Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Court permanently bars activist from gas sites

Anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins says she wants to appeal a court ruling that permanently bars her from Cabot Oil & Gas sites.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins says she wants to appeal a court ruling that permanently bars her from Cabot Oil & Gas sites.

A Susquehanna County judge has ruled that 63-year-old anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins will be permanently barred from setting foot on Cabot Oil & Gas sites.

Scroggins has been a thorn in the company’s side for years. She hosts a lot of citizen gas tours around Susquehanna County where Cabot has most of its operations. The company says she has repeatedly trespassed on its property and poses a safety risk.

“I’d like to appeal it,” Scroggins says of the ruling. “I consider it an unfair decision that is further restricting me– to keep me from exposing Cabot and the gas industry.”

Cabot spokesman George Stark says the company is pleased with the outcome.

“We hope that Ms. Scroggins is now able to respect the judge’s parameters, which have been reestablished unequivocally,” he wrote in an email. “We are hopeful that this finally marks an end to these events.”

The feud made international news earlier this year when Cabot got a sweeping (yet temporary) court injunction against her– effectively barring her from nearly half the county. In March the order was revised to be much less restrictive. It blocked her from Cabot sites and required she maintain a 100 foot buffer zone. However, that revised order was still temporary and the two sides were negotiating a permanent deal about where she can and can’t go.

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Wolf picks former challenger, DEP secretary McGinty for chief of staff

Governor-elect Tom Wolf has picked former Secretary of the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection, Katie McGinty to be his chief of staff.

Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Governor-elect Tom Wolf has picked former Secretary of the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection, Katie McGinty to be his chief of staff.

Pennsylvania’s Governor-elect Tom Wolf has tapped Katie McGinty, a former challenger and state environmental protection secretary, to be his chief of staff.

After finishing fourth in the June primary, McGinty led the Fresh Start political action committee that campaigned on behalf of Wolf and other democrats. She will help with the transition to the next administration before assuming her new role after the inauguration on January 20.

McGinty ran the state Department of Environmental Protection from 2003 to 2008 under Governor Ed Rendell and was the first woman to hold the position in Pennsylvania. She is also a former staffer under President Bill Clinton who named her chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“In federal and state government, Katie worked with diverse interests to achieve meaningful change in difficult environments,” said Wolf in a statement. “Her experience will help me work with Republicans and Democrats to move Pennsylvania forward.”

One major item on Wolf’s agenda is passing a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas drilling, which may be a tough sell in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.

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Changing climate changing forests: How best to help Pennsylvania’s woods

In a 19th-century farmhouse deep in northern Pennsylvania’s Bradford County, Nancy Baker is looking at family photos dating back four generations.

One shows her grandfather with a team of horses on clear cut land. Another shows her mother and aunt on the same farm as a small child. Baker also has a series of aerial photos going back to 1939, which show how the forest cover has evolved in the past 70 years.

Her home was built by her great grandfather, Joseph Morrow Gamble, a Scots-Irish immigrant who cut timber from the virgin forest and shipped it down the Susquehanna River.

The story of how Baker’s family used its land to make a living was replayed up and down the East Coast after European settlers arrived. Her great grandfather cut down woods for timber. Then he turned to farming, yanking rocks from the stony soil to mark out cow pastures. His children inherited the land. But in the 20th century, their children left for better jobs in town. Baker’s own parents became teachers.

With the land left to itself, the forests returned. So Baker grew up playing in the woods and learning how to fell a tree ambidextrously with an axe.

“When we inherited this land from my mother I said, ‘OK, it’s our turn to steward the land,’” said Baker. “But how are we going to do this?”

 


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Shell to buy Beaver County industrial site for proposed ethane cracker

Shell has announced it will buy a Beaver County industrial site for its proposed ethane cracker.

AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Shell has announced it will buy a Beaver County industrial site for its proposed ethane cracker.

A proposal to build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker in western Pennsylvania has taken another step forward. Shell Chemical announced Friday it will buy the site of a former zinc plant in Beaver County.

The cracker plant would turn ethane – a natural gas liquid being extracted in abundance from the Marcellus Shale – into ethylene, a building block for plastics.

More from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“This is a good decision but it does not mean that we have [made] the investment decision to proceed with the project,” said Ate Visser, the vice president with Shell Chemical who has been the lead on the Marcellus cracker project since May.

Several things need to line up before Shell’s top brass can make a final investment decision.

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Philadelphia energy hub debate centers on city’s gas works

Philadelphia Gas Works offices on Broad Street in South Philadelphia.

Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks

Philadelphia Gas Works offices on Broad Street in South Philadelphia.

Business leaders are calling on the Philadelphia City Council to reconsider spiking a deal to sell its city’s gas works. Meanwhile, some environmental groups are celebrating it as a small victory in their fight against plans for an energy-centric future for Philadelphia.

Business leaders bemoan lack of “political will”

Philadelphia Gas Works is not just the company that provides the city’s residents with natural gas for their stoves and heaters.

Business leaders pushing to turn the city into a regional energy hub see privatizing PGW as the best way to develop the utility’s other assets – including two major liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage units on the Delaware River.

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Feds subpoena Chesapeake Energy over royalty complaints

Chesapeake Energy's offices in Athens, Bradford County.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Chesapeake Energy's offices in Athens, Bradford County.

Chesapeake Energy has been subpoenaed by the federal Department of Justice, seeking information on its royalty payment practices to mineral owners.

The company has been the subject of widespread complaints in Pennsylvania and other areas of the country where it operates. Landowners have accused Chesapeake of violating lease agreements and underpaying royalties.

In a regulatory filing today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company disclosed it has received subpoenas from the DOJ and other states. Chesapeake says it has “engaged in discussions with the DOJ and state representatives” and continues to respond to demands for information.

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Sunoco Logistics announces second, bigger natural gas liquids pipeline

The Mariner East 2 pipeline will run parallel to its predecessor, the Mariner East 1.

Courtesy of Sunoco Logistics

The Mariner East 2 pipeline will run parallel to its predecessor, the Mariner East 1, and bring natural gas liquids to the Marcus Hook industrial complex in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia-based Sunoco Logistics has announced a new $2.5 billion pipeline project to move natural gas liquids across the state.

“Mariner East 2” would start in Ohio, bringing ethane and propane through West Virginia and western Pennsylvania to an industrial complex on the Delaware River.

The 350-mile pipeline would run parallel to its predecessor, the Mariner East 1, but unlike that project,which involves reversing the flow of an existing line, this pipeline needs to be built from scratch.

Spokesman Jeff Shields says it would quadruple the amount of natural gas liquids flowing to Marcus Hook from 70,000 barrels a day to 275,000. Much of the ethane will be shipped overseas and some of the propane will feed markets on the East Coast.

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Following fracking scandal, state Rep. Jesse White loses House seat

State Rep. Jesse White (D- Allegheny) apologized for using fake online personas to bully shale gas supporters.

State Rep. Jesse White (D- Allegheny) apologized for using fake online personas to bully shale gas supporters.

A Pittsburgh area Democrat and vocal fracking critic lost his state House seat last night. Rep. Jesse White (D- Allegheny) was caught last year in an online bullying scandal by Pittsburgh’s local CBS affiliate.

In May 2013 the TV station reported White had been using pseudonyms to bully online commenters who express support for shale gas development. He later apologized.

White was soundly defeated by Republican challenger Jason Ortitay. The Washington Observer-Reporter covered his loss, which he blamed on negative ads.

“This wasn’t a campaign; it was a character assassination. They dragged my name through the mud and it worked, this time,” White said. “We did everything we could have done. I’m proud of my campaign.”

Ortitay did not dispute the nastiness of the campaign, but said he’s ready to work for his new constituents as he learns the nuances of state government.

“From here on out, it’s about bringing people together,” Ortitay said. “If you have disagreements, I’m here to be reasonable and be fair and to help bridge the gap to bring people together to build a better 46th District.”

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Electric rates to spike in New England, despite nearby Marcellus gas

An icy view of Boston. New England electric rates are projected to spike by 30 to 50 percent this winter.

essygle via Flickr

An icy view of Boston. New England electric rates are projected to spike by 30 to 50 percent this winter.

Residents in New England are looking at skyrocketing electricity prices this winter, largely due to an increased reliance on natural gas and pipeline constraints.

Utilities in the region are projecting rate hikes in the range of 30 to 50 percent, which will make the prices some of the highest in the United States.

From NPR news:

Between the years of 2000 and 2013, New England went from getting 15 percent of its energy from natural gas to 46 percent. That’s dozens of power plants getting built.

But the pipelines to supply those power plants? Not so much.

At the same time, with the fracking boom just a few hundred miles west driving down gas prices, more and more homeowners were switching to natural gas for heating.

So now when it gets cold and everyone turns on their heat, the pipelines connecting New England to the Marcellus Shale are maxed out.

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What Wolf’s win means for energy and the environment

Governor-elect Tom Wolf on the campaign trail.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pa

Governor-elect Tom Wolf on the campaign trail.

Now we know. Democrat Tom Wolf will indeed be taking the reins from Gov. Corbett in just over two months.

For the first time since 1954, an incumbent Pennsylvania governor did not either win re-election or cede power to someone from their own party. 

That’s an historic loss for Pennsylvania’s GOP, which has been supportive of the gas industry, so reaction to Wolf over Corbett broke down along predictable lines.

Lou D’Amico of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association says Wolf’s policies could lead to job loss.

Cindy Dunn, director of PennFuture said, “For the environmental voters, it was a referendum of Gov. Corbett’s handling of the gas industry.”

Let’s take a look at what Wolf’s win might mean for energy and environment.

Marcellus Shale tax battle lines

Wolf’s plan to replace the current impact fee with a 5 percent tax on the market value of natural gas may run up against more opposition than he seems to expect.

He says at current production levels this tax could bring in $1 billion, which is about $800,000 more each year than the current impact fee. He says he’ll use that money to help boost funding for the state’s failing public school systems.

But he’s got to contend with a Republican legislature. And ideas that poll well with voters during a campaign pre-election does not always translate well to momentum in Harrisburg post-election. Still, drillers are worried, and not so sure they’ve got the support in Harrisburg they need to head off a tax hike.

D’Amico, president of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, says some drillers are talking about leaving the state if Wolf succeeds in imposing a new severance tax. And although he says the industry does enjoy bipartisan support in Harrisburg, D’Amico worries about lawmakers from non-drilling areas like Philadelphia.

“If you’re not seeing your hotels full, if you’re not seeing the local Ford dealer selling trucks to drillers, then you’re not concerned as much in Philadelphia [with the potential slow-down of gas drilling] as you are in Bradford, Tioga, or Susquehanna counties where they are benefiting from us being here.” Continue Reading

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