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Gov. Wolf says Mariner East 2 pipeline permits could be approved

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference at the Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Thursday, June 2, 2016.  Wolf recently told a group of Philadelphia area business people that DEP will approve permits for the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference at the Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Thursday, June 2, 2016. Wolf recently told a group of Philadelphia area business people that DEP will approve permits for the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Responding to a question from a reporter at an event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia last week, Gov. Wolf indicated he supports approval of the required state permits to build the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project. When questioned by 6abc anchor Matt O’Donnell about permit delays Wolf said “We’re working through that.” On further questioning Wolf affirmed that the pipeline project could still happen. There’s been no word from DEP on whether the agency has finished reviewing Sunoco’s updated applications and if those updates meet all of DEP’s requirements. Wolf spoke to the southeast Pennsylvania business community as part of an annual event hosted by the Chamber. The Chamber has advocated for the region to become an “energy hub,” where new pipelines full of Marcellus Shale gas could feed new manufacturing.

The bulk of the contents flowing through the Mariner East 2 pipeline would actually be shipped overseas to a plastics factory in Scotland. Sunoco Logistics has had to delay building the 350-mile pipeline because the company has not yet secured the necessary permits from DEP. The agency informed Sunoco last September that its applications for water crossing and earth disturbance permits were insufficient, outlining hundreds of issues that needed addressed in each of the 17 counties along the planned pipeline route. The “deficiency letters” sent to Sunoco by DEP galvanized pipeline opponents, generating an unprecedented number of public comments to the DEP on the obscure permits known as Chapter 102 and 105. The lack of permits caused Sunoco to push back it’s plans to begin pipeline construction to the third quarter of 2017. Originally, the pipeline was supposed to be completed by the end of 2016. Continue Reading

Art installation interprets water pollution with sound

Bethany Wiggin, who runs Penn's program in environmental humanities listens to audio from the Date-um exhibit, which focuses on water quality in the lower Schuylkill river.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA

Bethany Wiggin, who runs Penn's program in environmental humanities listens to audio from the Date-um exhibit, which focuses on water quality in the lower Schuylkill river.

At the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Penn’s campus in West Philadelphia, off to the side in the lobby area, is a small installation called Date-um. Immediately visitors are drawn to five friendly faces – elders it turns out, active in the decades long struggle to clean up the Schuylkill river. Their warm smiles hang next to a video projection of sun shimmering on the river’s surface. But pick up a set of headphones and you hear a screeching sound.

Danielle Toronyi is the artist behind this contribution to Date-um, which includes a video projection of the sun dancing on the surface of the Schuylkill. The sound is of the river. It’s not bubbly and peaceful though, and that’s because Toronyi has distorted the sound.

She put a hydrophone beneath the river at a stormwater discharge point near Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. Using discharge data from the U.S. Geological Survey, she programed a delay in the recording based on the amount of water rushing into the river. With that rushing water comes pollutants picked up from streets, parking lots, and sewers. Take a listen to an interview with Toronyi about her piece Peak Discharge:

Date-um also includes oral history recordings from residents of the Eastwick section of Philadelphia, which borders the John Heinz National wildlife preserve and where some homes were built on top of a medical waste dump.The Schuylkill River provides drinking water to 1.5 million people, and experts say the river is a lot cleaner than it was 50 years ago. But there are still problems associated with sewer discharges from upstream, and the impacts of sudden surges of stormwater.

Six years on, Butler County community still without water

A man helps deliver donations of clean water to residents of Butler County who say gas drilling polluted their water supply, February, 2013.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A man helps deliver donations of clean water to residents of Butler County, February, 2013. The residents continue to rely on donated water and say gas drilling polluted their water supply. The DEP investigation found drilling was not to blame.

A community in western Pennsylvania says families are entering their sixth year without clean water and they blame gas drilling. About 50 people living in the rural Butler County community known as The Woodlands, 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, continue to rely on donated water, according to Lee Dreyer, pastor of the White Oak Springs Presbyterian Church in Renfrew.

“Here’s a situation where, in 21st century America there are people, a small population of people granted, but people who are living with unsafe and unclean water in the community and there’s nothing being done about it,” said Dreyer.

Dreyer’s church serves as the distribution point for the weekly water donations, which he says ranges from 300 to 400 gallons that the residents use for drinking and cooking. Several families are currently in litigation over their water and have been advised not to speak to the press. Dreyer says local officials have not helped the families, so it’s up to private individuals to contribute. The Department of Environmental Protection concluded several years ago that nearby gas drilling did not contaminate residential well water. Continue Reading

Trump ‘worst possible scenario’ for climate, says Penn State scientist

Dr. Mann speaking at the EcoAmerica Climate Leadership Conference in September 2016.

Courtesy: Michael Mann

"I couldn't have outlined anything more bleak than what we've seen," Dr. Mann says of Trump's election.

Dr. Michael E. Mann is a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and one of the most vocal advocates for climate action within the scientific community.

His latest book, with Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, is called, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.”

Mann recently sat down with StateImpact Pennsylvania to talk about the death threats he’s received over the years, his views the natural gas boom, and his concerns about Donald Trump.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You’ve been in the cross-hairs of this public debate for a long time. What are you expecting from the incoming Trump administration?

A: If you’d asked me a year ago, ‘What’s the worst possible scenario that might play out in the election when it comes to U.S. action on climate?’ I couldn’t have outlined anything much more bleak than what we’ve seen. We’ve had the election of a president who is on record as a climate change denier and has appointed other climate change deniers to key posts.

Scott Priutt, who’s been appointed to EPA, has sued the EPA in the past over their efforts to act on climate change. Rick Perry, who has been appointed to the Department of Energy, said he would eliminate [the department]. He’s on record dismissing even the fact that the globe is warming. There’s an overwhelming consensus among the world’s scientists that human actions—the burning of fossil fuels—is responsible.

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Consultant’s report endorses safety of Mariner East 2; critics unmoved

Pipeline workers weld a pipeline connecting to a natural gas well in the Loyalsock State Forest. A new report says the pipeline welds on the proposed Mariner East 2 line exceed federal safety standards.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Workers weld a pipeline connecting to a natural gas well in the Loyalsock State Forest. A new report says the pipeline welds on the proposed Mariner East 2 line would exceed federal safety standards.

Public debate over the safety of the proposed Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline was fueled with the publication of a consultant’s report endorsing Sunoco Logistics‘ plans on one section of the line in Chester County, while critics said the report failed to address what could happen if there was a leak. The report by Accufacts assessed the safety of the project in West Goshen Township, and concluded that Sunoco’s plans exceed federal minimum safety requirements. It said the proposed 20-inch pipe would be tested to a standard beyond U.S. pipeline safety regulations, and that the type of coating to be used on the line essentially eliminates the likelihood of seam corrosion. It was not immediately clear whether Mariner East 2 continues to exceed federal safety regulations in light of new rules published by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on Friday.

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Lancaster County pipeline opponents prepare for encampments

About 200 people gathered in southern Lancaster County Sunday and ceremonially burned the final environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. In the document, federal regulators had concluded the project would not create significant environmental harm.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

About 200 people gathered in southern Lancaster County Sunday and ceremonially burned the final environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. In the document, federal regulators had concluded the project would not create significant environmental harm.

Anti-pipeline activists in Lancaster County are preparing to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to block a proposed natural gas transmission line.

The group Lancaster Against Pipelines is spearheading the effort. Activists have built two wooden structures near Conestoga, which they intend to occupy if and when crews begin work on the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.

Williams, the Oklahoma-based company behind the project, expects to receive final approval from federal regulators within weeks. The pipeline recently cleared a major regulatory hurdle, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its final environmental impact statement (EIS), and found the pipeline would not create significant environmental harm.

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Feds tighten rules for hazardous liquids pipelines such as Mariner East 2

A pipeline under construction in Susquehanna County: new federal rules will tighten requirements on pipelines carrying hazardous liquids.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

A pipeline under construction in Susquehanna County: new federal rules will tighten requirements on pipelines carrying hazardous liquids.

Federal regulators published a new set of rules on Friday to strengthen the safety of pipelines carrying hazardous liquids such as crude oil and the natural gas liquids that would be pumped across Pennsylvania by the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said operators of the approximately 200,000 miles of hazardous liquids pipelines across the U.S. will have to perform more frequent inspections, extend inspections outside so-called high-consequence areas, and install leak-detection systems on all pipelines. Continue Reading

Gas industry talks pipelines, bird flu, at the Farm Show

On Wednesday PennAg Industries and Sunoco Logistics unveiled a new online training tool designed to raise awareness about threats like the avian flu.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

On Wednesday PennAg Industries and Sunoco Logistics unveiled a new online training tool designed to raise awareness about threats like the avian flu.

Pennsylvania’s natural gas pipeline building boom is happening mostly in rural areas, which is one of the reasons representatives from the oil and gas industry were at the 101st Farm Show in Harrisburg this week.

They kept a relatively low profile though, and tried connect with farmers– about issues ranging from eminent domain, to stopping the spread of the avian flu. Two forums were held, and although they took place inside the Farm Show complex, they were sparsely attended and neither appeared on the official schedule.

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Sen. Scott Wagner officially kicks off his campaign for governor

State Senator Scott Wagner (R- York) officially launched his campaign for governor Wednesday.

Katie Meyer / WITF

State Senator Scott Wagner (R- York) officially launched his campaign for governor Wednesday.

Republican State Senator Scott Wagner is the first person to throw his hat into the 2018 race for governor. He made the official announcement Wednesday at the York County headquarters of his trash hauling company.

A conservative first-term senator and businessman, Wagner’s making it clear that he is running on a similar outsider platform as president-elect Donald Trump.

“I started my first business when I was 20 years old,” he said at one point. “When you start out with two trucks and two employees and you build that company to 350 employees—you know, I’ve learned you can, surround yourself with the best people.”

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Wolf hoping third time’s the charm on severance tax

This Dec. 29, 2015, file photo shows Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaking with members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Governor Wolf says he plans to propose another natural gas severance tax at the end of this month.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

This Dec. 29, 2015, file photo shows Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaking with members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Governor Wolf says he plans to propose a natural gas severance tax at the end of this month. It would be his third attempt to tax the gas industry since becoming governor.

After failing to pass a natural gas severance tax for the last two years, Governor Tom Wolf is hoping this year, the legislature will get on board with his proposal.

Following an event at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia Tuesday evening, Wolf said he plans to ask for a tax on Marcellus Shale drillers during his 2017/2018 fiscal year budget address next month. However, he was mum on the details, which he said are still being worked out with legislators and the natural gas industry.

Wolf, who campaigned on imposing a five percent severance tax, thinks the measure is key to making sure communities hours away from the nearest gas well buy in to Marcellus Shale development, especially as pipeline companies look to move natural gas to markets on the East Coast through their backyards. Increasingly, suburban Philadelphia communities in Delaware and Chester Counties, which lie along the eastern edge of route of the proposed Mariner East pipeline, have been organizing to resist the project.

“I want to be able to say to the people in Delaware County, if you support reasonable and environmentally correct expansion of the gas industry, this is going to help your schools,” the governor said.

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