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Sen. Yudichak Reports

Geisinger Opens $3.8 Million Community Practice in Downtown Nanticoke

Sen. Yudichak remarks at Geisinger ribbon cutting
Sen. Yudichak speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Geisinger Community Practice in downtown Nanticoke..

Last week, I joined numerous local and Geisinger officials to cut the ribbon on the brand new, $3.8 million Geisinger Community Practice in downtown Nanticoke.

This great new health care facility – which provides pediatric and adult primary care services and laboratory services – is another great addition to our ever-growing health care hub in downtown Nanticoke and was fully-funded by private investment.

I am very thankful Geisinger has made the decision to bring its national reputation, its private investment dollars and the new jobs that come with it to downtown Nanticoke. Geisinger’s beautiful new health care facility is one more step forward in the revitalization of downtown Nanticoke.

I applaud Mayor Richard Wiaterowski, City Council, and the members of the Nanticoke Municipal Authority for advancing projects like the Geisinger health facility, LCCC’s Francis S. & Mary Gill Carrozza, R.N. Health Science Center and LCCC’s Joseph A. Paglianite Culinary Arts Institute that are all part of a sustainable, long-term plan for turning around the fortunes of Nanticoke’s business district.

Bringing the national prominence of Geisinger to our city was a team effort – but the leaders of that team who had the vision to invest in Nanticoke are Dr. Glenn Steele, President of Geisinger, and Lee Meyers, Vice President for Community Practice.

To read more about the new Geisinger facility, visit the Times Leader or the Citizens Voice.

Smart Development, Regulation of Shale Can Lead Energy Revolution

Sen. Yudichak speaking at Marcellus Shale seminar“By any reasonable account, the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”

You might suspect the quotation referenced here is pulled from the website of an environmental advocacy group; but, it comes from the pen of Chief Justice Ron Castille, a Republican jurist, who recently joined the majority opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as it struck down  as unconstitutional the provisions of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale law, Act 13, that virtually eliminated the role of local governments in protecting the environment by adopting local zoning ordinances to regulate the oil and gas industry.

As the Democratic chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, I joined my Senate Democratic colleagues in vigorously fighting against the evisceration of local zoning rights that Act 13 proposed. The Supreme Court’s recent decision is welcome news to local governments and I am certain they would discourage the administration's latest attempt to reverse the court opinion and decades of local zoning rights.

As the grandson and son of men who labored in the anthracite coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania, I am all too familiar with the legacy of an industry that was not responsibly regulated or paid its fair share of taxes.  Chief Justice Castille’s reference to the environmental impact of the coal industry is not a whimsical historical footnote for those of us who live in the shadow of king coal.  The legacy of coal is a stark reality that impacts our forests, rivers and streams to this very day.  Pennsylvania taxpayers, who never saw an active anthracite mine, will be paying their hard earned tax dollars to remediate the abandon coal lands and polluted acid mine drainage waterways for generations to come.

We can get Pennsylvania's second chance at leading an energy revolution right through smart laws and regulations that protect the environment and place responsible taxes on the volume of gas produced that will ensure as the natural gas industry grows, Pennsylvania grows along with it.

Last legislative session, I proposed legislation that would have implemented a fair and progressive severance tax on natural gas.  The three percent natural gas severance tax, was based on production so state revenue would increase as well production increased.  It is tax policy that better reflects the true economics of the Marcellus shale play, and better positions the Commonwealth to benefit from the wealth of its natural resources.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection the Commonwealth’s natural gas production rose 69 percent, and yet Pennsylvania’s Act 13 impact fee generated less revenue than it did in 2012 – a trend that is likely to continue as less wells are drilled and the volume of production increases.

With natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind and solar power Pennsylvania has an energy portfolio that not only rivals most states, but it rivals most nations around the globe.  Pennsylvania needs a comprehensive energy policy to responsibly develop our natural resources and build an affordable energy infrastructure for bolstering our housing, manufacturing and technology driven industries in Pennsylvania. 

If we are going to unleash the true potential of the Marcellus Shale play in Pennsylvania, we must learn from the mistakes of the coal era and not sell the people of Pennsylvania and their abundant natural resources short.  Pennsylvania needs to fully engage in the development of energy policies that will enact a responsible severance tax and reasonable regulations that best positions the Commonwealth to protect the environment while leveraging long-term economic opportunities from the oil and gas industry. 

Merger Brings Investment, Enhanced Health Care to Hazleton Region

Lehigh Valley Health NetworkThe merger between Lehigh Valley Health Network and the Greater Hazleton Health Alliance represents a significant investment in the health care infrastructure of Northeastern Pennsylvania and I am truly excited for the future of Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton.

Hazleton General Hospital has long been one of the top hospitals in the Commonwealth – and this merger will help the hospital build upon their impeccable track record as a source of affordable and quality health care for the residents of Greater Hazleton. The strong partnership being forged by these two health care providers is a testament to the vision and hard work of Jim Edwards, CEO of Hazleton General, and the Board of Hazleton General, chaired by Attorney Thomas Kennedy.

With an anticipated $150 million investment, the merger represents one of the largest investments in our region's health care infrastructure since the construction of the Commonwealth Medical College and one of the largest economic development projects the region has seen in many years. Better health care and more family-sustaining jobs are just the right type medicine for the ailing economy of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Sen. Yudichak's Community Corner

Sam Lesante Show
Recently appeared on The Sam Lesante Show to discuss many pressing state issues.
Sen. Yudichak and AG Kathleen Kane visit Eyewitness News
Visited Andy Mehalshick and Eyewitness News with Attorney General Kathleen Kane to discuss many of the public safety and crime initiatives that we are working on. Read More
Old Forge borehole event
The announcement of a $1 million grant to clean up the acid mine drainage at the Old Forge borehole is a great investment in our region's environmental health and water quality. Read More.
Sherman Hills Task Force
I continue to work with Congressman Matt Cartwright and other local officials to end the culture of violence at Sherman Hills in Wilkes-Barre and around Pennsylvania.
Expo

Property Tax Reform Seminar Takes Place Thursday in Wilkes-Barre

Property Tax ReliefSenate Bill 76 – the Property Tax Independence Act – recognizes the central role the Commonwealth plays in funding public education and develops a system that is both fair to taxpayers and sensible in its approach to funding our schools so no child is denied a quality education in Pennsylvania.

As a co-sponsor of the legislation, I realize the importance of this bill to our taxpayers and continue to advocate for it in Harrisburg. On Thursday night, I will participate in a property tax seminar with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association of Realtors, Sen. Lisa Baker and many other advocates.

The event is open to the public and will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 16 at the King’s College Burke Auditorium located at 133 N. Main Street.

Deadline Approaching to Apply for DEP Environmental Excellence Awards

Department of Environmental ProtectionThere is less than a week to apply for the Department of Environmental Protection’s 2014 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17.

The awards are open to all Pennsylvania businesses, farms, government agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations and individuals that have developed innovative environmental programs or have implemented projects that balance environmental stewardship and economic development.

Examples of eligible projects include wastewater recycling technology innovation, resource development, renewable and alternative energy innovation, watershed restoration strategies and environmental education outreach, among others.

Projects will be evaluated based on seven criteria detailed within the guidelines, including environmental benefits and use of innovative technology. The project must have been completed between Aug. 1, 2012, and July 31, 2013. While each candidate may submit only one application for a particular project, companies with multiple facilities may submit an application for each facility.

Projects that have previously received a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence are not eligible. Past winners may submit applications for new projects.

Projects should be submitted via email to RA-EPgovenviroawards@pa.gov. Faxed or mailed submissions will not be considered.

For more information or to apply, visit www.dep.state.pa.us, keyword: Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence. For assistance with completing the application, call 717-783-8727.

LIHEAPApply Now for LIHEAP Heating Assistance

As we continue to deal with these frigid winter temperatures, it is imperative that everyone has the means to keep warm and heat their homes over the next few months. Applications are now being accepted for Pennsylvania’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which is a great program that helps low-income residents pay for expensive heating bills.

To be eligible for LIHEAP, the maximum income level to qualify for heating assistance as a single person is $17,235. For two people, $23,265; three people, $29,295; four people, $35,325; and five people, $41,355.

Applications for the federally funded program are now being accepted online at www.compass.state.pa.us and also by stopping in any of my district offices. The deadline to apply for LIHEAP assistance is April 4, 2014.

For more information on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, click here.

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