Tidal sections of the Delaware river could flood large areas of Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania cities in the future unless policymakers make radical cuts in global carbon emissions, a new study says.
Philadelphia and some other cities along the tidal Delaware River in southeastern Pennsylvania could avoid the worst effects of long-term sea-level rise if global carbon emissions are radically reduced, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The paper from Climate Central, a Princeton, NJ-based research organization, found that Philadelphia is among the 10 U.S. cities that has the most to gain by big cuts in greenhouse gases if they were implemented globally.
The study found that some 156,000 people, or about 10 percent of the city’s population, based on the 2010 census, are living in areas that would be below the high-tide mark at some point in the next century if carbon emissions remain at about current levels.
That number would be reduced by more than 90 percent to about 14,000 if “massive and prolonged” carbon emission cuts were made, a policy that would reduce global warming, slow the melting of polar ice sheets and mitigate the expansion of ocean waters that would come with higher global temperatures, the paper said.
The difference between the two population levels under the two carbon scenarios – about 142,000 – is the eighth-highest in the country, and suggests that Philadelphia would be among the cities with the most to lose if carbon reductions weren’t carried out globally, the researchers say. The difference between the two carbon levels is exceeded only by a handful of other low-lying cities including Miami, New York, and Virginia Beach. But a coastal city like Boston is not in the top ten. Continue Reading →
Kevin Hollinrake meets with members of the Mars Parent Group, which opposes fracking near schools.
On a sunny fall morning, Kevin Hollinrake stands with a group of concerned parents across a road from a gas processing plant in Butler County. Trucks come and go as workers hustle to expand the Bluestone processing plant, which will separate different types of natural gas from locally drilled wells for market.
Hollinrake has come a long way to watch this Butler County construction site. He is a member of the British Parliament and a Conservative from a district in northern England. A company has applied to utilize fracking for natural gas in his district. Hollinrake traveled more than 3,500 miles to visit Pennsylvania—where more than 8,000 wells have been drilled since 2008—to see the fracking process firsthand. He wants to know what it’s like to live near a gas drilling site.
They tell Hollinrake they’re worried about the smells they say emanate from the plant. (State records show the facility has had no air quality violations.) They’re standing in the driveway of a suburban-style house that’s now right across the street from what is essentially a small refinery. The plant was opened last year and is already undergoing an expansion.
Expectant mothers with exposure to high levels of unconventional natural gas development are more like to have premature births and high-risk pregnancies, a new study says.
Women are more likely to have premature babies and high-risk pregnancies the more they are exposed to unconventional natural gas development, according to a new study based on more than 10,000 babies born in the shale-gas region of Pennsylvania.
The study, released by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health on Thursday, found that mothers who lived near the highest levels of gas-industry activity were 40 percent more likely to give birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy than those where the industry was least active.
It concluded that women in the most active sections of the area studied were 30 percent more likely to have pregnancies labeled as high-risk because of factors such as high blood pressure or excessive weight gain.
And it found that, of the 10,946 babies born in the study area between January 2009 and January 2013, 11 percent were born before 37 weeks, classifying them as premature. Continue Reading →
Mine water gets treated at the Blue Valley AMD Treatment Center, near Brockway, Pa. Treated mine water can be used to hydraulically fracture wells.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Thursday a bill that could clear the way for more oil and gas companies to use treated mine water for fracking.
The idea has been encouraged by the state Department of Environmental Protection, but there have been relatively few companies using the water to frack. Drillers have been reluctant to use the treated minewater because of concerns over liability.
The way the law is written, drillers won’t worry that if they use any part of a mine’s discharge, the state’s Clean Streams Law could make them liable for all water in the mine, even polluted discharge they’re not using.
The new Act 47 clarifies this issue, says State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Greene County), the bill’s sponsor. Under the bill, a fracking company only assumes responsibility for the water it takes out of the coal mine. Continue Reading →
Gov. Tom Wolf has had a hard time selling new taxes, including a severance tax on natural gas, to the legislature.
Seeking an end to the state’s three month-old budget stalemate, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf sent the GOP-controlled legislature a revised tax plan that lowers his ‘ask’ on a severance tax for the natural gas industry. But his political rivals say it’ll cost the industry just as much as his old plan, if not more.
The new proposal would drop the natural gas severance tax Wolf has proposed from 5 percent to 3.5 percent, and keep a proposed additional fee of 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet (mcf) of natural gas.
The new plan brings back something Wolf, a Democrat, had taken out of his initial proposal: the state’s per-well “impact fee”, which brings in around $225 million a year currently and gets distributed largely to counties and townships where drilling takes place. Under Wolf’s original plan, the state would have set aside $225 million per year from the gas severance tax and distributed it the same way it does now. But instead of getting the money through a flat fee on each well, it would have raised the revenue by taxing the gas itself. Wolf’s updated plan now keeps the original impact fee and adds a severance tax on top, albeit a lower one.
Jeff Sheridan, Wolf’s spokesman, said the new 3.5 percent severance tax would bring in $389 million in revenue to the state in 2016-2017, the first full year it would be implemented.
The severance tax is part of a suite of proposals Wolf is making to fix the budget stalemate. The GOP-controlled legislature passed a budget June 30, but Wolf vetoed it. His latest proposal includes a higher personal income tax and property tax relief for seniors and disabled people. Continue Reading →
Natural gas from wells like this one in northeastern PA will cost less at the retail level this winter, the federal government says.
U.S. homeowners can expect to pay less to heat their homes this winter because of lower prices for natural gas, heating oil, propane and electricity, and because of expected lower consumption as a result of a milder winter, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday.
In its annual Winter Fuels Outlook, covering October to March, the EIA said the Northeast will be 13% warmer than last year, resulting in lower demand for the main heating fuels. The Midwest will be 11% warmer than last year, while temperatures in the South will be on average 8% higher, according to forecasts from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
Residents who heat their homes with natural gas will pay a national average of $64, or 10 percent, less this year as a result of a 6% drop in consumption and a 4% decline in residential gas prices since last year, the EIA said.
The lower natural gas prices reflect plentiful supplies and near-record levels of storage, the EIA said.
“Natural gas supplies should be adequate to meet demand this winter, as average household natural gas consumption during the heating season is expected to be the lowest in four years,” said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski, in a statement. Continue Reading →
The U.S. is expected to become a net energy exporter over the next 15 years. This photo shows Dominion Resources Cove Point terminal in Maryland. It is currently being converted from a gas import facility to an export terminal to ship Marcellus Shale gas to Asia.
The U.S. has negotiated a trade deal with 11 countries that has environmentalists worried about more liquefied natural gas exports. The Trans-Pacific Partnership looks to remove trade barriers with Asia. And Asia, specifically Japan, is eager for more natural gas from the United States.
If the agreement gets through Congress, it would remove the role the Department of Energy plays in deciding whether or not its in the public interest to export LNG to those countries included in the trade agreement. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the task of permitting the LNG operations, but the DOE has to approve exports. So far, the DOE has sanctioned five new export facilities sending gas to countries that do not have free trade agreements with the U.S., including Dominion’s Cove Point terminal in Lusby, Maryland. Once the Cove Point plant is completed, it’s expected to send Marcellus Shale gas to Japan and India.
A worker shields his face against temperatures in the teens as he guides a section of pipe while working on a shale gas pipe line Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, in Zelienople, Pa.
A Pennsylvania judge this week handed Sunoco Logistics its first court victory in a battle to assert eminent domain over privately owned land where it plans to build its cross-state Mariner East 2 pipeline.
Judge Edward Guido of the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas rejected arguments by six local landowners that Sunoco has no right to locate the pipeline on their land because it does not qualify as an intrastate pipeline that would allow the company to assert eminent domain.
The judge ruled that the pipeline does in fact meet the definition of an intrastate pipeline because it would load and offload petroleum products within the Commonwealth. As such, it would meet the definition of a public utility corporation, as regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and would therefore possess the power of eminent domain.
The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Mike Faherty, said that since the proposed $2.5 billion pipeline runs into both Ohio and West Virginia, it is actually an interstate pipeline that would be regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rather than the PUC so would not therefore be entitled to public utility corporation status. Continue Reading →
The Department of Environmental Protection has issued a “Notice of Violation” to a gas drilling company that contaminated a drinking water aquifer in Potter County two weeks ago. The DEP says the incident polluted at least five private drinking water supplies with a surfactant not approved by the agency for use in drilling through ground water.
JKLM Energy says while in the early stages of drilling a Utica Shale well, the company used surfactant to free a broken drill bit about 570 feet below the surface. The company estimates that about 98 gallons of the surfactant, diluted with 22,000 gallons of water, spilled into the aquifer.
DEP says its tests have revealed the surfactant known as “F-485″ and a lubricant known as “Rock Drill Oil 150″ in the groundwater near to the well site in Sweden Township. Surfactants are soapy substances, used in various stages of the drilling process to cut down on friction. This particular surfactant contained a 10 -15% concentration of isopropanol, or rubbing alcohol. But isopropanol is not an approved chemical for cutting through such a shallow stage of the well bore in Pennsylvania. While drilling through an aquifer, producers are required to use only ”air, freshwater or freshwater based drilling fluids.” Continue Reading →
The ozone standard could effect power plants, like Homer City in Indiana, Pa.
After years of delay and court battles, the Obama administration released a final update to its regulation on ground-level ozone, or smog Thursday. The EPA set the standard at 70 parts per billion (ppb) of ozone, an irritant that can exacerbate asthma and other heart and lung conditions. The new rule is a reduction from the current standard of 75 ppb, set in 2008 under President George W. Bush.
“Put simply – ozone pollution means it hurts to breathe for those most vulnerable; our kids, our elderly and those suffering from heart and lung ailments,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.