Power to Save: ‘Made in Scranton’ Solar Power

Posted by WNEP.com.

MADISON TOWNSHIP — So far, this summer has been a little lacking in sunlight, but still, one man’s new addition to his backyard in Lackawanna County is doing well. When you meet Joe Dickey, two things are clear: he’s proud of his home near Moscow, and he cares a lot about the environment. There’s a […]

Shortchanged? Landowners, Lawmakers, Prosecutors Target Gas Driller

Posted by WNEP.com.

LITCHFIELD, PA — The Drake brothers thought their century-old family farm near Sayre would make them rich. Back in 2000, they sold the natural gas rights on their 490 acre farm to Chesapeake Energy. “It’s going to be free, easy money,” said Jim Drake. It began in 2010, when the well on the Drake farm […]

Police: 1 dead, 3 hospitalized after Route 309 accident

Posted by 69News:.

A 24-year-old Luzerne County man died late Wednesday night in a single-vehicle wreck on Route 309 South in Bucks County, Pennridge Regional police said Thursday.

Todd Rubin, of Dallas, Pa., was the front-seat passenger in a 2005 Saturn sedan that crashed on the Route 33 Bypass just north of the Lawn Avenue exit in West Rockhill Township, according to Detective Daryl Lewis said. He was pronounced dead at the scene by a reprsentative of the Bucks County Coroner’s Office.

The driver and two backseat passengers were taken by ambulance to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township with unspecified injuries, Lewis said. All three are expected to survive, he said.

The driver is a 22-year-old man and the backseat passengers are a 22-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl, said Lewis, who declined to release their names and hometowns.

Lewis said some, but not all of the vehicle’s occupants were wearing their seat belts.

The crash happened at about 10:18 p.m. when the southbound driver swerved off Route 309, down an embankment and struck several trees, Lewis said. Both southbound traffic lanes of the highway were closed until about 4 a.m., he said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, Lewis said. The county coroner did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday morning.

Serious accident closes Route 309 in Bucks County

Posted by 69News:.

UPDATE:Police: 1 dead, 3 hospitalized in Route 309 accident

Police are investigating a serious crash that occurred Wednesday night on Route 309 South in West Rockhill Township, Bucks County.

The crash occurred after 10 p.m. and closed the road for several hours, according to a county 911 dispatcher. Police and other emergency personnel were still on scene early Thursday morning.

Police were not immediately available for comment and there is little information available about the wreck. Early reports indicate at least one vehicle involved was occupied by four people.

St. Joseph Regional Health Network now part of Penn State Health

Posted by 69News:.

The Berks County-based St. Joseph Regional Health Network is now officially part of Penn State Health.

Catholic Health Initiatives announced Wednesday that it has completed the transfer of its ownership of St. Joseph to Penn State.

The move, officials said, will help the health networks tend to more patients in the region.

“Adding St. Joseph to our Penn State Health family enhances our ability to provide increased access to specialty care for the people of the Berks region in a high-quality, low-cost setting,” said Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, dean of Penn State College of Medicine, CEO of Penn State Health, and the university’s senior vice president for health affairs. “It also will allow us to engage the community in meaningful ways to enhance overall health and well-being.”

St. Joseph, founded in 1873 by the Sisters of St. Francis, has a 212-bed hospital and health campus in Bern Township, a community health center in downtown Reading and 16 ambulatory care centers in Berks County and neighboring Chester County.

The acquisition, officials said, builds on a clinical relationship Penn State Health and St. Joseph established in 2010.

“This agreement moves us another important step closer to achieving the promise of the health care of the future,” said John R. Morahan, president and CEO of St. Joseph Regional Health Network. “In this new era of healthy communities, we will be well-positioned to address population health, which helps people stay healthy, focuses on management of chronic diseases and avoids costly medical care.”

All St. Joseph employees are expected to continue in their current positions.

Up & Atom Science: The science behind fireworks

Posted by 69News:.

This morning, we’re exploring the science behind the firework displays that will light up the sky this holiday weekend.

Tyler Groft from the Da Vinci Science Center joined WFMZ’s Eve Tannery and Will Lewis on 69 News at Sunrise to share a family-friendly firework experiment.

Rash of car break-ins, thefts hit Chester, Montgomery counties

Posted by 69News:.

Police are sounding the alarm on a dangerous trend sweeping across our region.

A rash of car break-ins and attempted thefts have left the victims fired up and demanding answers.

More than half a dozen police departments in Chester and Montgomery counties are joining forces to bring the crooks to justice.

One of the victims is Heather Leneweaver. Wednesday night she was grateful to see her Lexus back in her Lower Pottsgrove Township driveway.

Not long ago, she walked outside and the car was gone.

She says she felt violated.

“You know you work hard. That’s why we have vehicles. So, get a job and get a vehicle so you don’t have to steal someone else’s,” said Leneweaver.

Police are investigating a rash of car break-ins and attempted thefts in Lower Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove townships and Pottstown.

Thefts have also been reported in North Coventry, New Hanover and Limerick townships.

In most of the cases, police say the victims left their car keys in their unlocked vehicles.

Leneweaver says it’s something she’s used to doing.

Luckily her Lexus didn’t have any gas in the tank, and police spotted her car 30 minutes later, about a block away.

But Leneweaver says police put a tracker on this vehicle. So when the crooks returned with a canister of gas, it didn’t take long for the police to swarm in.

“Thankfully, the car is back, no damage is done. And I was able to help other victims by using our car as a bait car,” said Leneweaver.

Currently, police say two juveniles are being held in connection with this theft.

Other thefts remain under investigation.

If you have any information on these crimes, you’re urged to contact police.

Northampton County scrambles to fix pay raise error

Posted by 69News:.

Northampton County Council Wednesday night formally signed off on 5 percent pay raises won by 5 unions in a collective bargaining award for court-appointed, non-professional workers and youth care workers.

But despite lengthy discussion and debate council was unable to resolve what to do with some 17 clerical workers at district justice offices throughout the county who are already at the top of their pay scale.

Those workers, some of whom attended the council meeting with their attorney, Chris Spadoni, believed they would receive the 4.5 percent pay raise council approved in an April 27 resolution for 228 county workers.

“My clients want you to enforce your resolution,” Spadoni told council.

Ryan Durkin, the solicitor for County Executive John Brown, said the administration never intended those raises to apply to workers at top pay scale and blamed a “scrivener’s error” in the composition of the council resolution.

An amended resolution eliminating those workers from the larger group was tabled and council president Peg Ferraro said council needs a “detailed report put together.”

“I need to know the ramifications,,” she said.

Spadoni said those workers currently earn $19.20 an hour and the raise would bring them to $20.64. Council member Ken Kraft said the raises, collectively, would be $31,000.

Several council members said the intent of the original resolution was to raise the pay for entry level workers because potential hires walked away when they learned the starting pay.

Even the workers who received the 5 percent raises are not in the best financial health, Justus James, an AFSCME union agent, told council.

“As great as that sounds, they are still behind the eight ball,” James said, referring to rising health care costs, which he estimated has left workers $2,000 a year in the red.

In other action, council introduced a resolution that, if passed by voters in a referendum, would change the name of Northampton County Council to the Northampton Board of Commissioners.

Lower Saucon council says landfill expansion will hurt environment

Posted by 69News:.

From increased odors to increased truck traffic, Lower Saucon Township officials have numerous environmental concerns about the IESI landfill, which is seeking state approval to expand.

The township council formalized those concerns Wednesday night, by approving sending a 21-page technical letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which must approve the expansion request.

The letter about environmental “harms” not addressed by the landfill is being sent as part of DEP’s assessment of the expansion application.

That letter maintains the landfill’s application “does not address to the level necessary the impact of traffic, noise, visual impact, air quality and odor” on surrounding residents.

“The list of harms should be more complete and more clearly identified,” states the township’s letter to DEP.

The letter was summarized for township council members by Jim Birdsall, Lower Saucon’s landfill engineer.

Operators of the landfill along Applebutter Road in the township want to expand it by six more acres, on the southeastern section of their 201-acre property.

They also are seeking DEP approval to “realign” 23 acres of existing landfill in that same area. They propose putting more waste on top of a section of landfill that already has been capped, complete with a new liner system.

They say making those changes will extend the operational life of the landfill by at least five more years.

The township is asking DEP to require IESI to “define and mitigate” the following harms:

-Additional truck traffic.

-Landfill gases and odor resulting from the exposure of old waste to the air.

-Exposure of old waste to rain and snow in unlined sections of the landfill.

-Visibility of an expanded landfill from the Delaware & Lehigh Canal towpath and from homes and a park in the Steel City neighborhood.

-Noise and odor from the expanded section that will reach homes of residential neighbors immediately east and south of the landfill.

Birdsall stressed: “All these things are supposed to be identified in an environmental impact statement similar to what they have put together.”

Elaborating on those points, he said: “They didn’t identify the traffic sufficiently, in our opinion, because they didn’t take into account the trucks that are coming in and bringing soil to the cover.”

The engineer said the landfill did not address the harm related to that additional truck traffic —increasing noise levels, increasing damage to roads and more levels of traffic than may be acceptable.

“They also failed to identify additional air pollution resulting from those trucks.”

He said the landfill also has not identified existing levels of air quality degradation or additional degradation that will occur as a result of the additional filling operation.

He said IESI plans to uncover old garbage “and we know from experience that exposes the neighborhood to additional odor and landfill gases.”

“We don’t believe they’ve identified that impact on the neighbors immediately to the east and southeast, which is the prevailing downwind location — where residents are much closer to the landfill than the Steel City folks on the west side,” said the engineer.

Birdsall said the operators also have not addressed leaching that may occur during short periods of time when waste in the landfill will be exposed “while they’re rebuilding part of it.”

He said an old section of the landfill, which originally was operated by Bethlehem, has no liner —meaning there is nothing to stop storm water contaminated by landfill waste from reaching groundwater.

Birdsall said the last major “harm” item being pointed out to DEP has to do with visual impact.

He said the expanded landfill will be higher than the current DEP permit allows.

If the expansion is approved, he said the top of the landfill may be visible from the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor along the Lehigh River.

DEP has set a July 10 deadline for “first-round public comments,” Birdsall told township officials, because DEP wants to issue its first review letter on the landfill’s request by the end of July.

DEP held a public question-and-answer session on the landfill’s expansion plans on June 22 in Saucon Valley High School.

Birdsall told township council members he had reviewed a draft of the letter with IESI engineers.

“We asked them to look for errors of fact or outrageous opinion, you might say,” said Birdsall, adding those engineers did not see any errors.

Township council member Priscilla deLeon complimented the letter as “pretty comprehensive.”

Council member David Willard said reading the 21-page letter made him realize “how incredibly complex and technical this process is.”

“This is a pretty challenging letter on many points,” said Willard, who asked if DEP is required to respond to all those points.

“We would hope that IESI would provide a point-by-point response,” said Birdsall, adding landfill operators have told him they will do that, “regardless of DEP’s requirements.”

But he added: “Based on past practices, DEP will take these comments very seriously.”

The engineer explained that state will want to see if the township’s comments are valid. If they are, he indicated, DEP may want issues raised corrected or “off-set by some benefit.”

He continued: “The analysis of how they determine benefits is very subjective. They’ll look for environmental benefits first. But if no other environmental benefits can reasonably be given, they’ll look to other benefits, like your host fee.”

Pipeline update

On a different environmental issue during Wednesday’s meeting, Atty. Charles Elliott provided an extensive report about a June 18 meeting between township officials and representatives of the controversial PennEast Pipeline.

In January, township council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the pipeline, which would run for about 3.5 miles in Lower Saucon.

Elliott reported PennEast representatives made a power presentation on June 18 and then answered officials’ questions.

He said Lower Saucon officials wanted to know why PennEast was not making its presentation in a public forum.

They were told doing so “is not effective.”

“They claimed opponents of the pipeline would hijack the meetings and make it difficult for people to ask questions and get answers,” said Elliott. “They wanted an opportunity to make a presentation to the township directly, without the public present.”

“We asked for a public meeting and couldn’t get it, and decided we were better with a private meeting than no meeting,” said council member Willard.

DeLeon said she told PennEast’s representatives “you’re here privately, but we’re going to be talking about this in a public meeting, so whatever you tell us is going to be stated publicly.”

Township officials said PennEast’s power point presentation is being posted on the township’s website.

Willard said that presentation and having Elliot’s “detailed report on the record tonight was a substitute and the best we could do. But I don’t think any of us felt comfortable about the fact that it couldn’t be a public meeting.”

Willard said the gas line consortium’s front men “have their standard answers to the objections because they are the same objections over and over, everywhere.”

Willard’s bottom line? “We acted responsibly and properly by passing the resolution opposing the resolution opposing this pipeline when we did.”

He’s convinced there is “overwhelming public opinion against this project.”

Said Willard: “It was stated that FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] seldom denies a proposal, but that pipeline companies do sometimes withdraw if there is too much public opposition.”

Elliott said that public opposition is translated into people refusing to grant survey permission to pipeline planners.

New preserve for township

Township council formally designated Woodland Hills Preserve as a township-owned recreation place, subject to Lower Saucon’s park rules and regulations.

Last year, the township purchased 149 acres of the former Woodland Hills Golf Course from Alex Patullo, to preserve it as open space.

Woodland Hills was operated as a golf course between 1965 and 2010. Since then, it slowly has been reverting to its natural state.

The township paid $1.7 million for the property, which is between Countryside Lane and Lower Saucon Road.

Of that total, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources contributed $700,000, Northampton County contributed $300,000 and the township’s open space fund contributed $700,000.

Uses permitted in the preserve will include hiking on marked trails, bird watching, fishing in ponds, cross-country skiing and walking leashed dogs.

New manager coming

The township is beginning the process to hire a manager to replace Jack Cahalan, who has been running Lower Saucon for 13 years.

Cahalan is retiring at the end of this year.

No decision was made Wednesday, but the township council may hire David Woglom of the Meyner Center at Lafayette College, at $75 an hour, to conduct the search for a new manager.

But deLeon recommended first checking with the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors to see what resources it has available to conduct a search for a new manager.

She said hiring Woglom may be the best proposal, “but right now I have nothing to compare it to.”

All four council members at the meeting voted to check with the state association before acting on hiring Woglom, whom Cahalan said is well-known throughout eastern Pennsylvania for his expertise in recruiting township managers.

The four council members also voted to appoint Charles Luthar and Tina Krasnansky to their new budget advisory committee. They intend to appoint a third member soon.

Man charged in Easton area raids is a long-time drug dealer, records show

Posted by Real-Time News.

The 39-year-old had been out of federal prison for a little more than a year, records show.

The man arrested on drug charges by Easton police on Wednesday in a Palmer Township hotel was freed in February 2014 after being sentenced in 2010 to 10 years in federal prison, court papers show.

Shyheem Smith, now 39, pleaded guilty Nov. 15, 2010, to December 2008 charges of distribution of crack cocaine (three counts), distribution of 5 grams or more of crack (two counts) and possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of crack, according to paperwork from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Easton police monitored Smith and a co-defendant for about four months in 2008 before charging them Dec. 23 of that year, according to an Express-Times account of the arrests.

Three sales were made to cooperating witnesses in city parking lots on the South Side and Downtown, police said at the time.

When Smith was arrested Dec. 23, 2008, he was in possession of 70 grams of crack, police said.

Smith was charged in county court, but cases there were ended by the prosecution, court papers show, likely in deference to the federal charges.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Smith received credit for time served after his arrest but before his guilty plea. If the clock was ticking from the time of his arrest and he never made bail, he would have been behind bars for five years and less than two months out of the 10-year sentence.

Court papers from his 2010 guilty plea show he was prohibited from owning a firearm.

After Smith was arrested Wednesday, police say they severed narcotics search warrants at 1010 Belmont St. in Williams Township and 227 S. 17th St. in Wilson Borough. They recovered $30,000 in cocaine, a loaded 25-caliber handgun, nearly $19,000 in cash, a police scanner and packaging/manufacturing equipment, police said.

Four vehicles were also taken and will be searched at a later time, Lt. Matthew Gerould said. Smith was selling drugs across the West Ward and controlled buys were made as part of the investigation, Gerould said.

While Henry Rouhand and Grace Sarkis, who Northampton County property records show own 1010 Belmont St., didn’t immediately return a phone message, the owner of 227 S. 17 St., David Colver, said Smith wasn’t on the lease for Apartment 2 and he’d never heard his name before.

Colver said a woman and a boy live in the upstairs apartment.

“He’s not my tenant,” Colver, the head of the Palmer Township supervisors, said, adding he spends a lot of time around his properties and there was no “guy or boyfriend” living in the apartment.

Gerould said Smith was “bouncing around” various homes and hotels, likely in an effort to avoid police.

Colver said he hadn’t heard a narcotics search warrant was served Wednesday at his property, which fronts at 1701 Washington Blvd., but his next stop on Thursday would be his Wilson Borough property to find out what was going on, he said.

Smith in September 2001 was charged in Easton with possession with intent to deliver crack, records show. On July 7 of that year he sold a gram of crack to a confidential informant and more crack and a small amount of marijuana were found in the patrol car after his arrest, police said at the time.

He pleaded guilty in May 2002 to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance — two related charges were dropped — and was sentenced to 15 to 54 months in state prison, court records say. He was released June 23, 2004, court papers say.

Smith was arraigned Wednesday night on the most recent charges and sent to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $100,000 bail, a Northampton County Department of Corrections employee confirmed.