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.

Sunoco proposes changes to Mariner East 2 construction in Chester County; DEP sets public hearing

Residents of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township on Monday pressed pipeline regulators for answers on Sunoco’s Mariner East construction after it produced sink holes behind some local homes.

Jon Hurdle

In March, residents of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township pressed pipeline regulators for answers on Sunoco’s Mariner East construction after it produced sink holes behind some local homes.

 

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing on plans by Sunoco Pipeline to modify its construction of the controversial Mariner East pipelines at two sites in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township.

The DEP said Monday that Sunoco proposes to change its construction method for the pipelines from horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to a conventional bore at one site and from HDD to a combination of conventional bore, open trench and HDD at the other sit

The changes would mean “major modifications” to the company’s permits under the DEP’s Chapter 105 water obstruction and Chapter 102 erosion control regulations, and so require DEP approval after a public hearing, the department said in a statement.

The meeting will be held on April 30 from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm at the EN Peirce Middle School in West Chester. The DEP also extended a public-comment period from April 21 until May 11.

The statement said one of the affected sites is on East Swedesford Road, where the local water utility, Aqua America, has raised concerns about a well at Hillside Drive. The other location is along North Pottstown Pike, where the new work plan has been prompted by hydrogeological analysis and seismic testing, DEP said. Sunoco submitted both plans last October.

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Vandals damage Mariner East equipment in Chester County, Sunoco says

Workers and contractors for Sunoco Pipeline begin an 'additional investigation' of geological conditions behind homes at Lisa Drive, West Whiteland Township, Chester County where the company has been drilling for construction of the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines.

Jon Hurdle

Workers and contractors for Sunoco Pipeline begin an 'additional investigation' of geological conditions behind homes at Lisa Drive, West Whiteland Township, Chester County where the company has been drilling for construction of the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines.The company says their construction equipment was vandalized.

Sunoco Pipeline offered a $10,000 reward on Thursday for information leading to the arrest of vandals who the company said attacked construction equipment along the route of the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline in West Whiteland Township, Chester County.

The attacks on April 2 and 3 caused “significant damage” to two pieces of equipment, the company said in a statement. Continue Reading

Sunoco to residents near sinkholes: We’ll pay to relocate you during investigation

Workers and contractors for Sunoco Pipeline begin an 'additional investigation' of geological conditions behind homes at Lisa Drive, West Whiteland Township, Chester County where the company has been drilling for construction of the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines. The company offered to relocate residents of the five homes whose yards are crossed by the pipeline right of way. The work is expected to take 4-6 weeks.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

Workers and contractors for Sunoco Pipeline begin an ‘additional investigation’ of geological conditions behind homes at Lisa Drive, West Whiteland Township, Chester County where the company has been drilling for construction of the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines. The company offered to relocate residents of the five homes whose yards are crossed by the pipeline right of way. The work is expected to take 4-6 weeks.

Sunoco is offering to relocate residents at a Chester County site where drilling for the Mariner East pipelines has caused sinkholes to open up in recent weeks.

The company sent at least one letter to homeowners at Lisa Drive, West Whiteland Township last week, saying that it would pay for their relocation, plus a food allowance for an estimated four to six weeks while it conducted an “additional investigation” of geological conditions behind their houses.

“To alleviate any inconvenience to you, SPLP has offered to relocate you and provide a per diem reimbursement for the food for the duration of the scheduled work,” said a letter dated March 30.

The letter said the company will be looking for “any subsurface anomalies and additional areas that should be investigated further.”

Sunoco spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger confirmed that the company sent the letters to Lisa Drive residents. She did not respond to questions on the reasons for the new investigation.

FERC’s critics, and two commissioners, say new comment policy will hurt landowners

Protesters outside the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. The agency has announced plans to limit public comments on pipeline projects if the comments are submitted outside the deadline.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Protesters outside the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. The agency has announced plans to limit public comments on pipeline projects if the comments are submitted outside the deadline.

FERC says it will limit public interventions in its pipeline review process if they are submitted outside the prescribed time, in a new policy that’s being attacked by the agency’s critics as an attempt to stifle comment.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said on March 15 that it won’t be so flexible with “untimely” interventions as it has been in the past. It was responding to Delaware Riverkeeper Network which filed its opposition to a pipeline project at Birdsboro, Pa., five weeks after the deadline. Continue Reading

PES bankruptcy plan approved by court

Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest refiner on the East Coast, will continue operating under a court-approved plan to exit from bankruptcy.

courtesy of Peter DeCarlo

Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest refiner on the East Coast, will continue operating under a court-approved plan to exit from bankruptcy.

A federal bankruptcy court on Monday approved a plan for Philadelphia Energy Solutions to exit bankruptcy by April 10 at the latest after creditors including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government withdrew their objections.

The plan will allow the South Philadelphia refinery, the largest on the east coast, to continue operating, preserving some 1,100 jobs and avoiding a possible disruption of gasoline and heating oil supplies to the northeast market if the company had been forced to close.

U.S. bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross confirmed the plan which was agreed in recent days by creditors who previously called on the court to withhold its approval. The deal includes a plan for PES to retire 138 million renewable fuel credits that the company blamed as the main reason for its bankruptcy filing in January.

It also provides for $260 million of new capital, as called for in the company’s original filing, and restructures debt obligations in a way that “significantly de-leverages” the company, Steve Serajeddini, an attorney for the company, told the court.

He said the federal government had been “spectacularly responsive” in the talks aimed at keeping the refinery operating. Other parties now supporting the plan include City of Philadelphia and the U.S. bankruptcy trustee, a federal official who previously urged the court to block the plan.

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PES likely to resolve growing objections to its bankruptcy plan, analysts say

A smoke stack at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Philadelphia. The company is seeing growing objections to its plan to emerge from bankruptcy but is expected to resolve them.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

A smoke stack at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Philadelphia. The company is seeing growing objections to its plan to emerge from bankruptcy but is expected to resolve them.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions is meeting more resistance to its plan to reorganize while in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but is expected to resolve its differences with creditors including the federal government and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The operator of the South Philadelphia refinery, the biggest on the East Coast with some 1,100 workers, faced four objections to the reorganization by Wednesday afternoon, all asking a U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware to withhold its approval for the company’s bankruptcy plan, according to court documents. Continue Reading

Chester County residents grill pipeline regulators at meeting on Mariner East

Residents of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township on Monday pressed pipeline regulators for answers on Sunoco’s Mariner East construction after it produced sink holes behind some local homes.

Jon Hurdle

Residents of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township on Monday pressed pipeline regulators for answers on Sunoco’s Mariner East construction after it produced sink holes behind some local homes.The meeting was held at the township municipal building to address residents' concerns, in part about sinkholes that have developed near the construction sites.

Residents of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township expressed their fears and frustrations to state and federal pipeline regulators at a meeting on Monday some two weeks after sink holes opened up during construction of the controversial Mariner East pipelines in the township.

Homeowners asked whether their homes would be affected by drilling through the unstable local geology; whether there would be a catastrophic explosion if the new pipelines leak; and whether the officials were able to protect them from the pipeline company, Sunoco, that many people distrust.

Representatives of Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission and Department of Environmental Protection, and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said the pipelines are subject to regulations governing safety and environmental quality, and said they are available to respond to public concerns.

But many of the approximately 140 attendees said they fear for their safety and the value of their homes after at least three sinkholes up to 20 feet deep appeared in the backyards of several homes on Lisa Drive, where Sunoco is drilling for the pipelines.

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State says PES owes $3.8 billion in back taxes, urges court hold up bankruptcy plan

Philadelphia Energy Solutions is the largest oil refining complex on the Eastern seaboard. Half of all Bakken Crude traveling across the country by rail ends up at the PES plant.

Nat Hamilton/WHYY

Philadelphia Energy Solutions is the largest oil refining complex on the Eastern seaboard. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is urging a federal bankruptcy court to withhold approval of a bankruptcy petition by Philadelphia Energy Solutions, saying the company owes the state $3.8 billion in back taxes.

Shapiro, in a document filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware on Friday, said the taxes are owed for “liquid fuel and sales and use taxes,” and have arisen from a pending audit of the company’s refining and marketing arm.

The document said the liability “may be adjusted” after the audit but may mean that the PES’s pre-packaged bankruptcy, filed in January, may not work.

“The Commonwealth believes, however, the final audit may produce a substantial liability which could impact the feasibility of the debtors’ plan,” the document said.

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Sunoco spills drilling fluid into Lebanon County creek for third time

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 spilled more drilling fluid into a Lebanon County creek on Thursday as it resumed construction for its controversial Mariner East pipelines at that location.

The Department of Environmental Protection on Friday issued its latest Notice of Violation to Sunoco for the spill – officially called an “inadvertent return” or “IR” – after the company drilled under Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township where it previously had two spills, in August and September 2017.

The DEP said the drilling fluids released into the creek were a form of industrial waste and therefore violated the Clean Streams Law and the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act. The notice said the DEP had not authorized any inadvertent release at that location.

The Department shut down the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) operation and ordered the company to submit a “restart report” containing an evaluation by an independent geologist on how and where the release occurred and on the risks of another spill if the drill is restarted.

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EPA deal gives PES, in bankruptcy, some relief from renewable fuel credits

Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest refiner on the East Coast, was relieved of some of its obligations to buy renewable fuel credits in an agreement with the EPA.

courtesy of Peter DeCarlo

Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest refiner on the East Coast, was relieved of some of its obligations to buy renewable fuel credits in an agreement with the EPA.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions reached agreement with the federal government to reduce its liability for buying renewable fuel credits, which the company blamed for its bankruptcy filing in January.

The company said the deal will for now prevent possible closure, and save some 1,100 jobs, but doesn’t represent a long-term fix to what it said was a flawed credit system.

The South Philadelphia-based refiner, the largest on the East Coast, will retire about 200 million of the credits, which refiners like PES are required to buy under the government’s renewable fuel standard (RFS) program, according to an agreement presented to a U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware on Monday.

The agreement means that PES will not have to pay for about half of the credits that it currently owes the Environmental Protection Agency. The company’s bankruptcy filing assumed a $350 million reduction in those costs.

The deal also allows for a 10-day public comment period after which the court will consider whether to approve the terms.

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