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.

  • Email: jonhurdle@gmail.com

New pipeline rule requires quicker reporting of accidents

First responders block the access to the area where a natural gas explosion at a pipeline burned one person and damaged houses on Friday, April 29, 2016, in Salem Township, Pa. The explosion caused flames to shoot above nearby treetops in the largely rural area, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, and prompted authorities to evacuate businesses nearby.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

First responders block the access to the area where a natural gas explosion at a pipeline burned one person and damaged houses on April 29, 2016, in Salem Township, Pa. The explosion caused flames to shoot above nearby treetops in the largely rural area, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, and prompted authorities to evacuate businesses nearby.

Federal pipeline regulators are requiring operators to report accidents more quickly, and they are tightening rules on conducting drug and alcohol tests after an accident.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is also setting up a new procedure for recovering its costs for reviewing the design of some new pipelines, and is requiring operators to report any change of product or direction of flow in their pipelines.

In an announcement last week about a final rule that was due to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 23, the agency said it was tightening its accident-reporting requirements in order to increase the safety of pipeline construction and operation. Continue Reading

President Trump’s energy plan: support shale, dump climate plan, refocus EPA

President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family before formally signing his cabinet nominations into law, in the President’s Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. From left are Vice President Mike Pence, the president's wife Melania Trump, their son Barron Trump, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo/Pool

President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family before formally signing his cabinet nominations into law, in the President’s Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. From left are Vice President Mike Pence, the president's wife Melania Trump, their son Barron Trump, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

It didn’t take long for President Donald Trump to deliver on his energy campaign promises. Within minutes of being sworn in Friday, links to Obama’s Climate Action Plan were replaced by a smiling picture of the new president and vice president. The White House website then published “An America First Energy Plan,” which emphasizes use of domestic fossil fuels and shunning foreign oil. The plan takes aim at “burdensome regulations on our energy industry,” while embracing “the shale oil and gas revolution.”

“President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.”

Obama’s Climate Action Plan included the Clean Power Plan, the requirement that states reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The Waters of the U.S. rule outlined clarity on the smaller waterways that would be regulated under the Clean Water Act. That rule has been tied up in the courts. Response from environmentalists was quick. The climate action group 350.org said it would do everything to resist the plan.

“Trump’s energy plan is par for the course of the President’s climate denial, but it’s nonetheless alarming for the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said 350.org executive director May Boeve in a statement. “Fulfilling this plan would not only set back years of progress we’ve made towards protecting the climate, but would undoubtedly worsen the devastating impacts of the climate crisis, from rising sea levels to extreme weather.” Continue Reading

Delaware basin conservation law resilient to any Trump rollbacks, supporters say

A heron takes flight along the Delaware River in the early morning light Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, in Washington Crossing, Pa.

Mel Evans / AP Photo

A heron takes flight along the Delaware River in the early morning light Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, in Washington Crossing, Pa.

Supporters of a new law that provides federal support for conservation in the Delaware River Basin predicted that the measure won’t be derailed by any efforts by the incoming Trump administration to roll back environmental protections.

Despite concerns in the environmental community that Trump will dismantle major initiatives such as the Clean Power Plan and America’s commitment to the Paris climate accord, backers of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act argued that the strong bipartisan support for the law suggests that it will get the funding and technical help that it needs from Washington. Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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

Protesters urge Senators to reject Trump nominees to environment posts

Environmental activists march through Center City in protest of some of Donald Trump's cabinet picks.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Environmental activists march through Center City in protest of some of Donald Trump's cabinet picks.

Some 200 people gathered in center city Philadelphia on Monday to urge Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators to reject President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees for key environmental positions in his new administration.

The demonstrators rallied in freezing weather outside Democratic Senator Bob Casey’s office before holding up traffic to march several blocks to the office of Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

The event was one of a series around the country on Monday in which environmental groups including the Sierra Club and 350.org urged lawmakers to vote against Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency; ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to become Secretary of State; former Texas Governor Rick Perry to run the Department of Energy, and Ryan Zinke, a Republican Senator from Montana, to lead the Interior Department.

Protesters, carrying signs such as “Stop the Climate Denier Cabinet”, and “Climate Change is Real”, said all the nominees are deniers of climate change, and would reverse efforts by the Obama administration to cut carbon emissions from sources such as power stations and private cars. Continue Reading

Town declarations highlight public-safety worries over Mariner East 2

Mitch Trembicki, an opponent of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, urged Middletown officials to block a plan to build two pipelines on public land.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

Mitch Trembicki, an opponent of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, had urged Middletown officials to block a plan to build two pipelines on public land. Middletown is one of several communities along the eastern edge of the pipeline's route to pass resolutions questioning Sunoco's safety record.

Some communities in Philadelphia’s western suburbs are reflecting public concerns over the proposed Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline by issuing official statements saying that the $2.5 billion line could endanger public safety.

Eight townships or boroughs along or close to the route in Delaware and Chester Counties have published resolutions or proclamations as recently as December saying their residents would be vulnerable to releases of toxic and flammable gases if there was a leak or explosion.

The documents accuse the pipeline’s builder, Sunoco Logistics, of having a poor safety record, with 263 spills of hazardous liquids since 2006, the most of any company monitored by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

They call for incident-response plans to be drawn up, and say local representatives should be allowed to participate in decisions by regulatory agencies on whether to allow construction of the pipeline. Some argue that a loss of local control violates a right to clean air and water under the Pennsylvania constitution. Continue Reading

Friends and foes of Constitution Pipeline await appeals court ruling

.Megan Holleran stands by a sign on her family's land. The Hollerans lost their court battle to save their maple trees from eminent domain seizure. The trees are being cut to make way for the new Constitution Pipeline.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

.Megan Holleran stands by a sign on her family's land. The Hollerans lost their court battle to save their maple trees from eminent domain seizure. The trees were cut to make way for the proposed Constitution Pipeline.

Nine months after heavily armed federal marshals patrolled a tree-cutting operation for the proposed Constitution Pipeline on a northeast Pennsylvania maple tree farm, the pipeline’s builders and its critics are awaiting a court ruling that may determine whether the project can proceed.

The Williams Companies is appealing a decision by New York State that denied a water-quality permit for the 124-mile natural gas pipeline from Susquehanna County, PA to Schoharie County, NY, halting the project even after trees had been cut on some parcels of land along the Pennsylvania portion of the route.

The trees were cut to make way for the pipeline on several properties including a 23-acre Susquehanna County lot owned by the Holleran family which became a symbol of resistance to the project after men with chainsaws felled several acres of maple trees on March 1, 2016, while marshals carrying semiautomatic rifles kept protesters away.

The incident fueled opposition to the project and highlighted wider concern about the pipeline industry’s use of eminent domain to seize private land from owners such as the Hollerans who have refused corporate offers of compensation. Continue Reading

Court tells EPA to review its rules on oil and gas waste

A truck delivers drilling waste water to a frack water recycling plant in Susquehanna County

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A truck delivers drilling waste water to a frack water recycling plant in Susquehanna County

A federal court directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review and possibly update its regulations on oil and gas waste, in a decision that was welcomed by environmental groups who had sued the agency, claiming its rules have failed to keep pace with the fracking boom.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a consent decree late Wednesday saying the EPA must review the regulations, and if necessary issue a new rulemaking if it deems an update to be appropriate. The actions must take place by March 2019, the court said.

The consent decree, which is designed to settle a dispute between two parties without either admitting guilt or liability, is the outcome of a lawsuit against EPA by seven environmental groups who claimed that the agency has failed to review oil and gas waste regulations, as required every three years under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976. Continue Reading

New federal law adds protection for Delaware River Basin

The Delaware River, seen here being dredged near Philadelphia, will get extra environmental protection after the passage of a federal law.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

The Delaware River, seen here being dredged near Philadelphia, will get extra environmental protection after the passage of a federal law.

Protection of the Delaware River watershed got a boost this month when President Obama signed the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act. The act will coordinate existing public and private efforts to protect water quality, improve flood control, manage fish stocks, and enhance public access in the region between upstate New York and the Delaware Bay.

Advocates hailed the conclusion of a long legislative battle, and said the new federal protection for the basin will establish a basin-wide strategy for conserving the resources of an area that supplies drinking water to 15 million people and contains national parks, historic sites, and a globally important refuge for migrating shorebirds.

The bill’s passage into law, as part of the larger Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, comes six years after an earlier version was first introduced by Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and former Delaware Congressman Mike Castle, and after several failed attempts to get the bill through Congress.

The new law, signed by the President on Dec. 19, directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to coordinate existing conservation work by state and federal agencies, universities, and nongovernmental organizations, to create efficiencies and eliminate any duplication of effort. Continue Reading

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