Susan Phillips tells stories about the consequences of political decisions on people's every day lives. A native Philadelphian with roots in central Pennsylvania, Susan travels extensively around the state as both a reporter, and a hiker. She has worked as a reporter for WHYY since 2004. Susan's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election resulted in a story on the front page of the New York Times. In 2010 she travelled to Haiti to cover the earthquake. In 2010 she produced an award-winning series on Pennsylvania's natural gas rush called "The Shale Game." A graduate of Columbia School of Journalism, she earned her Bachelor's degree in International Relations from George Washington University.
"We have to be the voice of the birds," said Paul Zeph, of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society.
Deep in the Loyalsock State Forest, where no cell phone signal reaches, the sounds of rushing waterfalls and forest birds are suddenly interrupted by the sound of a helicopter.
Paul Zeph of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society says the noise could be related to gas drilling. Drillers will often drop seismic testing equipment into remote areas that are difficult to reach by roads. And that leads Zeph to cite one of the many worries that naturalists and outdoors lovers have with plans to expand drilling in the Loyalsock.
“Song birds identify one another through singing and they identify their territory through singing,” says Zeph. “With a very noisy environment, studies are starting to show that it’s impairing the ability to find mates.”
After battling the Department of Environmental Protection for a year to release water test records, the Scranton Times-Tribune has sifted through hundreds of documents that show incomplete record keeping and questions over the thoroughness of DEP’s investigations.
State environmental regulators determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses between 2008 and the fall of 2012, according to a cache of nearly 1,000 letters and enforcement orders written by Department of Environmental Protection officials and obtained by The Sunday Times.
Penn State geologist Terry Engelder, who helped propel the state’s shale gas boom by revealing how much natural gas lies trapped within the Marcellus, says the industry would be better off with more disclosure. Speaking to Gas Rush Stories producer Kirsi Jansa after a panel discussion on the lack of openness at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Engelder says resources should be spent on making the DEP more transparent. Check out the video below for more:
Both environmentalists and industry are unhappy with the new federal rules, which would apply to about 700 million acres, located primarily in the West. Pennsylvania has less than 5,000 acres of actively producing land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Thursday issued a new set of proposed rules governing hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on public lands, moving further to address industry concerns about the costs and reporting burdens of federal regulation.
Ernest Moniz testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on his nomination to be US Energy Secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 09 April 2013.
Ernest Moniz, President Barack Obama’s pick for Energy Secretary, glided easily through the nomination process, garnering unanimous support from the Senate. The MIT physics professor replaces Steven Chu, who stepped down in April.
Moniz served as undersecretary for the agency during the Clinton Administration. He currently runs MIT’s Energy Initiative, which is partly funded by the oil industry. Moniz supports shale gas production, and his nomination won praise from the American Petroleum Institute’s CEO Jack Gerard.
“Secretary Moniz understands the energy revolution underway in the United States,” wrote Gerard in a release. “New technology and the use of that technology are showing we have vastly more energy potential than we thought we had even just a short time ago. The U.S. is awash in natural gas with huge additional productive capacity that can fully supply domestic markets with affordable and clean-burning natural gas, enhance our energy security and allow for exports well into the future.”
PITTSBURGH — For companies looking to break into the natural gas business here, a Marcellus Shale Coalition membership is key. Four years ago, MSC was little more than an informal umbrella over a smattering of energy companies exploring the Marcellus Shale’s potential to yield natural gas.
But almost two-thirds support a drilling moratorium in order to study the risks. Pollster and University of Michigan professor Barry Rabe says that’s not such a contradiction.
“A moratorium is not a ban,” says Rabe. “A moratorium is taking some time out and taking some time to develop a policy and process as opposed to completely prohibiting. So if there is a mixture of possible benefits and risks, support for a moratorium might be viewed as a way to view all those risks and minimize them before going forward.”
Most polled view Pennsylvania’s natural gas reserves as a public, rather than a private resource. And 59 percent of those polled view fracking as a major risk to water resources. When it comes to full disclosure of fracking ingredients, 81 percent of Pennsylvania residents “strongly agree.” Continue Reading →
The west branch of the Susquehanna River in Clinton County.
When it comes to Marcellus Shale Gas development, the differences between the Delaware River Basin Commission and its central Pennsylvania counterpart, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, are stark. The DRBC has been the force behind a drilling moratorium in Northeast Pennsylvania and southern New York. But the Susquehanna River Basin Commission has not weighed in on shale gas regulations, aside from monitoring water withdrawals.
For the past several years, environmentalists have put heavy pressure on the SRBC to change that. They argue that, like the DRBC, the SRBC should view its role as protecting water quality as well as quantity. These groups want the SRBC to do a cumulative environmental analysis of the impact of shale gas development on the river basin.
A liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tank at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Futtsu Thermal Power Station, east of Tokyo. Japan has had to increase its imports of LNG since the Fukushima disaster reduced its supply of nuclear energy.
The Financial Times reports that President Obama may be ready to support more exports of liquefied natural gas, after the President was quoted this weekend saying the U.S. may be a net exporter of natural gas by 2020. The push for exports comes from the natural gas industry, which has experienced a boom in shale gas production that has pushed down prices nationwide while prices overseas remain high.
The Department of Energy is considering new applications for LNG export terminals. One of those proposals would be in Cove Point, Maryland, a facility owned by Dominion Resources along the Chesapeake Bay. It’s the closest proposal to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. A coalition of environmental groups has filed public comments against the plan. The Sierra Club, along with a number of local groups have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the project.
“The communities that surround the Chesapeake depend on the Bay and its rivers for our food, livelihood and way of life,” said Robin Broder, Vice President of Potomac Riverkeeper in a release. “It’s unthinkable that federal officials would rubber stamp this project without a careful look at how our Bay and upstream communities and natural resources will be affected by increased fracking for natural gas.” Continue Reading →
While still heading the Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Krancer helped promote the economic benefits of Marcellus Shale development. Here he is in front of the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County last August. He now works for the industry as an attorney for Blank Rome in Philadelphia.
Under former Secretary Michael Krancer, the Department of Environmental Protection was not always the easiest place to get information about Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
But it looks like Krancer is eager to talk about natural gas drilling now that he’s switched to the private sector.
Under Krancer, right-to-know requests for inspectors’ notes about drilling-related water complaints were denied. Requests to speak directly to DEP field officers were denied because “they were too busy” to talk. Calling to DEP staffers at home for interviews was decried as “unacceptable” and “unprofessional” behavior.
Sometimes days would pass before requests for comments or information about drilling-related spills and accidents got answered by DEP.
One memorable example was a June 19 incident in Tioga County about 35 miles from Williamsport. After an anonymous tipster reported a well leak, DEP at first could provide no information in response to StateImpact’s inquiries.
Scott Detrow, then a StateImpact reporter, hustled to the scene and found a 30-foot geyser of gas and water that had been spraying out of the ground for more than a week in Union Township, Tioga County. In fact, Shell, the company drilling nearby that caused the blow-out, had temporarily evacuated nearby residents. Here’s more from Scott’s report: Continue Reading →
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