Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Amy Sisk

Amy Sisk reports for StateImpact Pennsylvania and WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR member station. She comes to Pennsylvania from another energy-rich state, North Dakota, where she told stories from coal mines, wind farms and the Bakken oil patch for Inside Energy and Prairie Public Broadcasting. Amy's stories often air on NPR, including those from the eight months she spent following the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. A reporting trip to the Bakken during its boom years sparked her interest in energy. Ever since, she's covered the industry -- from the way it is regulated to its influence on policy to its impact on people and the environment.

  • Email: asisk@wesa.fm

Sierra Club, Brunner Island agree: Plant will move from coal to natural gas

PPL's Brunner Island  coal-fired plant located on the west bank of Susquehanna River.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

PPL's Brunner Island coal-fired plant, on the west bank of Susquehanna River, plans to stop burning coal by 2029.

A coal-fired power plant in York County has agreed to burn cleaner natural gas under a settlement reached with the Sierra Club.

The Brunner Island Power Plant had come under fire by environmentalists for air and water pollution.

The Sierra Club and Talen Energy, which operates the plant, have reached an agreement to avoid a lawsuit. Under the settlement, the plant by 2023 will burn gas instead of coal during the summer when ozone is at its worst. The facility will run solely on natural gas by 2029.

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13,500 PA homes still without safe heating source this winter

A pipeline moves natural gas through the Mid-Atlantic region during frigid winter months when many homes rely on gas for heat. This winter in Pennsylvania, more than 13,000 households lack a safe home heating source.

A pipeline moves natural gas through the Mid-Atlantic region during frigid winter months when many homes rely on gas for heat. This winter in Pennsylvania, more than 13,000 households lack a safe home heating source.

As Pennsylvania moves into the latter part of winter, 13,500 households that started the season without a safe source of heat still don’t have one.

Data released Wednesday by Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission shows there are fewer homes without a utility heating service this winter compared to last year. But when money’s tight, many families still turn to heating sources that pose fire risks.

“Typically when you’re looking at a home that’s using unsafe heat, it would be using things like fireplaces and space heaters in lieu of their central heating systems,” said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesperson for the commission. Continue Reading

What Trump’s tariff on solar panels means for Pennsylvania

Richard Tumushime, an electrician with Pittsburgh-based Energy Independent Solutions, works with a crew to put the finishing touches on wiring a solar panel system at the new Forest Hills Municipal Building.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Richard Tumushime, an electrician with Pittsburgh-based Energy Independent Solutions, works with a crew to put the finishing touches on wiring a solar panel system at the new Forest Hills Municipal Building.

A solar panel that arrives in the United States from overseas now comes with a higher price tag.

President Donald Trump last week imposed a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels. The move comes at the request of U.S. solar manufacturers, who seek a level playing field amid competition from places like China, where the government subsidizes solar manufacturing.

Not all are thrilled with the move. Many companies that install solar panel systems are worried the tariff will lead to increased costs and scare away potential customers, resulting in less demand and job losses. Continue Reading

Trump’s speech light on energy specifics. Here’s the lowdown behind mentions of coal, exports.

President Donald Trump, pictured here on election night, touched briefly on energy in his first State of the Union address.

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump, pictured here on election night, touched briefly on energy in his first State of the Union address.

While the president mentioned energy in his first State of the Union speech Tuesday night, he offered few details about his energy priorities.

Here’s a rundown of recent coverage by StateImpact Pennsylvania and its partners to offer a little more context to President Donald Trump’s remarks. Continue Reading

Coal company, watershed group reach settlement over new mine

SIPA_StandardThumb_Coal_2xA proposed coal mine is moving forward in southwestern Pennsylvania after its operator reached a settlement with an environmental group.

The Mountain Watershed Association raised concerns that LCT Energy’s Rustic Ridge mining operation could contaminate the Indian Creek Watershed. The parties reached a settlement this week after the watershed group had appealed the mine’s permits to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.

As a result, LCT has agreed to several environmental safeguards at its deep mine slated to span the townships of Donegal and Saltlick. Continue Reading

Tariff could hurt PA solar, but won’t ‘slam the door shut’

SIPA_StandardThumb_SolarEnergy_2xPennsylvania’s solar industry will feel the effects of the Trump administration’s move to place a tariff on foreign-built solar panels, but it won’t stop solar installations in the state, according to industry experts.

American solar manufacturers had requested a tariff because they found it difficult to compete with imported panels, particularly ones built in China and subsidized by the Chinese government.

President Donald Trump on Monday authorized a 30 percent tariff on those imported parts. The tariff will phase out over four years.

“We’re certainly going to be affected by this in this state, but I don’t think it will be a showstopper. It’s not going to slam the door shut,” said Ron Celentano, president of the Pennsylvania Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group for the industry. Continue Reading

EPA employees spend uneasy Friday bracing for potential government shutdown

A former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regional director is under consideration to lead EPA's Region 3 Office, which oversees Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The EPA said Friday it can operate for a week if there's a federal government shutdown.

As the federal government nears a shutdown, frustration is mounting among federal employees tasked with overseeing the Mid-Atlantic region’s environment and energy-related programs.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it has enough money to stay open for a week in the event of a shutdown.

But a shutdown could ultimately force more than 600 of the 700 Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 3 employees to stay home, estimated Gary Morton, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3631, the union representing the region’s EPA workers.

“We will not be able to work, and this is very frustrating because projects stop, enforcement actions stop,” he said.

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DEP fines natural gas company $1.7M for drilling violations

SIPA_StandardThumb_NaturalGasRig_2x (1)State environmental officials have fined a natural gas company $1.7 million for problems at well sites in Greene and Clearfield counties.

Energy Corporation of America was cited for, among other things, operating storage pits without proper permits and for pits that leaked.

The violations took place at 17 well sites, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The wells were recently acquired by Greylock Energy. Continue Reading

A surge, then a fade for Pennsylvania’s wind industry

Pennsylvania's wind industry boomed through 2012, but development of new wind farms has slowed in the years since.

vaxomatic via Flickr

Pennsylvania's wind industry boomed through 2012, but development of new wind farms has slowed in the years since.

While the wind power industry booms across the United States thanks to favorable federal and state policies, the development of new wind farms has stalled in Pennsylvania.

More than two dozen wind farms popped up across the state leading up to 2012, but only one in the years since.

Wind advocates say Pennsylvania could follow the lead of other states and bolster its commitment to renewable energy to help the industry grow. But not all think that’s warranted. Continue Reading

With coal consumption down, production ticks up from some Appalachian mines

The Acosta metallurgical coal mine opened in Somerset County in 2017.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Acosta metallurgical coal mine opened in Somerset County in 2017.

While the United States burned less coal in 2017 than it had in three decades, an uptick in global demand for Appalachia’s metallurgical coal — used in the steelmaking process — helped boost production this past year, according to a new analysis by an economic research firm.

Coal production rose 6 percent across the United States in 2017, which coincided with a 70 percent jump in coal exports, according to the Rhodium Group.

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