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CPBJ Extra Blog

If you give a frack about Pa. politics

It's election season, and this blog does not deal with politics.

Well, most of the time. With apologies to Amy Gulli, my boss who usually tackles politics, I might mention it when those politics are demonstrated using energy, environment, agribusiness, workforce issues or York County topics.

Like this:

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale — a Democrat, former state rep from York County and former deputy secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection — released an audit report critical of the DEP regarding protection of drinking water from fracking pollution.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican seeking re-election in November against a tough Democratic challenger (Tom Wolf, who is also from York County), has championed fracking as Pennsylvania’s path to prosperity, as well as the steps taken by DEP under Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo, to protect the state’s environmental resources.

If you read DePasquale’s news release regarding the audit, as well as DEP’s response, you get the flavor of this political season.

From DePasquale: “It is unfathomable to us that for a basic responsibility of DEP — inspecting oil and gas facilities — little criteria exists for when those inspections should occur. Until DEP updates its out-of-date inspection policies, to include mandated inspections at specific critical drilling stages and during the life of the well, it will be nearly impossible to measure DEP’s performance in conducting this very basic responsibility to protect the environment.”

From DEP: “DEP does not agree with the Auditor General’s finding that ‘it could not provide reliable assurance that all active shale gas wells were inspected timely.’ In fact, the audit staff acknowledged that they did not conduct a comprehensive review of the information necessary to make this conclusion.”

If you want to know how fracking is playing out in statewide politics, or you’re just a political wonk, you’ll enjoy the read.

• • •

Voith Hydro, which has a plant in West Manchester Township, York County, was in Nashville, Tenn., for the HydroVision International 2014 conference. “HydroVision is the world’s largest hydropower conference, bringing together over 3,000 hydropower developers, manufacturers, utilities, engineers, consultants and many others,” Voith said in an email.

I mention this so I can talk about one of the key technologies the company touted: the small hydro StreamDiver.

From the email: “The StreamDiver is Voith’s new modular, run-of-river small hydro turbine capable of producing up to 800 kilowatts of power on small streams, canals and other low-head water infrastructure previously not utilized for hydro development. In addition to being low-impact, the StreamDiver features oil-free lubrication, furthering Voith’s commitment to environmental sustainability.”

Last year, Congress passed a law President Obama signed to streamline federal regs for approving hydropower, particularly small hydro. Of the more than 80,000 dams in the country, only 3 percent produce electricity.

We’ve got a lot of low-head dams in Central Pennsylvania. I drive past at least two most days: On the Codorus Creek in downtown York and on the Conewago Creek in East Berlin, Adams County.

Any entrepreneurs out there want to work with a York County manufacturer to turn some of these dams into sources of electricity?

• • •

At the end of this blog, I’d like to talk about butts. Cigarette butts.

Did you know you can recycle them?

The Downtown Development District of New Orleans and TerraCycle Inc., a Trenton, N.J., recycling company, are piloting the first-ever program to collect and recycle spent cigs in the country. Even though the fibrous butts will eventually decompose, they’re loaded with toxins, and those toxins can wash into rivers.

TerraCycle works with Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. to recycle the litter into things like plastic pallets, and any remaining tobacco will be reworked into tobacco composting, according to TerraCycle’s website.

From a news release regarding the kickoff of the program last week: “The (Downtown Development District) Clean Team will service the citywide cigarette butt collection units. Through their partnership, TerraCycle will supply the receptacles, and cover all costs related to installation, maintenance and shipping. For every pound of cigarette waste collected, TerraCycle will donate $4 to the DDD.”

There are numerous downtown improvement groups in Central Pennsylvania — and a lot of cigarette butts. Sounds to me like an untapped revenue source.

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