After marching in Kennedy Township’s annual parade on Memorial Day, Senator Fontana spoke at a ceremony at Fairhaven Park honoring our nation’s veterans.
Cheaper “Summer Gas” on the Horizon
As summer approaches, families across the state will be discussing vacation plans. Unfortunately, for western Pennsylvania, summer means the rise in gas prices due in part to oil refineries going offline for maintenance as well as the switch to summer blends of gasoline. Recently, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation that would grant the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the ability to seek permission from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove the strict emission standards for our region’s gasoline composition.
The EPA set summer fuel requirements following the passage of the Clear Air Act in 1990. Under this federal program, the EPA has the authority to establish stricter emission standards to reduce emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, and diminish the effects of ozone-related health problems. Given its industrial past, seven surrounding counties of the Pittsburgh region fell into that category including Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland.
Gasoline by nature has to have a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) below 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi), otherwise the liquid turns into a gas. Elsewhere in the state, the RVP can be no higher than 9.0 psi during the summer months. However, since 1999, DEP and the EPA requires these seven counties to sell what is known as “summer gas,” between May 1st and September 15th, which has an RVP no higher than 7.8 psi.
The lower-emissions gas costs between $0.10 and $0.15 per gallon more than regular gasoline, resulting in higher gas prices in the Pittsburgh region. However, western Pennsylvania has made significant strides in the recent decades to become more environmentally friendly. Several years ago, DEP recognized this progression when they conducted an analysis of the air quality in the seven counties and concluded that the area was not getting credit for the certain emission offsets.
Senate Bill 1037 (SB 1037) recently became Act 50 of 2014 that amends the state’s Air Pollution Control Act to direct the DEP to begin working with the EPA to revise Pennsylvania’s implementation plan by eliminating the statutory requirements for lower RVP gasoline in those particular counties. The complicated task may take up to two years to be fully implemented; however the goal is to see these changes go into effect for the 2015 summer driving season.
The DEP will have to prove to the EPA that an increase in RVP standards in those seven counties would not harm the air quality. In addition, the EPA will still need to approve the changes proposed by the Commonwealth before emission standards could be lightened. Keep in mind, the EPA has recently rejected multiple proposals from other states that have attempted to revise their RVP standards.
Being involved in government for over a decade, I have seen the steps the Pittsburgh region has taken to evolve from what was once a much polluted area to now one of the most livable cities in America! I supported SB 1037 because I felt that it was about time we are recognized for the environmental progress we have made, and our motorists deserve a more fair gas price.
West Nile Virus
Last week the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Health reported the first detection in 2014 of a West Nile Virus-carrying mosquito. The infected mosquito was found in Dauphin County.
In 2004, Pennsylvania began its integrated pest management program, which has improved identification and control of mosquito populations. Certain mosquito species carry the virus, which may cause humans to contract West Nile fever or West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in inflammation of the brain. Typically, the state’s first West Nile Virus-carrying mosquito is found in mid-June.
Although most people do not become ill when infected with West Nile Virus, all are at risk. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of becoming ill and developing severe complications.
The best defense against West Nile Virus is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around homes, weeds, tall grass, shrubbery and discarded tires. The DEP and Department of Health have provided the following precautionary measures for homeowners to take:
- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold water on your property.
- Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
- Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
- Have roof gutters cleaned regularly, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to block drains.
- Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
- Turn over wheelbarrows and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
For stagnant pools of water, homeowners can buy Bti products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. Bti is a naturally occurring bacteria that kills mosquito larva but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants. Additionally, people who are most at risk can follow these simple precautions:
- Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
- Consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors, particularly when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes.
- When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods.
- Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellant will contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician if you have questions about the use of repellant on children, as repellant is not recommended for children under the age of two months.
For more information on West Nile Virus and the state’s surveillance and control program, please visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.
Did You Know…
Did you know that last year, West Nile Virus was detected in 42 counties, resulting in 11 human cases reported statewide?
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications through June 30th for the 2013 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. If you received a rebate last year, you should have received an application in the mail. If you did not receive an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, the applications can be obtained from any of my district offices and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible to receive a rebate. The maximum standard rebate is $650.
Sewage Facilities Program
The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) is accepting applications through July 21st for the Sewage Facilities Program. This program was established through Act 13 of 2012 which created the Marcellus Legacy Fund and allocates funds to the CFA for statewide initiatives for complying with the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act.
Grants of up to $100,000 can be awarded to eligible applicants. Municipalities, Councils of Governments, Authorized Organizations, Institutions of Higher Education, Watershed Organizations, and For-Profit Businesses are considered eligible to apply. For more information on the grant program, please visit the Sewage Facilities Program page on the Department of Community and Economic Development site at www.newpa.com.
Senator Fontana spoke at the annual Beechview Memorial Ceremony honoring veterans on Saturday, May 24th.
Future of Public Transportation
The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is inviting transit riders and local citizens to share their vision for the future of public transportation in our region through PAT’s new community engagement website. Forward Thinking, located at http://paac.mindmixer.com/ presents a variety of questions on topics including capital projects, barriers to transit use, and accessibility for seniors and riders with disabilities. Participants can share their thoughts or weigh in on ideas submitted by others. The site will help PAT collect ideas from riders
and local citizens and collectively will assist in generating a vision of a modern transit system throughout Allegheny County.
Members of the Port Authority’s Board of Directors, CEO Ellen McLean, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald will be participating in the discussion and listening to participants’ thoughts and suggestions. The site will be active through at least June 13th. If interested in participating in this online forum, please visit http://paac.mindmixer.com/ to get started.
City Partners with Nextdoor
The city of Pittsburgh last week announced a new partnership with Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods, to improve citywide and neighbor-to-neighbor communications.
The integration with Nextdoor will enable Mayor Peduto’s office, the City’s Department of Public Safety and the Department of Public Works to use Nextdoor to build stronger, safer communities with the help of Pittsburgh residents. The City’s departments and Nextdoor neighborhoods will be able to work together to increase safety and strengthen virtual neighborhood watch.
More than 67 city neighborhoods, representing 80 percent of the City of Pittsburgh, have started Nextdoor websites. Pittsburgh residents are able to create private neighborhood websites to share information, including neighborhood public safety issues, community events and activities, local services, and even lost pets. The City will be able to post information such as important news, services, programs, free events, and emergency notifications to Nextdoor websites within the City.
Nextdoor is free for residents and the City. Each Pittsburgh neighborhood has its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website, accessible only to residents of that neighborhood. Neighborhoods establish and self-manage their own Nextdoor website and the City will not be able to access residents’ websites, contact information, or content. All members must verify that they live within the neighborhood before joining Nextdoor. Information shared on Nextdoor is password protected and can’t be accessed by Google or other search engines.
Anyone interested in joining their neighborhood’s website can visit www.nextdoor.com/pittsburgh and enter their address. For questions about the Nextdoor website, please visit https://help.nextdoor.com/.
The City of Pittsburgh was recently named the second safest city in the United States for walkers, based on its levels of fatal pedestrian accidents and those who walk to work. The study was performed by Smart Growth America, who ranked the 51 largest metropolitan areas by the Pedestrian Danger Index which is based on the share of commuters who walk to work in each city and the number of pedestrian fatalities over the last five years.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216