Amy Sisk

Reporter

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.

Dynamite disappears from Atlantic Sunrise worksite; ATF is trying to find it

Construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Lancaster County.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Lancaster County.

Update, 10:24 a.m. April 19: Authorities now say that 704 pounds of explosives were stolen. The Lebanon Daily News reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said an inventory confirmed that 16 cases of dynamite were taken. Each case holds 40 sticks of dynamite that weigh 1.1 pounds each.

 The ATF increased its reward offer to $20,000 for information leading to recovery of the explosives or an arrest.

Reported previously: Authorities are searching for explosives that were stolen last weekend from an Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline worksite in Lancaster County.

More than 600 pounds of dynamite disappeared from a locked truck trailer in Marietta, along with 400 blasting caps, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Gregory General Contracting Company reported the theft to authorities on Monday after security at the site discovered the trailer door open with the locks missing.

Atlantic Sunrise developer Williams said the incident took place at a storage yard operated by a contractor. The pipeline project is under construction to bring natural gas from northeastern Pennsylvania to markets across the Mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States. The pipeline will run through 10 counties: Columbia, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Clinton and Lycoming.

ATF Special Agent Charlene Hennessy said the bureau is working on leads provided by the public to find the explosives and the people responsible. Continue Reading

Mayor from Puerto Rico aims to rebuild a new, modern grid

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, right, of Puerto Rico speaks on a panel at Carnegie Mellon University alongside Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and CMU Interim Provost Laurie Weingart.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, right, of Puerto Rico speaks on a panel at Carnegie Mellon University alongside Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and CMU Interim Provost Laurie Weingart.

Six months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, 200,000 residents still lack electricity, the mayor of the island’s capital city told a crowded Carnegie Mellon University ballroom Wednesday night.

Carmen Yulín Cruz, who received a master’s degree from CMU in the 1980s, came back to the campus to speak at “Energy Week” alongside Pittsburgh’s mayor.

She said the situation in Puerto Rico is still dire for many.

“You have no idea what it is to spend months and months and months with not a flicker of light,” she said. “We don’t want energy to be able to bathe in warm water or to have air conditioning, we want it so our children can go to school. We want it so that our doctors can operate in the operating rooms without having to use the light from their cell phones.” Continue Reading

Poll: Climate change causing problems for significant number of Pennsylvanians

Sandy left more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians in the dark

Getty Images

Scientists have been studying the link between climate change and extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy, which left more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians in the dark in 2012.

Across Pennsylvania, four in 10 registered voters say they have personally experienced problems related to climate change, according to a recent poll from StateImpact Pennsylvania and Franklin & Marshall College.

Dealing with extreme weather is a common theme among Pennsylvanians who responded that they believe climate change is affecting them. Some have had to cancel vacations due to hurricanes, while others have experienced flooding in their basements.

For Carol Gingrich of Bushkill, a town in the Pocono mountains along the New Jersey border, it’s the seemingly nonstop storms.

“We have gone through four nor’easters just this winter,” she said. “Now, it’s not unusual to have a nor’easter come onto the East Coast like this. But four pretty much back to back, and one really devastated the area, is pretty intense.”

She said the first storm knocked out power for a week, forcing her and her 90-year-old mother to stay in a hotel an hour away that had electricity.

Scientists have not specifically linked this year’s nor’easters to climate change. More and more, scientists are researching whether to attribute climate change as the cause of an individual storm. But Gingrich’s comments and those of others in the poll echo the consensus of leading climate experts, that climate change is exacerbating extreme weather-related events across the globe, ranging from heat waves to wildfires to heavy rainfall.

Continue Reading

While legislation stalls in Pennsylvania, West Virginia acts on natural gas royalties

drill rigPennsylvania landowners for years have tried and failed to get the Legislature to protect royalties they receive from natural gas companies, but mineral owners in West Virginia just scored a victory.

A bill addressing deductions from royalty checks sailed through the West Virginia statehouse and will soon go into effect. Now when drillers seek permits to drill on old leases, they cannot take out deductions to cover the costs of transporting natural gas from a well site or removing impurities.

These steps, taken once the gas has been produced from the well, help get the gas ready to be sold further down the processing chain. Continue Reading

Wastewater well opposed by some Clearfield County residents secures state permit

Marianne and Rick Atkinson with their dog Spot, on their property in Clearfield County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Marianne and Rick Atkinson with their dog Spot, on their property in Clearfield County.

Some Clearfield County residents have fought for years to block a proposed injection well to store wastewater from the state’s natural gas fields, but the project has secured a permit from Pennsylvania environmental officials.

The Department of Environmental Protection gave its approval this week for the well, which will be operated in Brady Township by Windfall Oil and Gas. There are about a dozen of these underground injection wells in the state, meant to hold the salty wastewater that comes to the earth’s surface alongside natural gas. Much of the state’s wastewater is carried on trucks into Ohio and disposed of in similar wells.

Residents near the site of the proposed Clearfield County well have opposed the project over concerns about earthquakes and water contamination. Continue Reading

Could some counties scrap the annual vehicle emissions test? A study aims to figure that out

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.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

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.

Continue Reading

Listen: Disputes over gas royalties fester throughout oil and gas states

A shale gas drilling rig in Washington, Pa.

AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam

A shale gas drilling rig in Washington, Pa.

When a company wants to drill for natural gas, it will typically approach the person who owns the underground minerals in that location and negotiate a lease. That lease grants the mineral owner a certain percentage of the revenue generated from the gas well, known as the royalty.

But as StateImpact Pennsylvania has reported, disputes can arise over royalty money, particularly when companies take deductions for “post-production costs.” The costs often include expenses associated with transporting and treating the gas.

While Pennsylvania landowners have complained for years about deductions, now landowners across the country are echoing their concerns.

StateImpact reporters Marie Cusick and Amy Sisk discussed the latest surrounding these disputes today on “The Confluence,” a show produced by Pittsburgh NPR station WESA.

You can listen here:

Pennsylvania tackles a solar problem: How to get more electricity from the sun

Workers from Solar States (from left) Patrick Whittaker, Rida Bouharoun, and Dennis Hajnik, install solar panels on the roof of a home in Bryn Mawr. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Emma Lee / WHYY

Workers from Solar States (from left) Patrick Whittaker, Rida Bouharoun, and Dennis Hajnik, install solar panels on the roof of a home in Bryn Mawr. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Solar energy advocates want to dramatically increase the amount of electricity generated from solar panels in the state.

Representatives from the industry, clean energy groups and state officials met Thursday in Pittsburgh to continue work on a plan to get 10 percent of the state’s electricity from solar by 2030. Currently, solar power makes up 0.25 percent of Pennsylvania’s power mix, said Dave Althoff with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance.

The effort stems from a $550,000 grant the DEP received from the U.S. energy department. Continue Reading

Listen: here’s why some strike it rich in the gas patch and others strike out

A natural gas drilling site in Susquehanna County.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A natural gas drilling site in Susquehanna County.

The United States lets private individuals own the right to the minerals under their land. While that sets it apart from virtually every other country, it also opens the door to a host of disputes.

As StateImpact Pennsylvania recently reported, disparities in how mineral royalties are paid spans the Marcellus Shale, and it’s popping up in other oil- and gas-rich regions across the country. It stems from a complex web of laws, court rulings and legal jargon that determines how money is distributed to property owners who allow energy companies to tap the minerals below their land.

Reporters Amy Sisk and Marie Cusick appeared on WITF’s Smart Talk Tuesday to explain.

Continue Reading

How a reporter’s #NoDAPL photo wound up in the Russia investigations

I stumbled across a Washington Post story this morning that describes how Russia’s Internet Research Agency tried to manipulate the debate over energy-related issues in the United States via social media.

The article summarizes a report from a U.S. House committee that includes screenshots of social media posts created by the “troll farm.” I did a double-take when I scrolled past this one:

IRA pipeline meme

U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

That photo on the bottom? It’s mine. I took it a year ago, before I was a reporter for StateImpact Pennsylvania. At the time, I lived in North Dakota and was covering the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The trolls — from the same group Special Counsel Robert Mueller recently indicted for allegedly interfering in U.S. elections — obviously cropped it and reproduced it in a pixelated meme. Continue Reading

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