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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Heads Up: Morning headlines for Jan. 10

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 9:07 AM

A cloud is hanging over the county's new air regulations -- the first since 1988. The county's health panel last night voted to weaken regulations it had almost unanimously approved just a couple months ago. And apparently, it changed its mind after board members met with county executive Rich Fitzgerald. The effect of the change is to push back the point at which emissions are measured: Originally, measurements would be taken at the polluter's property line -- the new standards move that back to the "nearest habitable structure." The change was opposed by Michael Bett, a county councilor whose hometown is near heavily industrialized Neville Island, but supporters -- including the usual industry suspects -- say that what matters are pollution levels where people are breathing. (Screw the animals and plants and stuff, I guess.) This ain't going to endear Fitzgerald to environmentalists, some of whom were already wary of his willingness to embrace the natural-gas business. But I see a loophole here: Environmentalists could just plop down a mobile home next door to the factory and start taking readings from there.

And speaking of concerns about government officials backing away from environmental problems ... a new report suggests the state Department of Environmental Protection has been overlooking the existence of some 15,000 gas wells in the state, an oversight which may be costing taxpayers more than $300 million in revenues they'd be entitled to. this isn't a case of sneaky drillers hiding the wells underground so they'll be hard to see: The report says that the state databases don't include some recently-drilled wells ... and that the state overlooks much older wells -- some drilling in the 1800s -- that now use fracking or otherwise ought to count as "unconventional" wells that should pay impact fees. The DEP denies all this, saying the report's authors don't understand the criteria for choosing which wells to tax.

Did hackers open up the contents of a confidential police tip webpage for public inspection? Maybe so. WTAE stumbled across the page, which contained "dozens of [crime] tips going back more than a year, with names and email addresses of tipsters and details about alleged crimes." City officials, who quickly moved to plug the leak, speculate that the page may have been hacked.

Turns out that there are some government jobs Republicans want to protect after all -- like those in state prisons. State Sen. Kim Ward, a Westmoreland County Republican, is among the officials calling for hearings into Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to shut down a prison in her district and another older facility, replacing them with a newer prison. Corbett says that could save as much as $35 million a year, but all the sudden we're in favor of government spending, I guess.

Somehow it all makes sense: A recent poll took a look at where Pennsylvanians get their news. As you might expect, younger people are more likely to turn to the internet, older ones to the newspaper. But Republicans are more likely than Democrats to get their news from the internet and TV (koff Fox News koff). While Dems are twice as likely to get their news from newspapers.

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