Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Katie Colaneri

Reporter

Katie Colaneri is a reporter for StateImpact Pennsylvania and WHYY in Philadelphia covering energy and the environment. Before joining StateImpact, Katie worked as an investigative and enterprise reporter at WBGO in Newark, New Jersey. She covered some of New Jersey's biggest stories including the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, as well as the day-to-day triumphs and struggles to revitalize state's largest city. A native of New Jersey with roots in South Central Pennsylvania, Katie holds a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College.

Wolf hoping third time’s the charm on severance tax

This Dec. 29, 2015, file photo shows Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaking with members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Governor Wolf says he plans to propose another natural gas severance tax at the end of this month.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

This Dec. 29, 2015, file photo shows Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaking with members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Governor Wolf says he plans to propose a natural gas severance tax at the end of this month. It would be his third attempt to tax the gas industry since becoming governor.

After failing to pass a natural gas severance tax for the last two years, Governor Tom Wolf is hoping this year, the legislature will get on board with his proposal.

Following an event at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia Tuesday evening, Wolf said he plans to ask for a tax on Marcellus Shale drillers during his 2017/2018 fiscal year budget address next month. However, he was mum on the details, which he said are still being worked out with legislators and the natural gas industry.

Wolf, who campaigned on imposing a five percent severance tax, thinks the measure is key to making sure communities hours away from the nearest gas well buy in to Marcellus Shale development, especially as pipeline companies look to move natural gas to markets on the East Coast through their backyards. Increasingly, suburban Philadelphia communities in Delaware and Chester Counties, which lie along the eastern edge of route of the proposed Mariner East pipeline, have been organizing to resist the project.

“I want to be able to say to the people in Delaware County, if you support reasonable and environmentally correct expansion of the gas industry, this is going to help your schools,” the governor said.

Pa. investing $300 million into Philadelphia ports

Longshoreman unload fruit from a container ship, Friday, Feb. 24, 2006, at the Tioga Marine Terminal in Philadelphia.

Joseph Kaczmarek / AP Photo

Longshoreman unload fruit from a container ship, Friday, Feb. 24, 2006, at the Tioga Marine Terminal in Philadelphia.

Boosters of the Port of Philadelphia gathered Wednesday to celebrate a big Christmas present from Governor Tom Wolf: $300 million.

Jerry Sweeney, chair of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, called the room full of politicians, business leaders and union workers to order. Behind him was a large Christmas tree, decorated with twinkling white lights, red ornaments and bows and of course, beautifully wrapped presents underneath.

Sitting at his left was Wolf.

Last month, two days before Thanksgiving turkeys hit the tables, Wolf announced the multi-million dollar capital investment plan for the port.

And now, Sweeney and other officials were giving him his due.

“This investment will create the infrastructure that will result in 2,000 direct jobs, 7,000 more indirect jobs, more construction jobs, will more than double our container capacity and establish our position as one of the leading international seaports on the East Coast,” Sweeney said. “And how great is that?”

This big investment of taxpayer money – which will come from a bond – is actually plan B.

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Philadelphia launches $1 billion green jobs plan

Philadelphia has launched a program to improve the energy efficiency of low-income residences, as well as small businesses in the city. In this file photo, Joe Mozloom and Allison Roethke shop for compact fluorescent bulbs at an Ikea store in Philadelphia, June 15, 2010.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Philadelphia has launched a program to improve the energy efficiency of low-income residences, as well as small businesses in the city. In this file photo, Joe Mozloom and Allison Roethke shop for compact fluorescent bulbs at an Ikea store in Philadelphia, June 15, 2010.

Philadelphia is moving forward with an ambitious plan to create 10,000 “green jobs” over 10 years. It involves investing $1 billion in public and private money into energy efficiency projects in all city-owned buildings, schools, as well as 25,000 low-to-moderate-income homes and 2,500 small businesses.

Energy efficiency plans are often billed as a “win-win-win:” clients save money on energy bills by making upgrades, such as installing a new boiler; the savings pay for the upgrade with money to spare; and finally, boiler-installers and other contractors get more work.

The politician pushing the plan, known as the “Philadelphia Energy Campaign,” is City Council President Darrell Clarke. But it’s the Philadelphia Energy Authority, an independent city agency formed in 2010 that is responsible for seeing it through.

StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Katie Colaneri recently sat down with the authority’s executive director, Emily Schapira to talk about how the plan is going since it was announced last February.

Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: If I were a home or business owner, I’d be wondering why the city cares if I save money on my energy bills. What’s in it for you?

A: It’s funny I get asked that question all the time. What’s in it for us is that energy efficiency and clean energy is a really unique vehicle to drive poverty-reduction, economic development in Philadelphia, health, sustainability, so it’s a vehicle that can be used to meet a lot of the other goals of city government and of our city in general. Continue Reading

Fracking opponents dump on Democratic Party platform

Tamara Clements with Food and Water Watch places dung beneath one of the DNC Donkeys Around Town sculptures. This donkey is at City Hall and represents Georgia.

Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Tamara Clements with Food and Water Watch places fake dung beneath one of the Democratic National Convention ‘Donkeys Around Town’ statues in Philadelphia. This donkey is located at City Hall and represents the state of Georgia.

The Democratic Party’s draft platform, advanced by a committee last weekend, calls for a tax on carbon and other measures to tackle climate change. It also calls for a “phase down” of drilling on public lands.

However, that’s not enough for some environmental groups, which have called for a nationwide ban on fracking.

To protest what they feel is lacking in the Democratic platform, members of Food and Water Watch placed placed piles of papier-mâché poop beneath 19 of the 57 painted donkey statues set up around Philadelphia to welcome delegates to the Democratic National Convention here in two weeks.

In order to make sure the conventioneers got the message, they also spray painted the sidewalk  with “No ban on fracking, the Dem platform is crap.”

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Deepening the Delaware: Windfall or boondoggle?

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D) speaks at a press conference regarding the dredging of the Delaware to increase shipping traffic to the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal.

Brad Larrison / WHYY

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D) speaks at a press conference touting the benefits of the dredging the Delaware to increase shipping traffic to the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal. Philadelphia Congressman Bob Brady (D) stands to the left.

On a recent afternoon, local politicians and business leaders gathered at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia. Standing in front of a giant blue and white crane used to lift containers off cargo ships, U.S. Senator Bob Casey told reporters he’s confident Congress will approve the last chunk of federal funding needed to deepen the Delaware River’s shipping channel this year.

“It’s a great sense of satisfaction because it allows this region to be much more competitive and to chart its own course for the future,” said Casey.

That course for the future is the promise of lots of good-paying jobs. A controversial, $400 million project to deepen the Delaware River’s shipping channel will wrap up next year.

The project to dredge the river to a depth of 45 feet was held up for nearly three decades by state officials across the river in New Jersey and Delaware who didn’t think it was worth spending millions in taxpayer dollars, and by environmentalists worried about its impact on the Delaware River. Dredging proponents say it will be a boost to the local economy.

Dredging the Delaware has scientists worried about the impact of climate change

The Drillboat Apache sits in the Delaware River near Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. From December 2015 to March 2016, the crew on this boat was blasting rock outcroppings on the river bottom. It’s one of the last stages of a controversial project to deepen the river’s shipping channel by five feet.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

The Drillboat Apache sits in the Delaware River near Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. From December 2015 to March 2016, the crew on this boat was blasting rock outcroppings on the river bottom. It’s one of the last stages of a controversial project to deepen the river’s shipping channel by five feet.

The Delaware River is getting deeper thanks to a joint federal and state effort to dredge the shipping channel to make way for larger boats. It’s the culmination of a multi-million dollar project stalled for years by doubts over economic benefits and fears of environmental damage.

In the long fought battle over dredging the Delaware, environmentalists lost. They were worried about a laundry list of potential impacts to the endangered Atlantic sturgeon, oysters, horseshoe crabs, as well as what to do with all the potentially hazardous muck dredged from the river bottom. But there is one impact nobody at the time was talking about — climate change. Six years after the first shovels started scooping up the riverbed, reporter Katie Colaneri takes a look at how the deepening project could impact the health of the river, which provides drinking water for 16 million people.

 

Click here for more on our series about dredging the Delaware.

Delaware River ports fight for market share as dredging project nears completion

Bigger ships and more cargo flowing through the ports of Philadelphia and South Jersey should mean more jobs and greater economic activity when the Delaware River deepening project is completed next year, but the benefits may not be a slam-dunk for the region as expected.

Fierce competition from other East Coast ports for an expected trade bonanza resulting from the widening of the Panama Canal means that the $392 million project to dredge another five feet of mud and rock from the bottom of the river near Philadelphia does not automatically mean that more ships will call at the local ports, experts said.

What’s more, environmentalists warn that the dredging project will harm the health of the river and will likely bring saltwater closer to Philadelphia’s drinking water intakes.

Even to reap the expected benefits of the long-delayed project – now six years into the dredging project and 24 years since its first funding was appropriated by Congress – ports on both sides of the river will have to play to their strengths. Continue Reading

Pennsylvania still working on Clean Power Plan, but won’t meet deadline

Pennsylvania DEP Secretary John Quigley speaks to members of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Emma Lee/WHYY

Pennsylvania DEP Secretary John Quigley speaks to members of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

While President Obama’s initiative to get states to cut carbon emissions — known as the Clean Power Plan — is being challenged in federal court by 24 states, Pennsylvania is still moving forward with its plans.

Speaking to members of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning, state Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley said his agency will not submit a formal plan to the federal government until the court battles are over. A court ruling on the controversial initiative may not be issued until next year.

“The rule isn’t final and we can’t shoot at a moving target,” he told reporters after the event. Continue Reading

Pa. Attorney General candidates weigh in on fracking

Workers at a hydraulic fracturing site in Susquehanna County.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Workers at a hydraulic fracturing site in Susquehanna County.

Democratic candidate for attorney general Josh Shapiro is taking a hard line on gas drillers in a TV ad that began airing more than a week ago.

“In the last eight years, the fracking industry has spent over $40 million dollars on lobbying in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro says in the ad, referring to a 2014 report by the watchdog group Common Cause Pennsylvania. The report found the industry spent nearly $50 million lobbying state lawmakers and donating to political candidates between 2007 and 2014.

“So it’s no surprise that even though they’ve had over 4,000 violations, all they’ve gotten is just a slap on the wrist,” Shapiro continues.

Under Pennsylvania’s current Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, the office brought criminal charges against XTO Energy in 2013 for a wastewater spill in Lycoming County. Then, in 2014, her office filed a criminal complaint against EQT Corp. on behalf of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for an impoundment leak in Tioga County. Last year, the office filed suit against Chesapeake Energy, seeking millions of dollars for Pennsylvanians who accused the company of cheating them out of royalties.

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Philadelphia fails to find common ground on “energy hub”

On December 5, 2014, protestors marched outside Drexel University’s Creese Student Center where business leaders met to discuss plans for expanding Philadelphia’s role in the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

On December 5, 2014, protestors marched outside Drexel University’s Creese Student Center where business leaders met to discuss plans for expanding Philadelphia’s role in the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom.

The prospect of Philadelphia as an “energy hub” has some seeing dollar signs and good-paying jobs. Others worry about the continued impact of fossil fuel use on climate and exploding gas pipelines.

StateImpact Pennsylvania has learned that Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania quietly brought both sides together for a series of meetings in an effort to find common ground.

However, the effort has stopped just short of building consensus.

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