Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

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DEP’s climate change plan doesn’t set goal to reduce emissions

A Cambria County wind farm.

Scott Detrow/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Cambria County wind farm.

A draft update of Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Action Plan lacks a specific target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The state’s previous Action Plan–published by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2009– set an emissions reduction target of 30 percent by the year 2020.

According to the DEP, there is no target this time because state law does not require one.

The new plan is the second in a pair of legally-mandated reports about climate change. As StateImpact Pennsylvania has previously reported, the publication of both documents has been fraught with problems.

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To clear the air, some Susquehanna County residents leave the fracking debate behind

Neighbors Victoria Switzer and Ron Teel point to a natural gas compressor station on Teel's property in Dimock, Susquehanna County.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Neighbors Victoria Switzer and Ron Teel point to a natural gas compressor station on Teel's property in Dimock, Susquehanna County.

Two years ago, Victoria Switzer and her neighbors had stopped speaking.

Switzer was one of the residents of Dimock who claimed natural gas drilling had ruined their water supplies. The small village in Susquehanna County became synonymous with flaming taps and jugs of muddy brown drinking water.

But the media blitz angered her neighbors, the Teels, who said it ignored the economic benefits of drilling.

The reporters, the activists and the industry haven’t gone away, but things have started to change.

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Royalty disputes fuel anger over state’s oversight of gas production data

Dave DeCristo frequently calls gas companies with questions and complaints about his royalty statements.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Businessman and landowner Dave DeCristo at his office in Canton. He frequently calls gas companies with questions and complaints about his royalty statements.

The Marcellus Shale is one of the most productive natural gas formations in the world. But when it comes to measuring precisely how productive it is, Pennsylvania doesn’t audit the numbers.

Natural gas production data is submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection directly from drillers and published online before it’s verified.

As allegations of underpaid gas royalties continue, some landowners are frustrated there is nowhere for them to go to check how much gas is produced and what they’re supposed to be paid.

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Morning Edition: “The Frackers” author on what more U.S. oil means for geopolitics

Yesterday the U.S. Energy Department announced a milestone last seen nearly two decades ago: the United States produced more crude oil in a month than it imported.

Morning Edition spoke with Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman, author of The Frackers, about the geopolitical implications of that increased domestic energy production. Zuckerman (not to be confused with the other Wall Street Journal reporter with a book that has the word “frack” in the title) said U.S. oil production made the current sanctions on Iran possible.

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DEP Secretary: regulating radiation may be “next frontier” of drilling oversight

Gov. Tom Corbett's former deputy chief of staff, Christopher Abruzzo has served as acting secretary of DEP since April.

Gov. Tom Corbett's former deputy chief of staff, Christopher Abruzzo has served as acting secretary of DEP since April.

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s acting Secretary Chris Abruzzo says regulating the radioactive materials associated with gas drilling could be the “next frontier” of the agency’s oversight of the industry.

In an interview with the Scranton Times-Tribune, Abruzzo says the DEP is still in the midst of its year-long study into naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) and technologically enhanced material (TENORM).

“It will depend largely on what the results [of the study] show us,” Abruzzo told the newspaper. “It certainly has the potential to be the next frontier in terms of regulations coming out.”

Listen to the Scranton Times-Tribune interview:

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Politicians may not be in a hurry to break drilling deadlock in the Delaware watershed

Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith leased his farm to an energy company, but has not seen any natural gas production on his land.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith leased his farm to an energy company, but has not seen any natural gas production on his land.

Dairy farming doesn’t bring in the money it used to in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. So to make ends meet, farmer Brian Smith is also a school bus driver and a county commissioner.

A few years ago, Smith leased his land in Damascus Township to an energy company looking to tap into deposits of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale below his farm.

Smith said he wanted some financial security for his family of eight. “You start thinking as you turn 50 years old, if something happens to me, how are these kids gonna pay $300,000 to pay off the debt that’s on this farm?”

But in the parts of Pennsylvania that lie in the Delaware River watershed, natural gas drilling has been on hold for more than four years. That’s because the five-member Delaware River Basin Commission, the agency in charge of overseeing the region’s water quality, has been unable to come to a consensus about how to regulate it. The DRBC came close to voting on draft regulations in late November 2011, but the meeting was postponed indefinitely to give the commissioners more time.

For the last two years, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has been the commission’s only vocal “yes” vote. The other commissioners – the governors of New Jersey, New York and Delaware, plus a federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers – haven’t taken a final stand.

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Has natural gas transformed Pennsylvania’s economy?

Hydraulic fracturing has unleashed a huge amount of natural gas in Pennsylvania.The Marcellus Shale is rapidly becoming one of the most productive gas plays in the world.

The boom has brought new jobs and new wealth to the state. But like every industry, it responds to supply and demand.

Overproduction led to a glut of gas, causing companies to shift operations to different parts of the shale in search of more lucrative natural gas liquids.

Over the past five years, the ebbs and flows of the industry have meant a changing economic reality for different parts of the state.

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After Pa. couple discovers plan to drill on unleased land, energy company cancels permit

Joyce and Steve Libal run an orchard out of their 63-acre home in Apolacon Township, Susquehanna County.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Joyce and Steve Libal run an orchard out of their 63-acre home in Apolacon Township, Susquehanna County.

It all started with beans.

Joyce and Steve Libal run a small orchard on their 63-acres in Little Meadows, Susquehanna County where they sell fruit and organic vegetables.

One day in early September, a friend came by to purchase ten pounds of green bush beans.

“In this area, with all the drilling going on, the conversations usually end up talking about the gas industry,” Steve Libal says. “And he just brought up that he had seen, he’s a borough councilman and they received a packet of information about a well pad behind our house.”

A map the gas company, Talisman Energy, sent to the municipality shows a plan for a well pad just beyond the thick row of trees at the back of their property. A dotted line shows a well bore moving 2,000 feet across their land. (You can see the map below.)

“I just thought this has to be some sort of horrible mistake,” Joyce said. “Someone made a mistake and we have to enlighten them so they can fix it.”

The couple contacted the Department of Environmental Protection. A geologist for the DEP who was reviewing the well permit said he would let Talisman Energy know about the situation.

Just hours after getting the e-mail from the DEP, they got a call from a landman asking them what it would take for them to sign a lease with Talisman.

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Despite abundant supply, natural gas slow to catch on as transportation fuel

A customer fills up at a public CNG station in Towanda. There are only about 22 public stations like this one in Pennsylvania

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A customer fills up at a public CNG station in Towanda. There are only about 22 public stations like this one in Pennsylvania.

The most recent Marcellus shale production numbers were record-breaking.  If Pennsylvania keeps up this pace, it will be producing enough gas to supply more than 10 percent of what the entire country uses in a year.

And with this glut, there are efforts to find new markets for the gas— especially in transportation.

Compressed natural gas (CNG) can be used as an alternative fuel to power cars and trucks, but it isn’t catching on everywhere.

“Way too much supply”

In Pennsylvania, we have more natural gas than we know what to do with. Alan Walker, who heads the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, puts it this way:

“It’s an industry that responds to supply and demand. Right now we have way too much supply,” he says. “It’ll balance out, because people aren’t going to drill wells if they can’t make money at it. There was this rush—like the gold rush—and we are producing a lot more than we can absorb.”

Unlike the rush to get the gas out of the ground, there hasn’t been a rush to convert vehicles to natural gas.

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Q&A: Oil Spill Expert Puts Crude-By-Rail Boom In Perspective

A train pulling a row of tank cars moves along the tracks near a Hess transfer facility near Tioga, North Dakota, U.S., on Thursday, July 11, 2013. There is a continued boom situation in the area due to the ability to extract oil from the Bakken Formation.

Matthew Staver /Landov

A train pulling a row of tank cars moves along the tracks near a Hess transfer facility near Tioga, North Dakota, U.S., on Thursday, July 11, 2013. There is a continued boom situation in the area due to the ability to extract oil from the Bakken Formation.

Philadelphia is at the center of a new industrial boom: trains are snaking through the city, bringing light, sweet crude oil from North Dakota to the city’s revived refineries. They’re the same type of train that derailed and exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic in July, leaving 47 people dead.

StateImpact has reported that the deadly accident hasn’t put the brakes on oil trains coming into Philadelphia. In fact, there are more coming than ever.

So, what exactly is this stuff and what are some of the risks involved?

StateImpact talked to oil spill expert Nancy Kinner, Director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, who put this new boom in perspective.

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