At the Greene County Commissioner Meeting on July 19, 2019, the commissioners voted to approve the draft of the county’s new Comprehensive Plan and open the public comment period. This draft Comprehensive Plan will serve the county for the next ten years as a policy guide for future land use and growth management, while also setting the overarching criteria for the comprehensive plans developed by individual municipalities. The overall theme for the County comprehensive plan is “Live Greene, Work Greene, Love Greene.”
The draft Comprehensive Plan strives to achieve five priority goals based on six foundational pillars of Greene County. Below is a summary of what is in the plan:
Mobility, Transportation & Infrastructure
This pillar focuses on developing our infrastructure, including water, sewer, broadband, mobility, and highway/road improvements and issues they considered were broadband and cellular coverage in the cover, expanding public water and sewage infrastructure, updating/maintaining our transportation network, and developing a financially capable method for public transit. The priority goal under this pillar is to expand broadband access to underserved areas by supporting lobbying to increase financial assistance and taking lead on mapping and categorizing networks that exist in the county. The measures of success include having an expert engaged with the Governors Office of Broadband Initiatives and ensuring that all five school districts have total facility access to high-speed internet.
Workforce and Education
This pillar focuses on individuals' access to knowledge, skills, and attitudes for gainful employment and improved work performance as well as effective means for employers to communicate and meet their demand for skills. The Planning Commission considered the following issues: Assisting school districts with methods to enhance public education and reduce cost; preparing students to pursue careers in available in local and regional workforces; Improving safety in public schools’ Addressing declining enrollment and resource scarcity; Supporting Greene County Career and Technical Center;and Nurturing an entrepreneurial culture. The priority goal under this pillar is to assist educational providers to enhance opportunities and reduce cost by playing a supporting role in exploring options to partner district-wide, encouraging school districts to educate the public and parents on financing and operation of public education, work with education providers to assist individuals gain the skills and knowledge for local, available jobs. The measures of success include: launching a county-wide cyber school, a public outreach campaign and supporting collateral for education providers, and expanding the existing pre-apprenticeship program to include the Greene County’s major commercial and industrial employers.
Business and Industry
This pillar focuses on businesses and organizations involved in setting the policies and practices of economic activities that provide employment in the region. The Planning Commission considered the following issues: Attracting new business and industry; Focusing on areas served by existing infrastructure;Capitalizing on energy production; Expanding economic opportunities; Implementing a successful marketing campaign; Examing new financing strategies. The priority goal under this pillar is to capitalize on Greene County’s assets to expand economic opportunities particularly focusing on the fossil fuel industry. They plan to achieve this goal by taking lead on developing a one-stop-shop for economic development in the county; creating a marketing strategy focusing on retraining existing and attracting new business and industry into the county, and taking advantage of abundant and inexpensive energy sources. Measures of success include creating a physical location for the one-stop-shop, launching the marketing campaign, having priority sites for development/redevelopment.
Quality of Life
This pillar focuses on the overall health and well being of residents. They considered improving the overall County Health rankings, promoting good stewardship, expanding housing opportunities, and addressing the opioid crisis. There are two priority goals that could fall under this pillar: 1) Continue to improve the overall county health, safety, and wellness by leading on offering more recreational opportunities and programs, and 2) support the ability of first responders to provide high quality and efficient services and support efforts to fight the opioid crisis. Measures of success for this goal include: construction of the Wisecarver Recreation Area;, ensuring that local fire departments and EMA have sufficient funding; and implementing strategies to address the opioid crisis. In addition, another goal is to increase housing opportunities that meet the communities’ needs by supporting infrastructure expansion to target areas that can support new housing development. To the extent that it is necessary, the County also intends to assist municipalities with updating land use ordinances to accommodate a variety of housing. Measures of success for housing goals are expanding water and sewer infrastructure for target sites and updating local land use ordinances to permit a variety of housing choices in addition to single-family homes.
Grow and Protect Assets
This pillar focuses on Greene County’s assets and how the county can protect and utilize our assets to address tax base changes. By preserving what the County has and leveraging it for growth, the County can build on character while attracting visitors and businesses to the County. The issues considered include: capitalizing on the “Rural-ability’ of the county; attracting and maintaining a younger population base; targeting growth and development to investment corridors; addressing the devaluation of coal; and continuing to expand the county recreation system. Several of the previously discussed strategies can also support this pillar of the County plan. In addition, the County Planning Commission put together several maps in the comprehensive plan to show the potential to attract downstream manufacturing related to the natural gas industry (aka the petrochemical industry).
This pillar focuses on improving the local governments which are the closest to constituents and often the first point of contact for residents and businesses. The issues considered include establishing uniformity in municipal regulations; fighting neighborhood blight; building deeper volunteer bases for emergency services; and encouraging more municipal cooperation and partnership. Some of the previous goals and strategies, like expanding housing, also fall under this pillar.
This draft version of the comprehensive plan is supposed to reflect a ten-year vision for the county. However, the draft plan is incomplete and shortsighted. In reality, many of the goals and measures of success could be completed in less than five years. The overall theme of the draft plan is to Live Greene, Work Greene, and Love Greene. The plan is focused on working in Greene but fails to set forth a plan (or even a vision) for transitioning from being dependent on a few extractive industries to having a modern, widely diversified economy that works for everyone. t. Great places to live, work and recreate are not created by accident. The Planning Commission needs to do more in the Comprehensive Plan to address the overarching objectives of “Live Greene” and “Love Greene.”
It is critical for the Greene County Commissioners to be transparent about the feedback they are receiving on the draft plan by sharing those comments publically and they must take every resident’s comments seriously. You can take action below and send a letter now telling the commissioners to improve and complete the comprehensive plan.
You can also send any comments to Jeremy Kelly at email@example.com or by mail at 49 S Washington Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370. Comments must be submitted by September 3rd at 4 PM.
The Augustine well pad in Cecil Township has raised a lot of questions for local residents, who recently built their homes where a well pad is permitted to operate, at a minimum required distance from their homes, by part of the same Board of Supervisors that oversaw the permitting of their neighborhood. The people living in Windsor Woods, a new community development, don’t own their oil and gas rights, and only recently were they minimally informed of the oil and gas development.
As the operations at the Augustine Pad picked up, residents came to their Board of Supervisors seeking answers and help. Unfortunately, they left with even more unanswered questions.
The following is a series of questions and answers that residents can use to inform their conversations with the Board going forward. This information should help people to understand what the Board of Supervisors has the power to do in managing oil and gas development.
Does the community have the ability to challenge the pad development and permitting process through existing zoning laws?
Challenging well pads through zoning laws is not consistent across townships, and many townships have been unsure where oil and gas development falls into the zoning categories as they stand. Many communities lack any zoning at all. The following resources can be used to further understand how the zoning of oil and gas has played out elsewhere in Pennsylvania:
What power does the board of supervisors have to regulate and minimize the impact of the Augustine Pad?
Article 1 Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution says that it is necessary to invest in the power of local government to minimize impacts of development in order to protect public natural resources. Townships can go above and beyond what is in Act 13 as long as it is justifiable.
Townships can say they want a greater setback distance for homes in certain areas; for instance, depending on the density of the residential parcel or to protect property value. However, there needs to be something specific about the community that gives the township vested interest in protecting it, for example, sensitive populations.
What should residents specifically ask of the township?
Keep in mind that there is a difference between hearing public comment, and listening and considering public comment.
Residents should feel empowered to ask that the Board require a traffic study so that when decisions are made around infrastructure accountability, the township can ask the oil and gas developers for exactly what is needed on certain roads and in specific communities.
Residents should feel empowered to ask for a comprehensive air study, including but not limited to how increased development of oil and gas operations across the township will impact air quality, specifically related to the density of residential neighborhoods and the topography.
In the conditional-use permitting process, the Board of Supervisors can negotiate with the company, in this case Range Resources, to invest where they want them to. The bottom line is that Range Resources wants to develop Cecil township, and it is on the Board of Supervisors to hold them accountable and negotiate on behalf of the residents to widen, improve, and invest in infrastructure impacted by the industry.
People should feel empowered to ask their elected officials to gather additional information in general.
If at any point residents are hearing that the oil and gas industry will not develop Cecil Township further if they are required to invest in infrastructure and respect setbacks, people should push back and insist that the wet gas is here, that the company has already leased and paid continued bonuses to maintain leases, and that the petrochemical buildout, including the Beaver Cracker Plant, the Mark West Processing Plant, and the connecting Shell-Falcon Pipeline, indicates otherwise. Further, development is coming and folks should not be afraid to demand increased safety and health measures be taken.
To follow up on any of this information, or for more information regarding oil and gas development, feel free to contact Heaven Sensky at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 724-229-3550 ext 103.
CCJ organizer Heaven Sensky has been working closely with people in Cecil Township around several issues, including the purchase of 87 acres in Muse known by the township as “the ABB Property.” Months ago, many residents of Cecil Township attended a public meeting regarding the ABB property, but few of their many questions were answered. When they questioned the history of the property, the locations of current monitoring wells, and the long term use of the large parcel of industrial land, they were left confused and with even more questions. At one point, residents were asked to file their own Right-To-Know Law Request for information, rather than the local government sharing with them what was known.
At that point, CCJ filed a Right-To-Know Law Request with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for all documents from the last four decades, including correspondence, pertaining to the ABB property. On July 15th, the DEP published 12 extensive reports dating from April of 1990 to December of 2003. They also published the consent order and agreement (summarized in a previous blog), a 2017 groundwater monitoring report, and Cecil Township’s notice of their intent to remediate the property.
After careful review, we are able to release a summary of those documents below, along with a series of questions still unanswered by the township.
On June 6, 2019, CCJ filed a Right-to-Know Law Request with the DEP seeking copies of the following environmental investigation reports related to the Muse Property owned by ABB:
Site Assessment and Environmental Compliance Audit Report (April 1990) C-E Environmental Inc.
Report of Field Investigations (March 1994) ABB Environmental Services Inc.
Phase III – Site Characterization Report (December 1994) ABB Environmental Services Inc.
Phase IV – Remediation Pilot Test Program Report (September 1995) ABB Environmental Services Inc.
Phase IV – Soil Remediation Report (April 1996) ABB Environmental Services Inc.
Environmental Status Report (August 2003) MACTEC
Waste Characterization Report (March 2009) EQ- Environmental Quality Company
Final Closure Report – Solid Waste Landfill (August 2009) MACTEC
Sampling and Analysis Plan – Southern Landfill Berm (August 2009) Conestoga-Rovers & Associations (CRA) (now GHD)
Southern Landfill Berm Characterization Report (January 2010) CRA (now GHD)
Groundwater Monitoring Reports (2001 – 2016) MACTEC/CRA
“Final Environmental Indicator Inspection Report for Former CE Cast Facility”, Muse-Bishop Road, Muse Pennsylvania 15350 (December 2003) Tetra Tech FW Inc., One Oxford Valley-Suite 200, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, 19047-1829
Copies of those reports can be viewed here.
Cecil Township submitted a Notice of Intent to Remediate the property pursuant to the Consent Order and Agreement with the DEP. According to the Notice of Intent to Remediate, “[a]s a result of historical manufacturing and recovery operations at the site, the soil and groundwater were impacted by volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, and metals. Primary contaminants include trichloroethene and trichloroethate and related daughter products, and 1,4-dioxane.”
Trichloroethene- aka “Trichloroethylene is a synthetic, light sensitive, volatile, colorless, liquid that is miscible with many non-polar organic solvents. Trichloroethylene is used mainly as a degreaser for metal parts. Upon combustion, it produces irritants and toxic gases. Occupational exposure to trichloroethylene is associated with excess incidences of liver cancer, kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. (NCI05)”
1,4-dioxane- “1,4-Dioxane is a clear liquid with a faint pleasant odor. It mixes easily with water. It is used as a solvent in the manufacture of other chemicals and as a laboratory reagent.1,4-Dioxane can be released into the air, water, and soil at places where it is produced or used as a solvent. In soil, 1,4-dioxane does not stick to soil particles, so it can move from soil into groundwater. Studies in animals have shown that breathing vapors of 1,4-dioxane affects mainly the nasal cavity and the liver and kidneys. Swallowing liquid 1,4-dioxane or contaminated drinking water, or having skin contact with liquid 1,4-dioxane also affects the liver and kidneys. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers 1,4-dioxane as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The EPA has established that 1,4-dioxane is likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
According to the 2017 Groundwater Monitoring Report, “the concentrations of daughter compounds such as cis-1,2-DCE, 1,1-DCE and vinyl chloride are generally increasing or stabilizing, while the parent compound concentrations (i.e. trichloroethene and trichloroethate) are generally decreasing.” One semi-volatile organic compound (SVOC), 1,4-dioxane, continues to the present in groundwater underlying the Muse Property.
cis-1,2-DCE- “...appears as a clear colorless liquid with an ether-like odor. Flash point 36-39°F. Denser than water and insoluble in water. Vapors heavier than air. Used in the making of perfumes. EPA: Inadequate information to assess carcinogenic potential.”
1,1-DCE- “is an industrial chemical that is not found naturally in the environment. It is a colorless liquid with a mild, sweet smell. It is also called vinylidene chloride. 1, 1-Dichloroethene is used to make certain plastics, such as flexible films like food wrap, and in packaging materials. It is also used to make flame retardant coatings for fiber and carpet backings, and in piping, coating for steel pipes, and in adhesive applications.H224: Extremely flammable liquid and vapor [Danger Flammable liquids] H332: Harmful if inhaled [Warning Acute toxicity, inhalation] H351: Suspected of causing cancer [Warning Carcinogenicity]”
vinyl chloride- see 1.1-DCE
In addition to a brief description of the site contamination, the Notice of Intent to Remediate requires a general description of proposed remediation measures. In response, Cecil Township stated: “Remediation options will be evaluated in a Remedial Investigation Report. However, at this time it is envisioned that engineering and institutional controls will be utilized to eliminate potential exposure pathways to identified contamination.”
Going forward, residents should feel empowered to ask the Board of Supervisors the following questions, which continue to remain unanswered despite the plethora of documents released by the DEP.
Importantly, according to the Consent Order and Agreement with the DEP, the Remedial Investigation Report is not due until January 3, 2021. It is CCJ’s understanding that Cecil Township has not completed its remedial investigation.
Question: What kind of engineering and institutional controls will be used?
Question: When will that remedial investigation be completed?
According to the Notice of Intent to Remediate, the intended future use of the property may include development of a public works building and related structures and roads.
Question: Are there other intended future uses?
The ABB property consists of a whopping 87 acres. The township mentions use for a public works building, but hasn’t answered questions around the use of the rest of the property. Because of ABB’s industrial categorization, and its inability to ever be used for residential development, a question of what residents can expect the township to do with it going forward is pertinent. A remediated ABB could be a beacon for further oil and gas development including well pads, compressor stations and processing stations. Residents need to be able to trust their township in protecting the health and safety of their children not only now, but in the future.
Residents should also continue to encourage a public meeting with DEP officials. Though many open-ended questions are complex, they still must be answered by the DEP. In the event that the DEP does agree to a public meeting, people should feel free to reach out to CCJ to break down questions and prepare for the meeting. In addition, historical and intergenerational knowledge of what is buried at ABB and where continues to be valuable, and folks with information should continue to share.
As always, special thanks go out to the community members in Cecil that continue to work tirelessly around these issues to demand answers for themselves and their neighbors. The next Supervisors meeting is this Monday, August 5th at 7:00 PM.
For more information on the ABB Property and Muse Slate Dumps, Oil and Gas Development, or to get connected with CCJ, feel free to contact Heaven Sensky at email@example.com or 724-229-3550 ext. 103.
The Heinze family
Thank you to Rick Heinze, a CCJ member and supporter, for this contribution to our What’s on your mind? blog series!
It’s a little frustrating that my retirement activities aren’t what I dreamed they would be. In my dreams, I was going to visit exotic places, improve my birding skills, learn to play the banjo I bought 25 years ago at a garage sale, take interesting college courses on the internet (e.g., western PA history), and learn to throw my atlatl. The rest and relaxation that I had earned through working in my younger years would now become my life.
I have always considered myself an environmentalist. I saved water, recycled items, bought a car that gets good gas mileage, reduced/reused/recycled, and took part in other actions that I hoped would make the world a better place. Then the climate crisis became real, and it was obvious that doing those activities was not nearly enough. The Paris Accords, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and many other scholarly studies and discussions on the climate made this abundantly clear. I could no longer rest and relax during my retired life knowing that the planet my grandchildren were to grow up on would be so dramatically different than the nature and the outdoors that I had so loved during my own life. For example, millions of people will be (and are being) uprooted from their homes. Others will no longer be able to grow food because of the warming environment and the uncertainty of rain (or an excess of rain).
So I decided that, for the sake of my precious granddaughter and the children of her generation, I must get more involved in teaching people about this crisis and helping them to understand that, though we thought this crisis would happen 30 years from now, we are already experiencing it. I have always done the easier things, such as educating myself on climate change and donating money to the right causes (CCJ, Sierra Club, Climate Reality). But, as we are learning, this is not enough. Money is helpful, but our time is precious! I am trying to get out there and become really involved in supporting the changes that will be necessary to reverse or slow down the damage we have caused. I am doing things that I am not comfortable doing, such as running in an election and knocking on doors in my community so that I can talk to people. Right now I’m trying to build up the courage (and find some support) in order to picket my state senator’s office after her party passed some very troubling legislation which will increase water pollution in our area. Will any of my activities matter? Who knows, but I have to try. I can only hope that anthropologist Margaret Mead was right in her assertion that we should “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” With the support of CCJ and you, I can become a committed citizen and hopefully make a positive difference!
People represented by PA House Representative Puskaric (District 39) and Representative Jason Ortitay (District 46) should be aware of two upcoming public town halls recently scheduled for next week. If you are unsure what district you reside in, click here.
CCJ seeks to empower and encourage the residents of those communities to attend these town halls and bring forth questions to their elected officials regarding the health impacts of petrochemical development as well as increased oil and gas development. Although inquiries have been made to increase national research on Ewings Sarcoma, little has been said about the health impacts of the petrochemical development and oil and gas development that is increasing in our communities right now.
In addition, increasing the minimum wage is currently being debated in the state legislature and folks should press these legislators to increase the wage for hard-working Pennsylvanians and to support labor unions in their fight to create and maintain safe, good jobs for the people in our region.
For the Residents of PA House District 39-
Representative Michael J. Puskaric, PA House District 39, serving parts of Washington and Allegheny Counties, will be holding a public town hall at the Somerset Township Satellite Office, 615 Vanceville Road, Eighty-Four, PA 15330, on Monday, August 5, 2019, at 12:00 PM. CCJ encourages residents to attend. Representative Puskaric serves on the Education, Insurance, and Labor and Industry Committees. He is also the Chairperson for the Commerce Subcommittee on Housing.
To learn more about the legislation Rep. Puskaric has sponsored and cosponsored, visit his biography here from the PA State Legislature’s website.
Given that Representative Puskaric is holding his town hall at noon on August 5th, many working Pennsylvanian’s may be unable to attend. Folks unable to attend should use this online form to send a comment to the legislator’s office or call them directly at 412-382-2009.
For the Residents of PA House District 46-
Representative Jason Ortitay of PA House District 46, serving parts of Washington and Allegheny Counties, will be holding a public town hall at the Canton Township Municipal Buildin, 1265 W Chestnut St., Washington, PA 15301, on Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 at 7:00 PM. CCJ encourages residents to attend. Representative Ortitay serves on the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee as well as the Gaming Oversight Committee. In addition, he is the chairperson for both the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Education Subcommittee on Higher Education.
To learn more about the legislation Rep. Ortitay has sponsored and cosponsored follow this link to the PA Legislature’s official website.
A Public Hearing for the pending Coal Refuse Disposal Area (CRDA) No. 7 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water permit was held last Wednesday, July 17 at the Morris Township Community Center in Graysville, PA. The Observer-Reporter and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette attended the meeting (and their stories are linked here with their respective names).
Only a handful of concerned residents were able to make the mid-afternoon meeting time on a Wednesday: the meeting was held from 1:00-3:00 p.m. In our history of requesting and attending meetings like this, community members have consistently pressed for meetings to be held at times that are accessible to residents, but these requests are invariably ignored. The unwillingness to consider residents is a disservice, and allows for an inaccurate portrait of a lack of concern around the issue.
For their part, Consol Energy doesn’t mind the low turnout. “We own all the surface properties affected by the construction in this permit area, so we didn’t expect a lot of people to show up,” said Anthony Drezewski, Consol’s director of land resources. They didn’t expect many people to attend because they have effectively and systematically removed them (and thus, part of the “problem”) from the permit area. Not only have these landowners and taxpayers been displaced, but the coal companies will now devastate and devalue some 900 acres of a beautiful, lush and thriving valley. This, in turn, will drive down property values and bring further costs to taxpayers!
Consol executives will use and abuse the land and workers until it no longer lines their pocketbooks, and then the burden of their operations will fall upon the taxpayers of Greene County and the rest of Pennsylvania.
In an effort to reach as many people as possible to discuss Economic Justice for Greene County, The Center for Coalfield Justice will be present at both fairs in the county as well as Rain Day.
The Legendary Jacktown Fair kicked off this past Tuesday, July 16th in Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania. Attendance to the fair is free, and folks from near and far come to experience the small town tradition that is the Jacktown Fair. That said, CCJ has been participating in the fair with a tabling space in one of several buildings onsite.
Fair attendees are prompted with one question from CCJ- "What is your hope for Greene County?" CCJ's booth features a trifold board displaying the plethora of "hopes" folks have for their community. In conversing about our hopes for Greene, we have been discussing the 10 year Comprehensive Planning Process that the County Commissioners are currently presiding over. We have been informing as many people as possible that the public comment period should be opening over the course of the next week, and that their hopes for Greene are valid... and worth sharing.
We are also having fun engaging folks at the fair with our original Kerplunk game, where participants play each other in "holding up the pillars of their community" through a series of scenarios that are on par with the challenges of living in a community that teeters on the impacts of the fossil fuel industry. You could win a free CCJ T-shirt or a $25 gift card!
The people at Jacktown have been kind and engaged in the work that we are doing, and we are eager to make ourselves available to the community beyond economic justice, including how we may be able to help individual community members to navigate the effects of the fossil fuel industry in their personal lives.
We encourage YOU to stop by the Jacktown Fair to see us from today through Saturday, July 20th. You won't regret it- and afterall.. "You can't die happy ‘til you've been" to the Jacktown Fair!
For more information about CCJ’s Economic Justice Campaign, to make suggestions, or for volunteer opportunities, contact Heaven Lee Sensky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-229-3550 Ext. 103.