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.

Fracking ban proposed for Delaware River basin; ‘significant risks’ cited

The Delaware River at Washington Crossing, Pa. Fracking for natural gas would be banned in the river basin under a new regulation from the Delaware River Basin Commission.

The Delaware River at Washington Crossing, Pa. Fracking for natural gas would be banned in the river basin under a new regulation from the Delaware River Basin Commission.

The Delaware River Basin Commission on Thursday proposed a ban on fracking for natural gas in the basin.

The interstate regulator said it had determined that high-volume hydraulic fracturing “poses significant, immediate and long-term risks” to the waters of the basin, including so-called Special Protection waters that have a high ecological, recreational or scenic value. Continue Reading

Sunoco proposes construction change for Mariner East 2, but meets fresh resistance

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. Plans for a new construction technique in some locations have prompted a new round of community resistance.

Sunoco’s plan to change the construction of its Mariner East 2 pipeline in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township is stirring opposition from residents and local lawmakers only five months after a botched drilling operation there spilled fluid, punctured an aquifer and turned drinking water cloudy in some private wells.

The company wants to abandon its controversial method of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) at two West Whiteland sites where a court temporarily halted the practice last summer as part of a statewide action in response to dozens of spills along the 350-mile route. Continue Reading

After recent Mariner East 2 spills, DEP mulls ‘additional enforcement’

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators are considering tougher restrictions on Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline project after a continuing series of drilling fluid spills and violations of environmental laws.

A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection said the massive cross-state project has been far more of an enforcement challenge than officials expected because of multiple drilling leaks that have seeped into wetlands, bubbled up into residential areas, and in some cases turned private well water cloudy.

“Additional enforcement is certainly something that we are looking into but I can’t comment as to what that might look like,” DEP spokesman Neil Shader told StateImpact the day after the department issued its latest two notices of violation for spills in Berks and Chester Counties.

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PJM defends plan to allow coal and nuclear plants to build costs into market price

A view of the PJM  control room. The grid operator wants to allow so-called inflexible power generators such as coal and nuclear plants to be able to build their costs into market pricing.

courtesy of PJM

A view of the PJM control room. The grid operator wants to allow so-called inflexible power generators such as coal and nuclear plants to be able to build their costs into market pricing.

PJM, which operates the electric grid for Pennsylvania and 12 other states, on Thursday defended a plan to change its rules so that coal, nuclear and some other generators can build their costs into the market price of electricity.

The proposal, in a paper published Wednesday, would result in a net increase in retail power prices of 2 to 5 percent and would give the coal and nuclear plants, some of which are scheduled for retirement, the opportunity to pass their costs to consumers, PJM said.

PJM, whose system serves some 65 million people, said the change would enable all generators contributing to its grid to compete to set energy market prices, and that customers would benefit from more market transparency and better operational efficiency.

But critics said the plan interferes with market forces that would eventually force the closure of coal and nuclear plants that can’t build their costs into PJM’s pricing structure, and is not justified by any concerns about maintaining reliability. Continue Reading

Philadelphia explains how it would make deep cut in carbon emissions

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery accounts for almost 16 percent of the city's carbon footprint, according to a City report that describes how to make deep cuts in carbon emissions.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery accounts for almost 16 percent of the city's carbon footprint, according to a City report that describes how to make deep cuts in carbon emissions.

The City of Philadelphia on Tuesday unveiled its vision for how to meet its ambitious goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

A report by the city’s Office of Sustainability identifies the sources of carbon emissions, describes how they could be cut, and provides an overview of the low- or no-carbon systems that could replace them. But even with a plan in place and strong support locally, the ability to hit Mayor Jim Kenney’s “80 by 50” target may not be entirely within Philadelphia’s control, experts warned. Continue Reading

Philadelphia area refineries urge EPA to reform biofuels credit program

Delaware City Refinery, where the cost of buying the EPA’s biofuel credits now exceeds payroll, and is the second-largest expenditure item after crude oil.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

Delaware City Refinery, where the cost of buying the EPA’s biofuel credits now exceeds payroll, and is the second-largest expenditure item after crude oil.

Workers and managers from three Philadelphia-area refineries on Monday urged federal regulators to reform a renewable fuels program that is costing the companies millions of dollars and threatening jobs.

Several hundred workers and contractors rallied at Delaware City Refinery to protest the high cost of so-called RINs – credits that refineries like the Delaware facility are required to buy under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a 2005 regulation designed to boost the use of biofuels, primarily ethanol, instead of petroleum.

The Delaware refinery is cooperating with Philadelphia Energy Solutions in South Philadelphia and the Monroe Energy refinery in Marcus Hook in seeking relief from the EPA after a recent rise in the cost of the credits which are traded by financial speculators and energy companies that are trying to anticipate EPA policy. Continue Reading

New gas pipeline capacity sharply exceeds consumption, report says

Workers unload pipes at a staging area in Worthing, S.D., for the proposed 1,130-mile Dakota Access Pipeline that would stretch from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a hub in Illinois.

Nati Harnik / AP Photo

Workers unload pipes at a staging area in Worthing, S.D., for the 1,130-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. A new report says the nation's new natural gas pipeline capacity resulting from a building boom is far more than is needed.

Charges that the U.S. pipeline industry is building far more natural gas pipelines than it needs are being fueled by a new report showing that the capacity of lines approved by federal regulators over the last two decades was more than twice the amount of gas actually consumed daily in 2016.

The report by the independent Analysis Group for the Natural Resources Defense Council said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved more than 180 billion cubic feet a day (bcf/d) of new pipeline capacity since 1999, when it began its current policy on approving interstate pipelines. The new capacity compares with the average daily consumption of only 75.11 bcf/d last year, the report said.

Even during the Polar Vortex of 2013/14 when exceptionally cold temperatures in the Northeast boosted the need for heating fuel, consumption of 137 bcf/d was still significantly lower than the combined capacity additions, the report said, citing data from the federal Energy Information Administration. In January 2017, national consumption was 93.1 bcf/d, even further below the capacity of the additional pipeline network, the report said. The data on additions to pipeline capacity are from FERC.

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DEP accused of neglecting cleanup of contaminated Chesco site

The contaminated Bishop Tube former industrial site in Malvern, Pa. Environmentalists say DEP has neglected the cleanup over many years.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

The contaminated Bishop Tube former industrial site in Malvern, Pa. Environmentalists say DEP has neglected the cleanup over many years.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network stepped up its campaign to clean the highly contaminated Bishop Tube industrial site at Malvern in Chester County when it accused Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection of neglecting the problem over decades.

The environmental group filed a complaint with Commonwealth Court on Wednesday asking the court to require DEP to bring the potentially responsible parties together to remove contaminants including trichloroethylene, or TCE, a carcinogen that was used as a degreaser by the former steel tubing plant, which closed in 1999. Continue Reading

Mariner East 2 pipeline completion delayed again

A pipeline construction site in Jackson Township, Butler County, Pa.

A pipeline construction site in Jackson Township, Butler County, Pa. A recent ruling over a disputed valve station in Chester County has created more construction delays for the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.

Sunoco Pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, said Wednesday that its Mariner East 2 pipeline will be put into service in the second quarter of 2018, some 18 months later than originally planned, because of delays caused by Pennsylvania regulators.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Long said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call that the project has been held up in part by the Public Utility Commission’s recent ban on horizontal directional drilling at a location in Chester County’s West Goshen Township until the PUC hears a dispute between the township and Sunoco over the siting of a valve. The hearing is scheduled for April next year. Continue Reading

Plaintiffs ask judge to revoke ‘illegal’ Mariner East 2 permits

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Environmental groups have asked a judge to revoke the permits issued by DEP to Sunoco.

Three environmental groups urged a judge to revoke some environmental permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline without holding a trial, saying there are ‘undisputed’ facts showing that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection broke the law in issuing the permits.

Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Mountain Watershed Association filed a motion for summary judgement with Judge Bernard Labuskes of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board late Friday as part of their appeal against issuance of the permits.

The groups say there is a set of facts in the case that are not in dispute and which make the case suitable for a judge to rule on without holding a full trial to hear the opposing arguments by Sunoco Pipeline and the DEP. Continue Reading

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