Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Jon Hurdle

Reporter

Jon is an experienced journalist who has covered a wide range of general and business-news stories for national and local media in the U.S. and his native U.K. As a former Reuters reporter, he spent several years covering the early stages of Pennsylvania’s natural gas fracking boom and was one of the first national reporters to write about the effects of gas development on rural communities. Jon trained as a general news reporter with a British newspaper chain and later worked for several business-news organizations including Bloomberg News and Market News International, covering topics including economics, bonds, currencies and monetary policy. Since 2011, he has been a freelance writer, contributing Philadelphia-area news to The New York Times; covering economics for Market News, and writing stories on the environment and other subjects for a number of local outlets including StateImpact. He has written two travel guidebooks to the European Alps; lived in Australia, Switzerland, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, and visited many countries including Ethiopia, Peru, Taiwan, and New Zealand. Outside of work hours, Jon can be found running, birding, cooking, and, when weather permits, gardening in the back yard of a Philadelphia row home where he lives with his partner, Kate.

Mariner East 2: Sunoco’s public utility status trumps local regulation, court says

An aerial view of Sunoco Pipeline's Mariner East 2 construction in rural Pennsylvania. Plans for a new construction technique in some locations have prompted a new round of community resistance.

Jeremy Long / Lebanon Daily News

An aerial view of Sunoco Pipeline's Mariner East 2 construction in rural Pennsylvania.

Sunoco won a court battle over the siting of its Mariner East 2 pipeline on Tuesday when a panel of judges ruled against an effort to assert local control over where the pipeline can be built.

The Commonwealth Court rejected an appeal by four plaintiffs who argued that Sunoco is violating a zoning ordinance in Chester County’s West Goshen Township that sets the distance a pipeline can be built from houses, and that the ordinance should not be overridden by state regulations.

But the court upheld a county court ruling last fall that the local regulations are pre-empted by the pipeline’s status as a public utility project, as determined by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

“We hold that the Township lacks authority to zone out a public utility pipeline service or pipeline facility regulated by the PUC,” the court wrote in an majority opinion.

Continue Reading

Landowners brace for eminent domain loss in PennEast pipeline cases

From the porch of her Palmerton farmhouse, Albertine Anthony looks out on the rolling hills of lower Carbon County. She believes the PennEast pipeline's proposed route through her 124-acre farm threatens her water supply.

Emma Lee / WHYY

From the porch of her Palmerton farmhouse, Albertine Anthony looks out on the rolling hills of lower Carbon County. She believes the PennEast pipeline's proposed route through her 124-acre farm threatens her water supply.

Albertine Anthony has been living in the same picturesque Carbon County farmhouse since she was born 93 years ago, and she’s not going anywhere even if PennEast builds a natural gas pipeline across her land.

Anthony, a tiny figure with a slight stoop and a shock of white hair, was offered $37,000 by the company as compensation for building the pipeline across a corner of her 124-acre farm that was first purchased by her grandfather, and where tenants now grow crops including corn and oats.

She might have gotten used to the idea if the company hadn’t changed its plans and redrawn the pipeline route so that it crossed a wetland containing the spring that has supplied her house with water for three generations.

The idea that pipeline construction might destroy the spring that provides fresh, clear water by gravity – even to the second floor of her house – has set her firmly against PennEast’s plans and led her to tell them that she’s not accepting their compensation at any price.

“You can give me any amount of money but you can’t replace that spring, and you can’t replace the good taste that it has,” she said in an interview at her kitchen table. “If they hit that vein when they are going down, then everything is finished.” Continue Reading

Chester County township adds to local challenges on Mariner East 2 siting

A sign marks the path of the Mariner East 1 pipeline through Chester County.

Kim Paynter / Newsworks

A sign marks the path of the Mariner East 1 pipeline through Chester County.

Chester County’s Uwchlan Township mounted the latest local challenge to Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline this week when its supervisors voted unanimously to enforce an ordinance that requires any hazardous liquids pipeline to be set back from buildings further than the distance currently under construction.

The three-person board, elected last November on a platform of protecting the public from any threat to safety from the pipeline, instructed the township solicitor to file suit against Sunoco, saying that the current construction would violate setback provisions in the ordinance. Continue Reading

Sunoco can resume Mariner East 2 drilling at Chester County site, DEP says

Eric Friedman, right, who lives nearby, takes video of a Mariner East 2 pipeline work site at Shepherd Lane in Glen Mills on Wednesday. Because of permit violations, construction of Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline was halted Wednesday by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which said the company must meet certain conditions before it will be able to resume work.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Because of permit violations, construction of Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline was halted last month by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which said the company must meet certain conditions before it will be able to resume work. On Thursday, the DEP allowed Sunoco to begin construction in Chester County.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday that Sunoco can restart drilling for the Mariner East 2 pipeline at a Chester County site where some private well owners experienced cloudy water last summer.

DEP issued a statement saying Sunoco had met requirements to resume horizontal directional drilling at the Shoen Road site, where officials halted drilling in July after it impacted some private water supplies in West Whiteland and Uwchlan Townships. Continue Reading

What will Sunoco’s $12.6 million Mariner East 2 penalty be spent on?

Mariner East 2 construction site in Edgemont Township, Delaware County. Officials say the company will pay to clean up environmental violations in addition to a $12.6 million fine.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

A Mariner East 2 construction site is shown in Edgemont Township, Delaware County. Officials say the company will pay to clean up environmental violations in addition to a $12.6 million fine.

The $12.6 million penalty being paid by Sunoco for multiple violations during construction of the Mariner East 2 pipelines will be used to improve water quality and the safety of dams across Pennsylvania, and will be in addition to the company’s work to correct environmental damage caused during the project, current and former state officials said.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s penalty for dozens of permit violations over the last year was among the largest ever handed out by the agency, and was the price demanded by the state for its permission to resume construction after a month-long state-ordered shutdown. Continue Reading

Mariner East 2 critics don’t trust DEP, Sunoco agreement to improve company’s record

Sunoco/ETP's Mariner East 2 construction site in West Whiteland Township, Chester County. Critics doubt that the DEP's decision to lift a stop-work order will ensure fewer environmental violations when construction resumes.

courtesy of David Mano

Sunoco/ETP's Mariner East 2 construction site in West Whiteland Township, Chester County. Critics doubt that the DEP's decision to lift a stop-work order will ensure fewer environmental violations when construction resumes.

Pennsylvania’s decision on Thursday to allow Sunoco to resume construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline after a month-long shutdown failed to convince critics that the company will do so with any more respect for environmental regulations than they say it has had since starting the project a year ago.

Despite the Department of Environmental Protection’s $12.6 million civil penalty for the project’s many violations, and the company’s agreement to do a compliance review, critics said the measures don’t ensure Sunoco will meet regulations as it tries to get the natural gas liquids pipeline up and running after a long series of delays. Continue Reading

PennEast pipeline seeks eminent domain, plus U.S. marshals to protect workers

A landowner rips up an offer of compensation from PennEast at a rally February 2, 2018.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

A landowner rips up an offer of compensation from PennEast at a rally February 2, 2018.

The PennEast Pipeline Co. filed eminent domain notices in federal court to obtain access to land owned by dozens of people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have refused its offers of compensation for building the proposed natural gas pipeline on their property.

Court documents were filed in both states on Tuesday, asking the courts to allow the company to immediately take possession of the rights of way where the pipeline would be built on individual properties.

 The company also asked the court to approve the presence of federal marshals to “enforce the Court’s injunction” and to prevent landowners and their supporters from impeding construction.

 The filing said that landowners and their supporters have indicated that they intend to block access and “harass and intimidate” PennEast employees and contractors who should be protected by marshals.

Continue Reading

Landowners tear up PennEast leases as New Jersey shelves permit application

A landowner rips up an offer of compensation from PennEast at a rally February 2, 2018.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

A landowner rips up an offer of compensation from PennEast at a rally February 2, 2018.

Landowners along the PennEast Pipeline route in Pennsylvania ceremonially ripped up leases on Friday, saying they will not agree to the company’s plans to build the pipeline on their land – at the price offered, or in some cases at any price.

The event came the day after New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection wrote to PennEast saying the company still has not supplied the information needed to process its application for a wetlands permit, so the matter is “administratively closed.” The regulator last year rejected the application for the same reason, and asked the company to reapply. Continue Reading

Mariner East 2: Texts raise questions about Wolf administration role in permitting process

Sunoco's work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline has been suspended by the Pennsylvania environmental protection department. This photo, taken Wednesday, shows a work area off Fallbrook Lane in Glen Mills, near Philadelphia.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

On Jan. 2, the Pennsylvania environmental protection department suspended work related to permits it issued for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. This photo shows a work area off Fallbrook Lane in Glen Mills, near Philadelphia.

A senior staffer for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asked the state’s chief environmental regulator not to send letters to Sunoco detailing problems with its permit applications for a controversial pipeline project until the governor was updated, according to text messages obtained through a lawsuit.

The texts also show the official asking the state’s Department of Environmental Protection whether some deficiencies cited in Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 plans could “remain flexible for field adjustments.”

In February 2017, soon after the series of texts, DEP approved Sunoco’s permits with conditions. Some landowners and environmentalists say that Wolf injected political pressure into a decision that should be based solely on environmental standards. They say those standards and regulations were subverted to help Sunoco make its projected timeline on the project.

And, they say, the texts bolster their claims.

“I don’t know if there’s a smoking gun here but there sure is a lot of smoke,” said Eric Friedman, a Delaware County landowner who, along with his homeowner’s association, is battling Sunoco’s eminent domain taking.

Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott and a past DEP secretary say the messages show an exchange of information among government agencies that is routine for a project of this size and scope. The 20-inch diameter high pressure natural gas liquids line tunnels beneath 17 counties, cuts through 2,700 properties with a 50-foot right-of-way, and crosses more than 1,200 streams or wetlands. It’s expected to cost more than $2.5 billion.

“These texts merely show coordination of information and schedules,” Abbott wrote in an email. “They are not orders or direction but seeking productive government services.”

Continue Reading

Feds cite Sunoco for Mariner East 2 violation during construction in Ohio

Mariner East 2 construction site in Edgemont Township, Delaware County. The federal pipeline regulator has issued a notice of probable violation to Sunoco after discovering flawed sections of pipe on a section of the route in Ohio.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Mariner East 2 construction site in Edgemont Township, Delaware County. The federal pipeline regulator has issued a notice of probable violation to Sunoco after discovering flawed sections of pipe on a section of the route in Ohio.

A section of the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline showed scrapes and a gouge in its coating during construction in Ohio last year, federal regulators said, in a recent statement that has fueled activists’ concern about the safety of the line.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a “Notice of Probable Violation” to Sunoco Pipeline on Jan. 11 after an inspector discovered the flaws during a visit to the construction site near Hopedale, Ohio, near the western end of the pipeline route, in March 2017. 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