The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held hearings today in Pittsburgh on a proposed rule to slash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The plan is up against serious opposition from the coal industry, but environmental groups say it doesn’t go far enough.
Competing rallies for and against the EPA’s proposed carbon rules crossed paths in Downtown Pittsburgh today.
“No planet, no jobs!” shouted those who supported the EPA proposal.
“U-M-W-A!” chanted the United Mineworkers of America and their supporters.
Mark Sunyak, 54, of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, is a retired mineworker who came to protest the rule. He said it threatened his community.
“Our jobs, our security, our families,” Sunyak said when asked why he was there. “I’m a recent retiree, my benefits may be in jeopardy.”
About three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector come from burning coal. The EPA is trying to cut emissions from electric power plants by 30 percent of 2005 levels by the year 2030. The EPA’s own analysis shows that under the plan, coal production in Appalachia would decline. But it said other energy sectors would grow, and the overall economy would benefit.
Inside the hearings, the voices of coal were evident. Cindy Frich, a state legislator from Morgantown, West Virginia, was one of them.
“I have to admit I feel these rules are existential threat to my state,” Frich said. “We’re already having problems with our state budget. I really see problems ahead if these rules are implemented.”
Nearly 300 people attended an April meeting in Berks County held by a concerned citizens group opposing a proposed gas refinery.
In the past few years, the Marcellus Shale has rapidly become one of the most productive gas plays on the planet. But for many people in Southeastern Pennsylvania– the state’s most populated region– the boom has been out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
The region is beginning to experience the tradeoffs long familiar to those who live on top of the Shale—more job opportunities and more disruption.
Penn State researcher Alison Franklin holds up one of five prescriptions in her closet at home in Bellefonte, Pa. Flushing old pills down the toilet is how some pharmaceutical compounds get into our water systems. Most of them pass through our bodies when we take our medications.
Penn State University’s wastewater treatment plant in State College, Pa. takes in waste from about 46,000 students and 100,000 more people on football weekends. Plants like this one are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals.
A duck perches on a ledge in the chlorine contact tank at Penn State University’s wastewater treatment plant in State College, Pa. This is the last step of the treatment process before the water is sent to the Living Filter.
Penn State graduate student Alison Franklin fills a jar with water from a sprinkler at the Living Filter in State College, Pa. Franklin will test this water sample for traces of antibiotics.
At our discussion forum on the Susquehanna Watershed in January, a number of you asked about what we know about the drugs we take getting into our waterways and our drinking water, and whether they could pose a threat to humans or the environment. StateImpact Pennsylvania set out to find some answers.
Scientists have been detecting traces of pharmaceuticals in our water systems for about 30 years now, but the research shows no one is getting a full dose of say, Prozac, just from drinking tap water. However, scientists do wonder whether these compounds may be having more subtle, long-term impacts on human health.
“We don’t have an answer to that and there’s really no good research out there that says ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ at this particular time,” said Julie Becker, a public heath researcher at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
Bill Sowden, left, and Brian Scritchfield, right, are the co-owners of Bobtown Pizza in Bobtown, Greene County, Pa. Last week, producers with “The Daily Show with John Stewart” descended on the shop where Chevron bought 100 gift certificates for free pizza and soda for local residents after one of the company’s natural gas wells exploded.
Bobtown residents like Bonnie Gansor, who runs the local hair salon, say they want the town to be known for its kind people, not its "Chevron pizza."
Bobtown is having its 15 minutes of fame. The small town in southwest Pennsylvania has been on the lips of late-night comedians, Twitter wits and anti-fracking activists. First, in February, a Chevron natural gas well near Bobtown exploded, killing a young worker. Then, the company responded by giving community residents free coupons to Bobtown Pizza.
This struck Chevron’s critics as outrageous. More than 12,000 people from the Netherlands to San Francisco have signed a petition demanding Chevron apologize for insulting the people of Bobtown.
Kevin Heatley, an ecologist who lives in Lycoming County, says he used to enjoy hiking in state forests, but is now disturbed by the gas industry development.
Pennsylvania is no stranger to extractive industries–like coal and timber. By the early twentieth century its forests were decimated. Today they’ve grown back and trees are harvested in a sustainable manner.
But scientists say the state’s surge in natural gas development is having new kinds of dramatic effects on its forests.
Diana Van Curen and her husband Terry of Bradford County have leased their land for gas drilling and claim they're being cheated out of royalty money. According to the gas industry trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, companies expect to pay out about $810 million in royalties to Pennsylvania landowners this year.
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.
A new photo exhibit on Marcellus Shale is up at the Gershman Y in Philadelphia, and it’s worth a look if you’re in town. Several years ago six professional photographers, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, decided to document the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh resident Brian Cohen helped conceive the idea, and simply calls it the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project.The photographers also include Noah Addis, Nina Berman, Scott Goldsmith, Lynn Johnson, and Martha Rial. A panel discussion and reception takes place Wednesday evening, January 23. I spoke with Brian Cohen last week as he was hanging the show in Center City Philadelphia.
Jodie Simons shows the methane filled water that comes out of her kitchen faucet. Shortly after a second well was drilled and fracked near their property, Jodie's daugther became sick with nausea and headaches. When she stopped drinking the tap water, the symptoms stopped. Their animals died after a first well was drilled.
Skylar Sowatskey, 3, poses for a portrait near her home in Connoquenessing Township, Pa. Sowatsky's family moved after their well water turned black and then dried up. Her mother Kim McEvoy blames their water problems to nearby gas drilling.
Scott Goldsmith / Marcellus Shale Documentary Project permalink
Flames show where natural gas bubbles up into a natural spring, Smithfield, Pa. David Headly discovered the gas after wells were fracked on his property, and his horses stopped drinking it.
Lynn Johnson / Marcellus Shale Documentary Project permalink
Activists and a gas rig worker meet at the edge of a drilling operation in Moshannon State Forest. The activists, calling themselves "Earth First Marcellus," built a barricade, and managed to shut down operations for several hours last July.
Consol Energy drill site. Consol was the only gas company that agreed to give the photographers access to drilling operations and workers.
Brian Cohen / Marcellus Shale Documentary Project permalink
Janet McIntyre at her home in Connequenessing Township, Butler County. McIntyre says her water was good before drilling, but has since made them sick.
Q: When was the first time you heard of fracking or Marcellus shale?
A: It really came on my radar in an immediate way when we moved to Pittsburgh, six years ago. This is a huge story, much more than any one photographer could do on their own. So I proposed a collaborative project.
Q: It’s an impressive group.
A: Yes, Lynn [Johnson] and Scott [Goldsmith] work with National Geographic, Martha [Rial] has a Pulitzer prize.
Q: What was your goal?
A: The ultimate goal was to tell this story through multiple perspectives, through different eyes, and different narrative styles. So we could have a more well rounded view of Marcellus Shale drilling than we would otherwise. There’s a lot of heat that’s generated by this subject but there’s not a lot of light and I want this project to shed some light. Continue Reading →