In this Update:
FAQ and More Information About Norfolk Southern Train Derailment
For those of you who may have seen the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee’s public hearing on the Norfolk Southern train derailment last week, you may have heard mention of a dashboard established by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).
You can find the PEMA Train Derailment Dashboard here, and for frequently asked questions and their answers, you can click here.
We’ve also been told by Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration that the Department of Environmental Protection’s Southwest Regional Office continues to conduct air and water quality monitoring, as well as drinking water testing which is analyzed by DEP’s Bureau of Laboratories.
Since the derailment occurred in Ohio, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3 still retains the lead in this investigation. Their hotline number is 215-814-2400. The contractor for Norfolk Southern has also set up a hotline, staffed by toxicologists; that number is 234-542-6474. The EPA also has a webpage for this incident.
This past week, a hearing held by the Senate Transportation Committee regarding the transportation of hazardous material via rail – you can view the hearing here.
Senate Republicans Announce Priorities and Principles for 2023-24 Session
With the two-year legislative session getting into full swing, I joined colleagues this week in announcing Senate Republican priorities and principles for 2023-24.
Our legislative efforts will be focused on protecting jobs, empowering families and defending freedoms.
Protecting Pennsylvania jobs requires a comprehensive approach that includes ensuring energy independence, promoting workforce development and continued improvement of our infrastructure.
Empowering Pennsylvania families means providing healthy and safe communities, addressing mental and behavioral health needs, and guaranteeing access to high-quality educational opportunities.
Defending freedom means keeping government out of the lives and pockets of citizens as much as possible, and instilling confidence in the electoral process.
Senate Republicans will build on our successful efforts last session that were focused on:
Senate Republican leaders discussed our 2023-24 priorities and principles here.
Committee Votes to Eliminate Costs for Genetic Testing and Breast Cancer Screenings
Legislation I’m co-sponsoring to eliminate all out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental breast screenings for women with a high lifetime-risk of developing breast cancer took a step toward Senate passage this week.
Senate Bill 8, a bipartisan, first-of-its-kind, comprehensive breast cancer screening and testing bill was approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and is poised for consideration by the full Senate.
Genetic testing often leads to early cancer detection or preventive treatments and procedures. It not only informs the tested individual, but also provides vital information to family members who may have a high likelihood of inheriting a gene mutation.
Senate Bill 8 expands on a 2020 law that secured insurance coverage for breast MRIs by removing any applicable patient copays, deductible and coinsurance for this preventive screening. A supplemental screening is necessary because of failed early detection by screening mammography among women with dense breasts and those at high lifetime risk of breast cancer.
Senate Votes to Restrict Diversion of Transportation Funding
To bolster funding for Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure, the Senate passed legislation to restrict the diversion of transportation funding out of the Motor License Fund. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The Motor License Fund obtains revenue from transportation charges, including the gas tax, vehicle registration fees and driver license fees. These funds are required by the Pennsylvania Constitution for the design, construction and maintenance of the state and local highway network. However, a large portion is transferred to the Pennsylvania State Police for statewide highway patrol operations.
Senate Bill 121 dedicates the transportation charges to road and bridge safety projects, while ensuring the Pennsylvania State Police receive reliable, sustainable funding from sources beyond the susceptible Motor License Fund. The bill caps transfers from the Motor License Fund at $250 million in 2023-24 then reduces the transfer by $50 million annually. The bill seeks to end the transfers by 2028-29 and allocate all transportation fees for road and bridge improvements.
Application Period for National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Grant Program Opens on March 27, 2023
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is currently updating its National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Round 1 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) based on recently announced federal rules.
The updated PennDOT NOFO will be released on March 13 on the agency’s Apply for NEVI Funds webpage.
PennDOT will begin accepting applications for Round 1 of the grant program on March 27, 2023. The application period is open until 5 p.m. on May 5, 2023.
Funds for the PA NEVI grant program are to be awarded on a competitive basis to plan, design, construct, operate and maintain EV Station Infrastructure sites across Pennsylvania.
The PA NEVI grant program includes multiple rounds of funding. During Round 1, the focus will be on building out the Alternative Fuels Corridor network along the interstates to meet the NEVI requirements.
Submit questions about the NOFO or how to apply to RA-PDEVCorridors@pa.gov by Friday March 24. In addition, frequently asked questions and answers will be posted publicly online.
PennDOT 2023 Summer Employment Opportunities for College Students
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 10 has opened the application period for internships with the Systematic Technique to Analyze and Manage Pennsylvania’s Pavements (STAMPP) Program.
The STAMPP Program provides summer employment to college students. Through the STAMPP Program students gain real-world experience performing field surveys to improve Pennsylvania’s roadway maintenance programs and collect data vital to the allocation of maintenance funding throughout the district.
Students must be currently enrolled full-time (carrying 12 or more undergraduate credits or 9 or more graduate credits), enrolled full-time for the upcoming fall semester, in good academic standing, and enrolled in a major in the Engineering, Science or Technology field to be considered for internship positions. The first year in a two-year Associate Degree Program or four-year bachelor’s degree program must also have been completed by the applicant. Non-Engineering majors may apply but preference goes to engineering, science and technology students.
The STAMPP Program employs interns May through July with positions available in Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Indiana, Jefferson Counties. STAMPP interns will be tasked with surveying current roadway conditions and newly completed projects for accuracy, all the while noting various aspects about the construction.
PennDOT is also sponsoring a statewide summer employment program for full-time college students registered for the Fall 2023 semester. The program runs May 2023 through August 2023. The initial announced deadline for receiving summer applications – Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 – has been extended until Friday, March 17. Interested applicants should contact my office and fill out the online PennDOT College Student Summer Worker posting at www.employment.pa.gov under the Internships section of the website.
March 9 Webinar About Ways to Build Safer Streets, Better Bike Lanes, Walkable Routes
The partners of the Intersections Initiative (America Walks, the League of Americans Bicyclists, and Safe Routes Partnership) will be holding a webinar on March 9, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., to offer participants the opportunity to learn about new federal programs for walking and biking infrastructure, the upcoming opportunities you need to know about and the initial steps you can take to prepare your community to apply for funding.
You can register for the webinar here.
Federal Funding Requests for Fiscal Year 2024 Now Being Accepted
The office of Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15) is now accepting programmatic, language and Community Project Funding (CPF) requests for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY’24). To make any of those requests, please fill out this form by 1 p.m. on Monday, March 20, 2023. This information is also available on Congressman Thompson’s website.
CPFs will be issued on a limited basis in the FY’24 Appropriations bills. Therefore, only CPF requests that address the most critical and outstanding needs of local communities or provide a significant public good will be considered. Submission of a request does not guarantee a project will be funded. Additionally, in a change from years past, the House Committee on Appropriations announced no CPFs will be considered for the following subcommittees: Defense; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government.
Each subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations has specific guidance for programmatic, language, and community project eligibility along with the process for making a request – more information can be found here. Please closely review the guidelines per each subcommittee to ensure your project meets the requirements. Should a project fail to meet these requirements, the request cannot be considered.
Additionally, funds for these projects must be used during the FY’24 cycle. Any request that includes funding beyond FY’24 cannot be considered.
Senate Urges President Biden to Restart Keystone XL Pipeline
I joined with Senate colleagues in passing a resolution calling on President Biden to allow completion of the Keystone XL pipeline to create nearly 60,000 jobs and strengthen our energy independence in uncertain times.
Senate Resolution 9 urges the president to restart and expedite the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which had its permit canceled through an executive order on his first day in office.
A report from the U.S. Department of Energy showcased that the construction of the pipeline would have generated between 16,149-59,468 jobs annually and contributed $3.4 billion to the United States Gross Domestic Product. Incredibly, while President Biden blocked American jobs, he waived sanctions on the Russian firm responsible for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
The resolution will now be transmitted to President Biden and members of Congress, including the entire Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.
Homeowner Septic Program Helps Cover Cost of Septic Systems, Sewer Hook-ups
Functioning on-lot septic systems, laterals and connections to a public sewer system are essential for public health but are expensive to repair or replace.
The Homeowner Septic Program offers affordable loans for the repair or replacement of on-lot septic systems and sewer laterals, or a first-time sewer connection from an existing home. The revamped program now features:
The program is funded and administered by Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA).
For more information or to start the PENNVEST application process, homeowners should contact a participating lender or PHFA at 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466), then press “0” to be connected with the Customer Solutions Center. Information on the program is also available here. Lenders interested in participating should visit the PHFA website for more details.
Application Period Now Open for Federal Fire Prevention and Safety Grants
The federal government has opened the Fiscal Year 2022 Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grants application period and it runs through March 31, 2023 at 5 p.m.
The FP&S grants are part of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards. The primary goal is to reduce injury and prevent death among high-risk populations.
The FP&S Program provides financial assistance directly to eligible fire departments as well as national, regional, state, local, tribal and nonprofit organizations such as academic (e.g., universities), public health, occupational health and injury prevention institutions.
You can read the Notice of Funding Opportunity to learn more about the availability of funding along with other pertinent program information. The online FP&S grant application is available through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program’s FEMA GO (FEMA Grants Outcomes) application portal at https://go.fema.gov.
PA FFA Officers Visit PA Capitol
Earlier this week, the state officers of the Pennsylvania FFA Association, more commonly known as the Pennsylvania Future Farmers of America, visited the state Capitol and I had a chance to meet with them.
One of those officers is Benjamin Torrey, (third from right in the photo above) the organization’s vice president and 2022 graduate of Northern Potter High School in the 25th District’s Potter County.
The Pennsylvania FFA Association is part of FFA, a national organization that seeks to engage our nation’s youth while promoting the future of agriculture through education. FFA isn’t just for students who want to be in production agriculture; it also welcomes members who aspire to careers as doctors, lawyers, scientists, business owners and more. For this reason, the name of the organization was updated – to FFA – in 1988 to reflect the growing diversity and new opportunities in the agriculture industry. Today, there are over 900,000 FFA members, ages 12 to 21, in almost 9,000 chapters throughout our nation – there are nearly 14,000 FFA student members in Pennsylvania’s four FFA regions.
It was great meeting Benjamin and the other FFA state officers, and I wish them well in all their future endeavors.
2022 Bear Harvest Report
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania hunters harvested some tremendous black bears in the 2022 seasons, including three of more than 700 pounds and 11 more that topped 600 pounds.
All totaled, 3,170 were taken, which is down from 2021’s 3,621, but still ranks the harvest as the 14th largest all time. Pennsylvania’s all-time best bear season came in 2019, when hunters harvested 4,653.
Hunters in 2022 took bears in 58 of the state’s 67 counties and 22 of its 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). The harvest was also evenly spread out – more than ever before – over the four bear hunting seasons: 737 bears were taken in the archery season, 712 in the muzzleloader/special firearms season, 1,051 in the general season and 663 in the extended season. Another seven were taken in the early season.
In 2022, 213,639 individuals – 203,922 Pennsylvania residents, 9,717 nonresidents – bought a bear license. That was the third-most ever.
Among counties, Tioga County produced the most harvested bears in 2022 at 187. Lycoming County ranked second with 152, followed by Bradford and Luzerne counties with 126 each, Centre County with 122, Potter County with 119, Clearfield and Monroe counties with 114 each and Clinton County with 113.
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