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.

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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Environmentalists target port proposals to fight Philadelphia “energy hub”

Protesters rally outside the Sheet Metal Workers Hall on Columbus Boulevard, where the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority held a public outreach event to get community input on proposals for the Southport Marine Terminal.

Emma Lee/WHYY

Protesters rally outside the Sheet Metal Workers Hall on Columbus Boulevard, where the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority held a public outreach event to get community input on proposals for the Southport Marine Terminal.

Environmental groups fighting efforts to make Philadelphia an “energy hub” for Marcellus Shale gas have found their first target: a proposal by a refiner to build an oil import/export terminal on the Delaware River.

The plan by Philadelphia Energy Solutions is one of six being evaluated by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, which wants to develop its 194 acre Southport Marine Terminal Complex. The company’s CEO Phil Rinaldi is one of the chief architects of the “energy hub” plan, which involves using Pennsylvania’s abundant supply of Marcellus Shale natural gas to revive the city’s manufacturing sector.

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling with the Green Justice Philly coalition said fighting Philadelphia Energy Solution’s bid for Southport is the group’s first shot across the bow. Continue Reading

Philadelphia’s green jobs plan long on goals, short on details

Philadelphia City Council president announced a $1 billion plan to invest in energy efficiency projects he says will create up to 10,000 jobs.

Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke [C} stands with Mayor Jim Kenney [L] and several council members to announce a $1 billion plan to invest in energy efficiency projects. Clarke says the plan will create up to 10,000 jobs.

Back in January, on Inauguration Day, Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke vowed to announce a “comprehensive energy strategy” he said would create “more than 10,000 new jobs.”

On Monday, Clarke made good on his promise during a press conference at City Hall, flanked by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, city council members, members of the Philadelphia Energy Authority and the CEOs of two local utilities.

Clarke’s proposal calls for investing $1 billion in public and private money in energy efficiency projects in city-owned buildings, public schools, low-income homes and apartments, and small businesses. He claims the project, called the Philadelphia Energy Campaign, would create up to 10,000 new “green jobs” over 10 years and result in $200 million per year in savings once all projects are completed.

While Clarke’s plan is long on goals, it’s short on details.

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PUC gives Philadelphia utility green light on raising fee to replace leaky gas mains

Kevin McDonald, PGW Senior Pipe Mechanic uses a compressor to back fill soil covering main and service pipelines in North Philadelphia.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

Kevin McDonald, PGW Senior Pipe Mechanic uses a compressor to back fill soil covering main and service pipelines in North Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Gas Works customers will soon be paying a little bit extra to help speed up replacement of the utility’s old, leaky gas mains.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has given PGW the green light to raise its customer infrastructure surcharge by 2.5 percent. For the average consumer, that means paying about $1.65 more on their monthly gas bill. For the utility, spokesman Barry O’Sullivan said it means cutting the time it will take to replace less than 1,500 miles of old gas mains down from 88 years to 48 years.

“So in one stroke of the pen or in one considered ruling, we’ve been able to take 40 years off a length of time we anticipate it will take to replace the older elements of PGW’s infrastructure across Philadelphia,” O’Sullivan said.

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