State Capitol Roundup – October 29, 2010

A weekly summary of important events on Capitol Hill
Provided by Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Harborcreek) 

Governor Signs Natural Gas Drilling Moratorium 

As Pennsylvania continues to harness the potential in the Marcellus Shale region, Gov. Ed Rendell signed an executive order this week to halt additional leasing of state forest lands for drilling.  Approximately 1.5 million acres of state forest lands sit atop the Marcellus Shale formation, of which 800,000 have not been made available for natural gas development.  The governor had previously announced in the spring the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would not be leasing any more land for drilling.  With a new administration coming into office next year, the governor wanted to strengthen the agency policy.  The House Republican plan to harness the state’s natural gas potential, called “Marcellus Works,” has the dual goals of protecting the environment and creating jobs.  The governor supports the Marcellus Works plan and has endorsed it to the president.  For the latest news, visit 

Prison Reform Measure Now Law 

As Pennsylvania continues to face the challenge of significant overcrowding in the state’s prison system, Gov. Ed Rendell signed a prison reform bill into law this week.  Senate Bill 1161, now Act 95 of 2010, directs the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to adopt a system of risk assessment for use by judges in sentencing criminal offenders.  Criminals identified as lower risk to reoffend may be recommended for alternative sentencing programs instead of additional prison time, such as county and state intermediate punishment programs.  The measure also provides for a graduated sanctioning system for certain parole violations, including breaking a curfew or failing to report to a parole agent.  It further authorizes the parole board to grant parole to inmates not guilty of a violent crime or a sex offense whose only requirement for parole is completion of programming that can be safely conducted in the community. 

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to Open Soon 

Pennsylvania’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for cash grants Nov. 1.  Crisis grants will be available on Jan. 3, 2011.  LIHEAP helps low-income people pay their heating bills through home energy assistance grants and crisis grants.  Cash grants are awarded based on household income, family size, type of heating fuel and region.  Crisis grants are provided in the event of a heating emergency, including broken heating equipment or leaking lines that must be fixed or replaced, lack of fuel, termination of utility service or danger of being without fuel or of having utility service terminated.  An average family of four making $35,280 is eligible for assistance.  For complete eligibility requirements and additional information on LIHEAP, visit Sonney’s website at and click on “LIHEAP Information.”

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