched by both sides of the issue failed to make it out of a state Senate committee by one vote on Tuesday.

The bill, similar to how vouchers work, would allow parents in the lowest performing schools to use their child’s state per-pupil expenditure to pay for for private schools, tutors, standardized tests, textbooks and special education services.

Under the bill, the money would go into an education savings account — ESA — that would be controlled by the state Treasury and unused money could roll over to the next school year.

The bill died in the Senate Education Committee in a 6-6 tie, meaning it won’t go on to the Senate for a full vote. But it first appeared as if it narrowly passed in a 6-5 vote. It came to light later in the day that a proxy no vote had not been counted.

“The public schools we define in this bill would be the bottom 15 percent,” Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin, the main bill sponsor, said at the start of the hearing. “Parents cannot receive any of this money. so that is a good anti-fraud measure of this bill. I think it’s a good bill. These are the children who have no other option. It puts parents in charge of educating their kids.”

Among those voting yes was Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, whose district includes Allentown, which could see millions of dollars flow to ESAs if the bill eventually becomes law.

Five states have such accounts. And DiSanto’s bill was being closely watched by public school advocates and school choice supporters.

The Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank, supports ESAs, saying they “would be a lifeline for families confined to failing schools.”

Pennsylvania State Education Association said they would hurt public schools.

“Vouchers don’t help students learn, they drain money from public schools, and they don’t hold private schools accountable for how they would spend the money or help their students learn,” PSEA Dolores McCracken said in a press release.

According to calculations by the PSEA, Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton Area would stand to lose nearly $50 million annually.

Allentown would have seen almost $27 million go into the education savings account If the bill had been law in 2015-16 and a third of eligible students applied for ESAs, the state’s largest teacher’s union said.

Bethlehem Area and Easton Area would have seen $14.6 and $5.3 million respectively diverted into accounts in 2015-16, according to PSEA.

Bethlehem Area Superintendent Joseph Roy called the bill “just plain wrong’ and an attempt to “privatize education.”

“This bill takes public dollars supporting Bethlehem Area School District students and sends them directly to religious and private schools,” Roy said. “It’s a full frontal assault on our schools serving the community’s neediest students.”

But the bill failed to gain the support of at least one school choice supporter, Sen. Anthony “Hardy” Williams, D-Philadelphia.

Before the vote, he said charter schools in his area have not contacted him about the bill and he was worried that it was not being vetted through community channels.

When the committee voted, it appeared that the bill narrowly passed 6-5. In committees, the Senate permits absent senators to vote yes or no on bills through a proxy letter.

The committee did not record the proxy nay vote submitted by Sen. Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson, R-Bucks, before the meeting.

After the vote was tallied, Tomlinson’s chief of staff Jennifer Smeltz could be seen on the video walking up to the rostrum where the senators were seated. Smeltz talked to Kevin Lee Deer, the committee’s executive director.

Tomlinson and Eichelberger did not respond to requests for comment after the meeting.

Voting yes on the bill were Sens. Eichelberger; DiSanto; Browne, Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster; Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon; and Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who is also Senate president pro tempore.

Voting no were Sens. Tomlinson; Williams; Dan Laughlin, R-Erie; Andy Dinniman, D-Chester; Jim Brewster, D-Allegheny; and Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery;

Source

Oct 24, 2017
Penn Live
Controversial school choice legislation narrowly wins Senate committee approval

Legislation sponsored by Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin County, shown here the day he unveiled it at the Joshua Learning Center of Harrisburg in August, that would establish education savings accounts won Senate Education Committee approval on Tuesday.
Legislation sponsored by Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin County, shown here the day he unveiled it at the Joshua Learning Center of Harrisburg in August, that would establish education savings accounts won Senate Education Committee approval on Tuesday. (File photo/PennLive.com)

By a 6-5 vote, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill, sponsored by Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin County, that would establish education savings accounts for students who live in attendance areas served by low-achieving public schools.

“There’s a lot of difference of opinions but I think everybody agrees what we’re doing now isn’t working. Something needs to be done and this is my answer to that,” DiSanto said.

Since 2011, five states have enacted laws allowing for education savings accounts that mostly serve targeted populations of students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, more than a dozen and a half other states are considering legislation to add them to their school choice menu.

Pennsylvania offers parents the option of enrolling their children in traditional school district schools, brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools, and for those eligible, a business-funded scholarship made possible through a tax credit program for students to attend non-public schools, in addition to private and parochial schools and homeschooling.

The program DiSanto’s bill envisions would supplement that array of choices.

Committee Chairman John Eichelberger said it clearly is a priority of the Senate Republican leadership based on it being given the bill number of Senate Bill 2 and as evidenced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, attending the meeting specifically to ensure it had the votes to win committee approval.

But Gov. Tom Wolf takes a different view about it. His spokesman J.J. Abbott said, “Governor Wolf opposes vouchers and any program that diverts state funding away from Pennsylvania’s public schools. This proposal would cost the commonwealth and school districts hundreds of millions of dollars, which would ultimately be passed onto taxpayers.”

To be eligible for an account under this bill, parents would have to withdraw their child from the public school to receive the statewide average per-pupil state funding, currently about $5,700, annually in an account to be held in the state Treasury. Special education students would receive more depending on the severity of their disability. Money leftover in these accounts upon graduation could be applied to post-secondary education.

Students currently enrolled in private or parochial schools would be ineligible to participate, DiSanto said.

The dollars put into an education savings account could only be used for a Department of Education-approved expenses including attending a private or parochial school, uniforms, higher education tuition, textbooks and curriculum, software, testing and industry certifications, and therapies for students with disabilities.

While critics raise concern about this program siphoning money from school districts, that wasn’t the rationale behind the dissenting votes cast by two of the senators.

Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, who has been supportive of school choice programs in the past, said he wasn’t involved in drafting the legislation and not prepared to be supportive at this time.

Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester County, said he is unconvinced that education savings account will make a difference for students in the low-performing schools that have remained in the bottom 15 percent for decades and would prefer a full and open discussion about what might.

The legislation targets the education savings accounts to students who live in and currently attend or are about to enroll as a kindergartner or first-grader a public school identified by the state Department of Education as performing in the bottom 15 percent statewide.

The 2017-18 list of the low-performers (see below) includes nearly 400 schools; some are located in Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties. Students who previously participated in the program also are eligible.

“With a bill like this, we can get the kids out of the very bad situation that they’re in. Parents want to see the best for them. Get them into a private school. Get them other special needs they have – tutoring, therapy and all the things … and give them a chance to get out and succeed,” said Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair County.

But Pennsylvania State Education Association President Dolores McCracken called it a dangerous bill in that it doesn’t help students learn, drains money from public schools, and failed to hold private schools accountable for how they would spend the public funds.

“It’s extremely disappointing that state senators think voting on tuition voucher schemes should be a priority for the General Assembly. This bill is just as bad as all of the other voucher ideas that have been floated over the past two decades and failed to pass – and it could cut more than $500 million from school districts that need state funding the most,” McCracken said in a statement. Read more

 

Oct 11, 2017
West Chester Patch
Lawmakers Seek To Halt Drilling After More Sunoco Spills In Chester County
More spills due to Sunoco’s pipeline drilling in Chester County have renewed safety and environmental concerns for lawmakers and residents.

WEST CHESTER, PA — Sunoco has spilled drilling fluid multiple times over the last several days at multiple locations in Chester County, and local lawmakers are calling for statewide action.

Sunoco said in a statement that drilling was stopped after the most recent Mariner East 2 pipeline spill on Monday on Paoli Pike and Boot Road in East Goshen. They said that no drinking water was impacted.

According to East Goshen Safety and Environmental Advocates (EGSEA), a “large amount” of drilling fluid spilled and seeped through to the surface, which is located on private property. The area was still being cleaned up on Wednesday.

There have also been recent leaks on Ship Road in East Goshen and in West Whiteland, according to EGSEA.

“Sunoco continues to remind us on a regular basis that their practices are fallible, dangerous to our community, and, simply put, too much of a risk to impose on us for corporate profit,” the organization said in a statement.

State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) announced Wednesday that he will hold a press conference and rally in Harrisburg on Oct. 17 to announce bipartisan legislation to improve pipeline safety.

“Residents, homeowners, and families have real and valid concerns regarding pipeline construction activities and the potential threats to their health, safety, and well-being,” Dinniman said. “In Chester County, we have serious concerns regarding Mariner East, but this is a statewide issue with myriad individuals and families across the Commonwealth impacted by the seemingly endless number of pipeline projects that are either already underway or on the horizon.”
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

August 24, 2017
abc27.com
Bill would halt lawmaker pay if budget deal is not in place

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania’s state budget is still not done nearly two months after it was due, but the paychecks and per diems keep flowing at the Capitol.

Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester County) would like to change that with his bill that would halt pay and per diems after June 30 for the legislature, the governor and their staff members if there’s no deal in place.

The bill would also require the legislature to stay in continuous session until the budget is done and all negotiations would be made public.

“The states that get their budgets in on time are the states that have part-time legislatures because the legislators know that after a certain date they’re not getting paid. And those states have budgets not only on time, but early,” Dinniman said. Read more

August 8, 2017
Philly.com
Sunoco agrees to more oversight of its problematic Mariner pipeline

State Sen. Andrew E. Dinniman (D., Chester), a pipeline critic, said the settlement includes “additional and more extensive geotechnical and geologic evaluations, surveys, and sampling, as well as increased and improved notification standards for residents who may be impacted by horizontal direct drilling activities.” Read entire article here

Aug 1, 2017
Chester County Press
Franklin Township launches petition to get stop signs installed

Community concerns about the intersection of Appleton and Strickerville roads in Franklin Township have resulted in an online petition effort that is being posted on the township’s website.

The main page has added a prominent banner, reading, “Help convince PennDOT to install a 4-way stop at the intersection.” Viewers who click on the link are taken to an explanatory page that reads, in part:

“A 108-acre farm located at the intersection of Appleton and Strickerville roads was recently purchased by an Amish family who are operating an organic dairy farm. People who travel Appleton Road know that this road can become a speedway, with cars, trucks and heavy equipment traveling at speeds greater than the posted speed limit. The posted speed limit of 40 mph is considered too fast by many.

“Some drivers mistake this intersection for a 4-way stop intersection and proceed onto Appleton Road after stopping and collide with oncoming traffic,” the message reads. “The township is aware of one death and two serious accidents at this intersection, and many non-reportable accidents as well. The township has been asking PennDOT as far back as 2010 to improve safety at this intersection.”

The farm property spans the intersection, and was recently sold to Amish families who are operating a dairy farm. The family members, including children, must cross the road several times a day to perform chores, and their horse-drawn buggies and wagons pose a risk to speeding traffic.

“The Board of Supervisors and many residents worry that a terrible accident could occur,” the online message continues. The township “Call to Action” lists several steps, including, “Establish a dialogue with PA elected officials, Rep. John Lawrence, and Sen. Andrew Dinniman; Use social media networks; Collect signatures; Perform a traffic study, independent of PennDOT, using additional, relevant criteria to develop a recommendation for a remedy; Contact Lancaster County Municipalities for their experience managing traffic safety issues with horse-drawn carriages.” Read more

July 27, 2017
Philly.com
Sunoco offers affected well owners along pipeline $60K; petition seeks to halt construction

Sunoco Pipeline LP has offered $60,000 each to at least 14 households in Chester County whose water wells were impaired this month by the company’s construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, according to two people involved in the negotiations.

The $60,000 would pay for each household’s water bills for years to come after it is connected to Aqua Pennsylvania’s public water system.

Earlier this month, 14 households near Township Line Road in West Whiteland and Uwchlan Townships complained that the water from their private wells was interrupted or had become cloudy. Sunoco subsequently suspended drilling in that area. At issue is water that is released in the process of constructing the pipeline. Sunoco says it uses a mix of water and naturally occurring, nontoxic bentonite clay. Read more

July 27, 2017
Senator Dinniman Website
Senator Dinniman Remarks on HB-542

View video here

July 26, 2017
Daily Local News
Activists respond to legal battle with developer at Bishop Tube site

EAST WHITELAND >> Two dozen activists defended their First Amendment rights during a Wednesday press conference as opponents to development at the Bishop Tube site responded to a legal battle with developer Brian O’Neill of O’Neill Developers and Constitution Drive Partners.

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, has been actively challenging a proposal by O’Neill to initiate just a partial clean-up of the contaminated Bishop Tube site and to build more than 200 housing units in the heavily wooded area. Read more

July 25, 2017
StateImpact
Judge halts all drilling on Mariner East 2 construction

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday ordered a two-week halt to all drilling for the construction of the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline after dozens of water contamination incidents and several environmental violations by the builder, Sunoco Pipeline.

Judge Bernard Labuskes of the Environmental Hearing Board suspended drilling until August 7 when a state court will hear arguments from the company and its opponents over whether the suspension should be extended until another hearing on whether to withdraw permits for the $2.5 billion cross-state project. Read more

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 19, 2017
StateImpact
Mariner East 2 construction has resulted in dozens of spills, documents show

Construction of Sunoco Pipeline’s $3 billion 350-mile long Mariner East 2 pipeline resulted in at least 61 drilling mud spills from April 25 through June 17, 2017, according to newly released documents. The spills have occurred in ten of the 12 counties along the route and range from minor releases of five gallons to larger more serious releases of tens of thousands of gallons. The documents include reports of “inadvertent returns,” and were released by the Department of Environmental Protection as part of ongoing litigation by the Clean Air Council challenging the department’s issuing of water crossing permits for the project last February.

The Council wants the Environmental Hearing Board to suspend construction while its case is pending review, but has so far been unsuccessful. 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 15, 2017
Mercury News
Pa. State Sen. Dinniman calls for halt to all Mariner East 2 pipeline construction

WEST CHESTER >> State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, called upon the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to halt horizontal directional drilling associated with the Mariner East 2 pipeline following reports of water quality issues in proximity to the pipeline route in Uwchlan and West Whiteland townships. Dinniman said unreliable data was used to identify private wells during the DEP permitting process.

In a letter sent to DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell Friday, Dinniman outlined a number of concerns associated with the identification and notification requirements contained in Sunoco Pipeline LP’s (Sunoco) Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit approved in February of this year. Specifically, Dinniman highlighted notification requirements for those citizens in the path of the pipeline who rely on private well water. 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

July 3, 2017
TrivLive
Standardized Keystone Exams face elimination under proposal

A reprieve from standardized testing could be in sight for the state’s students.

Lawmakers are considering a bill — sponsored by the minority chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Chester County Democrat Andrew Dinniman — that seeks to end the Keystone Exams and replace them with the SAT.

“It’s to end high-stakes testing, because there are many bright students who do well in courses but simply can’t take tests,” Dinniman said.

The bill would eliminate the Keystone Exams, which are administered in algebra I, literature and biology. It also would end the use of any graduation exams in the state.

Local districts would be allowed to determine criteria for graduation, but they would not be allowed to use a single test or series of tests to determine whether a student can graduate, Dinniman said.

He added that graduation requirements should look at a student’s body of coursework. Read more

June 30, 2017
Public.
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

June 22, 2017
Daily Times News
Area veterinarians, lawmakers, rally for bill to protect pets left in hot vehicles

HARRISBURG>>State Senator Andy Dinniman marked the first day of summer by calling for passage of his bill, Senate Bill 636, to protect pets left unattended in hot cars.

Dinniman was joined by state Rep. Frank Farry, state Rep. Dom Costa, Kristen Tullo of the Humane Society of the United States, and Mary Jane McNamee of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) in supporting the legislation at a press conference at the East Wing Plaza of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex.

The press conference came a day after the unanimous Senate passage of Libre’s Law, House Bill 1238, a comprehensive animal protection bill that better defines and increases the penalties for animal cruelty. Libre’s Law now goes to the governor who has indicated that he will sign it into law.

“Let’s not let another summer go by without passing this bill and without providing better and strong protections for our dogs and cats,” Dinniman said. “Our goal is to better educate pet owners and the pet community about the dangers of leaving your animal in a hot car, as well as empowering law enforcement and public safety officials to rescue dogs from danger in such situations.”

Senate Bill 636, the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act, makes it a summary offense (punishable by fine of up to $300) to confine a dog or cat in a vehicle under conditions that jeopardize the animal’s health. Read more

June 18, 2017
Daily Local News
New Garden residents band together is attempt to eradicate mushroom flies

NEW GARDEN >> Residents of several housing developments in the southern part of the township are conducting their own scientific research on the pesky flies that have invaded their homes for about three years.

The tiny flies, called phorids, have become pests in many local mushroom farms as well as some nearby neighborhoods. Last year state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland called the residents together get information and try to work out solutions. On Thursday, he held the third of these meetings at the New Garden township municipal building and presented updates on actions that had been taken and data that had been obtained. He also got some updates himself, as residents presented information they have found through their own investigations.           Read more

June 7, 2017
publicnow.com
Dinniman Calls For Public Hearing On Pa-American Water Rate IncreaseWEST CHESTER (June 7, 2017) – State Senator Andy Dinniman is calling for a public hearing regarding Pennsylvania-American Water Company’s (PAWC) proposed rate increase for water and wastewater customers in the greater Coatesville area.
‘Residents in the greater Coatesville area have already shouldered significant increases in their rates from Pennsylvania-American Water,’ Dinniman said. ‘It seems like every two to three years Pa America Water comes looking for another rate hike. That adds up and it takes a significant financial toll on our residents, especially seniors citizens and those on fixed incomes.’
PAWC filed a request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to increase water rates by 17.06 percent and wastewater rates by 23.09 percent increase for customers in the Coatesville area.
PAWC provides water service to more than 12,000 customers in Coatesville, Parkesburg, South Coatesville, and portions of Sadsbury, Caln, East Fallowfield, Valley, Atglen, West Sadsbury, and West Caln. It provides wastewater service to more than 6,000 customers in some of the same municipalities.
Under the proposed rate increase, the typical residential customer’s water bill (using 3,630 gallons a month) would rise from $55.63 per month to $65.12- an increase of more than $113 a year aside from any applicable surcharges. The typical residential customer’s wastewater bill (using 3,630 gallons a month) would rise from $56.96 per month to $70.11- an increase of more than $157 a year aside from any applicable surcharges.
Read more
May 28, 2017
Daily Local News
Coatesville redevelopment project lands state funding
COATESVILLE >> The city’s Gateway Redevelopment Project received a shot in the arm on two funding fronts Thursday.
The project was awarded a $3.2 million loan and a $2.1 million grant, the governor’s office and two local politicians announced.
“Now we have a project, now we have a project,” developer Jim DePetris said. “How many developers have come into Coatesville promising the sky and left in the dead of night? We’re the ones who are staying and getting this project done. Once we do, others will come.” Read more
May 27, 2017
MiamiHerald
For Pennsylvania lawmakers, 2016 just kept on giving
HARRISBURG, PA.
Foreign travel, personal gifts, cash and tickets to major league sports events are among more than $145,000 in freebies reported by Pennsylvania lawmakers in newly filed state financial disclosure forms.
The amount is considerably higher than in many recent years — just four years ago lawmakers reported only about $43,000 in gifts and other largesse.
Pennsylvania’s comparatively lax gift rules for state legislators drew protesters to the Capitol in the past week to push for a House committee to take action on a proposal to add new gift restrictions. Police cited more than two dozen people for disorderly conduct.
State law requires officials to disclose the value of gifts worth at least $250, except from family members or friends. They also must report transportation, lodging and hospitality worth at least $650 from a given source over the year. Read more
May 19, 2017
Public.
Dinniman Discusses Efforts To Combat The Rise Of Lyme And Tick-Borne Diseases
HARRISBURG (May 19, 2017) – Pennsylvania continues to lead the nation in Lyme disease and that number is expected to rise, state Senator Andy Dinniman recently told a group of Lyme patients and advocates during a rally outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol in recognition of Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Month.
‘Several factors appear to be aligning to make this a very bad year for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in Pennsylvania and throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions,’ Dinniman said. ‘That is all the more reason why we must act and do what we can to increase preventive measures and expand treatment options.’ Read more
April 21, 2017
Patch
Bill Allowing PA Teachers To Carry Guns Advances
Legislation that would allow teachers to carry handguns in Pennsylvania schools has advanced in the state legislature, and the issue is predictably raising tempers on both sides.
Senate Bill 383, also known as the School Safety Bill, would give teachers the option of carrying concealed firearms on school property and in the classroom. Detractors of the bill don’t want firearms around children. Defenders, like bill sponsor Sen. Donald White, a Republican representing the 41st District, think that it could protect students from incidents of violence in schools, like mass shootings or stabbings. Read more

 

March 27, 2017
Times-Tribune
Keystone Exams a work in progress

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s experiment with a high-stakes student test remains in limbo as state lawmakers digest the impact of the latest changes in education policy from Washington.

The Senate and House education committees held a joint hearing last week on the impact of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act signed in 2015 by former President Barack Obama. Read more

March 24, 2017
Daily Local News

Pa. seeks input on changes in job training for the disabled

CALN >> The state Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a hearing Thursday on vocational and job training opportunities for people with disabilities.

State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland, said the hearing had input from local participants, advocates and providers on the changes to Community Participation Support services to show how some of these program changes could impact people with disabilities to obtain fulfilling jobs, as well as improving existing programs. Read more

March 22, 2017
The Mercury
Opinion
Wednesdays Soundoff
To Jay Miller, I have called Sen. Andy Dinniman’s office three times and emailed him twice. Guess what? The mailbox is full and no response to the emails. This is pertaining to how he says the legislators in Harrisburg are controlled by the gas companies. He’s in teacher unions’ back pockets and he’s like all the rest of the politicians. They don’t want to talk to the constituents. Dinniman needs to go. Read more
FYI
March 6,2017
Daily Local News
Despite cyber attack, Sen. Dinniman’s office stays open
WEST CHESTER >> State Sen. Andy Dinniman said Monday that his offices remain open for business, and Saturday’s upcoming Town Hall Meeting will go ahead as planned despite a ransomware cyber attack that has disabled computers in Senate Democratic offices across Pennsylvania.
“These types of attacks continue to be a serious threat to businesses, individuals, and government institutions. This latest attack has not only threatened the public dialogue, it has also attempted to disrupt government operations and services across the Commonwealth.” Read more
May 20, 2017
Trib Live
 
Pennsylvania Department of Education considers changes to testing, accountability measures
The Pennsylvania Department of Education hopes to alleviate testing pressure on students and teachers as the state prepares an education plan in compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, a top department official told lawmakers Monday. 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

 

March 11, 2017
Pottstown Mercury

Education, environment among top concerns at Phoenixville town hall

PHOENIXVILLE >> Concerns including the environment and public education have been weighing heavy on people’s minds lately.

Phoenixville residents had the opportunity Saturday to ask questions about those subjects and several others during a town hall meeting held by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th Dist. Read more

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