Pennsylvania

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Senate panel OKs plan to inspect Pa. environmental laws

A view of the Pine Creek in Lycoming County.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A view of the Pine Creek in Lycoming County.

A state Senate committee approved a resolution Tuesday calling for an analysis of Pennsylvania’s environmental laws and regulations, to ascertain which ones are more stringent than federal rules.

Proponents say it helps streamline government and encourage economic growth, while environmental groups argue it’s designed to roll back standards that protect public health.

Sen. Michele Brooks (R- Crawford) is the prime sponsor. She was not available to comment Wednesday, but in a memo to fellow lawmakers, says the resolution will give Pennsylvania a more competitive business climate.

“While most certainly all of us understand the importance of our environment, this resolution is intended to find balance through practical application of the laws and regulations and at the same time permit economic growth and job creation,” Brooks wrote. “Hopefully, this can be a first step in pinpointing current laws and regulations that impact hardworking citizens and businesses.”

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Royalty advocates rally at State Capitol

Joe Moore of Wyalusing, Bradford County.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Joe Moore of Wyalusing, spoke on behalf of his mother, who he says is being cheated out of gas royalty money, "I'd like to think there is such a thing as right and wrong," he says. "This is wrong. It's criminal."

Anger over gas royalties has reached a fever pitch in Pennsylvania, as the House considers a bill aimed at protecting landowners accusing drilling companies of predatory payment practices.

About 150 royalty advocates rallied at the State Capitol Tuesday, accusing lawmakers of turning a deaf ear to their concerns, and allowing themselves to be manipulated by industry lobbyists.

“I’m here today for my mom,” says Joe Moore, of Bradford County. “She’s a 75-year-old widow, and what the gas companies are doing to her is very, very wrong. It’s criminal. Those pumps are taking gas from her land 24/7, and at the end of the month, she gets nothing.”

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Delco township gives go-ahead to Mariner East 2 but demands safeguards

Middletown residents Charles Williams and Bibianna ?? protest the township's decision to make a deal with Sunoco in return for construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline on public property.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

Middletown residents Charles Williams and Bibianna Dussling protest the township's decision to make a deal with Sunoco in return for construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline on public property.

Delaware County’s Middletown Township decided on Monday to allow Sunoco Logistics to build its controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline through four parcels of public land but called for rigorous protections against leaks or explosions of natural gas liquids in light of  grave public concerns about the pipeline’s safety.

The township’s council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance allowing easements for construction of the pipeline after a Sunoco official told a packed public meeting that the company was going to build the pipeline through the township regardless of what the council decided because the company has existing rights of way.

“We have the right to lay this pipeline without talking to anyone but we chose to negotiate easements,” Bart Mitchell, Land Project Manager for the company, told the council before the vote. “Should you decide to turn this down tonight, then we can still put the pipeline in. We will not slow up.” Continue Reading

FERC urged to take another look at PennEast pipeline plan after route changes

Jacqueline Evans, whose farm near Stockton, N.J., lies in the path of the proposed PennEast pipeline, speaks out against the project.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Jacqueline Evans, whose farm near Stockton, N.J., lies in the path of the proposed PennEast pipeline, speaks out against the project.

Environmental groups called on Monday for a fresh federal review of a plan to build the controversial PennEast natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey after newly published route changes cast further doubt on what critics say was already a flawed Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

PennEast Pipeline Co.’s statement Friday that it plans 33 deviations from its original route highlights the need for another assessment of whether the pipeline would damage the environment along its 119-mile route from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey, the environmentalists said.

Maya van Rossum, who heads Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), said the route changes raise more questions about the credibility of the DEIS which she called “deficient and misleading” when it was issued in July. Continue Reading

States feud over fossil fuels in federal court

Steve Earle, international vice president of the United Mine Workers, from Greenville, Ky., center, marches with international president, Cecil Roberts, left center, as they lead some 5000 members of the United Mine Workers and supporters through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh to the William S. Moorhead Federal Building in support for American energy and jobs in the coal and related industries Thursday, July 31, 2014. The Environmental Protection Agency begins two days of public hearings on new regulations designed to cut carbon-based pollution from power plants. Similar hearings were held in Atlanta, Denver and Washington earlier this week.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Steve Earle, international vice president of the United Mine Workers, from Greenville, Ky., center, marches with international president, Cecil Roberts, left center, as they lead some 5000 members of the United Mine Workers and supporters through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh July, 2014 to protest Obama's Clean Power Plan. A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments related to the challenge on Tuesday morning.

A federal court in Washington, D.C. will be hearing arguments Tuesday morning about the future of the country’s electricity. President Obama’s landmark climate change initiative will be subjected to arguments from both sides, with 28 states aligned with coal companies facing off against the EPA, which is backed by a number of other states and environmentalists.

The Clean Power Plan is Obama’s giant push to make the nation’s electricity cleaner, and signal to the international community that the world’s second largest carbon emitter is doing something to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. The plan gives states different options to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas causing carbon emissions from their existing power plants.

But the controversial plan is opposed by the coal industry, which says it will force coal plants to shut down and cause power plants to convert to natural gas or renewables to comply. Proponents of the plan argue that the coal industry’s woes have nothing to do with the Clean Power Plan, but rather, with the availability of cheaper natural gas from new plays like Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. More than 40 new natural gas plant applications have been submitted to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection within the last five years. Continue Reading

‘Erin Brockovich chemical’ found in PA water systems, study says

The Susquehanna River: many Pennsylvania water systems contain the carcinogenic chemical chromium 6, according to a new analysis of EPA tests

Scott LaMar/ WITF

The Susquehanna River: many Pennsylvania water systems contain the carcinogenic chemical chromium 6, according to a new analysis of EPA tests

More than 160 public water systems in Pennsylvania contained the carcinogenic chemical chromium 6 during recent tests at levels that were above a health limit recommended by scientists in California, according to a new analysis of data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The study from the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy nonprofit, combined previously published EPA data with the health limit proposed by the California Office of Health Hazard Assessment to calculate that 218 million people nationwide, or some two-thirds of the population, are exposed to drinking water containing chromium 6 at concentrations above the recommended California limit. Continue Reading

Trump addresses Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh

Donald Trump addresses oil and gas industry executives at the annual Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Donald Trump speaks to oil and gas industry executives at the annual Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave the keynote address Thursday at the annual Shale Insight conference in downtown Pittsburgh, hosted by the gas trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Trump told the crowd of about 1,200 industry representatives at the David L. Lawrence convention center that as president, he would encourage American energy production and roll back environmental regulations as a way to “make America wealthy” again.

“Regulations are becoming a major industry right now,” said Trump. “We’re going to make it a much smaller industry, maybe a minor industry.”

The GOP nominee highlighted his plans to undo President Obama’s major climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, and said he would lift drilling restrictions offshore and on federal lands, as well as a recent Obama administration moratorium on new coal leases.

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Legislative scorecard finds waning support for environmental bills in 2015-16

Legislative measures to protect the environment from natural gas wells like these in Lycoming County got less support in Harrisburg in the 2015-16 session, according to an annual report card

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

Legislative measures to protect the environment from natural gas wells like these in Lycoming County got less support in Harrisburg in the 2015-16 session, according to an annual report card

Pennsylvania’s state lawmakers voted less often for pro-environment legislation and more often for bills that would weaken environmental protection in the 2015-16 legislative session than they did the previous year, according to a tally published by four environmental groups on Wednesday.

An annual legislative scorecard from PennEnvironment, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania found that the environmental voting record of the House as a whole dropped to 35 percent from 48 percent in the 2013-14 session, while the Senate’s environmental record declined to 38 percent from 41 percent.

In the latest session, House Democrats as a whole had a 72 percent rating, down from 81 percent in 2013-14, while Republicans dropped to 9 percent from 21 percent, the scorecard said. In the Senate, Democratic support for environmental measures dropped to 66 percent from 68 percent while the Republican rating edged up to 20 percent from 19 percent. Continue Reading

Dakota Access pipeline controversy hits home for Pa.

Pipeline projects used to fly under the radar but have now become part of an intense public debate over the nation's energy future.

Reid Frazier

Pipeline projects have become part of an intense public debate over the nation's energy future.

The ramifications of the Obama administration’s recent decision to temporarily halt construction on the Dakota Access oil pipeline are being felt throughout the country– particularly in Pennsylvania. Industry executives worry about growing public opposition to pipelines, while activists have been encouraged by the success of Native American protesters.

Once under the radar, pipeline projects have taken center stage in an intense battle over the nation’s energy future and global climate change.

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Fracking billionaire backs Trump

Self-made oil tycoon Harold Hamm is one of Donald Trump's key energy advisers. He spoke Wednesday at the Marcellus Shale Coalition's annual Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm is one of Donald Trump's key energy advisers. He spoke Wednesday at the Marcellus Shale Coalition's annual Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh.

One of Donald Trump’s top energy top advisers warned an oil and gas conference in Pittsburgh Wednesday that a Hillary Clinton presidency would harm the drilling industry.

Fracking billionaire Harold Hamm spoke to the Shale Insight Conference, telling the conference that he was impressed with Donald Trump when the two met while working on the Mitt Romney campaign, and that he thought Trump was the right choice for the oil and gas industry.

Hamm is CEO of Continental Resources, one of the largest fracking firms in oil-rich North Dakota. The youngest of 13 children, he started his company in 1967, at the age of 21.

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