HARRISBURG, May 22, 2017 — The Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee today unanimously approved legislation authored by State Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon), Senate Bill 649, which extends expiring environmental cleanup programs.
Senate Bill 649 amends the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act to reauthorize grant and environmental cleanup programs administered by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – the Underground Storage Tank Environmental Cleanup Program and the Underground Storage Tank Pollution Prevention Program. Both programs are currently set to expire on June 30, 2017; SB 649 extends them by five years, through June 30, 2022.
The programs assist small business and residential owners of underground storage tanks with grants ranging from $2,500 to $4,000 for environmental remediation, as well as fund necessary cleanup of underground storage tank releases that must be undertaken by DEP.
Senate Bill 649 also seeks to allow DEP to request full reimbursement from the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board for operating costs of its storage tank program—including costs of inspections and enforcement—for over 40,000 registered tanks at 13,000 facilities throughout Pennsylvania.
“The Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act contains important provisions that enable small tank owners to prevent and mitigate environmental liabilities before they become more intractable environmental problems for Pennsylvania,” said State Senator John Yudichak. “The department does an exceptional job of meeting the demands of regulation and enforcement, but the increased allocation provided under Senate Bill 649 will go a long way to ensuring DEP is adequately staffed to meet future demands of these two important environmental programs and overall program operating costs.”
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WILKES-BARRE, May 22, 2017 — Wilkes University marked the beginning of a $1.5 million streetscape improvement project in downtown Wilkes-Barre this morning. Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) joined Dr. Patrick Leahy, President of Wilkes University, Mayor Anthony George and other state officials to make the first pave cuts for a project that will upgrade sidewalks, install ADA compliant ramps, plant new trees, and install 40 new streetlights along sections of South and South Franklin Streets.
The project is financed by $1,070,000 from the Transportation Alternative Program (“TAP”), which is administered by PennDOT, and $430,000 of matching funds by Wilkes University. The new sidewalks, curb ramps, and streetlights have been designed to conform with other streetscape improvement projects that had been spearheaded by the City of Wilkes-Barre so that the downtown, a bustling residential and commercial district, will look uniform.
Senator Yudichak applauded Wilkes’ commitment to the city and commended its role as a job creator and economic development engine for the entire region. “The historic and unprecedented private investment strategy employed by Wilkes University over the last few years has attracted millions of dollars in public funding that has greatly improved campus facilities and the infrastructure of Wilkes-Barre,” he said.
The entire project is expected to be completed before the end of August.
Wilkes-Barre, May 15, 2017 — Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) announced today that the Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”) awarded the City of Wilkes-Barre a $200,000 Early Intervention Program (“EIP”) grant that will fund Phase-II of the city’s financial feasibility study.
Under the grant, the city administration and PFM Group Consulting, LLC (“PFM”), the city’s financial adviser, will develop enhanced financial reporting, coordinate a collective bargaining strategy, analyze potential deficiencies with the city’s tax collection system, and complete an efficiency study of municipal services programs.
The grant award follows Wilkes-Barre City Council’s approval of a $52 million debt-restructuring package last week, which will alleviate the city’s pending cash flow shortages as healthcare, pension, and other operating expenses continue to increase faster than projected tax revenues.
“We stand as a united Wilkes-Barre today,” said Senator Yudichak. “Mayor George, City Council and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are committed to the long-term fiscal health of the city, the economic growth of our downtown, and the safety of Wilkes-Barre’s neighborhoods.”
“This grant is essential to keeping Wilkes-Barre out of Act 47 and allowing the city to fix the financial issues it faces,” said Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Wilkes-Barre). “I’m extremely grateful to Governor Tom Wolf for enabling us to continue working toward stable financial ground.”
“We are not satisfied with business-as-usual solutions, but we are committed to restoring Wilkes-Barre’s financial health,” said Mayor Anthony George. “The Early Intervention Program provides a window of opportunity for us to streamline government services, secure long-term employment savings, but still invest in public works projects and provide city services that are envied by other communities in the Wyoming Valley.”
Senator Yudichak thanked DCED’s Center for Local Government Services for their support of the City of Wilkes-Barre as well as Governor Tom Wolf who “remains committed to the continued revitalization of the City of Wilkes-Barre and Northeastern Pennsylvania,” he said.