Wolf Administration Invites Pennsylvania’s Environmental Stewards to Apply for 2018 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence

From PA Dept. of Environmental Protection

The Wolf Administration invites all Pennsylvanians who’ve recently worked on successful environmental projects to apply for the state’s top environmental recognition: the 2018 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence, honoring individuals and organizations whose dedicated efforts have improved air, land, and water quality in Pennsylvania.

“The commonwealth would be a different place if not for the great work of many Pennsylvanians who tackle the full range of environmental challenges, from local creek cleanups to citywide sustainability,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “It’s a pleasure to shine a light on their work with the Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence.”

DEP oversees the application and award selection process. Projects are evaluated on the basis of seven criteria: degree of environmental protection, climate change, sustainability, partnership, economic impact, innovation, and environmental education and outreach. A project doesn’t have to meet all criteria to merit an award.

The award is open to all individuals, whether a project leader or participant, and to all schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, farms, and government agencies. Past winners may submit applications for new projects, but projects that have previously received a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence are not eligible.

Applications are now being accepted online. The deadline for submission is Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, at 5 p.m. Eligible projects must have been completed before November 1, 2017. Submission guidelines may be found at the application page.

Last year, 21 organizations received awards. Their projects collectively saved 8 million kWh/year; reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions by 14,608 metric tons; captured 3.2 million gallons of stormwater runoff; saved over $105 million in operation, maintenance, and energy use expenses; conserved 3 million gallons of water; engaged 8,500 students in environmental issues; recycled 68,000 plastic bags; properly disposed of 5,287 tires; and treated 450.5 million gallons of stream water that had been laced with acid mine drainage.
The Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence have been presented since 1996.

Montour Address Updates Now a Waiting Game

Montour County Commissioners at a recent meeting

Updated addresses for Montour County were sent to companies that provide GIS mapping services in August. However, some County residents are experiencing difficulty in receiving deliveries using their new addresses. The Montour County Commissioners say the companies are updating their databases on varying schedules.

The County GIS office provided the new addresses to companies in August, with follow up in early November. According to Commissioner Ken Holdren, one company that provides GIS mapping to many in-car systems responded that updates would be made in early December, but are still pending. Mapquest updates could take 6-9 months, and Google provided no timeline for when updates would take effect. Residents and businesses are reminded that the Postal Service will recognize old addresses for one year from the date of notification.

Montour County Treasurer Jesse Kline also advises residents that when making online purchases with a credit card, they should use the same mailing address as the billing address associated with the card whenever appropriate.

Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant Continues Focus on Safety and Efficiency

Tim Rausch, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer of Talen Energy

The Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant located in Salem Township is on track to generate more power in 2017 than in any other year in its 35-year history, according to Tim Rausch, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer of Talen Energy. While nuclear plants across the country have been shutting down in recent years due to low energy pricing, the Susquehanna station has been improving operational efficiencies to remain competitive. Rausch’s comments were made to local elected officials and representatives of the business community at a recent meeting.

In late September, Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to “issue a final rule requiring its organized markets to develop and implement market rules that accurately price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s power system.” The construction of natural gas power plants combined with federal subsidies for the development of wind and solar power generation has resulted in lower energy prices that threaten the viability of traditional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Shuttering these plants could put the nation’s base power supply at risk. Mr. Rausch noted that Talen Energy is interested in a level playing field to ensure fair competition. He does not expect to see any changes in the immediate future.

When Talen Energy became a privately-held corporation in December of 2016, Rausch noted that Team Susquehanna remained committed to the safety and health of the community. In addition to dozens of emergency preparedness drills conducted in 2017, the annual refueling was completed last on time and on budget with no injuries .

Leadership Central Penn Goes Back to School

November took the Leadership Central Penn class to the Central Columbia School District’s office for an education round table with superintendents Harry Mathias (Central Columbia), Dr. Donald Wheeler (Bloomsburg), Cynthia Jenkins (Millville) and Director of Curriculum for Berwick, Bob Croop, Jr. The educational leaders had four questions on the agenda, but it became apparently quickly that the LCP class was going the hijack the morning as it continuously challenged the panel on topics ranging from educational innovations, “new’ math, technology in the classroom, property taxes, family school life balance, and the ever changing challenges of teaching the next generation. The panel held its own, and the passion they use every day to meet these challenges and more as they educate our young people was evident. 

The class was treated to lunch with a wonderful menu of fresh baked yeast rolls, hot soup and perfectly dressed salad prepared by students from Columbia Montour Area Vocational Technical School.  Lunch was delivered and executed under the guidance of Joseph Edmondson, director of food preparation education at CMVT.

After lunch the class welcomed two more guests, Dr. Kim Bolig of Bloomsburg University’s STEM Education Center, and Diana Verbeck, executive director of the Danville Child Development Center.  The class saw Powerpoints about the wonderful empowering education being done for young girls and boys, through STEEM Magnet programs at BU.  STEM jobs are in great demand and growing in our economy, and this program is meeting the challenges of engaging and exciting young people about the possibilities in these future careers. 

As we look to the future, we learned that we need to start planning for that as early as six weeks of age — yes you read that right, six weeks, according to a presentation by Verbeck.  Research in neurodevelopment shows that early brain stimulation correlates to success later in life, and it has been widely debated, but the passion of Verbeck and others in the early childhood education field was very evident throughout the presentation.  They believe in development through play and tactile education, and the earlier the better. Offering these opportunities to all families regardless of socioeconomic status is imperative and has been echoed by industry leaders and government officials.

One can’t call it a day at Central Columbia without taking a walk on the Career Pathway. Students at this high school have a rare and unique educational experience to begin their career education in ninth grade. You want to be an Engineer; you start on the college prep Engineering, Manufacturing, and Industrial Technology pathway.  Four other pathways exist:

  • Human Services
  • Arts and Communications,
  • Business, Finance, Marketing, and Information Technology
  • Agri-Science, Science and Health

Students must pick one to focus on as well as a secondary pathway to study.  This allows students to get a variety of experiences before making life altering career and college choices.  The program is unlike any that any member of the class had experienced before, and it almost made some want to go back to high school.

Leadership Central Penn is sponsored by Bloomsburg UniversityKawneerSEKISUI SPI and USG

Businesses & Individuals Encouraged to Explore Health Insurance Options During Open Enrollment

Panelists at the recent community health insurance forum included (L-R); Craig Pritts, ChamberChoice; Craig Shively, Geisinger Health Plan; Sandy Darlington, Columbia Montour Area Agency on Aging; and Mark Middlebrook, PA Health Access Network.

As evaluating and selecting health insurance in today’s ever-changing environment is confusing, resources exist to help individuals and businesses choose the best option. At a recent community forum co-sponsored by the Chamber, panelists advised people on the marketplace to reevaluate their coverage. This year’s timeline for making changes is considerably shorter than in previous years, as open enrollment ends Dec. 15.

Recent changes to the Affordable Care Act are significantly impacting health insurance marketplace rates, particularly with silver-level plans, according to the panelists. In some cases, gold-level plans with better benefits can be competitive with silver plans. Group plans have also seen smaller annual increases, compelling small business owners to revisit the overall affordability of having an employer-sponsored plan.

The forum, held Nov. 15 at The Greenly Center, was co-sponsored by the United Way of Columbia and Montour County. Panelists included representatives of Geisinger Health Plan, the Columbia Montour Area Agency on Aging, the PA Health Access Network, and ChamberChoice, the Chamber’s member benefits program. The PA Health Access Network offers the services of free navigators to help individuals register and enroll with the marketplace. ChamberChoice agents can also help individuals select plans and work with members to set up group plans for employers, including health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts. Certified counselors at the Agency on Aging can work with anyone of any age who is eligible for Medicare. Geisinger Health Plan has local representatives to help individuals and businesses understand their options on and off the marketplace.