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Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill To Limit Eminent Domain Use On Land Protected By Conservation Easements

Pennsylvania Environment Digest Blog | Posted on August 8, 2018

Gov. Tom Wolf Sunday signed House Bill 2468 limiting the use of eminent domain by government agencies on land with conservation easements for parks and open space purposes into law as Act 45.Two school districts in the state-- Cumberland Valley in Cumberland County and Lower Merion in Montgomery County-- have decided to use eminent domain to condemn privately-owned land permanently preserved by conservation easements held by local land trusts, over the objections of many residents of the communities. Other suitable non-preserved land in each vicinity is available, according to the bill sponsors.

The bill would require any government agency to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before using eminent domain to take permanently preserved land. The procedure is similar to that found in the Agricultural Area Security Law which requires additional scrutiny before condemnation of agricultural lands. The Orphans’ Court is given authority in the Donated and Dedicated Property Act over certain transactions related to publicly owned lands held for public uses.The bill exempts public utilities that condemn land (like pipelines) and exempt “emergency” condemnations from the provisions of the bill.


The Mendocino Complex Fire is now the largest wildfire ever recorded in California

The Washington Post | Posted on August 7, 2018

Two blazes that began burning through Northern California late last month have grown at breathtaking speed to form a massive inferno that has now set a new mark for destruction. The twin wildfires, collectively known as the Mendocino Complex Fire, have together more than doubled in size in the past four days and burned through 283,800 acres of parched land — an area almost the size of Los Angeles.  As wildfires ravaged the Golden State, President Trump weighed in with tweets that puzzled fire experts and seemed to point fingers not at the toll of climate change, but at California’s environmental laws and use of water resources. The Mendocino Complex Fire began July 27 as two neighboring wildfires burning through 9,500 acres of land before spreading rapidly — at one point, by nearly 30,000 acres within hours.  Firefighters are unlikely to see much respite. Temperatures will dip slightly to the low 90s and high 80s this week, but no rain is in the forecast.Seventeen wildfires are burning up and down California.


Is Extreme Weather the 'New Norm?'

Solutions From the Land | Posted on August 2, 2018

Media reports over the past two weeks read like a litany of biblical wrath, permeated with details of unprecedented heatwaves, extreme drought, wildfires, persistent rains and damaging floods occurring around the world.In the United States, the National Weather Service said that dangerous heat will persevere through at least today as temperatures across the Southwest, California and parts of the Pacific Northwest continue to be well above average, prompting a heat advisory for 30 million residents. Areas in the Southwest and southern California can expect high temperatures near and above 110 degrees.The hot and dry conditions have aggravated wildfires that are forcing thousands of Californians to flee their homes. Torrential storms and flooding have plagued the Mid-Atlantic states in recent days and are now moving into the Northeast.Meanwhile, devastating fires and heatwaves, from Sweden to Japan, have claimed the lives of scores of people all over the world. In Greece, the death toll from fires stands at 80 and is feared to rise, while in Japan a heatwave claimed the lives of at least 65 people. Wildfires have raged from the Russian Far East to Quebec and Ontario, Canada, making this a truly global phenomenon.


2017 Was One Of The Hottest Years On Record

NPR | Posted on August 2, 2018

NOAA has released the latest State of the Climate report, its annual checkup on our planet. So, how did Earth fare in 2017?Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: highest concentrations ever. Global surface temperature: near-record high. Sea surface temperature: near-record high. Global sea level: highest on record.Warm global temperatures have been a strong trend in recent years: the four warmest years on record all occurred since 2014, and last year was among them. In fact, 2017 was the warmest non-El Niño year ever recorded.The past three years were "substantially warmer than the previous — kind of establishing a new neighborhood in terms of global temperature," said Deke Arndt, a climatologist at NOAA and the lead editor of the report. "And 2017 reinforced that."


USDA Encourages Rural Communities, Water Districts to Apply for Loans to Improve, Rebuild Infrastructure; $4 Billion Available

USDA | Posted on August 2, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced a historic commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade and rebuild rural water infrastructure. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building their futures,” Hazlett said. “All people – regardless of their zip code – need modern, reliable infrastructure to thrive, and we have found that when we address this need, many other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.”Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.


Dog owners leaving pets in dangerous weather in Maryland County could be fined

Baltimore Sun | Posted on August 2, 2018

Howard County pet owners could get bitten by fines depending on how they keep their dogs outside in excessive heat or cold. The County Council passed a bill Friday mandating that dogs must be protected from weather that could harm or kill them. It also requires proper shelters for dogs left unattended by owners for 30 minutes or more, specifying the size, type of bedding and access water at all times.


Wildfires hit the West: ‘We’re stretched to our limits’

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2018

Vehicle malfunctions, lightning and alleged arson ignited some of the most violent wildfires of the 2018 season in the West, but prolonged drought, record temperatures and ready fuel have fed them. While fewer fires have sparked this summer than the 10-year average, they’ve burned wider — 1 million more acres than the January to July average, totaling 4.8 million. They’ve also wreaked havoc on communities, especially in California.


Medicaid expansion positive for Va. hospitals credit ratings

Richmond Times Dispatch | Posted on August 2, 2018

A national bond rating agency predicts Virginia’s hospitals and health systems will receive a boost to their bottom lines when the state expands its Medicaid program on Jan. 1.S&P Global Ratings said Monday that the impending expansion of health coverage for up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians will be “credit positive” for state hospitals by generally reducing the level of uncompensated and charity care they provide to people with no means to pay.


After Parkland, States Pass 50 New Gun-Control Laws

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 2, 2018

Something familiar happened in America in February: A gunman walked into a school, and shot and killed 17 students and staff in a horrific act of violence. But then something unfamiliar happened: State legislators — inspired by a movement led by the student survivors of that mass shooting in Parkland, Florida — started passing legislation to restrict gun access.This was a year of unparalleled success for the gun-control movement in the United States. States across the country, including 14 with Republican governors, enacted 50 new laws restricting access to guns, ranging from banning bump stocks to allowing authorities to temporarily disarm potentially violent people. State lawmakers still managed to expand gun access with at least 10 new laws in seven states. These measures — from allowing guns in K-12 schools to bolstering “stand your ground” laws — continued to carry weight in certain parts of the country, even as the gun-control movement steadily gained steam elsewhere.


New Mexico investigates immigration detention

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2018

Last month, Roberto de Jesús González spoke to state legislators in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about his experience being held for three months in the Otero County Processing Center. “(I was) a victim of the private prison system,” he said — treated like an animal, poorly fed and given little respect by the guards. “This business is based on human suffering,” he told lawmakers. “That was my experience.” He wasn’t alone. At the hearing, convened by the state’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee to consider better oversight of private detention facilities, a line of detainees formed behind de Jesús González to describe their own experiences with medical neglect, solitary confinement and spoiled food. All the while, they reminded legislators that they were either asylum seekers — meaning they hadn’t broken any laws and were seeking shelter from persecution or violence — or people who had been detained on civil charges. Leila, an asylum-seeker from Somalia, said she understood the government’s need for detention centers. But, she added, “There should be some fairness in the way they treat people.”


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