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

Lawmakers urge Wolf to join interstate effort to meet Paris climate goals

Participants at the COP22 climate conference stage a public show of support for climate negotiations and Paris agreement, on the last day of the conference, in Marrakech, Morocco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

David Keyton / AP Photo

Participants at the COP22 climate conference stage a public show of support for climate negotiations and the Paris agreement in Marrakech, Morocco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. Some Pennsylvania state lawmakers are urging Gov. Wolf to join other states committed to the goals of the U.N. climate agreement, which President Trump has rejected.

State lawmakers advocating statewide action on climate change will on Monday urge Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a new group of 13 states that seeks to comply with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement despite the withdrawal by the Trump administration.

Supporters of continued efforts to cut carbon emissions will launch House Resolution 421, calling on Pennsylvania to join the other states in an effort to stay on track with the Paris goals, defying the rejection of that initiative by President Donald Trump.

By Sunday afternoon, the resolution had 36 cosponsors, all but one of them Democrats, indicating that the measure has little chance of being adopted in the 203-member House of Representatives that is dominated by Republicans.

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Wolf to veto plastic bag bill despite bipartisan support

A woman carries her purchases in plastic bags in Los Angeles, Thursday, May 24, 2012. Gov. Wolf plans to veto a bill that would have forbid local plastic bag bans.

Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

A woman carries her purchases in plastic bags in Los Angeles, Thursday, May 24, 2012. Gov. Wolf plans to veto a bill that would have forbid local plastic bag bans.

Gov.Tom Wolf said he will veto a bill that would stop Pennsylvania towns and cities taxing or banning plastic single-use shopping bags.

The bill, HB 1071, went to Wolf’s desk after receiving final legislative approval from the Senate on June 14. It received bipartisan support, including from the lead sponsor, Democratic Rep. Mike Hanna of Centre County, who sought to protect jobs in a plastic bag factory in his district.

Wolf’s spokesman, J.J. Abbott, said Thursday he expects the governor will formally veto the bill in the next week, and will give his reasons for doing so at that time.

“He plans to veto the bill,” Abbott said in a statement. “When that is done, we will send a veto message to the General Assembly explaining why.” Continue Reading

Wolf weighs bill to block municipal plastic bag bans

This Oct. 25, 2013 file photo shows single-use plastic bag along a roadside in Sacramento, Calif. California. A bill on Pa. Gov. Wolf's desk would forbid municipalities from banning plastic bags in the state.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

This Oct. 25, 2013 file photo shows single-use plastic bag along a roadside in Sacramento, California. A bill on Pa. Gov. Wolf's desk would forbid municipalities from imposing local bans on plastic bags.

Pennsylvania moved closer to preventing its cities and towns taxing or banning plastic shopping bags when state lawmakers narrowly approved a bill that’s designed to protect jobs in the plastic bag industry.

The state Senate on Wednesday approved the bill despite opposition from some lawmakers in both parties, from environmentalists, and from defenders of cities’ rights to determine their own policies on municipal issues like litter.

Advocates for restrictions to plastic bag use argue that the bags add to trash-disposal costs, clog drains, and represent an unnecessary addition to municipalities’ trash stream. More than 160 U.S. cities have already passed some measure to cut plastic-bag use, advocates say, and a number of other countries have sharply reduced bag use through their own taxes.

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PA DEP approved 11th underground injection well for oil and gas waste

A sign protesting a proposed deep injection well sits on the lawn of a home in Brady Township, Clearfield County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign protesting a proposed deep injection well sits on the lawn of a home in Brady Township, Clearfield County. Community opposition to deep injection wells is strong because of links with earthquakes and fears of drinking water contamination.

Pennsylvania officials approved the latest underground injection well to hold wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations.  The move renews concerns about whether nearby residents will have their drinking water contaminated or if it will increase seismic activity.

The Department of Environmental Protection said last week that it had approved a plan by Sammy-Mar, the operator of the Povlik #1 well, in Huston Township, Clearfield County. The well, which is licensed to contain produced fluids from the oil and gas industry, is the 11th to be permitted in Pennsylvania, according to Lauren Fraley, a community relations coordinator for the DEP.

Scott Perry, the DEP’s Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas Management, said the new well would be safe. “DEP’s review process included a thorough evaluation of the application, plans, and public feedback,” he said. “The department ultimately concluded that the well would comply with all regulations and include adequate safeguards.” Continue Reading

PA, Philadelphia will press on with climate policies despite Trump withdrawal from Paris pact

Solar panels are among Philadelphia's ways of cutting carbon emissions to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump's withdrawal from the pact..

Emma Lee / WHYY

Solar panels are among Philadelphia's ways of cutting carbon emissions to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump's withdrawal from the pact..

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord isn’t likely to derail Pennsylvania’s efforts to curb methane emissions, and it strengthens Philadelphia’s determination to set its own climate policy, officials said.

Trump’s rejection on Thursday of the historic agreement to stop global temperatures rising more than an average of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels prompted howls of protest from other signatory nations but is expected to result in business as usual in Pennsylvania. Continue Reading

DEP demands more information on plans for Bucks County hazardous waste site

Plans to build a hazardous waste processing plant in Bucks County are opposed by environmentalists who say it risks the health of the Delaware River at downstream sites like this at Washington Avenue Green Park in Philadelphia.

WHYY Photo

Plans to build a hazardous waste processing plant in Bucks County are opposed by environmentalists who say it risks the health of the Delaware River at downstream sites like this at Washington Avenue Green Park in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania on Tuesday again delayed a controversial project that would recycle hazardous waste in Bucks County, saying that a permit application was incomplete.

The Department of Environmental Protection said part of the application by Elcon, a processor of waste from industries including petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and semiconductors, had not submitted the required information in six categories, and so was “administratively incomplete.” Continue Reading

NJ officials say they need more information on PennEast pipeline project

A yard sign opposing the planned PennEast pipeline. New Jersey officials said they need much more information before making a decision on permits.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A yard sign opposing the planned PennEast pipeline. New Jersey officials said they need much more information before making a decision on permits.

New Jersey officials underlined their concerns about the controversial PennEast natural gas pipeline project in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission highlighting several areas where the pipeline’s builders have yet to submit information needed to obtain permits.

Bob Martin, Commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, told FERC on Thursday that the PennEast Pipeline Co. has obtained access to land in less than 35 percent of the New Jersey section of the route, which would run about 118 miles from Luzerne County, Pa. to Mercer County, N.J. Continue Reading

Judge rules that environmental group can challenge Sunoco over pipeline eminent domain

Huntingdon County landowner Ellen Gerhart (L) at her property with her daughter Elise Gerhart. The Gerharts lost an appeal against Sunoco Logistics' use of eminent domain on their land, but the company will now have to defend its policy in a Philadelphia court, the court ruled on Thursday.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA

Huntingdon County landowner Ellen Gerhart (L) at her property with her daughter Elise Gerhart. The Gerharts lost an appeal against Sunoco Logistics' use of eminent domain on their land, but the company will now have to defend its policy in a Philadelphia court, the court ruled on Thursday.

Sunoco Logistics’ use of eminent domain to take private land to build its Mariner East 2 pipeline came into question again on Thursday when a Philadelphia court ruled that an environmental group can argue that the practice is unconstitutional.

Judge Linda Carpenter of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied the company’s request to summarily dismiss a complaint by the Clean Air Council, clearing the way for a trial, possibly at the end of this year. Continue Reading

Older Pa. gas storage wells threaten methane leaks, study says

An academic study raised questions about the safety of underground storage of gas from wells like this in Dimock, Pa.

Scott Detrow / StateImpact PA

An academic study raised questions about the safety of underground storage of gas from wells like this in Dimock, Pa.

Pennsylvania has hundreds of underground natural gas storage sites that are vulnerable to methane leaks because they were built at least 60 years ago, and were probably never designed to store gas, according to a Harvard University study released on Tuesday.

The national study said Pennsylvania has 830 such sites that are in active use for gas storage, 370 of which are older wells that likely have design deficiencies such as only one casing.  One hundred twenty-three of them were built more than 100 years ago. Continue Reading

Surging gas-fired power generation in PJM region will force more coal plant closures, report says

A view of the PJM Interconnection control room. PJM is the largest grid operator in North America. A report out by Moody's this week says a glut of natural gas will "wreak havoc" on the region's electricity market.

courtesy of PJM

A view of the PJM Interconnection control room. PJM is the largest grid operator in North America. A report out by Moody's this week says a glut of natural gas will "wreak havoc" on the region's electricity market.

A rush to build power plants fueled by cheap natural gas from the Marcellus Shale will swell power supply in the region coordinated by PJM Interconnection, operator of the largest power grid in North America, driving down prices and forcing the closure of many coal-fired plants over the next four years, according to a new analysis by Moody’s Investors Service.

The report predicts that power supply within the 243,417 square mile area covered by PJM will surge by 25 percent by 2021, causing on-peak prices to drop by 15 percent and leading to “widespread” closures or conversion to gas at coal-fired plants. Power grid operator PJM manages the movement of electricity to 65 million people living in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, and parts of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and North Carolina.

“A massive construction of new gas capacity is underway in PJM to take advantage of cheap Marcellus gas, which will drive down market prices, a material credit negative for unregulated power companies,” the report said on Tuesday.

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