A downed tree blocks a section of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, as Hurricane Irene made its way along the Eastern Seaboard, Aug. 28, 2011, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is expected to get hotter in the summer, with wetter winter weather along with severe storms.
While almost 200 nations gather in Paris to hammer out an agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions, Philadelphia released its own report on how the city needs to adapt to rising seas and a warming Earth. Climate change will continue to bring hotter summers and wetter winters with more severe storms to the Delaware Valley. Much of the precipitation will be heavy, increasing the risk of flooding.
The city will still have four seasons, and maintain the same freeze thaw cycles.
Katherine Gajewski, Philadelphia’s sustainability director, says hotter summers and wetter winters, accompanied by more severe storms seems like a contradiction.
“So that’s really hard, I think, for people to wrap their minds around,” said Gajewski. “Its generally going to get warmer but yet we’re going to have more severe winters, how can those two realities coexist?” Continue Reading →
Chris Crockett, deputy commissioner of planning and environmental services for the city of Philadelphia's water department stands by the Delaware River at high tide.
This week ministers from 190 nations will be in Paris to hammer out a treaty to cut carbon dioxide emissions. It’s a geo-political gathering aimed at staving off the worst impacts of climate change – including sea level rise. Predictions of how high and how soon oceans will rise keep changing. And that leaves town planners and local officials with a dilemma. They are the ones responsible for protecting their cities from rising tides and hotter summers. But there’s no seat at the table for them in Paris, and likely no help.
Gas safety consultant Bob Ackley hugs a dead tree across the street from the Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Street trees can be especially vulnerable to pests, disease, and lack of water. But it turns out a hidden culprit could also be killing trees — gas leaks.
Here’s something most people who work for gas companies know, when you want to sniff out a leak check for dead or dying vegetation. Evidence for this dates back to the mid-1800′s when naturalists documented the connection between street gas lamps and dying trees, says Nathan Phillips, a tree physiologist and professor at Boston University.
“The causal mechanisms are most likely, primarily, oxygen deprivation,” said Phillips. ”Roots need oxygen to grow and maintain themselves, and natural gas has no oxygen.”
But tree lovers take comfort, there is at least one guy who has made it his mission to save the trees from gas leaks.
“I call him the urban naturalist because he understands the visible indicators above ground of what’s happenening below ground,” said Phillips. Continue Reading →
At a June 2015 press conference, GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai voiced his opposition to a severance tax while reading directly from a booklet of talking points prepared by EQT, a major drilling company near his home district in southwestern Pa.
Over the years, both Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg have wanted to raise revenue by passing a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. Polls have consistently shown a majority of Pennsylvania voters support it. Last year, the idea helped propel Democrat Tom Wolf into the governor’s mansion.
But now, as Wolf and the Republican-led legislature struggle to reach a budget deal after a nearly five-month long standoff, the severance tax is once again off the table.
The tax has been debated since the shale boom took off, so why hasn’t it happened?
There are two main reasons: lawmakers who loathe raising taxes– and lobbyists.
Nichole Mazurek, of Middlesex Township, at an anti-fracking protest with her three children, Samantha, 8, Ian, 3, and Alyson 6.
Environmentalists attacked a county court ruling that backs one township’s change of zoning rules to promote natural gas development, saying the decision is likely to encourage other municipalities in Pennsylvania to open up more of their land to the gas industry.
Opponents of a Middlesex Township measure to increase the amount of land that can be zoned for industrial uses such as natural gas development said that the decision by the Butler County Court of Common Pleas last week could set a precedent among some other townships that are planning similar changes.
The ruling, by Judge S. Michael Yeager, represents a setback for advocates of local control over gas drilling after the landmark Robinson Township ruling in December 2013 in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that townships have a constitutional responsibility to establish zoning to protect the health and safety of their residents. Continue Reading →
Governor Wolf says the tentative budget deal he'd reached with Republicans is now starting to fall apart.
A tentative outline for a state budget looks like it could crumble this week, dealing a bitter reality check to Governor Tom Wolf and the top lawmakers who said they could deliver a spending plan by Thanksgiving.
“Unfortunately, that work looks like it’s in peril, deep peril,” said Wolf on Monday. He made his remarks at the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon, a monthly event attended by reporters, lobbyists, and other Capitol observers.
Two weeks ago, Wolf stood beside top Republican and Democratic lawmakers to announce the outline of a budget deal – something to end the standstill that has cut off state funding for schools and many social services since July.
Both sides tell different stories about why the precarious pact is faltering.
A Cabot Oil and Gas well in Northeast Pennsylvania. Production in the Marcellus Shale helped boost the country's proven gas reserves to record levels in 2014.
Nationwide, the amount of gas that producers can afford to get out of the ground, broke records in 2014, topping 388 trillion cubic feet, according to a new report from the Energy Information Administration. A big chunk of these proven natural gas reserves came from Pennsylvania’s operators, who added 10.4 trillion cubic feet of gas to 2014’s totals. For the first time, natural gas from shale formations represents more than half of all proven U.S. gas reserves.
Shale oil drillers in North Dakota and Texas contributed to the bump in proven reserves of oil, which were greater than 39 billion barrels, making 2014 the fourth highest year on record.
Fadel Gheit is an energy analyst with Openheimer. He says horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing as a technology drove the increased proven reserves for both oil and gas.
“We thought we could only get the low hanging fruit because we couldn’t reach the fruit at the top of the tree,” Gheit told StateImpact. “But now we have a ladder, now we have a crane. We can get anything we want.” Continue Reading →
In this photo taken April 9, 2015, people play with their dogs in view of train tank cars with placards indicating petroleum crude oil standing idle on the tracks, in Philadelphia. With the drop in crude oil prices worldwide, Philadelphia area refineries are starting to take more shipments from abroad.
The drop in global oil prices means the number of black crude-by-rail tank cars may become less prominent along the state’s rail lines. Philadelphia area refiners have begun to import more crude from abroad. And oil train traffic has leveled off for the first time this fall, after rising dramatically between 2012 and the early part of 2015. Shipments from the Midwest to the East Coast peaked in March of this year at 13,336 barrels, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. But since then the flow of Bakken crude to the Delaware Valley has declined. The American Association of Railroads reports a 10.1 percent reduction in crude-by-rail during the first nine months of 2015, compared to the same time period in 2014.
Feidel Gheit, senior energy analyst with Oppenheimer, says the curb in oil train traffic is simple supply and demand.
“We have reached cruising altitude and we are about to descend,” said Gheit. ”It has been increasing every year for the last five years, now it is coming into a plateau and the EIA data supports the fact that we are seeing more demand for West African crude. It’s more competitive, it’s as simple as that.”
A crew works on a well site in Zelionople, Pa. 2012.
The owners of five Pennsylvania natural gas processing plants have reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly failing to take measures to guard against spills and leaks on their sites in McKean and Warren Counties, the EPA said on Thursday.
Elkhorn Investments and Elkhorn Gas Processing, both based in Oklahoma, have agreed to pay a penalty of $50,221 and correct defects at the plants that could have had major environmental impacts if they had led to spills or leaks of oil and gas, and related products, the federal agency said.
Although no such incidents occurred, the company failed to take measures to prevent them from happening, the EPA said. It said the company violated regulations that require it to build drainage and spill containment areas, ensure proper venting on waste oil tanks, and install barriers to prevent trucks hitting storage tanks.
DEP Secretary John Quigley at Wednesday's Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force meeting.
At a recent press conference, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley joked with reporters that he’d assembled “the world’s largest committee” to try to deal with the state’s building boom of natural gas pipelines.
He was in a decidedly less jovial mood Wednesday as he tried to corral the 48-member group. Quigley didn’t want them to parse every word of the committee’s 335 page draft report, which contains 184 separate recommendations.
“Folks need to take a breath and realize these are broad recommendations,” he said.
The Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force is comprised of people from government, industry, and environmental groups. The idea is to bring planning and best practices to pipeline projects that move Marcellus Shale products to new markets. Some industry representatives were reluctant to endorse recommendations they viewed as too specific. Continue Reading →
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