Teenagers take turns jumping into the Musconetcong river just below the Asbury Mill Dam in New Jersey. President Trump signed a spending bill Friday that allocates $5 million for Delaware River Basin restoration. Some of that work would include removing dams like this one. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
The $1.3 trillion spending bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday unexpectedly brought good news for environmentalists. Instead of the proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and rollbacks for clean air and water protections, the new federal budget increased funds for a number of environment and energy preservation program, including $5 million for new conservation efforts in the Delaware River watershed.
First introduced in 2010, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act was approved in 2016 with bipartisan support. The Act established the Delaware River Basin Restoration program, which aims to reduce water pollution along the Delaware River, improve fish and wildlife habitat, and make it easier for residents to access the waterfront. Friday’s budget approval established its funding.
David Kinney with the conservation group Trout Unlimited says this first-time funding is important for the region.
“It’s a big economic boost,” Kinney said. “We have one of the best wild trout fisheries in the Upper Delaware on the entire East Coast. People travel from all over the world to go and fish for wild brown trout up there.” Continue Reading →
Scott Reynolds, owner of Express Transmission in Beaver County, shows an array of gas cap adapters. The adapters are used as a part of Pennsylvania's vehicle emission testing program.
Millions of Pennsylvania drivers make an annual trip to their local auto shop to test their vehicle’s emissions. Two decades after this ritual began, some are questioning its necessity.
Emission tests are required in 25 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. They exist to reduce smog and serve to help the state comply with the federal Clean Air Act.
State Sen. Elder Vogel, R-New Sewickley, represents three counties, but emissions tests are required in only one, Beaver County. He questions whether that’s fair to those residents, given that dirty air doesn’t stop at the county line.
“It’s just a $30, $40, $50 cost that everybody has to have once a year that we don’t believe is necessary anymore,” he said.
FILE PHOTO: This 2011 file photo shows a farmhouse in the background framed by pipes connecting pumps where the hydraulic fracturing process in the Marcellus Shale layer to release natural gas was underway at a site in Claysville, Pa.
A new analysis published Thursday by Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office estimates mineral owners could wind up losing tens of millions of dollars in natural gas royalties if Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed severance tax becomes law.
The administration says the report has it wrong because it doesn’t take into account a key detail in Wolf’s proposal. On Friday, the IFO added a footnote acknowledging that detail, but it did not amend its report.
The calculation was requested by state Sen. Lisa Baker (R- Luzerne), who asked the IFO to examine how a potential severance tax could affect the post-production costs many landowners already see gas companies deducting from their monthly royalty checks.
“States that levy a natural gas gas severance tax allow those costs to be treated like a post-production cost,” IFO director Matthew Knittel wrote.
Post-production costs are the expenses of moving natural gas from the wellhead to the market. Some Pennsylvania landowners allege the costs are exorbitant and leave them with little to no royalty money. The controversy has spurred lawsuits and proposed legislation. Earlier this month, West Virginia passed a new law prohibiting gas and oil companies from deducting post-production expenses in certain types of leases.
Polen Run in Ryerson Station State Park, Greene County. Photo: Reid R. Frazier
Environmental groups have once again appealed a state permit allowing Consol to mine beneath a stream inside a state park in Greene County, saying that the plan could cause “significant damage” to the waterway. They are asking a state judge to issue a temporary halt to the mining plan while the case is heard.
The Center for Coalfield Justice and the Sierra Club say that the permit, issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, could damage Polen Run, in a 700-foot long section of the stream that flows through Ryerson Station State Park.
They argue that longwall mining, the technique Consol would use to mine beneath the stream, can cause ground beneath streams to fall in. Continue Reading →
File photo. A Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site in Bradford County, Pa.
Join StateImpact Pennsylvania for an educational forum to learn how other states handle natural gas royalty payments and what’s being done about the controversy over post-production costs in Pennsylvania. The forum is titled, Drilling down on deductions: How are gas royalties paid around the U.S.?
Keynote speaker and royalty expert Owen L. Anderson, a professor and distinguished oil and gas scholar at the University of Texas, has lectured at numerous universities and venues on six continents and throughout the United States, and has written over 100 articles.
Anderson’s keynote presentation will be followed by a panel discussion on post-production costs and a question-and-answer session with the audience.
Other panelists are: Jackie Root, head of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners; and David Fine, an attorney with K&L Gates in Harrisburg who represented Elexco Land Services and Southwestern Energy in the landmark 2010 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, which held that Pennsylvania’s minimum royalty guarantee applies to revenues before expenses are calculated.
The event, at Towanda Area High School, is free and open to the public. RSVP here:
A smoke stack at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Philadelphia. The company is seeing growing objections to its plan to emerge from bankruptcy but is expected to resolve them.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions is meeting more resistance to its plan to reorganize while in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but is expected to resolve its differences with creditors including the federal government and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The operator of the South Philadelphia refinery, the biggest on the East Coast with some 1,100 workers, faced four objections to the reorganization by Wednesday afternoon, all asking a U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware to withhold its approval for the company’s bankruptcy plan, according to court documents. Continue Reading →
From left to right: Melissa DiBernadino, Goshen United for Public Safety, Rebecca Britton, Uwchlan Safety Coalition, and Andrew Williams, Environmental Defense Fund, testified Tuesday at a joint senate hearing on pipeline safety.
A joint state senate hearing Tuesday was ostensibly about the broad topic of “pipeline safety,” but ended up focusing almost entirely on Sunoco’s embattled Mariner East project – a series of natural gas liquids pipelines spanning the southern portion of Pennsylvania.
The hearing, which lasted more than two hours, was held by the state senate Environmental Resources and Energy and the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committees.
Rebecca Britton of the Chester County-based Uwchlan Safety Coalition lives near the lines and was among those testifying. She urged the committees to pass legislation expanding the state’s regulatory oversight of pipelines, noting that in the event of a leak, the natural gas liquids in the pipeline would become a colorless, odorless, highly flammable gas that citizens have been advised to run away from on foot.
Residents of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township on Monday pressed pipeline regulators for answers on Sunoco’s Mariner East construction after it produced sink holes behind some local homes.The meeting was held at the township municipal building to address residents' concerns, in part about sinkholes that have developed near the construction sites.
Residents of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township expressed their fears and frustrations to state and federal pipeline regulators at a meeting on Monday some two weeks after sink holes opened up during construction of the controversial Mariner East pipelines in the township.
Homeowners asked whether their homes would be affected by drilling through the unstable local geology; whether there would be a catastrophic explosion if the new pipelines leak; and whether the officials were able to protect them from the pipeline company, Sunoco, that many people distrust.
Representatives of Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission and Department of Environmental Protection, and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said the pipelines are subject to regulations governing safety and environmental quality, and said they are available to respond to public concerns.
But many of the approximately 140 attendees said they fear for their safety and the value of their homes after at least three sinkholes up to 20 feet deep appeared in the backyards of several homes on Lisa Drive, where Sunoco is drilling for the pipelines.
The Invenergy natural gas power plant in Jessup Pa. began spewing plumes of smoke in early March, prompting health complaints from nearby residents. The company says the emissions are temporary and part of a planned commissioning process.
Residents of Jessup say they are not satisfied with the response from the state Department of Environmental Protection, after a new natural gas power plant spewed yellow-colored smoke and prompted health complaints earlier this month.
The Invenergy plant being built in Lackawanna County started emitting noxious smoke on March 3. According to Jessup Borough Council President Jerry Crinella, DEP sent two people to investigate on March 6, but after they walked around, they said they couldn’t see or smell anything.
“I’m disappointed concerned citizens are not getting the information they’re asking for. We want to know what the readings were from the air monitors,” Crinella said. “The DEP is supposed to be there to protect the public, not the company.”
DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly declined to discuss the incident, and instead sent emailed statements.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions is the largest oil refining complex on the Eastern seaboard. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is urging a federal bankruptcy court to withhold approval of a bankruptcy petition by Philadelphia Energy Solutions, saying the company owes the state $3.8 billion in back taxes.
Shapiro, in a document filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware on Friday, said the taxes are owed for “liquid fuel and sales and use taxes,” and have arisen from a pending audit of the company’s refining and marketing arm.
The document said the liability “may be adjusted” after the audit but may mean that the PES’s pre-packaged bankruptcy, filed in January, may not work.
“The Commonwealth believes, however, the final audit may produce a substantial liability which could impact the feasibility of the debtors’ plan,” the document said.