Pennsylvania

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Company wants to drop charges against 8 pipeline protestors

Chief Carlos Rivera of the North Arawak Tribal Nation is arrested protesting the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Conestoga, Pa.

Courtesy of Michelle Johnsen

Chief Carlos Rivera of the North Arawak Tribal Nation is arrested protesting the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Conestoga, Pa. on January 5.

Lancaster Online reports PPL, the utility company that owns the property where eight pipeline protestors were arrested last week wants the charges to be dropped.

They were part of a group of about 40 demonstrators who temporarily shut down a testing site for the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.

More from Lancaster Online:

“It was not PPL’s request that the protesters be arrested. We felt in this case that the right thing to do would be to just let the charges drop,” George Lewis, PPL’s director of corporate communications, said Thursday.

Lewis said the Allentown-based utility called John Fiorill, Southern Lancaster Regional Police chief, last week and asked how to drop the charges.

Fiorill suggested PPL make the request to drop the charges at the eight defendants’ preliminary hearing set for Feb. 5 before District Judge Joshua Keller in Millersville.

Lewis said a PPL representative will be there to do just that.

According to Lancaster Online, all eight people who were arrested are free on $1,000 bail.

Wolf defends cabinet picks: ‘I want the industry to succeed’

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf says he wants his administration to be a partner with Pennsylvania's gas industry.

Governor-elect Tom Wolf is praising his nominees for the state’s top environmental posts, and says he wants his administration to be a partner with gas drillers. But some members of the industry are worried about his choices.

Wolf chose John Quigley to head the state Department of Environmental Protection and Cindy Dunn to lead the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Quigley ran DCNR during the Rendell administration and backed a moratorium on new gas leasing of public land. Dunn is CEO of the environmental advocacy group, PennFuture, which has been critical of how the state has handled the Marcellus Shale boom.

“I want the industry to succeed,” Wolf told reporters at a press conference today. “[Quigley and Dunn] share with me the understanding that we have to be a partner with the gas industry in making this work.”

But some members of the gas industry worry these nominees will be hostile to drilling.

Wolf called those concerns “nonsense.”

“It’s remarkably unbelievable Mr. Wolf can say with a straight face that these two activists will check their wildly out of the mainstream views at the door,” said one industry source.

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Climate protesters gather at GOP retreat in Hershey

About 50 climate change protesters gathered outside a meeting of national Republican leaders today in Hershey.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

About 50 climate change protesters gathered outside a meeting of national Republican leaders today in Hershey.

Climate change protesters gathered outside a meeting of national Republican leaders in Hershey today. GOP congressional members from the House and Senate are in town for a three-day conference. Typically each caucus meets separately, but for the first time in a decade they’re holding a joint meeting.

About 50 people attended the protest, which was hosted by the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate outside the Hershey Lodge. The rally featured by speakers from various religions, including the Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist faiths.

“We are here to bring attention to the social injustice of all time: inaction on climate change,” says organizer Lise Van Susteren. “While we know there are many Democratic leaders who are not where they need to be on climate, there are a number of climate deniers and skeptics among the Republican leadership, although that’s changing.”

She praised a number of prominent Republicans in congress who have acknowledged the risks of climate change.

“Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. She’s seeing it,” says Van Susteren. “She knows she can’t deny it anymore.”

The protesters had sent letters to House and Senate Majority Leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell inviting them to attend the rally but didn’t get a response. House and Senate Republican spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the rally.

The Senate is expected to vote on a Keystone XL pipeline bill next week which contains an amendment that will force senators to take a position on climate change. The vast majority of the world’s scientists agree that climate change is caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions and poses serious threats to humans and the natural world, but the issue has become highly politicized.

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Study: Radioactive gas drilling waste not a threat to public health

A worker holds a brick of solid waste from gas drilling operations.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A worker holds a brick of solid waste from gas drilling operations.

A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection study looking at radiation exposure from oil and gas development says there is “little potential for harm to workers or the public.”

DEP released the peer-reviewed report Thursday, which Governor Corbett initiated in January 2013. DEP hired PermaFix, an Atlanta-based company that specializes in nuclear and industrial waste disposal, to conduct the research. The study looked at the radioactivity levels in waste resulting from gas drilling, including fracking wastewater, drill cuttings and waste solids. It also measured radioactivity through the waste transport, storage and disposal process. A DEP official says the study is the most thorough to date:

“The study report is the culmination of a multi-year effort and represents what we believe to be the most comprehensive radiological study of the oil and gas industry ever conducted,” Vince Brisini, DEP Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation said in a press release. “While the recommendations for future actions contained in the report call for additional studies and efforts, we now have data to inform the management of natural gas resources and resultant wastes for environmental and health protection.”

Attempts to reach Brisini, or any of the authors of the study directly, were unsuccessful. The DEP press office did not return calls or email.

Marcellus Shale, like other rich fossil fuel deposits, can contain naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). This radioactive material, including uranium (U-238), thorium (Th-232), potassium (K-40), and radon can be brought to the surface through oil and gas production and released. Continue Reading

Anti-fracking protesters plan to rally at Wolf inauguration

Anti-fracking activist and documentary filmmaker Josh Fox is expected to attend Wolf's inauguration.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Anti-fracking activist and documentary filmmaker Josh Fox is expected to attend Wolf's inauguration.

Anti-fracking protesters are seeking to “disrupt” Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s inauguration on January 20th, according to PennLive.

The protesters are hoping to pressure Wolf into imposing a statewide ban on fracking, like Governor Andrew Cuomo did recently in New York.

From PennLive:

Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, a coalition made up of dozens of environmental groups, plan to meet at the Grace Methodist Church on State Street then rally at the Capitol.

Sam Bernhardt, with Food & Water Watch, said the coalition expects to bring a couple hundred protesters to the rally. Josh Fox, director of anti-fracking documentary “Gasland,” is scheduled to attend the rally.

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Gas companies buy livestock, goodwill at Pennsylvania Farm Show

Gas companies bid on livestock from kids who live in the counties where they drill.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Gas companies stopped by the Farm Show this week to bid on livestock from kids who live in the counties where they drill.

Much of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale drilling takes place in rural areas. Over the years, gas companies and farmers have had to learn how to co-exist. Sometimes those relationships are positive. Other times, they can be rocky.

That’s why some drilling companies come to Pennsylvania Farm Show—where they make an effort to buy livestock and a little goodwill.

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Wolf picks former Rendell appointees for top environmental posts

John Quigley with former Governor Ed Rendell in 2010. He previously headed DCNR and was chosen by Gov.-elect to run DEP.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

John Quigley with former Governor Ed Rendell in 2010. Quigley served as DCNR Secretary in the Rendell administration and has been nominated by Gov.-elect to run DEP.

Governor-elect Tom Wolf has announced his picks for the state’s two top environmental posts. Both nominees will be heavily involved in overseeing Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale industry and have extensive backgrounds in environmental causes and government.

Wolf nominated John Quigley to head the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP.) He previously served as Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary during the Rendell administration.

“I’m thrilled, I’m humbled, and excited,” Quigley tells StateImpact.  ”There are obviously some challenges facing Pennsylvania.”

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Obama aims to limit methane emissions from oil and gas industry

A worker stands by a natural gas well in Susquehanna County, Pa.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A worker stands by a natural gas well in Susquehanna County, Pa.

President Obama has made methane his latest target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In an announcement today, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency laid out plans to enact new regulations limiting methane emissions from oil and gas production. The goal is to cut methane leaks by 40 to 45 percent by 2025, using 2012 as the baseline.

Environmental activists and climate scientists have been urging Obama to tackle methane emissions. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide emissions in the short term. The announcement marks the president’s latest effort to take on climate change using his executive authority. The White House says it has the authority to use the Clean Air Act to impose regulations, and does not have to go through Congress.

Mark Brownstein, vice president in charge of the U.S. climate and energy program at the Environmental Defense Fund says he’s very pleased by the announcement.

“This is a landmark moment,” Brownstein told StateImpact. “Direct federal regulation of methane is essential. The administration set the right goal.”

The EPA’s plan will target new and modified sources of methane leaks within the production process and along the supply chain. But Brownstein says in order to reach 40 to 45 percent reductions, current natural gas and oil production would also have to be regulated.

“It’s a watershed moment but the job is not done,” said Brownstein. Continue Reading

Federal regulators schedule hearings on PennEast pipeline

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has scheduled five public hearings on the PennEast Pipeline as it prepares to draft a statement on the potential environmental impacts of the project.

The hearings are part of what FERC calls the “scoping process” and will give members of the public a forum to tell regulators what should be evaluated as part of the environmental impact statement.

Each “scoping meeting” will begin at 6 p.m. Here’s the schedule:

  • January 27The College of New Jersey   2000 Pennington Rd.  Ewing, NJ 08628
  • January 28Bucks County Community College   275 Swamp Rd. Newtown, PA 18940
  • February 10Northampton Community College   3835 Green Pond Rd. Bethlehem, PA 18020
  • February 11Penn’s Peak   325 Maury Rd. Jim Thorpe, PA 18229
  • February 12Best Western Hotel & Conference Center   77 E Market St. Wilks-Barre, PA 18701

PennEast representatives will be available for one hour before the start of each meeting. For more information, click here to read FERC’s notice. 

The PennEast project involves constructing 108 miles of 36-inch diameter pipeline to transport about 1 billion cubic feet a day of Marcellus Shale natural gas. The line would start in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania and end in Mercer County, New Jersey. Along the way, the pipeline will supply local distribution companies that deliver gas to homes and businesses in southeast Pennsylvania and South Jersey. It will also supply some power plants that have switched from coal to gas.

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Report: Quigley, Dunn to head environmental agencies under Wolf

Pennsylvania’s Governor-elect Tom Wolf continues filling his cabinet with former Rendell-era staffers.

Sources tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Wolf will name John Quigley as his Department of Environmental Protection secretary and Cindy Dunn to lead the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

More from the Post-Gazette:

The official announcements of those nominations could come as soon as Tuesday.

Mr. Quigley, a former DCNR secretary in the Rendell administration, will have a higher profile in his new leadership role at the DEP, which has the primary responsibility for regulating the state’s booming shale gas drilling industry operating in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

Ms. Dunn, is president and chief executive officer of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, or PennFuture, a statewide environmental organization. She worked in the DCNR for more than a decade and was DCNR deputy secretary for conservation and technical service in the Rendell administration.

Update 1/13 at 12 p.m. – A spokesman for Wolf told StateImpact Pennsylvania he could not confirm the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s report.

John Quigley and Cindy Dunn did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Update 1/14 at 1 p.m.- Governor-elect Wolf confirmed the appointments.

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