Pennsylvania

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Pipelines’ paths remain a risky mystery beneath our feet

This story began with a simple task: Let’s make a pipeline map!

Everyone wants to know where all the new Marcellus Shale gas pipelines are or will be. The new proposals have been piling up.  Many have poetic names like Atlantic Sunrise, Mariner East, and Bluestone. There got to to be so many they started to get numbers: Mariner East I, Mariner East II.

Here at StateImpact Pennsylvania, try as we might, we couldn’t keep track of them all in our heads. We also wanted to map all the smaller lines, and the lines that may have been there for decades, which everyone tends to forget about.

The Wolf Administration estimates that 30,000 more miles of new pipelines will be built in Pennsylvania within the next two decades. So, where will they be?

This map of interstate pipelines currently running through Susquehanna County is all that's available to the public on PHMSA's website.

screenshot / Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration.

This map of interstate pipelines currently running through Susquehanna County is all that's available to the public on PHMSA's website.

Pipeline companies know exactly the routes for all the pipelines they maintain or plan to build.  But  they aren’t required to share that information with public.

Instead they release vague maps with colorful lines swooshing across Pennsylvania, showing where a proposed line might go.

We spoke with our resident map maker, who told us that wasn’t good enough. She needed geospatial data, the kind of thing that in this high tech digital world means plotting the line along its actual path, instead of just drawing a line that approximates the path.

We took a look at all the plans submitted for new pipelines, but they were just drawings, without data. We checked with the Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), which has a national map of the major interstate pipelines. But again, just a drawing, no geospatial data available to the public, and by the way, don’t even try to do a right-to-know request.  Interstate pipeline maps are exempt from that in this post-911 world.

Then we contacted Mark Smith, who runs a map-making company called Geospatial Corporation. We told him what we wanted to do: map the web of pipelines beneath our feet.  He laughed at us.

“Well, it’s not universally mapped,” said Smith. “In fact it’s probably the last piece of infrastructure out there that’s not mapped.”

Wait, this stuff is highly flammable right?

“Yes.”

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PJM, pipelines agree to share more information about gas supply and demand

A natural gas pipeline runs through Lycoming County.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A natural gas pipeline runs through Lycoming County.

The biggest U.S. electric grid operator and nine interstate natural gas pipelines have agreed to share more information about the supply of, and demand for, natural gas for power generation to improve operational planning and anticipate the growing interdependence of the two industries.

PJM Interconnection, which transmits power in 13 states and the District of Columbia, said on Thursday that it agreed a memorandum of understanding with the pipeline operators to provide better information on the needs of gas-fired generators and to ensure adequate pipeline capacity.

“This agreement sets the stage for greater coordination between electric generators and the natural gas pipeline industry,” said Mike Kormos, PJM’s chief operations officer, in a statement. “As electricity-generating facilities increasingly turn to natural gas, it is important that we all communicate clearly to assure reliable service.”

Ray Dotter, a spokesman for PJM, said the agreement is intended to ensure reliable gas supplies to electric generators at a time when they are increasingly dependent on natural gas supplies as coal-fired plants retire in response to federal clean-air regulations. Continue Reading

Philadelphia Energy Solutions pursues joint venture for loading and storage of Bakken crude

Observers say a proposed PES joint venture is designed to ensure crude supplies for oil trains like this in central Philadelphia

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Observers say a proposed PES joint venture is designed to ensure crude supplies for oil trains like this in central Philadelphia

Philadelphia Energy Solutions is seeking to complete a joint venture that would give it a controlling interest in crude-oil loading terminals and storage tanks in North Dakota, the source of the Bakken Shale crude that is processed by the South Philadelphia refinery.

The refiner said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on July 27 that it has agreed in principle to enter into a joint venture with BOE Midstream, which owns the rail-loading and oil-storage facilities.

If the transaction is completed, the Philadelphia refiner would own 85 percent of the joint venture while BOE’s parent, Globe Resources Group, would own the rest, the filing said.

BOE’s assets include a crude oil rail-loading terminal with a capacity of 210,000 barrels a day and 882,000 barrels of tank-storage capacity. It also owns another terminal at Killdeer, ND, and a 39-mile pipeline connecting the Killdeer terminal with the loading facility.

“We currently expect that Refining will contract with or otherwise utilize the crude loading terminal in connection with its purchase of crude to be transported to the Philadelphia refining complex,” PES said in the filing. Continue Reading

Protest Planned at Pipeline Talk

The red lines show the proposed Atlantic Sunrise expansion. The light blue lines are the existing Transco system.

Courtesy: Williams

The red lines show the proposed Atlantic Sunrise expansion. The light blue lines are the existing Transco system.

Public meetings over the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline have drawn the ire of opponents in Lancaster County. This time, an activist group is planning to protest a meeting between the pipeline company and the local chamber of commerce.

The group, Lancaster Against Pipelines, says it’s organizing the protest to call attention to the environmental and community impacts of having the pipeline sited in the county.

“It threatens the values most Lancaster Countians hold dear–our farmland and rich heritage and history–and it opens the door for a lot more industrial projects for our farmland in the future,” said protest organizer, Nick Martin of Pequea Township.

Martin said about 50 protesters are expected to be outside the meeting, hosted by the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The chamber had invited three representatives from Tulsa-based pipeline giant Williams to share information on the project.

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Mystery continues over radioactivity in Western Pa. stream

The DEP is investigating high radium readings along Ten Mile Creek in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Reid Frazier

The DEP is investigating high radium readings along Ten Mile Creek in southwestern Pennsylvania.

On the banks of Ten Mile Creek, a stream that snakes through Greene County, Ken Dufalla looked out at one of his favorite fishing spots.

“That’s probably one of the best walleye fishing there is in the evening you can find. I’ve caught muskies, walleyes, saugers,” Dufalla said.

Four years ago, Dufalla, who leads a local conservation group, stopped fishing here. That’s because the tests he did as president of his local chapter of the Izaak Walton League showed surprisingly high concentrations of bromides. The stream contains treated acid mine drainage from the nearby abandoned Clyde coal mine. Bromides are not typically found in mine discharges, treated or not. But bromides are typical of fracking waste water. Dufalla sought help from the Department of Environmental Protection. Ten Mile Creek feeds into the Monongahela River, the source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in western Pennsylvania, including parts of Pittsburgh.

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Marcellus producers on state land pulled back again in 2014, data show

Marcellus producers are continuing to cut back on rigs like this one in Tioga County because of low market prices for gas, the DCNR says.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Marcellus producers are continuing to cut back on rigs like this one in Tioga County because of low market prices for gas, the DCNR says.

Shale gas development on Pennsylvania’s public lands slowed again in 2014, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said on Thursday, in the latest sign of an industry slowdown in response to low market prices.

The DCNR issued its latest shale gas monitoring update showing that the number of well pads, roads and approvals to drill in state forests all fell last year, adding to a decline that began in 2012 when prices began to fall.

The number of new well pads in state forests dropped to eight on a total of 32 acres last year from 19 on 73 acres in 2013, and a high of 86 in 2011.

The number of approvals declined to 47 last year from 79 in 2013, and new road construction essentially ceased, adding less than a mile, even lower than the four miles of new roads that were built for gas development in 2013. Since 2007, 1,020 wells have been approved and 608 have been drilled on state land, the DCNR said. Continue Reading

New task force seeks to manage ‘massive’ buildout of pipelines

Pennsylvania could get up to 30,000 miles of new natural gas pipelines over the next 20 years, Secretary Quigley says

Pennsylvania could get up to 30,000 miles of new natural gas pipelines over the next 20 years, Secretary Quigley says.

Pennsylvania will see as many as 30,000 miles of new pipeline built over the next 20 years to take the huge natural gas resources of the Marcellus and Utica Shales to market, the Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, John Quigley, said on Wednesday.

Quigley’s forecast came after the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force, a wide-ranging group of gas-industry stakeholders, met for the first time in an effort to establish best practices for what the secretary described as a “massive” infrastructure buildout.

Quigley told StateImpact after the 90-minute meeting in Harrisburg that he expects the industry to add 20-25,000 miles of gathering lines, smaller pipelines that connect gas wells to processing plants or main transmission lines. He said an additional 4,000 to 5,000 miles of interstate pipelines will be built over the next 20 years.  Continue Reading

PennEast Pipeline surveyors blocked from mapping land in New Jersey

via NJ Spotlight

The proposed alternate route of the PennEast pipeline. Click to enlarge the image.

Courtesy of PennEast Pipeline Company

The proposed alternate route of the PennEast pipeline. Click to enlarge the image.

Mercer County is joining the list of landowners trying to block PennEast Pipeline LLC from surveying property — part of a county park — in order to build a highly contentious natural gas pipeline.

The county, which has opposed the project since last year, told PennEast yesterday that the company would no longer have access to the park in Titusville for the purpose of surveying the property to facilitate the project. The county cited soil borings on Baldpate Mountain, which it has deemed as potentially environmentally harmful.

The notification follows an announcement by the state Department of Environmental Protection earlier this month, advising the company not to apply for permits needed for the project, since private landowners refused to give it access to survey their properties.

Thirty-two miles of the $1 billion proposed pipeline would run through four communities in Hunterdon County, before ending in Hopewell in Mercer County. The rest of the 110-mile pipeline crosses land in Pennsylvania.

In New Jersey, much of the proposed route — about 3,000 acres, critics say — would run through preserved open space, farmland, and wetlands, as well as cross numerous waterways. Continue Reading

Pipeline opponent guilty of disorderly conduct for speech at public meeting

A Lancaster County woman has been found guilty of disorderly conduct for speaking out of turn at a public meeting. She was arrested in April for failing to follow special meeting rules, which permitted people to ask questions but barred them from making statements.

54-year-old Kim Kann is a Conestoga Township resident who has been a vocal opponent of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise interstate gas pipeline. During the meeting she got up to correct what she viewed as misstatements about a ballot initiative to study home rule. Opponents had been pushing for the measure in an effort to block the pipeline.

“I’m angry and kind of dismayed,” Kann says of her arrest and guilty verdict. “I felt like it was a politically-motivated overreaction.”

The entire meeting was posted on YouTube by Conestoga Township. Kann approaches the microphone approximately 1 hour, 19 minutes into the video. She speaks for less than two minutes before the police intervene:

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Pa.’s new pipeline task force to meet this week

A natural gas pipeline in Lycoming County.

Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania

A natural gas pipeline in Lycoming County.

Pennsylvania’s newly formed pipeline task force will hold its first meeting in Harrisburg Wednesday. Governor Tom Wolf formed the group in order to bring planning and best practices to the pipeline building boom that includes an estimated 4,600 new miles of interstate pipes over the next three years.

The meeting will be chaired by state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley.

States have little regulatory authority in this arena, because interstate pipelines are regulated almost exclusively by the federal government. However the task force does include three representatives from the federal government, including one from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)– the agency charged with siting and approving new pipelines.

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