Hearing Will Scrutinize Use Of Money In PA’s Special Environmental Funds

As state lawmakers continue to search for ways to plug an estimated billion-dollar budget hole, they are taking a renewed look at state agencies’ use of special funds, including money dedicated to environmental programs.

A House hearing scheduled for next week will examine how the state Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are using special funds. These include things like cleaning up industrial sites and recycling. Last fall, House Republicans sought to use $450 million from agencies’ special funds to help balance the state budget. Although the move was unsuccessful, the money has been viewed as a potential surplus that could be diverted into the state’s General Fund. Read full story here.

PA Fines Natural Gas Company $1.7M For Drilling Violations

State environmental officials have fined a natural gas company $1.7 million for problems at well sites in Greene and Clearfield counties. Energy Corporation of America was cited for, among other things, operating storage pits without proper permits and for pits that leaked. The violations took place at 17 well sites, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The wells were recently acquired by Greylock Energy. Read full story here.

New York Lawmakers React To Cuomo’s 2018 Budget Proposal

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb:

“The governor continued his familiar theme of blaming Washington D.C. for problems that have been evident in New York for years. Oppressive taxes, a high cost of living, and financial pressures that drive residents away are not new issues. Unfortunately, today’s Executive Budget presentation was long on finger-pointing, yet short on financial details. Despite the fiscal peril the governor insists we face, today’s presentation failed to make a commitment to actually reduce spending. There was no plan to lower the costs Albany places on local governments.

Ithaca Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Focuses On His Poor People’s Campaign

People packed the gym of Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in downtown Ithaca to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They also were there to further his vision of a Poor People’s Campaign. 

It was a movement to “revolutionize” the country’s attitude toward the poor and rally them to advocate for better living conditions. After a buffet lunch and brief presentations, those attending the celebration divided into smaller groups to discuss issues and solutions to current societal problems.

Fabina Colon, Director of the Multicultural Resource Center and one of the organizers of the Ithaca event, said it was important to spend time talking to each other about problems the community faces today. "If we want different solutions we must create different processes. That is, looking at some of the work that the Poor People’s Campaign is doing and being in alignment with that," said Fabina Benitez Colon, Director of the Multicultural Resource Center and one of the organizers of the Ithaca event. Nationwide, organizers are trying to bring about a revival of the Poor People's Campaign with an emphasis on systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation.

Self-Driving Cars And Reclaiming Time Spent Behind The Wheel

ROCHESTER (WXXI) - People organize their lifestyles around access to transportation, so the advent of autonomous vehicles is important for their economic, social and environmental impact. That's from one of the authors of a new paper on the subject. Assistant professor in sustainability at RIT, Eric Williams, says they looked at a number of ways people could reclaim all the time they spend behind the wheel. "Anything from okay, we need to bring our kids to the sports team, well let's have the vehicle do it instead of doing it ourselves.  You know, thinking of taking a lot more trips, overnight in your car, because your car can drive you rather than having to stay up yourself," he said. Williams says the top 20 percent of people who drive or take public transit everyday could benefit from such vehicles.

Poll Finds New Yorkers Pessimistic On Race, Sexual Harassment

ALBANY (WSKG) - A poll on New Yorkers' attitudes on racism and sexual harassment show that many believe society has a way to go to improve things. The Siena College survey finds that 36 percent of women report being the victims of workplace sexual harassment. Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg said that when it comes to the issue, there is no upstate-downstate divide or difference in political parties, and three-quarters of New Yorkers think it’s a significant problem. “Those are just staggering numbers,” Greenberg said. The Siena poll finds that nearly two-thirds of  New Yorkers think race relations are just fair or poor, a number that’s up from polls conducted earlier in the decade.

Cuomo’s Budget Expected To Be Grim

ALBANY (WSKG) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his budget Tuesday, and the news is not expected to be good. The state faces an over $4.4 billion budget gap, as well as funding cuts and policy changes from Washington that could cost New York and some of its taxpayers billions of dollars. The governor set the tone in his State of the State speech earlier this month, saying, “2018 may be the toughest year New York has faced in modern history.”

“We have unprecedented challenges ahead on every level,” Cuomo said. Cuomo, in his speech, said President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress in Washington are responsible for many of the state’s challenges, including $2 billion in cuts to hospitals and health insurance programs for the working poor. He called the cuts “an arrow aimed at New York’s economic heart.”

While he warned of the dark times ahead, the governor did not name any spending cuts that might have to be made, and even said he wants to increase some education programs. Those details will come in the budget address on Tuesday afternoon.

To Ward Off Mass Shooters, New York Church Encourages Congregation To Bring Guns

SYRACUSE (WRVO) - When the parishioners at one Oswego County church gather for worship each week, many of them are armed. And it's no secret. The Lighthouse Mexico Church of God even advertises that its not a gun-free zone - a response to the frequent mass shootings in the country that's the subject of some debate. Walking into the church on a Sunday morning is more like joining a family reunion than attending a mass. Music plays for the first half of the service as the parishioners move about the church greeting one another and joining in community prayers. The pastor Ron Russell says his church is like a family, and it's his responsibility to ensure their safety.

Judge Fines Environmental Attorneys $52,000 For ‘Frivolous’ Injection Well Suit

A federal judge has ordered a pair of attorneys for an environmental group to pay $52,000 in legal fees to an energy company because, the judge said, they filed a “frivolous” legal challenge to a fracking waste injection well in Indiana County. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter of the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled the attorneys, Thomas Linzey and Elizabeth Dunne, should pay part of Pennsylvania General Energy’s (PGE) legal fees for advancing a “discredited” legal argument that had already been defeated in prior decisions. In addition to the fine, the judge referred Linzey to the state Supreme Court Disciplinary Board for additional discipline. Read full story here. 

A Surge, Then A Fade For Pennsylvania’s Wind Industry

While the wind power industry booms across the United States thanks to favorable federal and state policies, the development of new wind farms has stalled in Pennsylvania. More than two dozen wind farms popped up across the state leading up to 2012, but only one in the years since. Read full story here.