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

Townships accused of failing to enforce ordinances over 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. The Mariner East 2 project would expand the current right of way and carry natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

Opponents of the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project are accusing two townships along the route of failing to enforce ordinances that would be violated by the pipeline in those locations.

West Goshen Township in Chester County and Thornbury Township in Delaware County have provisions in their zoning ordinances that could force the pipeline’s builder, Sunoco Logistics, to relocate the line if the municipalities chose to enforce the rules, according to the critics.

Eric Friedman of Glen Mills in Delaware County and Tom Casey of West Chester in Chester County have sent legal memos to the townships, urging them to enforce certain zoning provisions, and threatening legal action. Continue Reading

Judge denies latest call to halt Mariner East 2 construction

Trees cleared in Aston, Delaware County, were among the first results of pre-constuction work   on the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.

Emily Cohen / StateImpact PA

Trees cleared in Aston, Delaware County, were among the first results of pre-constuction work on the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.

A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday rejected a request by opponents of the Mariner East 2 pipeline to reconsider his earlier denial of an order that could have halted construction of the line.

Judge Bernard Labuskes of the Environmental Hearing Board said Clean Air Council and two other environmental groups had not presented information in their request for reconsideration that he had not previously considered or would justify taking another look at their case.

The judge also denied the plaintiffs’ call for an expedited hearing on the merits of the case to be held on March 13, saying that an accelerated schedule would create a disadvantage to the pipeline’s builder, Sunoco Logistics, and the Department of Environmental Protection, which issued its final permits for the project on Feb. 13. Continue Reading

Sunoco clears trees, builds drill pads for Mariner East 2 pipeline

The Mariner East 2 pipeline has officially broken ground in the Delaware County town of Aston. The beginning stages of the pipeline includes clear cutting trees and preparing makeshift roads for the heavy machinery to traverse.

Emily Cohen / StateImpact PA

The Mariner East 2 pipeline has officially broken ground in the Delaware County town of Aston. The beginning stages of the pipeline includes clear cutting trees and preparing makeshift roads for the heavy machinery to traverse.

Preliminary construction work for the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline took place in Delaware and Huntingdon Counties on Monday, a week after state officials issued the final permits for the controversial cross-state project.

Workers cleared trees and built drill pads in Aston in Delaware County and Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County, the first two sites to see construction activity along the 350-mile route from southwest Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook near Philadelphia, according to Jeff Shields, a spokesman for Sunoco Logistics, which will build and operate the line.

Monday’s activities followed some preparatory work last week, Shields said. Continue Reading

West Goshen says Sunoco violated Mariner East agreement

The Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County. The Mariner East line brings natural gas liquids to the facility. West Goshen Township says the company has reneged on its agreement.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County. The Mariner East line brings natural gas liquids to the facility through the Mariner East 1 pipeline, which runs through West Goshen Township. The township says the company has reneged on its agreement.

Chester County’s West Goshen Township filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Friday, alleging that Sunoco Logistics is violating an agreement on a section of its controversial Mariner East pipeline project that runs through the municipality.

The complaint says Sunoco has failed to install a remote-control valve on the existing Mariner East 1 pipeline that runs beneath the township, contrary to a settlement agreement that the company signed with a local citizens group in 2015, setting conditions for construction of a pump station.

The company agreed to build two of the valves but has only installed one, exposing residents to a “clear and present danger” if the pipeline leaks or ruptures, the complaint says. Continue Reading

Judge denies appeal for temporary halt to Mariner East 2 construction

A sign marks a water crossing on land in Huntingdon County where Sunoco wants to build the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Although Sunoco still has to acquire water crossing and earth moving permits, the company has already cleared the area of trees.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign marks a water crossing on land in Huntingdon County where Sunoco wants to build the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Pennsylvania DEP granted Sunoco to start work on the line and that was upheld Friday morning by the Environmental Hearing Board. The company still needs Army Corps permits to start in some areas.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect a request for the judge to reconsider his decision.

A Pennsylvania judge on Friday denied a request to temporarily halt the start of construction of the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Judge Bernard Labuskes of the Environmental Hearing Board did not give a reason for denying the request from three environmental groups who sought to stop Sunoco Logistics from starting work on the cross-state line, pending a full hearing on the issue in early March.

The Clean Air Council and two other groups argued in a hearing on Thursday that early work on the line, including tree cutting and horizontal drilling, would risk water contamination and result in “irreparable harm.”

But a Sunoco attorney said the company needed to start work right away in some locations in order to complete tree felling in time to meet a deadline that’s designed to protect a threatened species of bat. Continue Reading

Environmental board hears appeal of Mariner East 2 permits

This photo taken on July 11, 2012, shows the Marcus Hook Refinery in Marcus Hook, Pa. The facility, which is owned and operated by Sunoco Logistics, is an international hub for natural gas liquids–propane, ethane, and butane–from the Marcellus Shale region of Western Pennsylvania. Sunoco Logistics is spending roughly $2.5 billion on the Mariner East projects, which will connect the western part of the state to the port at Marcus Hook.

Matt Slocum / AP Photo

This photo taken on July 11, 2012, shows the Marcus Hook Refinery in Marcus Hook, Pa. The facility, which is owned and operated by Sunoco Logistics, is an international hub for natural gas liquids– from the Marcellus Shale region of Western Pennsylvania. Sunoco Logistics wants to build the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will transport more natural gas liquids from the western part of the state to the port at Marcus Hook, Delaware County..

Update: The Environmental Hearing Board rejected a temporary halt on the start of construction Friday morning, updates will be forthcoming.

Three environmental groups urged a Pennsylvania judge to temporarily block the start of construction on a controversial pipeline just three days after it received its final permits from state officials.

The groups said construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline would cause “irreparable harm” by cutting down trees and threatening public and private water wells and aquifers with contamination if it went ahead.

Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Mountain Watershed Association said construction of the line, if completed, would result in the deforestation of 1,500 acres and the disturbance of about twice that area, the groups said, in an appeal against the permits, issued by the Department of Environmental Protection on Monday. Continue Reading

Mariner East 2 critics appeal new permits to Environmental Hearing Board

A sign protesting the building of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign protesting the building of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County. Environmental groups are challenging the permits in court.

Three environmental groups on Tuesday challenged newly granted permits to Sunoco Logistics for the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline, urging Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing Board to block work on the line while the case is heard.

Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Mountain Watershed Association asked the board to issue a temporary order of “supersedeas” a legal mechanism that would freeze the project while the board hears their case.

The groups may apply for the supersedeas order if they could suffer “immediate and irreparable injury” before the board hears their case, according to a document filed with the board on Tuesday. The water-crossing and earth-moving permits granted by DEP after almost three years of negotiations and delays, due to Sunoco’s incomplete and deficient applications, are controversial because it means the company could start construction on a line that is still challenged in dozens of court cases over eminent domain.  Continue Reading

DEP approves Mariner East 2 permits

A map of the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline across Pennsylvania. Conflicting statements have fueled confusion over when construction might start.

Sunoco Logistics

A map of the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline across Pennsylvania. DEP issued permits for the project on Monday, clearing the way for construction of the line.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has approved earth-moving and water-crossing permits for Sunoco’s controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project, paving the way for construction on the 350-mile line that would begin in Ohio and West Virginia, and travel through 17 counties across Pennsylvania to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook plant in Delaware County. The pipeline would carry natural gas liquids from Marcellus and Utica Shale fields to Sunoco’s export terminal, where the plan is to ship the gas to Scotland to make plastics.

The company began its permit applications in May 2014, and was sent back to the drawing table several times by DEP for glaring deficiencies. Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a release that permits were issued “after extensive review.”

“I am proud of the immense undertaking our staff took to hold this project accountable within the confines of state law and DEP’s role in this process over the last few years,” said McDonnell in a release. He said DEP staff spent more than 20,000 hours reviewing the application. Continue Reading

DEP’s McDonnell meets with Mariner East pipeline opponents

DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell speaks about climate change at an event hosted by the Academy of Natural Sciences, January 27, 2017.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA

DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell speaks at an event in Philadelphia, January 27, 2017. (file photo) McDonnell met with a group of Mariner East 2 pipeline opponents on Monday who had hoped to convince the Acting Secretary to extend public comment on the project.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection held a hastily arranged meeting on Monday with several opponents of the proposed Mariner East 2 pipeline in an apparent attempt to calm public concerns over the project which may soon get its final environmental approvals.

Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell plus two other DEP officials and a legislative liaison met with four pipeline activists for about 70 minutes at the DEP’s offices in Harrisburg, two of the activists said.

In addition to McDonnell, the DEP officials were Ann Roda and John Stefanko, according to Eric Friedman, a Delaware County resident and outspoken pipeline opponent who was invited to attend the meeting. The other attendees were Eve Miari, a spokeswoman for Delaware County’s Middletown Coalition for Community Safety; Alison Chabot, another member of the Middletown group, and Lynda Farrell, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Coalition.

Friedman said DEP invited him on Friday to attend the meeting on Monday but was not given a specific agenda. Continue Reading

Communities along Mariner East 2 pipeline route brace for construction

Protesters outside of Sunoco headquarters in Newtown Square. Landowners along the route and anti-pipeline activists are preparing lawsuits to challenge any permits issued by DEP.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA

Protesters outside of Sunoco headquarters in Newtown Square. Landowners along the route and anti-pipeline activists are preparing lawsuits to challenge any permits issued by DEP.

Sunoco Logistics officials declined to say whether they are expecting Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to issue on Friday the final two state permits that the company needs to begin construction of the company’s controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline. A spokesman for DEP also said “there is no timetable for a decision.”

But according to rumors recently circulating among nonprofits, community groups, anti-pipeline campaigners – all citing unnamed sources in the DEP — the department will issue the long-awaited water-crossing and earth disturbance permits on Friday.

Some opponents of the 350-mile natural gas liquids line have predicted that DEP would issue the permits by the end of January following pressure from the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf to meet Sunoco’s stated schedule of beginning construction by “late winter or early spring” of this year and starting operation in the third quarter.

Asked about issues and delays regarding permit approvals for the $2.5 billion line, Wolf told a group of Philadelphia area business people in mid-January that the line could be approved. “We’re working through that,” he said. A spokesman for Governor Wolf has told StateImpact that the decision over Mariner East 2 pipeline permits rests solely with the Department of Environmental Protection.

Approval of the permits would bring Sunoco to the end, or close to it, of a long permitting process in which DEP has found many deficiencies in the company’s application, forcing it to resubmit documents, re-do applications, and delaying the start of construction. Continue Reading

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