Energy. Environment. Economy.

Susan Phillips

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.

Klaber to Step Down from Marcellus Shale Coalition

Marcellus Shale Coalition

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

Marcellus Shale Coalition CEO Kathryn Klaber speaks to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Pennsylvania’s top natural gas trade group is looking for a new leader. The Marcellus Shale Coalition announced on Friday that the current CEO Kathryn Klaber, will be leaving the organization after four years. The MSC was formed by a group of Marcellus Shale producers in late 2009, to be the public face of the state’s burgeoning energy industry. Klaber has directed the organization since its inception. Its staffers work to influence drilling-related legislation, host the annual “Shale Insight” conference in Philadelphia, interact with the press, and promote the benefits of gas drilling. Its members were heavily involved in shaping the state’s new drilling law, Act 13.

Klaber earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Bucknell University. She worked previously at the consulting firm Environmental Resources Management, led the Pennsylvania Economy League, and before taking the job at the MSC, was an executive vice president at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Continue Reading

Marcellus Shale Exports Could Transform Global LNG Market

The offshore loading pier at Dominion has not received a ship importing liquefied natural gas since January 2011.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY/Newsworks

The offshore loading pier at Dominion has not received a ship importing liquefied natural gas since January 2011.

In energy-hungry countries, all eyes are on Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas. In a dramatic shift from just five years ago, the U.S. is looking to export, instead of import natural gas. And if more natural gas starts getting shipped abroad, Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale could help change the global market for natural gas, and lighting homes in Tokyo.

The U.S. currently has two export terminals, one in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, and the ConocoPhillips LNG export terminal in North Cook Inlet, Alaska. The U.S. Department of Energy just gave preliminary approval for ConocoPhillips to expand its Freeport, Texas import terminal to export liquefied natural gas. About 17 other export proposals now await approval by the DOE, including the Cove Point liquefied natural gas import terminal operated by Dominion Resources.

Continue Reading

EPA: Don’t Operate Earthquake-Linked Disposal Wells

A draft report by the EPA offers advice to states on how to handle oil and gas waste water disposal wells that have caused earthquakes.

U.S. EPA officials say oil and gas wastewater injection wells that are causing earthquakes should stop operating if there’s no way to stop the shaking. But there is a variety of other options to consider first, according to a “decision model” outlined in a draft report obtained by EnergyWire. That includes scaling back how much well owners can inject, requiring more data collection or public education about “the complexities of injection-induced seismicity.”

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Rising Natural Gas Prices Make Electricity More Expensive Nationwide

Average wholesale electricity prices jumped in the first half of 2013 compared to 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration. The EIA reports that the increase is linked to the rising price of natural gas, which has gone up 40 percent to 60 percent this year compared to the first six months of 2012. The price jump for natural gas was caused by colder winter temperatures, lower production, and reduced storage inventories.

Screen shot 2013-07-23 at 11.14.28 AM

courtesy of the Energy Information Administration

“Average on-peak, day-ahead wholesale electricity prices rose in every region of the Lower 48 states in first-half 2013 compared to first-half 2012. The most important factor was the rise in the price of natural gas in 2013 compared to 10-year lows in April 2012. However, the increase in power prices was not uniform across markets as regional natural gas supply issues drove larger increases in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest.” — EIA

“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.

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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.

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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

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