Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Delco homeowners ask court to halt Mariner East 2 pipeline construction

An easement where Sunoco Pipeline is preparing for construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.  A homeowners group is asking a court to halt construction in that location until Sunoco comes up with a plan to mitigate contaminated soil on the site.

Jon Hurdle

An easement where Sunoco Pipeline is preparing for construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline. A homeowners group is asking a court to halt construction in that location until Sunoco comes up with a plan to mitigate contaminated soil on the site.

A Delaware County homeowners association is asking an appeals court to halt local work on the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline until its builder, Sunoco Pipeline, finds a way to stop disturbance of contaminated soil at the site.

The Andover Homeowners Association in Thornbury Township says construction on the edge of its upscale 39-home development is stirring up contaminants including lead and arsenic that were used as pesticides when the land was an orchard, and which now threaten residents’ health.

The association argues that the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution, as recently interpreted by the state Supreme Court, establishes that government at all levels has a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of its citizens and the state’s natural resources.

But it complains that it has had no help from two state agencies and the local township in seeking to control the alleged contamination. Continue Reading

Philadelphia works to bring solar energy costs down to earth

Patrick Whittaker of Solar States installs solar panels on the roof of a home in Bryn Mawr.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Patrick Whittaker of Solar States installs solar panels on the roof of a home in Bryn Mawr.

Anthony LoCicero, a 33-year-old structural engineer raised in South Jersey, has been flirting with the idea of installing solar panels on his three-bedroom brick townhouse in South Philadelphia since he bought it, seven years ago.

“Something about it just sounds like the right thing to do in general, right?” LoCicero said.  “But it just never made financial sense.”

Although the price of solar panels has been dropping over the last five years, the cost of installing a solar system capable of producing most of the energy consumed by a Philadelphia row house still ranges between $10,000 to $30,000 — depending on the amount of energy consumed and the size of the house. But a city-wide solar program, with the goal of installing solar panels on 500 city rooftops by 2018, is currently offering below-market rates and other benefits, to entice homeowners.

“It was surprisingly inexpensive, I was pleasantly surprised,” LoCicero said after meeting with one of the three solar installers participating in Solarize Philly, a company called Solar by Kiss.

Continue Reading

Construction begins on Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

Site preparation of a compressor station in Columbia County

Courtesy: Williams

Site preparation of a compressor station in Columbia County.

Williams Partners has announced construction is officially underway on its multi-billion dollar Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, which is being built to connect Marcellus Shale gas in northeastern Pennsylvania to markets along the eastern seaboard.

“We are committed to installing this infrastructure in a safe, environmentally responsible manner and in full compliance with rigorous state and federal environmental permits and standards,” Micheal Dunn, Williams’ executive vice president and chief operating officer said in a press release. “Our construction personnel are experienced, highly-qualified professionals who have undergone extensive training to ensure that this important project is installed safely and responsibly.”

The company broke ground Friday on two new natural gas compressor stations in Orange Township, Columbia and Clinton Township ,Wyoming county. Work on the pipeline itself is expected to begin September 25. Once completed, the line will run underground, through 10 Pennsylvania counties: Columbia, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Clinton and Lycoming.

Continue Reading

Conflicting decisions on pipelines frustrate industry, landowners

Holleran

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Hundreds of Cathy Holleran's maple trees were cut down, through the use of eminent domain, for an interstate natural gas pipeline that's now stalled.

In March 2016, workers for one of the nation’s largest natural gas pipeline companies cut down a large swath of maple trees in Susquehanna County–a rural patch of northeastern Pennsylvania. A video shot by an activist shows the trees crashing down as chainsaws buzz.

Cathy Holleran was powerless to stop it. At the time, she was tapping the trees for her family’s maple syrup business, but the pipeline company condemned her land using the power of eminent domain.

Armed U.S. Marshals

Driving around a year-and-a half later, she’s still in disbelief. A court order had prevented her from interfering, and law enforcement officers came to protect the pipeline workers.

“We had to stay completely away. They brought armed U.S. Marshals with assault rifles and Pennsylvania State Police, and had guys walking all over property in bullet proof vests,” Holleran recalls. “I mean, really! We’re making syrup. What are we going to do? Are we going to go attack these guys?”

Walking through her property on a recent soggy September afternoon, Holleran finds tree stumps hidden beneath shoulder-high weeds.

“This used to all be woods– as thick as that,” she says, gesturing to a cluster of remaining trees.

By her count, she lost more than 550 maples, “I went through with my camera and took pictures from every angle and counted them by hand to make sure I was accurate.”

She says her family’s maple syrup business has been cut in half. But the real shame of it all, Holleran adds, is this may all have been for nothing.

Continue Reading

Consol halts mining while waiting for new stream plan response

IMG_7974A month after a panel of judges said Consol Energy’s mining plan would “essentially destroy” a Western Pennsylvania stream, the company has sent in a new plan. But it’s halted its longwall mining operations in the area and laid off workers while waiting for the state to decide on the proposal.

Consol says 303 miners at its Bailey Mine have been “impacted” by the work stoppage.

The company submitted a revised permit application to mine beneath Polen Run, a trout-stocked stream that runs through Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is reviewing the application.

The revised application came in response to a state Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) rejection of a separate permit that allowed Consol to mine in another stretch of Polen Run.

The major difference in the two plans is what the company says it will do in a worst-case scenario: if mining causes subsidence to the stream bed and leads to a loss of stream flow.

Continue Reading

Pa. House narrowly passes a tax-free budget funding plan

House Democrats and Republicans held an intense Rules Committee hearing on the bill before sending it to the full floor. It saw several more hours of debate there.

Katie Meyer / WITF

House Democrats and Republicans held an intense Rules Committee hearing on the bill before sending it to the full floor. It saw several more hours of debate there.

The state House of Representatives has narrowly voted to move a budget plan built largely on one-time fund transfers.

Although it represents the first action on the overdue budget in well over a month, it’s unclear how much it’ll move the needle toward a resolution.

The Senate and the administration of Governor Tom Wolf both support a very different plan that raises several taxes–something the House majority wants to avoid completely.

Committee debate on the funding plan wasn’t just a study in contrasting ideologies between Democrats and Republicans–it was a study in contrasting facts.

House Democrats, like Minority Leader Frank Dermody, insist there needs to be more recurring revenue to balance the structural deficit (a budget shortfall that recurs year after year due to underfunding).

“There is no free lunch,” Dermody told his GOP colleagues in a committee meeting. “There’s no way out of this with smoke and mirrors, double-counting revenue and not coming up with real revenue. That can’t be done anymore.”

Continue Reading

DRBC takes a step toward banning fracking in Northeast Pa.

A view of the Delaware River from Morrisville, Pa.

Kim Paynter / WHYY

A view of the Delaware River from Morrisville, Pa. The Delaware River Basin Commission voted Wednesday on a resolution that could result in a ban on fracking in the Basin.

Cheers erupted at the Delaware River Basin Commission meeting Wednesday on the campus of Bucks County Community College in Newtown after commissioners from three states including Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, approved a resolution that could lead to a fracking ban in the Delaware River watershed. New Jersey abstained and the federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers voted no, which elicited a round of boos.

The Delaware River Basin Commission regulates water quality and quantity for the river and its tributaries, which provide drinking water for about 15 million people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The governors of each state, who send delegates to the meetings, serve as commissioners while the federal government is represented by the Army Corps of Engineers, which answers directly to the White House through the Council on Environmental Quality.

The 3-1-1 vote passing the resolution starts a rule making process that could last into 2018. Staff members have until Nov. 30 to come up with a proposal, which will then be subject to public comment and hearings. In essence, the rules would apply to any gas operations that utilize fracking in Wayne and Pike counties, the only part of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region that drains into the Delaware river. Continue Reading

StateImpact Pennsylvania to expand its reach with grant from Corporation for Public Broadcasting

StateImpact Pennsylvania has spent much of the past six years covering how natural gas drilling has changed the commonwealth. By adding more resources to the effort, the project plans to expand its scope by focusing on the entire energy economy.

StateImpact Pennsylvania has spent much of the past six years covering how natural gas drilling has changed the commonwealth. By adding more resources to the effort, the project plans to expand its scope by focusing on the entire energy economy.

Four public media organizations in Pennsylvania, led by WITF, will receive a $652,902 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to expand a regional news collaboration. Lead station WITF (Harrisburg) will work with WHYY (Philadelphia), WESA (Pittsburgh) and The Allegheny Front (Pittsburgh).

The partnership, titled StateImpact Pennsylvania, will produce multimedia reports on the energy industry, the economic and environmental impact of energy choices, and how energy production affects the health of citizens and communities.

The CPB grant will support the hiring of three journalists at the partner media outlets for two years, with station support continuing in outlying years “Collaboration is a force multiplier; together stations can do more and innovate faster to provide the local journalism that is part of the bedrock of public media’s valued service to our country,” said Kathy Merritt, CPB senior vice president, journalism and radio. “We’ve seen the importance of our investments in collaboration when, for example, stations in the Texas Station Collaborative were better prepared to serve their communities throughout the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.”

Continue Reading

Landowners: Wolf suggested opening Delaware River Basin to gas drilling in 2015

In 2015 Wolf met with elected officials and landowners from Wayne County to discuss the moratorium on natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin.

Courtesy: Betty Sutliff

In 2015 Wolf met with elected officials and landowners from Wayne County to discuss the moratorium on natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin. Several people in the meeting say he offered to help them open up the region to drilling, if they would help him enact a severance tax.

Two years ago, Governor Tom Wolf reportedly told a group of pro-drilling landowners and elected officials he would try to help them end a moratorium on natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin, if they helped him pass a severance tax on drillers, according to several people who attended the meeting.

Such a position would be an about-face for the Democrat, who ran for office saying he would uphold the de-facto drilling moratorium that’s been in place in the basin since 2010. It has blocked Marcellus Shale development in Wayne and Pike counties. The Delaware River Basin Commission- which has been politically gridlocked for years– manages water in the basin and includes the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the federal government. The Delaware provides drinking water to more than 15 million people in those four states.

Wolf’s spokesman, J.J. Abbott says he has no reason to believe the governor made any such offer, and that he’s been consistent on his positions. The commission is meeting Wednesday to consider moving forward with a permanent ban on natural gas development.

“Governor Wolf is currently reviewing the Delaware River Basin Commission’s draft resolution,” Abbott writes in an email. “The governor has noted that any decision regarding the future of this shared resource must be made in concert with the other DRBC members.”

Continue Reading

DRBC confirms it will consider banning fracking in basin

Dan Plummer fishes for trout in the Delaware River, Delaware County New York. The Delaware watershed hosts world class trout fisheries. But a dispute over water allocation between New York City and New Jersey could put those fisheries in jeopardy.

courtesy of Friends of the Upper Delaware

Dan Plummer fishes for trout in the Delaware River, Delaware County New York. The Delaware River Basin Commission has proposed a ban on fracking along the river.

The Delaware River Basin Commission confirmed on Monday that it will consider adopting new rules that would ban natural gas drilling in the basin, a policy that would formalize a de facto moratorium that has been in place since 2010.

The interstate regulator of water quality and supply in the basin said in a statement that its public meeting this week will consider a resolution that would require its executive director to draft a new rule containing the proposed ban, which would be sent out for public comment by the end of November, and potentially adopted later.

“If the proposed resolution is approved by the commission on Sept. 13, the revised draft rules to be published on a later date would include prohibitions related to the production of natural gas utilizing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing within the Delaware River Basin,” the DRBC said in a press release. Continue Reading

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education