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

Judge throws out challenge to DRBC authority over gas drilling in basin

Opponents of any plans to  drill for natural gas in the Delaware River basin welcomed a judge's defense of the DRBC's authority to regulate oil and gas development.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Opponents of any plans to drill for natural gas in the Delaware River basin welcomed a judge's defense of the DRBC's authority to regulate oil and gas development.

A federal judge dismissed a challenge to the Delaware River Basin Commission’s right to regulate oil and gas development in the region.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Mariani on Thursday threw out a lawsuit by a group of Wayne County landowners who said the commission, an interstate regulator, lacks the authority to review and approve natural gas facilities on land owned by the group. Continue Reading

DEP officials won’t answer lawmakers’ questions on pipeline documents

Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell skipped  a meeting with lawmakers seeking answers on whether DEP had issued pipeline permits without all regulations having been met.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell skipped a meeting with lawmakers seeking answers on whether DEP had issued pipeline permits without all regulations having been met.

Pennsylvania officials declined on Wednesday to answer lawmakers’ questions on documents indicating that the state had issued permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline before ensuring that it met all regulatory requirements.

A bipartisan group of three lawmakers met with three top officials from the Department of Environmental Protection in Harrisburg to discuss public concerns over the safety of the natural gas liquids pipeline, and to ask about documents showing that DEP issued the permits even though deficiencies remained in applications from the pipeline’s builder, Sunoco Logistics.

DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell did not attend the hour-long meeting despite saying in advance that he would, disappointing the lawmakers from Delaware and Chester Counties near Philadelphia. Lawmakers said they were told that McDonnell stayed away because he did not want to comment on the documents that are part of current litigation.

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Pennsylvania could support four more ethane crackers, report says

Will Pennsylvania attract more massive ethane cracker plants like this one, now under construction near Pittsburgh?

Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

The construction site for Shell's ethane cracker in western Pennsylvania. A new report says Pennsylvania could support four more similar facilities.

Pennsylvania has the capacity to attract up to four more ethane cracker plants because of its abundant reserves of natural gas liquids (NGLs) and its proximity to major markets for plastics feedstock, a report released by Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said on Tuesday.

The report from the consultant IHS Markit projects that more petrochemical companies could decide to invest in Pennsylvania, following the lead of Shell Chemicals which is building the state’s first ethane cracker plant in western Pennsylvania to take advantage of NGLs from the nearby Marcellus and Utica Shales.

The need to develop the supply of NGLs from shale beds could also draw investment of $2.7 billion to $3.7 billion, the report said. Continue Reading

Federal judge rejects permits challenge in new setback to Constitution Pipeline

In this Thursday, Feb. 26 photo, a ribbon tied to a stake on Kernan family property marks the proposed path of the Constitution Pipeline in Harpersfield, N.Y. The developer of a 124-mile-long pipeline to bring Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania to New York City and New England is using both carrot and stick to achieve its goals.

Mike Groll / AP Photo

In this file photo, a ribbon tied to a stake on Kernan family property marks the proposed path of the Constitution Pipeline in Harpersfield, N.Y. A federal judge has rejected the latest challenge by the company to build the pipeline.

A federal judge dealt the latest blow to the planned Constitution Pipeline when he rejected the builder’s argument that it would be injured by having to obtain certain state permits to construct the natural gas pipeline from Northeast Pennsylvania to New York State.

Judge Norman Mordue of the Northern District of New York said the Constitution Pipeline Company failed to show injury from the permit requirements on water crossings, excavations and related activities, even though the state has yet to decide whether to issue them.

“Constitution has not plausibly pleaded injury in fact … it has not pleaded either actual injury or a threatened injury,” the judge wrote in a 15-page opinion issued Thursday. “Constitution merely alleges possible future injury.”

He said the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has not refused to issue the permits. Rather, he said, the state has simply not acted on them, and so the company could not argue that it had been injured by the lack of permits.

“A finding of injury to Constitution arising from NYSDEC’s inaction would be based on a speculative chain of possibilities that may never occur,” the judge wrote. Continue Reading

DRBC says it’s still weighing gas drilling rules, but no decision on the horizon

Delaware Riverkeeper Maya Van Rossum encourages students to make their careers in clean energy.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

In this file photo, the Delaware Riverkeeper's Maya van Rossum speaks at a fracking protest.Van Rossum says she's worried the Delaware River Basin Commission could issue new gas drilling regulations, which would reverse a de-facto moratorium.

The Delaware River Basin Commission is continuing to examine rules that might allow natural gas drilling in the basin but it isn’t close to a decision, and would submit any plans for a new rule on the issue to public comment, the federal government’s representative on the commission said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Michael Bliss of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers read a statement to the commission’s quarterly business meeting, saying that commission staff have devoted “extensive time and effort” to evaluating rules that might allow the commission to lift a de-facto moratorium on shale development in the four-state watershed. Continue Reading

Sunoco rejects township’s Mariner East complaint to PUC

Boris, a German shepherd, walks along a pipeline path in Chester County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA

Boris, a German shepherd, walks along a pipeline route in Chester County, which is often used as a recreational path.

Sunoco told the Public Utility Commission that its actions regarding a section of the Mariner East 1 pipeline does not subject residents of a Chester County township to “clear and present danger.” The township had filed a complaint with the PUC alleging the company violated an agreement over the installation of a valve for its pipeline project.

The company denied there is any danger posed by its failure so far to install a remote-control valve on a section of the existing Mariner East 1 pipeline in West Goshen Township, as it undertook to do in a 2015 settlement agreement with the township.

Sunoco (SPLP) said public safety is currently protected by a manual valve which complies with federal safety regulations, and which it plans to replace with a remote-control valve by March 31.

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Battle re-emerging over fracking along Delaware River

A drilling protest sign sits on the lawn of a home along the Delaware River. Opposition to drilling within the Delaware River basin is strong, and led to a stalemate among commissioners.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A drilling protest sign sits on the lawn of a home along the Delaware River. Opposition to drilling within the Delaware River basin is strong, and led to a stalemate among commissioners.

Defenders of a longstanding de-facto moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin say there are gathering signs of a renewed push to allow natural gas production by the industry and its allies.

Environmental groups including Delaware Riverkeeper Network say officials from the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is composed of representatives from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the federal government, have been in talks with member states about finalizing work on oil and gas regulations that began before a de-facto moratorium was imposed seven years ago.

Opponents of any move to open the basin to shale gas development also worry about a lawsuit brought by a group of Wayne County landowners who challenge the DRBC’s right to regulate drilling.

And they fear that there will be new pressure from the Trump administration, via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, its representative on the DRBC, to allow gas drilling at the eastern edge of the Marcellus Shale. Continue Reading

Mariner East 2 critics say any leak could cause ‘catastrophe’ in Delco

Construction equipment clears trees in Aston, Delaware County to make way for the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.

Construction equipment clears trees in Aston, Delaware County to make way for the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.

Opponents of the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline warned on Monday of an “unprecedented catastrophe” if the pipeline leaks, subjecting residents of a Delaware County township to the risk of burns from a flammable vapor cloud that could ignite amid schools, homes and businesses.

The Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, an anti-pipeline group, released an independent study saying that any explosion of natural gas liquids from the line could inflict serious burns on anyone within 1,100 feet of a leak. Continue Reading

DEP approved Mariner East 2 permits despite deficiencies, documents show

A worker clears trees for the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Aston, Delaware County.

Emily Cohen / StateImpact PA

A worker clears trees for the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Aston, Delaware County. The 350-mile pipeline project will bring natural gas liquids to Marcus Hook, Delaware County. DEP issued permits despite lingering deficiencies.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection issued final permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline even though the pipeline’s builder, Sunoco Logistics, had not met all regulatory requirements at the time of issuance, DEP documents show.

The state’s top environmental regulator acknowledged that the company’s applications for permits on water crossings and soil disturbance contained many “deficiencies,” but gave the multi-billion dollar project a green light anyway, according to the documents obtained by StateImpact.

One of the documents, issued for permits in Berks County, quotes the state’s Bureau of Waterways, Engineering and Wetlands as saying that the existence of deficiencies in the application for a Chapter 105 water permit would not stop the permit being issued for that section of the 350-mile natural gas liquids line.

“The Bureau explained that minimum standards have been met and many remaining identified deficiencies are not required to be addressed for permit issuance,” said the document, dated Feb. 10, three days before the permits were issued. “Therefore, at the direction of the Bureau, special conditions have been drafted to address the outstanding items.”

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Sunoco rejects township’s attempt to block valve for Mariner East 2

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.

Sunoco Logistics rejected an attempt by a Chester County township to block construction of a valve for its Mariner East 2 pipeline, saying the project is a public utility that may not be regulated by municipalities.

West Goshen Township in the western suburbs of Philadelphia wrote to the company last month denying it permission to install the above-ground valve on the grounds that the work would violate a zoning ordinance.

But in a letter released by the township on Thursday, Sunoco (SPLP) said there is “settled law” in Pennsylvania that prevents municipalities applying a zoning ordinance to a public utility project.

The company called the township’s assertion “meritless” and accused it of trying to delay the natural gas liquids pipeline project. Continue Reading

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