Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Scott Detrow

Reporter (Former)

Scott Detrow was StateImpact’s Harrisburg reporter until February 2013. Prior to that, he was Pennsylvania Public Radio’s State Capitol Bureau Chief from 2009 to 2011, covering the 2010 gubernatorial campaign and 2009 budget impasse, among other stories. Scott has also worked as a reporter and anchor at WITF-FM and WFUV-FM, and won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for covering a Pennsylvania National Guard brigade’s deployment to Iraq. He grew up in New Jersey and Wisconsin.

Chesapeake Energy Offers Buyouts To 275 Employees

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon

Chesapeake Energy, which operates more natural gas wells in Pennsylvania than any other company, is offering buyouts to 275 employees.

The move comes at the end of a year where Chesapeake faced tough questions about its finances, and receding natural gas prices.

Click here to read StateImpact Oklahoma’s report.

More questions about Chesapeake? Check out our reading guide to the drilling company.

Exelon Retires Philadelphia Power Plant

Another sign of Pennsylvania’s changing energy landscape: Exelon is shutting down a Philadelphia oil-fueled power plant. More from the Inquirer on the decision to shutter Schuylkill Generating Station:

Increasingly, the oil-burning plant at 2800 Christian St. has been little used, said Tim Wirth, a spokesman for Exelon’s power-generation unit in Kennett Square.

“It’s older, it’s not used very frequently, and it no longer makes economic sense,” Wirth said. In the last year, the plant’s 166-megawatt main unit was fired up only once to serve the regional power grid.

The plant was built by Peco Energy Co., then called Philadelphia Electric, which retained it in 1987 after selling off the adjacent Grays Ferry Station at 2600 Christian St. that produces heat for the Center City steam loop.

Veolia Energy, current owner of the district heating system, said the closure would not affect its 300 customers.

StateImpact Pennsylvania On “Tell Me More”

StateImpact Pennsylvania’s latest project, BoomTown, examines the cultural and economic affect the Marcellus Shale boom has had on one community, Towanda, Bradford County.

NPR’s Tell Me More focused on BoomTown during Thursday’s show. Click here to listen to Michel Martin’s interview with StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Scott Detrow and NPR’s Jeff Brady.

(And click here to view our multimedia report on Towanda’s drilling boom.)

Another Round Of Layoffs At PBS Coals

Another sign of a contracting market for coal: Pennsylvania-based PBS Coals is idling two mines and laying off 138 employees. The announcement comes five months after PBS laid off a quarter of its workforce. 

The AP reports on the latest round of PBS layoffs:

A company official did not immediately return a call for comment on the announcement it is idling the Roytown and Hart mines about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

But in a news release, the company again blamed softening demand for coal and tightening U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations for the layoffs.

Company President and CEO D. Lynn Shanks says “escalating costs and uncertainty generated by recently advanced EPA regulations and interpretations have created a challenging business climate for the entire coal industry.”

Towanda’s First Two Booms

Courtesy of Bradford County Historical Society

Towanda's second boom: Jobbers cut hemlock trees and peel bark on nearby Barclay Mountain around 1910.

StateImpact Pennsylvania’s latest project, BoomTown, documents how natural gas drilling has affected Towanda, Bradford County. Click here to watch and listen to the report.

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An industry moves into the area, builds up the community’s population and infrastructure, and makes a lot of money for a lot of people as it extracts natural resources.

It’s happening now in Towanda, with natural gas drilled from the Marcellus Shale formation deep underground. But it’s a storyline that has repeated itself in the Bradford County community for 200 years.

Exactly 200 years, in fact – the area’s first big coal boom began in 1812.

“The lumber and coal industry is where a lot of the money that made Towanda came from,” says Matt Carl, who manages the Bradford County Historical Society.  The organization is based in the former Bradford County jail. Carl keeps historic documents in old jail cells, and organizes lectures and parties in the courtyard where criminals used to be hanged.

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BoomTown: Radio Smart Talk Tackles Towanda

StateImpact Pennsylvania’s new multimedia project, BoomTown, examines how natural gas drilling has changed one community: Towanda, Bradford County.

Monday’s Radio Smart Talk focuses on Towanda, too.

Click here to listen to the show, which includes interviews with Towanda residents who appear in BoomTown, as well as the owner of a Susquehanna County restaurant that has established itself as a “demilitarized zone” where drilling politics is checked at the door.

BoomTown: How Drilling Has Changed Towanda, PA

Becky Lettenberger / NPR

Trucks drive down Towanda's main drag. Click on the image to view StateImpact Pennsylvania's new multimedia project, called "Boomtown."


StateImpact Pennsylvania’s latest project, BoomTown, documents how natural gas drilling has affected Towanda, Bradford County. Click here to watch and listen to the report.

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What does a drilling boom look like?

In Towanda, Bradford County, it looks like trucks rumbling across Veterans Memorial Bridge and down Main Street. The vehicles,  hauling water, chemicals, equipment, sand and dirt more to and from natural gas drilling sites, have been a steady presence since 2008, when hydraulic fracturing began in surrounding Bradford County.

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Comparing Cap-And-Trade To Carbon Taxes

With California implementing the nation’s first cap-and-trade system, and some Democrats in Washington renewing calls for a tax on carbon emissions, FuelFix compares and contrasts the two schemes: 

Both approaches – a carbon tax and cap and trade – put a price on the emissions that are heating the planet. But they do it in different ways. Use both systems at once, and companies could end up paying twice for the same pollution.

“You either have one or the other – you don’t have them both,” said Jasmin Ansar, climate economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group. “You’d have the danger of, in effect, double taxation.”

The chance of Congress adopting a carbon tax still seems remote. Many Republicans, doubtful about climate change, remain adamantly opposed to the tax, saying it would do little more than raise gasoline and electricity prices. The conflict with California’s cap-and-trade system may never happen. But it’s enough of a chance that officials at the California Air Resources Board, which oversees the cap-and-trade program, have started discussing it, even if they’re not sure how to respond.

From Food To Fuel: Olive Oil Powers Pittsburgh Truck

Wikimedia Commons

Is the next new fuel fad….olive oil? The organizers of a Pittsburgh-area effort aimed at collecting used oil from restaurants and turning it into biofuels hope so.

The Post-Gazette has the details on an olive and vegetable oil-fueled truck that’s driving from eatery to eatery in Oakland.

 It’s GTECH Strategies’ alternative-energy vehicle in a pilot campaign to collect waste cooking oil in a concentrated area.

The project has nine Oakland restaurants contributing so far.

Ting Yen stores about 35 pounds of used oil a day in the basement of Sushi Fuku on Oakland Avenue, including contributions from the owner of Oishii Bento across the street. He had previously contracted with a private company that paid him for the oil but he liked GTECH’s local pitch.

The Energy Information Administration’s New Report, In Four Charts

The analysts at the United States Energy Information Administration released their preliminary annual report on energy use Wednesday afternoon. (The full document won’t come out until early next year.)

The forecast aims to predict domestic energy production, use and cost over the next three decades. What’s  it say? Here are some highlights from in four easy-to-understand charts.

More Natural Gas – and Less Coal – Will Fuel Power Plants. In 2040, the EIA predicts coal will still be the country’s primary source for generating power. But the gap between coal and natural gas will significantly shrink. Right now, natural gas accounts for about a quarter of energy production, while coal generates 42 percent of power. The EIA expects a steady increase in natural gas-fired power plants will narrow that gap to just five percentage points.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

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