October 30, 2018 Pottsmerc.com Muth challenges incumbent Rafferty in 44th Senate District race
Republican John Rafferty Jr. is seeking re-election for a fifth term in the Pennsylvania Senate. He is being challenged by Democratic newcomer Katie Muth to represent the 44th Senate District.
On a few issues, the opponents are in relative agreement, including support for victims of sexual assault and the need for property tax relief. One of the disagreements between the two candidates is on the topic of education funding.
Candidates responded to a question about support for the effort to open a window allowing victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church to sue with the following:
“I will never walk away from victims. If elected, I will be right there in January, when the Senate picks up this fight again, demanding that we vote on a bill that gives victims the justice they deserve, and not a sham bill that protects the abusers. Victims of sexual assault absolutely deserve the opportunity to hold the abusers and the church accountable for their actions and lack of oversight,” Muth said in response to the question.
Rafferty said he has and will continue to support victims of sexual assault.
“I have and will continue to support opening a window to allow victims to sue their abusers. Our Constitution does not grant any protections to these abusers or the institutions hiding them,” Rafferty said in his response.
In a questionnaire, both Muth and Rafferty expressed a need for property tax relief.
In response to a question about supporting the abolition of the property tax and how it could be accomplished, Muth suggested two approaches including “taxing wealthy corporations and closing the Delaware loophole, in order to make sure that they pay their fair share,” and “to charge a severance tax on the oil and gas industry.”
Rafferty responded, “By driving dollars from increases in state budget revenue, fair funding formula and monies from having enacted a severance tax.”
Both candidates expressed support for the levying of a severance tax on natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania.
In response to a question about support of the Pennsylvania Fair Funding Formula for Education, Rafferty stated that he supports the formula and that he believes it is being funded adequately.
Muth, however, says she supports the formula, but that it is not being funded adequately.
“I propose that we increase basic education funding through a fair funding formula which would equate to $3.7 billion over a number of years (this is critical since the fair funding formula only applies to money added after 2014-2015- last year we only raised this share by $100 million which equates to only 1.7 percent). We also need to provide resources via the fair funding formula faster to those school districts that have been shortchanged by state funding. I also propose that we raise the state’s share of special education funding to 35 percent, so that all of those students in need of those services get the attention that they are entitled to,” she wrote.
Candidates were also asked about the size of the General Assembly and whether they would support making it smaller.
“Yes, I have voted in favor of reducing the size of the legislature previously and would do so again,” read Rafferty’s response.
“If we are going to pay people to be full-time legislators, then they need to do full-time work,” wrote Muth. “The biggest issue is not the size of the Legislature, but their job performance. We need to hold our legislators to a higher standard and they should be held to the same job performance standards that many of us are held to daily. I support legislation, such as House Bill 2469, which would suspend lawmakers’ salaries if they do not pass the state’s general fund budget by their annual June 30 deadline. Budgets not passed on time cost taxpayers money. I also advocate for state campaign finance reform — Pennsylvania has some of the weakest campaign finance laws in the country — so that our representatives are elected by the people, not special interests and lobbyists.”
Muth, 34, of Royersford, earned her bachelor’s degree in athletic training/sports medicine from Pennsylvania State University and her master’s degree in the same from A.T. Still University.
Muth works as an adjunct professor in the Kinesiology department at a local university and as a health care professional.
Rafferty, 65, of Lower Providence, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, his master’s degree from Beaver College and his law degree from Temple University.
Prior to running for the Pennsylvania Senate, Senator Rafferty served as an attorney in private practice focusing on education, real estate, zoning, business and estate law. As Deputy Attorney General for the Commonwealth from 1988 to 1991, he was assigned to the Criminal Law Division where his primary duty was investigating and prosecuting Medicaid fraud.
Pennsylvania’s 44th Senatorial District includes parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.
In Chester County, the 44th District includes Caln Township, East Brandywine, East Coventry, East Nantmeal, East Pikeland, East Vincent, Elverson, Honey Brook, North Coventry, Spring City, South Coventry, Upper Uwchlan, Wallace Township, Uwchlan Township, Warwick, West Brandywine, West Caln, West Nantmeal and West Vincent Township.
In Montgomery County, the district includes Collegeville, Limerick, Lower Pottsgrove, Lower Providence, Royersford, Upper Providence, West Norriton and Worcester.
In Berks County, the 44th District includes Amity, Douglass and Union townships. Source
October 18, 2018 patch.com On The Issues: Katie Muth Vs John Rafferty, PA Senate District 44
A side by side, in-depth comparison of the experience, policies, and stances of Katie Muth and John Rafferty
With Election Day just weeks away, we’re breaking down candidates and their policy positions in several key races, including the battle for the 44th District in the Pennsylvania State Senate. Democrat Katie Muth, just 34, is taking on long-tenured Republican incumbent, John C. Rafferty Jr.
The 44th District includes portions of Chester, Montgomery, and Berks counties. Nearby municipalities include: Collegeville, Limerick Township, Lower Pottsgrove Township, Lower Providence Township, Royersford, Upper Providence Township, West Norriton Township, and Worcester Township.
In Berks County, the 44th covers Amity Township, Douglass Township, and Union Township, while in Chester County, it includes Caln Township, East Brandywine Township, East Coventry Township, East Nantmeal Township, East Pikeland Township, East Vincent Township, Elverson, Honey Brook, Honey Brook Township, North Coventry Township, Spring City, South Coventry Township, Upper Uwchlan Township, Uwchlan Township, Wallace Township, Warwick Township, West Brandywine Township, West Caln Township, West Nantmeal Township, and West Vincent Township.
AGE AND HOMETOWN
Rafferty: 65, Lower Providence
Muth: 34, Royersford
Rafferty: Rafferty has held his position as state senator in the 44th since 2002. He’s currently the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and eighth longest-serving member of the senate. He previously served on the Methacton School Board, the Lower Providence Township Board of Supervisors, and as the Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania. In 2016 he ran for Attorney General but was defeated by Democrat Josh Shapiro, 51.3 percent to 48.6 percent.
Muth: Muth is an adjunct professor of kinesiology at Eastern University, where she also serves as an athletic trainer. She has previously worked in a similar capacity for Arizona State University and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
ON MARINER EAST 2 AND FRACKING
Rafferty: “Many landowners and communities have experienced the negative aspects associated with poorly-managed pipeline construction, including sinkholes and spoiled wells. These recurring incidents demonstrate a clear need for exploring legislative measures that will improve management, increase safety and advance oversight of pipeline construction and operations. Knowing that more of these major pipelines may be built, and the issues we have with the Sunoco Pipeline, it is crucial that we form a value-adding commission to ensure the residents of this Commonwealth have a right to safe communities and benefit from regulations and laws that enhance their safety and protect the environment.” (source: Rafferty’s website)
Rafferty sponsored Senate Bill 1199 earlier this year to create a “property owner’s bill of rights” not to be infringed in cases of eminent domain, such as Mariner East 2.
“In too many cases, the company (Sunoco) has demonstrated a total disregard for the rights of homeowners. It is critical for lawmakers to do our part to ensure these landowners can use every option at their disposal to have these problems addressed.” (source: Rafferty website)
Muth: “John Raffery gets $90,000 from oil and gas companies. They get a free pass on the Mariner East 2 pipeline and fracking…We all have the right to clean air, pure water and a healthy environment. I have taken the ‘No Fossil Fuel Money’ pledge because I believe that it’s time that our elected officials stand up for the safety and health of their constituents, not the oil and gas industry.” (source: campaign video)
ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Rafferty: Voted “yes” on bill to authorize use of medical marijuana in 2014. (VoteSmart.org)
“I voted yes on medical marijuana, and only medical marijuana and not the other recreational forms of marijuana. I believe marijuana is a gateway drug. And as attorney general, I, months ago, outlined my task force on the heroin problem here in the commonwealth and it certainly will apply to cocaine, crack cocaine and meth. Now, heroin we see over the years all the different uses of that drug. But this would be prong No. 1 — education. I’ve had round table discussions where we start talking about going into high schools and junior high schools, and the teachers say you really have to start in elementary school. You have got to start educating these kids in third and fourth grade about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. So we’re now revamping the program to start an education aspect in elementary school and all the way through. Prosecution-wise, we’ll partner with the DAs — which hasn’t been done in years in Pennsylvania — and have state troopers working very closely with the attorney general’s office to utilize all of our resources to go after these peddlers of poison.” (source: Brown and White)
Muth: “Legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use would provide a much needed revenue boost for the state which struggles to pass a budget on time each year. This would also provide a medical alternative to patients suffering from terminal illness and other conditions that medical marijuana has been proven to help. This would be a highly regulated product treated similar to alcohol here in PA. The laws should not change: stiff penalties for driving under the influence, selling to minors and disorderly conduct.” (Muth campaign)
ON THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC IN PENNSYLVANIA
Rafferty: Proposed a three-pronged approach as a candidate for PA Attorney General in 2016 (RaffertyForAG):
A Heroin Strike Force comprised of highly training Bureau of Narcotics Investigation agents, drug prosecutors and intelligence analysts who would work together to target mid-to-upper-level drug dealers. The task force would work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to identify out-of-state sources and coordinate efforts to investigate, prosecute and jail heroin traffickers.”
Enhanced training for police agencies and better coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors at all levels of government for improved intelligence collection, interdiction and prosecution of cases.
A heavy emphasis on treatment for individuals addicted to heroin, a public education campaign to increase awareness and education programs in schools to teach young people how deadly heroin can be.
Muth: “While PA has made strides in the monitoring and reporting of opioid prescriptions, we need to do more in partnering with physicians, dentists and medical societies to develop guidelines for all patients with pain. Katie also will fight for adequate funding for accessible, effective treatment centers and guaranteed access regardless of individual circumstances.” (Muth campaign)
ON SCHOOL SAFETY
Rafferty: (During Attorney General campaign): “John Rafferty will employ a School Safety Task Force in the Office of Attorney General who will advise staff on draft plans, coordinate and train local authorities, school administrators, teachers, parents and students on what to do in the case of a natural disaster, violent event or terrorist situation. Having a well-defined plan saves lives. Additionally, the Office of Attorney General will be a leader in helping authorities, administrators, parents, teachers and fellow students in recognizing when a child is showing signs of having a serious issue that could lead to someone harming another person or themselves.” (RaffertyForAG)
Muth: “Katie does not support guns in schools. She believes that a school resource officer that is armed is acceptable, as well as advocating for increased funding for guidance counselors and mental health counseling within the schools. Katie believes that we need more funding for mental health counseling, including within schools, and affordable health care that makes it more accessible. Unfortunately, mental health services are usually one of the first programs cut out of the PA budget and Katie understands that these are public resources that are greatly needed across our state.”
Rafferty: “Finding a way to significantly reduce or eliminate this (school property tax) burden on homeowners remains a top priority for me, but lawmakers have run into difficulties in finding a way to replace this lost revenue and fund our schools. We need to find a solution that eases the burden for homeowners, while at the same time guaranteeing Harrisburg does not shortchange our local schools.” (Rafferty website)
Muth: “Hardworking people and families have been burdened by outrageous property taxes, due to poor leadership in Harrisburg by our current elected officials. This is something that hits very close to home for me, since my grandmother was forced to sell her home in Western PA because she could no longer afford to pay the property tax on her home that she owned for over 40 years. I support initiatives such as rebate programs to decrease the burden of property taxes, especially amongst Seniors, so that they do not have to sell their homes and can retire with dignity and financial security. I will fight to make sure that wealthy corporations and the oil and gas industry pay their fair share and put an end to skyrocketing property taxes.” (Muth website)
THE SECOND AMENDMENT AND GUN CONTROL
Rafferty: Sponsored Senate Bill 36 in 2017, which would prevent firearms from being seized from members of the public who are on public property during a declared emergency. Sponsored Senate Bill 5 in 2017 which states “it is proper for law-abiding people to protect themselves, their families, and others from intruders without the fear of prosecution or civil action for acting in defense of themselves and others.” (BillTrack50)
Muth: “Katie believes that gun violence is a public health crisis, and that we need a data-driven, multi-faceted approach to combat it. We must start with universal background checks across state lines and expanding research on gun violence.” (source: Muth campaign) Other gun safety measures Katie supports include:
Banning assault weapons and high capacity ammo / magazines (Katie considers an assault weapon to be any selective fire rifle chambered for a cartridge of intermediate power (her dad is an avid hunter in PA, so she is well versed).
Closing the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows abusive dating partners & stalkers to own guns, and enacting Red Flag laws that help prevent tragedies by allowing friends, family & law enforcement to report warning signs and have guns taken away before a tragedy occurs.
Raising the minimum age for gun purchases, increasing funding for school mental health/family services and correctional officers to keep students safe
Fighting against preemption laws (state laws that prohibit local governments from adopting reasonable gun laws). (source: Muth campaign)
ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Rafferty: Rafferty co-sponsored Senate Bill 1140 in 2018, providing a roadmap for Pennsylvania’s transition to renewable energy.
Earned a 20 percent percent grade from the Sierra Club in 2016 and a 38 percent grade from Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania in 2014. He earned as high as an 85 percent from the Sierra Club in 2010. (VoteSmart)
In 2005, he hosted an environmental round table at Ursinus College to bring together environmental activists, citizen groups, trade organizations, and state officials. “The open exchange of ideas between the various individuals representing diverse and sometimes competing interests allowed us to analyze their ideas and concerns and focus on very specific problems and potential solutions surrounding the critical balance between economic development and protecting our environmental resources,” Rafferty said. (Rafferty website)
Muth: “She believes that we need to provide companies and individuals with incentives to put the environment and climate first, starting with a plan to transition from gas and oil to renewable, clean energy. Katie believes that PA must invest in clean energy and provide incentives to businesses to utilize renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar.
“Katie believes that we should be transitioning away from gas and oil dependence to that of a clean energy state. The operation and completion of current pipelines needs to put public and environmental safety first. There needs to be enhanced oversight and accountability and transparency as to who decides how these projects are developed and maintained.
“Katie has taken the #NoFossilFuelMoney pledge and will fight to protect the health, welfare, and safety of citizens and the environment—not the interests of the oil & gas lobby.” (Muth campaign)
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:
• 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.
• $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.
• $61,948 to Lower Frederick Township for manhole lining project. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program.
• $200,000 to Regal Oaks II sewer extension in Upper Pottsgrove Township. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program. Politicians making the announcement: state Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th Dist. and state Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-147th Dist.
“This project will make a positive impact on commercial and residential users,” said Mensch. “I applaud Upper Pottsgrove Township for taking the necessary steps to move this project forward and I am pleased that we are able to provide state funds for this essential community plan.”
“Sewer projects are costly, and the burden to pay for them typically falls on customers in the form of system improvement charges that appear on their bills,” Toepel said. “These grants work to offset project costs and minimize any impact on residents of the 147th District.”
• $419,909 for Lower Pottsgrove’s North Valley Road sewer replacement project. Funding source: Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program. Politicians making the announcement: state Rep. Tom Quigley, R-146th Dist. and state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist.
“I worked to secure this grant because I knew it would reduce the responsibility customers would otherwise face through system improvement charges on their bills,” Quigley said. “The grant will almost cover the total project cost of $494,011.”
• $195,000 for Upper Providence Schuylkill River Trail east construction. Funding source: Financed under the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund, through the Commonwealth Finance Authority. Politician making the announcement: state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist.
The township, in cooperation with Montgomery County, proposes to construct a pedestrian trail along the Schuylkill River to link the Upper Schuylkill Valley Park with the Schuylkill Canal Towpath Trail, according to Rafferty. The project will begin at the Black Rock Dam and extend to the Upper Schuylkill Valley Park parking area for a total length of approximately 8,000 linear feet. The project is an important link in creating a loop trail with the Schuylkill River Trail West. The total project cost is $650,000.
• $100,000 to Royersford borough’s Riverfront Park and trail phase IV projects. Funding source: Financed under the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund, through the Commonwealth Finance Authority. Politicians making the announcement: state Rep. Tom Quigley, R-146th Dist. and state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist.
“The project, impacting a mile-long trail beginning at Main Street and First Avenue and ending near an existing trestle bridge, will consist of the installation of 750 linear feet of a 10-foot wide ADA-compliant trail of a paved, slip-resistant surface. Trail amenities will include a pavilion with four picnic tables, two trash receptacles and three benches along the trail, as well as interpretive signs. The total project cost is $572,300” according to Quigley.
• $1 million in additional state funds for Pottstown School District. Funding source: Pennsylvania General Fund budget. Politician making announcement: state Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th Dist. at Thursday press conference. Source
Jan 4, 2018 Daily Local News Local officials turn up heat to ensure safety of pipeline process
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
Dec 22, 2017 Daily Times Groups put pressure on Wolf to halt Mariner East 2 construction
HARRISBURG >> Six community members and two elected officials met face-to-face with Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday as they ratcheted up the pressure to halt construction of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline until a new safety assessment can be performed on the controversial project.
The residents from Delaware and Chester counties asked the governor to use his executive authority under Title 35 to immediately halt pipeline construction and operations, and to assess the risk the project poses to the safety of communities along the route.
“The residents, all members of the bicounty, bipartisan coalition Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety, additionally demanded that the commonwealth mitigate that risk to vulnerable populations impacted by the hazardous, highly volatile liquid export pipeline,” reads a coalition release.
State Reps. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, and Carolyn Comitta, D-156 of West Chester, joined the residents.
The governor was presented with letters from a bipartisan group of elected officials. Urging action were U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, state Sens. Andrew Dinniman, D-19, and John Rafferty, R-44, and state Reps. Becky Corbin, R-155, Duane Milne, R-167, and Comitta.
“During the meeting, residents repeatedly stressed the urgent need to address the threat to densely populated communities, and once again handed Gov. Wolf a petition containing over 6,000 signatures asking him to protect the safety of schools,” reads the release.
J.J. Abbott, Wolf’s press secretary, released the following statement Thursday afternoon: “Gov. Wolf has met with elected officials from this area and wanted to also hear from residents. He appreciated the meeting. As we have said previously, any safety assessment would have to be conducted by the PUC and Gov. Wolf would support such an assessment being done. As the PUC is the relevant authority with safety oversight over this project, if they were to perform this evaluation we would coordinate with them on how to proceed to safely and adequately assess safety concerns with this project.”
The now-under-construction Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline will carry highly volatile liquids and snake 350 miles across from Marcellus Shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.
Jeff Shields, Sunoco Pipeline communications manager, again repeated the company’s stance that construction is being done to the highest safety standards of the industry.
“We understand there are varying opinions on infrastructure projects such as ours, however, pipelines are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to transport the oil and gas products we use every day,” Shields said. “The mainline construction of ME2 is approximately 91 percent complete and our HDDs (Horizontal Directional Drilling) are approximately 62 percent complete. We look forward to completing our project in a timely manner. The safety of all pipelines is built into the strict federal regulations for the construction, operation and maintenance of transmission pipelines. Those include not just the Mariner East 2 system but the many natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines that have operated safely for decades throughout the commonwealth. It is well documented that we exceed those federal safety regulations in many areas, including pipe thickness, depth, weld testing and pipeline inspection.”
The company picked up a legal victory Thursday when the state Public Utility Commission lifted an injunction against that had halted construction in West Goshen Township.
Work had been stalled since July in a dispute between the township and company over the installation and location of a valve station.
Bibianna Dussling is a Middletown resident and co-president of the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety.
“We’ve seen a rapidly growing bipartisan consensus to halt the construction and properly assess the risk of the Mariner East project,” Dussling said. “We hope the governor will take these concerns seriously and take immediate action to protect our safety.”
Caroline Hughes of East Goshen also attended the meeting.
“We expect the governor to take swift action, to use his authority to protect us, as mandated by his oath and his office,” Hughes said as leader of Goshen United for Public Safety. “Citizens are prepared to escalate our voices and demand representative action.
“We’re getting the attention of people in office that have an ability to make a change and we’re taking every opportunity to communicate the urgency of the situation.”
Comitta called on the governor to halt construction.
“I have been talking and meeting with constituents, state agency heads, township officials and Sunoco representatives regarding the Mariner East 2 project since I took office,” Comitta said. “Unfortunately, this project has experienced a record number of incidents and that is completely unacceptable.
“It’s past time to assess the safety risks so that our first responders and residents have the information they need to be safe, and it’s regrettable that this wasn’t done prior to the start of the project.”
Rebecca Britton of the Uwchlan Safety Coalition said Wolf seemed eager to learn about the group’s presentation.
She talked about Wolf’s role, and the need for him to halt construction under Title 35.
“The governor has the ability and primary responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Pennsylvania,,” Britton said.
Melissa DiBernardino said she will pull her kids form SS. Peter and Paul Elementary School if the new pipeline goes through. The planned pipeline runs less than 100 feet from several schools and a senior care center.
“While Gov. Wolf wouldn’t give an answer today, he assures us we’ll get one soon,” she said. ”I hope he sees the urgency in this. Every day he lets this continue, my children are at risk while Mariner 1 runs. Our children (and people of all ages) need a hero right now. Let’s hope he comes through within two weeks.” Source
The Times-Tribune Sept 2, 2017 Donors share wealth, skimp on transparency
In July, we wrote about attorney Larry Moran Jr.’s True Solutions Project, the nonprofit 501 (c) (4) he set up that’s politically active but doesn’t have to report its donors publicly.
True Solutions’ organizing statement lists Heritage for the Blind and Miles for Michael Cancer Support as examples of charities that it supports and Scranton’s First Friday as an example of community pursuits.
It doesn’t say anything about the political candidates True Solutions supported, but we found local politicians — mostly Democrats — who got campaign money from True Solutions. The recipients, the dates they got money and the amounts are:
■ Committee to Elect Patrick O’Malley County Commissioner, Sept. 27, 2016, $2,500.
■ Committee to Elect Tarah Toohil, Oct. 12, 2016, $50. She’s a Hazleton area state representative.
■Josh Shapiro for Pennsylvania, Oct. 13, 2016, $500. He’s state attorney general.
■Eugene DePasquale for Pennsylvania, June 24, 2016, $200, and Nov. 4, 2016, $2,000. He’s state auditor general.
■ Committee to Elect Kevin Haggerty, Nov. 4, 2016, $1,500. He’s the representative for the 112th state House district.
■Friends of Marty Flynn, Nov. 9, 2016, $1,500. He’s the representative for the 113th state House district.
■ Friends of Sid Kavulich, Nov. 12, 2016, $1,500. He’s the representative for the 114th state House district.
■ Friends of Mike Carroll for State Representative, Nov. 20, 2016, $1,500. He’s the representative for the 118th state House district.
■ Friends of Senator John Blake, Dec. 8, 2016, $1,000. He represents the 22nd district.
■ Judge Joe Cosgrove for Pennsylvania, Dec. 22, 2016, $1,000. He’s a Commonwealth Court judge who lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to a full 10-year term.
In May, Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon, a Republican, got a $12,000 campaign contribution from the Northeast Leadership Fund, a Plains Twp.-based political action committee funded mostly by Republican businessmen.
A deeper look shows that one of the biggest contributors to the fund was, drum roll please, Louis DeNaples, who donated $10,000. It’s a lot harder to prove that DeNaples gave to the fund so it could give to Scanlon.
First, the donations don’t match up. Second, DeNaples was one of seven people who gave to the fund on Oct. 14, three weeks before the presidential election that also included statewide races for attorney general and auditor general.
Four of the seven who gave that day live in Lackawanna County. The other three and their donations were John J. Lennox of Clarks Summit, director of Roamingwood Water and Sewer in Lake Ariel, $1,000; attorney Thomas P. Cummings Jr. of Dunmore, $1,000; and Gregory E. Gagorik of South Abington Twp., general manager of Toyota of Scranton, $5,000.
The leadership fund donated to eight political action committees besides Scanlon’s. Therecipients were Friends of John Rafferty, the state senator and Republican attorney general nominee, $5,000 on Nov. 4 and $6,500 on Dec. 7; the state Republican Party, $10,000 on April 14; the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, $5,000 on April 1; Friends of Lisa Baker, the Republican state senator, $5,000 on April 14; the Committee to Elect Eugene DePasquale, the auditor general, $2,500; Friends of David Parker, the Monroe County state representative, $2,000 on Oct. 18; Friends of Tarah Toohil, the Hazleton area representative, $2,000 on Oct. 18; and Friends of Tony George, Wilkes-Barre mayor, $1,000 on Oct. 18.
August 23, 2017 FOX43TV New measures countering drunk driving become effective Friday, Aug. 25
HARRISBURG, Pa. — New measures to counter drunk driving will become effective Friday, August 25.
The new legislation, which was sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty, requires first-time offenders with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) higher than .10 percent to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their vehicles, the release states. Previously, the IID was required for only second and subsequent offenders.
According to the release, first-time offenders are now allowed to drive immediately with the IID rather than wait until after serving a driver’s license suspension. Read more
July 6, 2017 WNPV Rafferty Concerned About Budget Expenditure Plan
Montgomery County State Senator John Rafferty is talking up the expense budget approved by the legislature in Harrisburg just before the deadline last week.
He says it continues to fund human service programs while increasing spending on public education. The expenditure plan is just half though because state lawmakers are more than two billion dollars short in funding it. Rafferty says legislative leaders are putting together the means to close the budget gap.
“They’re working out the details of a funding package, it doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with it. Borrowing is an option, I don’t like to do that, but it is an option to plug part of the hole.”
Rafferty also says generating more revenue by the expansion of gambling is another option for closing part of the budget deficit. Source
June 30, 2017 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