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.
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 →
Speaking to StateImpact last September at a protest in Philadelphia, Franklin Forks resident Tammy Manning said she was convinced gas drilling caused her water to go bad.
Manning says her well water began spewing like a geyser in December, 2011. She says the contaminated water made her granddaughter vomit, before the family realized it was unsafe to drink.
“We want the gas company to leave our area,” said Manning. “I just feel like in 20 years, instead of going to war over oil, we’ll go to war over water.”
But DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly says the gas company is not to blame. The agency’s decision was based on isotopic testing, which showed the methane “fingerprint” did not match the methane extracted from WPX Energy gas wells, which are about 6,000 feet from the contaminated private drinking water wells. Continue Reading →
A considerable amount of natural gas and crude oil residue blew out of a pipeline when a valve broke in Bradford Township on Saturday afternoon. Around noon, passersby on U.S. Route 219 reported the spill, visible from the highway shooting about 60 feet in the air out of a pipe, according to fire chief Don Fowler of the Lafayette Township Volunteer Fire Department
*This piece has been updated with new information from the Department of Environmental Protection.*
The Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday that the agency fined Pennsylvania General Energy Company $125,500 for three spills that occurred back in January, 2012. The fine also includes failing to comply with sediment and erosion controls during a four-month construction project near a high-quality, trout stream in 2011.
DEP says that during a fracking operation in January, 2012, PGE spilled an estimated 8,200 gallons of “brine,” and 89 gallons of diesel fuel. Brine is salty water, and often refers to what returns as wastewater during the fracking process. Typically this brine also contains chemicals and sometimes radioactive material. In an email, DEP spokesman Dan Spadoni gave more details about the content of the brine.
“The fluid was blended water, which included flowback/wastewater from another well site that was being mixed with other fluids to be reused for the hydraulic fracturing process on the COP 729 C well pad. The released fluid contained elevated levels of primarily barium, strontium, iron, and chlorides. Elevated levels of these parameters were not detected in sampling conducted downstream of the release in an unnamed tributary to Ramsey Run.”
Both the well site spills and the sediment discharges in the high-quality Pine Creek watershed in Lycoming County. Continue Reading →
It’s Earth Day, which means different things to different people. For Gov. Corbett, it’s a day to hand out more than $300,000 to 92 separate groups and schools to do environmental education. As a reporter my inbox fills up with everything from “Insurance Companies Eat Green,” (waste-free picnics) to an industry explanation of the “Tremendous Environmental Benefits” of natural gas development. For a good discussion on the history and impact of Earth Day, check out WHYY’s Marty Moss-Coane interview with Adam Rome, author of The Genius of Earth Day.
For many, Earth Day is a reminder that if you haven’t planned your garden, you better start. And due in part to climate change, putting the first shovel in the ground starts earlier now for many Pennsylvania residents.
Plant Hardiness Map for Pennsylvania.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published an updated Plant Hardiness Map, which divides the country into zones. The zones are based on an average yearly minimum winter temperature, and are used to determine which plants will thrive. Pennsylvania used to be split 50/50 between zones 6 and 5. But now, the map shows significantly more of the state in the warmer zone 6. And the southeast corner of Pennsylvania, along with parts of York County, are actually zone 7, a growing season similar to parts of North and South Carolina.
A Seneca Resources well pad in the Loyalsock State Forest. Anadarko Petroleum owns mineral rights in the Loyalsock, which it plans to develop.
For months, environmentalists and residents living near the Loyalsock State Forest in Lycoming County have been pushing the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to openly discuss plans to drill in sensitive areas of the forest and accept public input. But time and again, they were rebuffed. On Friday, DCNR announced it’s planning to hold a public meeting. It will also have its own experts participating in a web-based information session next week about plans to drill in the forest.
“DCNR has heard from numerous individuals and organizations on this issue through letters, phone calls and in a meeting this month with local stakeholders,” DCNR Secretary Richard Allan said through a release. “This webinar gives us an additional opportunity to exchange information and respond to questions about potential gas development in the Loyalsock, where the state does not own the subsurface gas rights.” Continue Reading →
This just in from the Associated Press. The planned 120-mile natural gas pipeline that would ship Marcellus gas from Lycoming County to Chester County has been suspended indefinitely. More from the AP:
The groups behind the project announced on their website that the project is being suspended. No reason is being given, but the group says it will provide updates later. The pipeline was supported by three major partners: Inergy Midstream LP, UGI Energy Services Inc., and WGL Holdings Inc. The developers had said they hoped to have the pipeline in service by 2015.
The company announced the suspension on their website.
Pete Seeger sings at a concert celebrating his 90th birthday.
Iconic folk singer and activist Pete Seeger plans to play a benefit concert in northeast Pennsylvania this summer to support a new group created by Tennessee Gas Pipeline opponents. Activists have been staging sit-ins and protests to prevent the construction of an expanded natural gas pipeline through Pike County. Milford resident, and anti-pipeline activist, Jolie DeFeis says she founded Air Soil Water to promote renewable energy use as an alternative to fossil fuels.
“We wanted something positive to come from the community effort we put forth during the past year,” said DeFeis in a release announcing the concert. “And we know that education is the key to empowerment and change.”
DeFeis began working against the Tennessee Gas Pipeline upgrade about a year ago. But her efforts have failed to prevent the company from getting federal approval to move forward with the project. Continue Reading →
A dairy farmer from Calicoon, NY who is campaigning to lift the moratorium on gas drilling in New York, appears in Fracknation.
The pro-fracking answer to “Gasland” is on the road in Pennsylvania and will be screened in hostile territory tonight — the Philadelphia suburbs. “Fracknation,” a film by Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, has already been shown in several theaters in Northeast Pennsylvania, including a standing-room only crowd in Montrose, Susquehanna County. The Scranton Times-Tribune reported a handful of protestors outside the theater engaged Irish journalist and filmmaker Phelim McAleer in a lively debate. But inside, the crowd was supportive.
It’s likely fractivists will get a bigger contingent to attend the Bryn Mawr screening since the Philadelphia region tends to draw more vocal protests against gas drilling.
But that’s unlikely to faze McAleer, who previously produced a film questioning climate change. “Not Evil Just Wrong,” countered Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth.” “Fracknation” directly challenges filmmaker Josh Fox’s landmark anti-fracking documentary “Gasland.” McAleer doesn’t shy away from controversy.
“Gasland brought fracking to my attention,” McAleer tells StateImpact Pennsylvania. ”I think Gasland brought it to most peoples’ attention. But Gasland is riddled with errors, misrepresentations and lies. There’s actually genuine untruths in Gasland.” Continue Reading →
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