Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Susan Phillips

Reporter on leave for MIT Knight Science Fellowship

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. That same year she produced an award-winning series on Pennsylvania's natural gas rush called "The Shale Game." Along with her reporting partner Scott Detrow, she won the prestigious 2013 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Journalism Award for her work covering natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania. A graduate of Columbia School of Journalism, she earned her Bachelor's degree in International Relations from George Washington University.

“The Dream of Drilling in Wayne County is Fading”

A drilling moratorium remains as companies are not renewing leases. And it’s unclear whether the exploratory wells show drilling in Wayne County would be profitable.

HONESDALE – Four years ago, Hess employees slathered barbecue sauce on ribs and cut a cake adorned with the gas company’s logo at the Wayne County Fairgrounds to celebrate the closing of a monumental deal. The 1,000-plus members of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance had signed over more than 100,000 acres to Hess for potential gas development. The 1,000-plus members of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance had signed over more than 100,000 acres to Hess for potential gas development. Envisioning the riches they might make, they handed out “Drill Now” T-shirts and “I (heart) Marcellus Shale” bumper stickers at the barbecue.

Read more at: thetimes-tribune.com

AP: Study Finds Fracking Chemicals Didn’t Spread to Aquifer

Using chemical tracers, D.O.E researchers found that frack fluid did not travel up to drinking water aquifers at a test site in western Pennsylvania.

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press. After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

Read more at: bigstory.ap.org

Philadelphia an Unlikely Hub for LNG Exports

Liquefied natural gas pipes circulate around Dominion's Cove Point import terminal into holding tanks.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Liquefied natural gas pipes circulate around Dominion's Cove Point import terminal into holding tanks. A proposal to convert this import terminal into an export terminal is third on a list of 17 projects needing approval by the Department of Energy.

The Port of Philadelphia’s chances of becoming home to a liquefied natural gas export terminal are pretty slim, according to energy executives pitching Marcellus Shale gas to Chilean energy companies. On Wednesday, the energy company executives met with officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, PJM Interconnection, Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Sunoco Logistics at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  Philadelphia Energy Solutions CEO Phil Rinaldi laid out the prospects of a Philadelphia-based export terminal this way:

“Technically it’s very possible,” said Rinaldi. “Economically, it may be possible. Politically, it would be very difficult.”

Last week the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that brokers trying to sell Philadelphia Gas Works are marketing it as potential liquefied natural gas export terminal. But if that were to happen, the project would cost billions of dollars and be forced to get in line behind about 17 other proposals now awaiting approval by the Department of Energy. Continue Reading

EPA Fines XTO Energy for Lycoming County Frack Water Spills

A natural gas drill rig in Springville.

Getty Images

A natural gas drill rig in Springville, PA.

The Environmental Protection Agency has fined XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, $100,000 for violating the federal Clean Water Act. The company’s drilling operations discharged between 6,300 and 57,373 gallons of waste water into the Susquehanna river system in Penn Township, Lycoming County. The waste water contained high levels of strontium, chloride, bromide, barium, and total dissolved solids and flowed continually for more than two months in the fall of 2010, according to the EPA.

An employee with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection discovered an open valve at a waste water storage tank during an inspection. The settlement, announced on Wednesday, also requires XTO to spend an estimated $20 million to improve its waste water disposal process. Continue Reading

Chilean Energy Companies Eye Marcellus Shale Gas

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett helps cut the ribbon near the site of Chile's new consulate in Philadelphia.

Nat Hamilton / WHYY/Newsworks

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett helps cut the ribbon with Chilean officials and Philadelphia deputy mayor Alan Greenberger near the site of Chile's new consulate in Philadelphia.

Chilean energy executives interested in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale natural gas are in the middle of a three-day trade visit to the state. The tour comes on the heels of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s own trade trip to Chile last April. 

With great fanfare, Gov. Corbett cut a large ribbon with gigantic scissors at the site of Chile’s new consulate in Philadelphia. But the real focus of the day’s visit is Chile’s interest in importing natural gas from the state’s Marcellus Shale formation.

Bernardo Larrain is the chairman of Colbun, a Chilean energy company. Larrain says demand for energy in Chile is growing five to six percent a year, and will continue at that rate for the next 20 years.

“And that’s why we’re here,” Larrain told StateImpact. “Pennsylvania produces a lot of natural gas, shale gas. And Chile has a big installed capacity with plants that operate with natural gas. So I think there’s a good potential for association with the state of Pennsylvania.” Continue Reading

Newfield Exploration Says Low Natural Gas Prices Led to Wayne County Lease Terminations

The Delaware River at Milford, Pike County. Although Wayne and Pike counties lie on top of Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits, natural gas has not been developed in the Basin.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Delaware River at Milford, Pike County. Although Wayne and Pike counties lie on top of Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits, natural gas has not been developed in the Basin.

For the past several weeks, Wayne County property owners who have leased their mineral rights for gas drilling have gotten some unwelcome letters. Hess Corporation and Newfield Appalachia have terminated leases negotiated almost four years ago, in August 2009.

Keith Schmidt, a spokesman for Newfield Exploration, says low natural gas prices led to the decision.

“The primary decision not to continue development was a business decision based on low natural gas prices,” said Schmidt. “And then to redirect our efforts in energy toward proven oil reserves in other areas of the country.”

But members of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, a group that spent time and money negotiating a lease they say is a model of environmental stewardship, say the lack of regulatory certainty with the Delaware River Basin Commission played a large role in both Newfield and Hess terminating the leases. Continue Reading

Gas Companies Drop Wayne County Leases

A drill rig in neighboring Susquehanna County where there's no moratorium on gas drilling.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A drill rig in neighboring Susquehanna County where there's no moratorium on gas drilling.

Hess Corporation and Newfield Appalachia have ended lease agreements with about 1300 property owners covering 70,000 acres in Wayne County, where the Delaware River Basin Commission has in place a de facto moratorium on gas drilling. Members of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance began receiving letters from the gas companies on Friday. The letters, dated July 1, 2013 and signed by Newfield landman Scott Cavett, do not indicate a reason for the terminations, but the company has not been able to develop the land since the leases were signed back in August 2009.

A member of the Property Owners Alliance, Peter Wynne, says it’s clear the moratorium was the issue.

“[Gas company executives] had been complaining [about the moratorium] in conference calls with members of our executive committee,” said Wynne. “There were repeated complaints about the moratorium and the regulatory confusion, because they could not make any plans. There’s no end in sight so that added up to them saying the heck with it.” Continue Reading

Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Industry Caused 365 Spills in 2012, But Few Fines Levied

An investigation by EnergyWire shows how rare it is that drillers get fined for spills nationwide. In Pennsylvania, state regulators fined energy companies in just 13 percent of the cases where violations were issued for 2012.


If Kristi Mogen causes a crash on the road, she knows she will probably get a ticket and have to pay a fine. So she’s frustrated that Wyoming officials didn’t fine Chesapeake Energy Corp. for an April 2012 blowout near her home outside Douglas, Wyo. The ruptured gas well spewed gas and chemicals for three days, forcing her and her neighbors to evacuate their homes.

Read more at: www.eenews.net

DRBC Responds to Pro-Drilling Critics

A farm in Wayne County sits on top of the Marcellus Shale formation. Drilling has not begun in the area of the state that drains into the Delaware River.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Coccadrilli Brother's dairy farm in New Canaan, Wayne County sits on top of the Marcellus Shale formation. Drilling has not begun in the area of the state that is part of the Delaware River Basin. Frustrated leaseholders threatened to sue the DRBC.

The Delaware River Basin Commission isn’t getting much love these days. In just the past couple of weeks, the Commission’s executive director Carol Collier has gotten critical letters from Sen. Pat Toomey, Gov. Tom Corbett, the Wayne County Commissioners, and a group of leaseholders called the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance. Each of the letters express frustration with the Commission’s lack of movement on implementing new gas drilling regulations, and urged lifting their de facto moratorium.

The Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance went a step further and issued an ultimatum to the DRBC. The Alliance told Collier that if the DRBC does not move forward by scheduling a vote on the proposed regulations, or choose to step aside by Wednesday, the group will file a lawsuit. The DRBC did neither. But the new Chair of the Commission Michele Siekerka, who represents New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, did make a statement about the letters and listed what the Commission staff has been doing since a scheduled vote on the new regulations was cancelled back in November, 2011. Continue Reading

Mapping Gas Related Water Complaints

The Scranton Times-Tribune teamed up with Frac Tracker to map where gas-related water complaints originated across the state. The searchable map includes color-coded dots where the Department of Environmental Protection either connected the complaint to gas drilling, did not determine gas drilling was the cause, or did not make a determination. For the interactive map, click here.

Screen shot 2013-07-12 at 1.09.30 PM

courtesy of The Scranton Times-Tribune and Frac Tracker

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