Monday, July 30, 2012
New this year is the Renewable Energy Showcase, a series of presentations on energy resources and conservation practices, to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 14, in the Learning Center Tent at Main and East 9th streets (below the Pasto Museum).
“These will be short, informative presentations by industry experts and Penn State Extension energy specialists,” said Ed Johnstonbaugh, extension educator, who is coordinating the showcase. “The topics will focus on conservation, solar and wind energy, and biogas and biomass energy. We have a great lineup of educational and thought-provoking presentations.”
Topics will be presented all three days at the following times:
Noon — Conservation
–Travel Adventures on a Solar-Powered Canal Boat
–Energy Efficiency and Conservation to Lower Costs
–Southwest Pa. Renewable Energy Incubator Project Update
1 p.m. — Solar and Wind Energy
–Solar Energy 101, Financing Options, System Design, and Combination Benefits
–Why Wind? Developing the Partnerships
2:15 p.m. — Biogas and Biomass Energy
–Manure Cures: Benefits of Biogas
–Switchgrass Pellets for Fuel
–Warm Season Grasses as Bioenergy Crops and for Environmental Benefits
–Woody Crops as Biomass Energy Resources
Ag Progress Days visitors also will have the opportunity to talk with commercial exhibitors involved in alternative-energy opportunities and conservation in the Energy Conservation Area on West 9th Street.
In addition, energy crops and biofuels will be the subject of an exhibit in the new Joseph D. Harrington Crops, Soils, and Conservation Building at the end of East 5th Street. Information will be available about several varieties of plants that can be grown by farmers in the Northeast and converted into energy.
“Our team is working to develop bioenergy cropping systems that provide value-added co-products and soil-conservation benefits in addition to bioenergy,” said Dan Ciolkosz, extension associate who specializes in energy crops. “This work will be on display at Ag Progress Days.”
Show attendees also can collect fact-based and timely information on issues related to Marcellus Shale exploration, leasing and drilling from Penn State extension educators and commercial vendors at the Marcellus Center on West 10th Street.
“The development of the Marcellus Shale has impacted the agricultural community in many ways,” said Tom Murphy, extension educator and co-director of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.
“Our focus this year at Ag Progress Days will be to present science-based information on topics ranging from the latest research on industry workforce development to remediation techniques after pipeline installation, and many other related subjects in between.”
Sponsored by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 14; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 15; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 16. Admission and parking are free.
For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website at http://apd.psu.edu. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogress.
Friday, April 27, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Beef consumers should not overreact to the first case of so-called “mad cow disease” in the United States since 2006, discovered recently in a dairy cow in California, according to a veterinarian in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
The infected cow, the fourth ever discovered in this country, was found as part of an Agriculture Department surveillance program that tests about 40,000 cows a year for the fatal brain disease, more accurately called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. The disease can cause a fatal human brain disease in people who eat tainted beef.
It’s that close scrutiny of the nation’s beef supply by USDA that should reassure consumers, noted Bhushan Jayarao, professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, who is director of the Penn State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory.
One of three facilities in the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System, the lab on the University Park campus has been testing animal tissues for disease since the mid-1980s and was formally established in 1992. It is a part of the national surveillance network that performs tests for BSE.
“No meat from that cow in California was bound for the food supply,” said Jayarao. “The cow, more than 30 months old, had died and was to be rendered — made into soap or other household products. Because the cow died, it was tested for BSE.”
BSE is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. Research indicates that the disease is most commonly spread when cattle eat feed containing rendered byproducts from infected cattle. As a result, the United States in 1997 banned the practice of feeding animal by-products to ruminants.
However, in this most recent case, Jayarao explained, analysis found that the cow had what is referred to as an atypical case, which is believed to have occurred spontaneously through a mutation.
“That means the cow didn’t get the disease from eating infected cattle feed, and that’s critical,” he said. “It’s just a random mutation that can happen every once in a great while in an animal. Random mutations do occur in nature.”
BSE in cows has been a problem in the past when animal byproducts were used to supplement animal feed. In the United Kingdom, more than 180,000 cows may have been infected during the 1980s and 1990s. In other countries, the infection’s spread was blamed on farmers adding recycled meat and bone meal from infected cows into cattle feed.
Jayarao said the fact that the testing system found “what is a really rare event” is a strong indication that the system works. He suggested that the California cow’s form of the disease so rarely occurs that consumers should not be alarmed.
“USDA has taken a proactive stance with its surveillance program, which caught this case,” said Jayarao. That’s the good news.”
The previous three confirmed cases of BSE in cows in the United States occurred in a Canadian-born cow in 2003 in Washington state, in 2005 in Texas and in 2006 in Alabama. Both the 2005 and 2006 cases were also atypical varieties of the disease, Jayarao said.
He described the measures put into place by the U.S. government and other nations in recent years to prevent BSE from entering the food chain as interlocking safeguards, and he stressed that there is evidence they are effective. In 2011 there were only 29 confirmed cases of BSE worldwide, a dramatic decline since the peak of 37,311 cases in 1992.
Jayarao credited the decline of the disease to effective banning of animal products in cattle feed.
Frightening as BSE is, Jayarao contends that it is best for the public to have the latest and most accurate information about risks and safeguards that exist related to their food supply. “It is always better for producers to have educated consumers,” he said. “Everyone benefits when consumers get reliable information from credible sources.
“There are so many checks and balances in place now, and that should be of great comfort to the consumer,” said Jayarao. “Beef in the retail market is very safe.”
Contact: Donna Heron 215-814-5113 or email@example.com
EPA and GSA Recognize the Newest Electronics Certified Recycling Facility
America Recycles Day encourages recommitment to reducing, recycling, and reusing
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (November 15, 2011) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. General Services Administration recognized AERC/Com-Cycle at an event today for becoming the region’s newest electronics Certified Responsible Recycler (R2) facility.
Today’s America Recycles event at AERC/Com-Cycle’s Allentown facility highlights EPA’s partnership with industry aimed at promoting environmentally-sound management of used electronics, and encouraging businesses and consumers to recycle their electronics with certified recyclers. As an R2 certified electronics recycler, AERC/Com-Cycle operates all its facilities in accordance with the most stringent certification standard in the electronics recycling industry.
See Read More.
There are two existing domestic third-party electronics recycling certification standards, R2 and E-Stewards.
For more information on the EPA and industry collaboration go to: http://www.epa.gov/electronicsstrategy
For more information on GSA’s electronic stewardship goals and promoting federal agencies’ purchasing Environmentally Preferable Products go to: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/234565
For more information on where you and how to recycle go to: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/recycle.htm or www.earth911.com
To locate a list of Responsible Recycling (R2) Certified Electronics Recyclers go to: http://www.r2solutions.org/index.php?submenu=Recyclers&src=gendocs&ref=R2CertifiedRecyclers&category=Main
To locate a list of e-Stewards Certified Electronics Recyclers go to:
EPA News Release
Contact: Donna Heron 215-814-5113 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct. 23-30)
PHILADELPHIA (October 25, 2011) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared October 23-30, 2011 Lead Poisoning Prevention Week as part of the agency’s on-going efforts to make families aware of the hazards presented by lead and lead-based paint in the home and places where children under six years of age are regularly present.
Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in paint and other products found in and around our homes. Beginning in 1978, lead-based paint was banned from residential use, leaded gasoline has been eliminated, and household plumbing is no longer made with lead materials.
Lead is a major environmental health hazard for young children. Research shows that blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) in young children can result in lowered intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, and antisocial behavior. However, there currently is no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood, and adverse health effects can occur at lower concentrations.
If caught early, these effects can be limited by reducing exposure to lead or through medical treatment. Children under six years of age are particularly at risk and pregnant women should avoid exposure to lead as the effects can be passed on to the child.
If your home was built before 1978, lead still may be present. The most common source of household lead exposure is through deteriorating lead-based paint.
EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Paint Rule (RRP) became effective on April 22, 2010. Under the RRP, anyone paid to work on residences built before 1978 and/or facilities where children under the age of six are regularly present (such as daycare centers, schools, clinics, etc.) are required to be Certified Lead Safe by EPA and must be trained to follow specific work practices to reduce lead contamination, and provide the EPA publication “Renovate Right” to owners and/or residents prior to the commencement of the work.
The rule applies when the renovation or repair disturbs six sq. ft. of interior (about the size of a standard poster) or 20 sq. ft (about the size of a standard door) of exterior painted surfaces.
The rule does not apply to individuals doing work on their personal residences. However, EPA recommends that lead-safe work practices be used by individual homeowners whenever possible.
Recognizing that families have a right to know about lead-based paint and potential lead hazards in their homes, EPA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development developed the Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Rule which has been in effect since 1996.
The Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Rule requires that both the owners of residential rental properties and the sellers of residential property built before 1978, disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before a lease or sale takes effect. Sales contracts and leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards. Further, landlords and sellers must also provide the EPA publication “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
For more information on protecting your home and family from exposure to lead and to find or become a “Certified Lead-Safe Firm” go to: www.epa.gov/lead or call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Director of Communication & Grants
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
1700 Hawk Mountain Road, Kempton, PA 19529
Visit Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton on May 21 and 22 between 10 am and 4 pm and select from 225 species of native plants, flowers, ferns, vines, ground cover, shrubs and trees during the Sanctuary’s annual two-day Native Plant Sale. All proceeds benefit Hawk Mountain conservation programs, and the event features a strong educational component with friendly service by the Sanctuary’s native plant volunteers.
Children’s activities will be held both days: a Noon program to learn about butterflies and host plants, and a 2 pm Praying Mantis Hunt. Other Saturday programs for visitors of all ages include an 11 am Butterfly Walk, a 1 pm Fern Walk and a 3 pm How Natives Benefit Wildlife Walk. On Sunday, the Wildlife Benefits Walk will be held at 11, Flower Photography Tips at 1, and a 3 pm guided Fern Walk.
Both days also will feature live raptor programs at 11 am and 2 pm, and as always, the trails and scenic overlooks are open to all for a modest trail fee. Indoors, a selection of native plant gardening books will be available for sale, as well as the Mountain Bookstore’s usual selection of field guides on butterflies, birds and amphibians.
The message during the sale is simple but direct: Native plants benefit wildlife. That means even if you’re not a gardener, you can still drop by and learn how anyone can help save Pennsylvania’s native ecosystems just by introducing the right kind of plants—those native to our area. Native plants require little maintenance, attract bird and butterflies, and don’t require dangerous pesticides … So why not check it out and go native?
For more information, please contact email@example.com, www.hawkmountain.org, or 610-756-6961
U.S. to recommend lower fluoride level in drinking water
By Carolyn Beeler
January 8, 2011
Fluoridosis, or tooth streaking or spottiness caused by too much fluoride, has been on the rise since the 1980s. In a recent federal study, two out of five adolescents had fluoridosis.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services Friday announced it will lower its recommendation for the amount of fluoride in drinking water.
The new recommendation, 0.7 part per million, is lower than the 1 part per million in Philadelphia and many other area water supplies.
Since 1962, the government has recommended a range of fluoride in water, from 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. But since then, the HHS said fluoride has become more common in toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoridosis, or tooth streaking or spottiness caused by too much fluoride, has been on the rise since the 1980s. In a recent federal study, two out of five adolescents had fluoridosis.
Joanne Dahme of the Philadelphia Water Department said the city will “most likely” reduce the amount of fluoride it adds if word comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the body that regulates fluoride levels.
“The practice has been identified by the (Centers for Disease Control) as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century,” Dahme said. “It’s been a really good thing, but certainly you sort of want to hone in on the optimal amount to make it even better.”
Some groups that oppose adding any fluoride to drinking water say cutting the recommended amount is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough.
Dr. William Spruill, president of the Pennsylvania Dental Association, said he hopes the change encourages more communities to start adding fluoride.
“It is my hope that reducing the level slightly to eliminate some of the risk would encourage more broad application of community water fluoridation,” Spruill said.
According to the CDC, a little more than half of Pennsylvanians drink fluoridated water compared with about three-quarters of the U.S. population.
I.H.T. Special Report: Business of Green
‘Water Footprinting’ to Deal With Demand for Supplies
By TANAYA MACHEEL
Published: November 29, 2010
NEW YORK — A water-use report issued in September by Coca-Cola with the Nature Conservancy found that 518 liters of freshwater are required to produce just one liter of its Minute Maid orange juice, and 35 liters are needed to produce a half liter of Coca-Cola.
A growing awareness of just how much water it takes to produce everyday consumer goods is inspiring a rising interest in “water footprinting” — akin to carbon footprinting — as a tool to analyze and guide the development of new technologies, water infrastructure investment and policies aimed at coping with the world’s rising water demand.
Conceptually, the water footprint is similar to that of carbon — an impact indicator based on the total volume of direct and indirect freshwater used in producing a good or service. There is a difference, however. Unlike carbon in the atmosphere, fresh water resources are localized, not global.
“Water is not carbon,” said Jason Morrison, program director at the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland, California, that studies resource sustainability issues. “Whatever you might say about the validity of carbon credits, it will be extremely hard to have that amount of success in the water area because, volumetrically, one volume of water has a different meaning in one part of the world versus another.”
Still, in July, Veolia Water North America, a water and wastewater utility based in Chicago, and part of the French utility Veolia Environnement, presented its water impact index. The company said it was the first indicator to provide a comprehensive assessment of the effects of human activity on water resources.
“Current water footprints focus almost exclusively on volume,” said Laurent Auguste, the company’s president and chief executive. Volume, he said, is “a good indicator to raise awareness, but not sufficient to represent the impact on a water resource.”
The volume of water needed to produce a carton of orange juice or a bottle of Coca-Cola, for example, may be fixed; but the actual effect on a freshwater resource, and the local environment, can vary tremendously — including the amount of energy and raw materials used and the chemical and other waste contaminants created in the process.
To give a fuller view, Veolia’s index integrates other variables, including resource stress, water quality and competing consumption needs with existing volume-based water measurement tools.
Some analysts, however, question the usefulness of that approach.
Claudia Ringler, a senior research fellow in Montreal with the International Food Policy Research Institute, based in Washington, said water footprinting was a good concept in theory, but less so in practice. “It’s almost impossible to do a comprehensive analysis,” Ms. Ringler said. “One has to be very careful before drawing conclusions based on it.”
David Zetland, an economist and the author of a forthcoming book, “The End of Abundance: Your Guide to the New Economics of Water Scarcity,” said footprinting would serve little purpose unless, for a start, water was priced according to its value.
If water were appropriately priced, he said, the price of consumer products would reflect the amount of water used in making them. Since most consumers either would not understand footprinting, or would not care, Mr. Zetland said, they would almost always pay more attention to the price of what they bought than to a certificate on the label.
From the point of view of producing companies, he added, if water supplies were free, or nearly so, water footprinting and investments in water efficiency would remain superfluous. “Water footprinting has no operational, economic or social value to companies if the cost of labor and equipment to reduce water consumption exceeds the cost of the water saved,” Mr. Zetland said.
The basic problem, he said, is that the price of water rarely reflects its value or scarcity. “The price for most products combines value to consumers with the cost of production and delivery,” Mr. Zetland said. “Since the price of water only reflects the cost of delivery — the water itself is free — we don’t pay a price that reflects its value or scarcity.”
Still, not all experts are so dismissive. Even though water footprinting is still in its infancy, and there is no common agreement on what variables should be taken into account, tools like the Veolia index could help to map the relative risks associated with water use in specific locations, said Mr. Morrison, the Pacific Institute program director.
With water-related risk likely to become more pronounced over time, he said, “there is a lot of value to water footprinting, no matter how you define it.”
A recent report by the institute, prepared for the United Nations Environment Program, evaluated different water-accounting tools and found that many, though still evolving, would be essential to companies in their water risk and impact assessments and water management, Mr. Morrison added.
Water footprinting has also spawned interest in markets as a possible driver for smarter water use. Water markets are full of distortions, said Ms. Ringler, the International Food Policy research fellow, and it is almost impossible to create a real competitive international market. But there are examples of successful in-country water markets, she added, citing river basins in Australia and Chile.
Michael Van Patten is chief executive and founder of Mission Markets, a financial services company that operates Earth, a multi-environmental credit exchange regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in the United States. “We might be several years away, but the potential is huge,” he said. “The world knows we have a huge water problem, and no one knows how to solve it yet. This is one way to approach it.”
His idea is to develop tradable credits from the offsets of localized water projects. These could be bought by companies, countries or any community with a direct effect on the water supply. While there is no regulation in the United States to drive such a market, credit programs, if managed properly, could help to encourage environmental protection by reducing the costs involved, said Christian Holmes, a senior adviser for energy and environment at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Still, said Charles Iceland, an associate with the World Resources Institute, water is a highly political topic, and allocation decisions cannot be made on the basis of economic efficiency alone.
“Whatever management scheme you devise must have equity built into it,” Mr. Iceland said, “so that people have their human right to water.”
Being Too Clean Can Make Young People Sick
ANN ARBOR, Michigan, November 29, 2010 (ENS) – Age seems to matter when it comes to the health effects of environmental toxicants. Young people who are overexposed to antibacterial soaps containing triclosan may suffer more allergies, and exposure to higher levels of bisphenol A among adults may harm the immune system, a new University of Michigan School of Public Health study suggests.
Triclosan is a chemical compound used in products such as antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, pens, diaper bags and medical devices.
Bisphenol A is found in many plastics and used as a protective lining in food cans.
Both of these chemicals are in a class of environmental toxicants called endocrine disrupting compounds, which are believed to negatively impact human health by mimicking or affecting hormones.
Using data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, University of Michigan researchers compared urinary bisphenol A and triclosan with cytomegalovirus antibody levels and diagnosis of allergies or hay fever in a sample of U.S. adults and children over age six.
Allergy and hay fever diagnosis and cytomegalovirus, CMV, antibodies were used as two separate markers of immune alterations.
“We found that people over age 18 with higher levels of BPA exposure had higher CMV antibody levels, which suggests their cell-mediated immune system may not be functioning properly,” said Erin Rees Clayton, research investigator at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and first author on the paper.
Researchers also found that people age 18 and under with higher levels of triclosan were more likely to report diagnosis of allergies and hay fever.
There is growing concern among the scientific community and consumer groups that these endocrine disrupting compounds are dangerous to humans at lower levels than previously thought.
“The triclosan findings in the younger age groups may support the hygiene hypothesis, which maintains living in very clean and hygienic environments may impact our exposure to micro-organisms that are beneficial for development of the immune system,” said Allison Aiello, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and principal investigator on the study.
As an antimicrobial agent found in many household products, triclosan may play a role in changing the micro-organisms to which we are exposed in such a way that our immune system development in childhood is affected.
“It is possible that a person can be too clean for their own good,” said Aiello, who is also a visiting associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard.
Previous animal studies indicate that bisphenol A and triclosan may affect the immune system, but this is the first known study to look at exposure to BPA and triclosan as it relates to human immune function, Aiello said.
One surprise finding is that with bisphenol A exposure, age seems to matter, said Rees Clayton. In people 18 or older, higher amounts of BPA were associated with higher CMV levels, but in people younger than 18 the reverse was true.
“This suggests the timing of the exposure to BPA and perhaps the quantity and length of time we are exposed to BPA may be affecting the immune system response,” Rees Clayton said.
This is just the first step, she said, but a very important one. Going forward, researchers would like to study the long-term effects of BPA and triclosan in people to see if they can establish a causal relationship.
One limitation of the study is that it measured disease and exposure simultaneously and thus shows only part of the picture, Aiello said.
“It is possible, for example, that individuals who have an allergy are more hygienic because of their condition, and that the relationship we observed is, therefore, not causal or is an example of reverse causation,” Aiello said.
The paper, “The Impact of Bisphenol A and Triclosan on Immune Parameters in the U.S. Population,” appears in the current online issue of the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives.”
EPA Will Test 134 More Chemicals for Endocrine Disruption
WASHINGTON, DC, November 17, 2010 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified a list of 134 chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and possibly disrupt the hormones produced or secreted by the human or animal endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism and reproduction.
“Endocrine disruptors represent a serious health concern for the American people, especially children. Americans today are exposed to more chemicals in our products, our environment and our bodies than ever before, and it is essential that EPA takes every step to gather information and prevent risks,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
“We are using the best available science to examine a larger list of chemicals and ensure that they are not contaminating the water we drink and exposing adults and children to potential harm,” she said.
EPA is already screening an initial group of 67 pesticide chemicals. In October 2009, the agency issued orders to companies requiring endocrine disruptor screening program data for these chemicals.
The agency will begin issuing orders requiring data for the second group of 134 chemicals beginning in 2011.
The chemicals listed include those used in products such as solvents, gasoline, plastics, personal care products, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals.
On the list for testing is benzene, a known carcinogen used as an industrial solvent and in the production of drugs, plastics, synthetic rubber, and dyes.
Perchlorate, used in fireworks and rocket fuel, is on the list and so is ethylene glycol, an organic compound widely used as an automotive antifreeze.
The list includes chemicals that have been identified as priorities under the Safe Drinking Water Act and may be found in sources of drinking water where a substantial number of people may be exposed, the EPA said today.
The pharmaceutical chemicals to be screened include two of the best known and most widely used drugs in the United States – erythromycin and nitroglycerin.
Erythromycin is an antibiotic used to treat bronchitis; diphtheria; Legionnaires’ disease; whooping cough; pneumonia; rheumatic fever; and venereal disease; as well as ear, intestine, lung, urinary tract, and skin infections.
Nitroglycerin spray and tablets are used to treat episodes of angina, or chest pain, in people who have coronary artery disease, narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart.
The list also includes pesticide active ingredients that are being evaluated under EPA�s registration review program to ensure they meet current scientific and regulatory standards.
The data generated from the screens will provide systematic scientific information to help EPA identify whether additional testing is necessary, or whether other steps are necessary to address potential endocrine disrupting chemicals.
EPA also announced today draft policies and procedures the agency will follow to order testing, minimize duplicative testing, promote equitable cost-sharing, and to address issues that are unique to chemicals regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
After public comment and review, EPA will issue test orders to pesticide registrants and the manufacturers of these chemicals to compel them to generate data to determine whether their chemicals may disrupt the estrogen, androgen and thyroid pathways of the endocrine system.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Michael Smith, Department of Environmental Protection
Pennsylvania Expands Keystone HELP Loan Program to Help Homeowners Install Money-Saving Geothermal Systems
New Program Puts Federal Recovery Act Funds to Work Creating Jobs, Producing Clean Energy
HUMMELSTOWN, DAUPHIN CO. — Pennsylvania homeowners who want to cut their heating and cooling bills in half now have a new, affordable method for financing clean geothermal heat pump systems, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger and Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord announced today.
The officials said a new Keystone Home Energy Loan Program option offers low-interest loans that are combined with companion loans given in anticipation of federal tax credits for fuel-conserving geothermal systems.
Hanger and McCord made the announcement while visiting the home of Peter and Laurel Hartwell, who are using Cleona-based G.F. Bowman Inc. to install a geothermal heat pump system.
The program is made possible with $5 million from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and could help as many as 750 homeowners purchase geothermal systems. Installing the systems will create hundreds of jobs for contractors like G.F. Bowman.
“Geothermal really is one of the great, largely untapped forms of renewable energy that is available to us,” said Secretary Hanger. “Fortunately, more consumers are recognizing this and are making the smart decision to put geothermal systems in their homes. This program will make sure more families have access to this clean, money-saving technology by offering new financing options. That’s good news for consumers, our economy and our environment.”
The secretary added that by taking advantage of these federal and state incentives, geothermal systems can pay for themselves within only five to 10 years.
“Keystone HELP is a triple winner: families can make energy efficiency improvements to their homes that save money and reduce energy use, the commonwealth earns a secure return, and the program creates good-paying, much-needed jobs for local installers, contractors, and manufacturers,” Treasurer McCord said. “Less pollution, lower costs, and more jobs—good work on three fronts.”
Under the new geothermal loan program, qualifying homeowners can take advantage of an unsecured 4.99 percent loan for up to $15,000 with a term of up to 10 years. McCord noted that homeowners can also elect to take an optional “tax credit anticipation loan” equal to the expected 30-percent federal tax credit up to a maximum of $10,000. The HELP program will make the first 12 monthly payments of the tax credit anticipation loan and homeowners can use the tax credit they receive to pay the remainder of the loan without any prepayment penalties.
Other special financing is available to homeowners who install a geothermal heat pump system as part of a comprehensive “whole house” improvement project recommended through a certified energy audit. In this case, qualifying homeowners can obtain a secured Keystone HELP loan for up to $35,000 with rates as low as 2.875 percent.
All work financed through Keystone HELP must be completed by a certified local contractor.
“This program is another great example of how the federal stimulus program is helping us build a green economy in Pennsylvania while encouraging private investment and putting people to work,” said Hanger. “To date, the federal stimulus has directed more than $136 million to our state for clean energy projects like wind and solar, plus another $253 million to help consumers save money by weatherizing their homes. And we’ve leveraged those funds to attract about $1 billion in private investment.
“These are good investments in our economy that will pay dividends for decades to come, not only through lower utility bills, but also through cleaner air and cleaner water.”
Created in 2006 by the Pennsylvania Treasury and AFC First Financial Corp. of Allentown, Keystone HELP offers affordable energy efficiency financing options, including rebates and low-interest loans, enabling homeowners to purchase and install energy efficient equipment or undertake improvements to cut energy use.
Keystone HELP began offering even lower rate loans in 2009, when Treasury partnered with DEP to expand the program’s impact by using funds provided under Pennsylvania’s 2008 Alternative Energy Investment Act.
Keystone HELP has helped more than 7,000 homeowners finance more than $58 million in money-saving home improvements. Visit www.keystonehelp.com to learn more or to apply for a loan.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120