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.

Philadelphia schools announce plan to cut energy bills in half

Emily Schapira, executive director of the Philadelphia Energy Authority, talks to reporters in front of an old boiler in the basement of Lankenau High School, an example of the kinds of improvements that could be made under the Energy Pilot Project.

Emma Lee/WHYY

Emily Schapira, executive director of the Philadelphia Energy Authority, talks to reporters in front of an old boiler in the basement of Lankenau High School, an example of the kinds of improvements that could be made under the Energy Pilot Project.

Philadelphia school officials have come up with a plan to use energy efficiency projects to chip away at $4.5 billion in outstanding repairs.

By replacing old boilers, roofs, lighting and other systems with new, more efficient ones, the district said it could save $600 million over the next 20 years and cut its energy bills in half.

This project is part of a larger plan announced by City Council President Darrell Clarke last year to invest $1 billion in public and private dollars in energy efficiency upgrades in all city-owned buildings and public schools, as well as 25,000 low- to-moderate-income homes and 2,500 small businesses. Continue Reading

Philadelphia Gas Works seeks rate hike to boost revenue amid climate change

Philadelphia Gas Works is asking the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for a rate hike.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

Philadelphia Gas Works is asking the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for a rate hike.

Philadelphia Gas Works is asking state regulators for permission to raise its rates and generate $70 million more in revenue because of climate change.

Warmer winters and more energy efficient appliances mean customers are using less natural gas, so the city-owned utility is making less money. The company says it’s seen an 11 percent decline in sales volume since 2009 — the last time it sought a rate hike from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Meanwhile, the cost of doing business has gone up and natural gas prices have gone down, said spokesman Barry O’Sullivan.

“Natural gas is only one portion of their bill,” he said. “There’s also the portion of their bill that goes to maintaining the 6,000 miles of pipe that brings that natural gas to the corners of the city.”

Last year, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission approved a surcharge to help PGW speed up replacement of 1,500 miles of its oldest and leakiest gas mains.

O’Sullivan said the company has seen other costs rise over the years, including healthcare for its employees and maintenance of its two plants.

If the PUC approves the base rate hike, residential customers could see their monthly gas bills rise by about $10 on average.

PGW expects demand will continue to decline as the effects of climate change continue.

Continue Reading

DEP proposes fee increase to improve drinking water standards

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 about climate change at an event hosted by the Academy of Natural Sciences, January 27, 2017.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is working on a plan to avoid losing control over its safe drinking water program, along with millions in federal dollars.

Back in late December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter warning the state it does not have enough staff or financial resources to properly enforce clean water standards, which could be grounds for the EPA to revoke Pennsylvania’s primacy and a significant chunk of federal funding.

During the DEP’s budget hearing Monday, much of the conversation centered on the EPA’s warning as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle asked Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell what it would take to avoid those consequences.

McDonnell said the departments’s plan would raise fees on the state’s 8,600 public water systems. That would bring in $7.5 million, about half of what the state chips in to run the program. The other half would come from the state’s general fund, he said. The remainder of the program is funded by the federal government to the tune of $11.2 million.

McDonnell said the plan would also allow the agency to hire 33 new staffers to do inspections.

“The acute public health impacts specifically within the drinking water program are job one for us,” he told lawmakers.

Continue Reading

DEP to hold meeting on decades-long effort to rebuild crumbling DelCo dam

Third Street in Media, Delaware County, which passes over the Broomall Lake Dam, is closed to traffic.

Emma Lee/WHYY

Third Street in Media, Delaware County, which passes over the Broomall Lake Dam, is closed to traffic.

Pennsylvania environmental officials are holding a public meeting Wednesday to discuss developments on a decades-long effort to rebuild a crumbling dam in Delaware County.

It comes just over one week after concerns about eroding infrastructure at the Oroville Dam in Northern California forced more than 180,000 people to evacuate their homes.

The Broomall Lake Dam in Media, Pa. was built in the early 1880s for harvesting ice from the lake upstream. One hundred years later, in 1980, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned it had become unsafe. In 1996, the Third Street Bridge that runs above it was closed to vehicles. The bridge is still open to pedestrians.

Decades later, efforts to repair the dam have been held up by legal battles over who owns it and whether to change the roadway above to a one-way street. The bridge is maintained by the borough of Media, while the land on the lake side is owned by Broomall Lake Country Club and the downstream side is a 33-acre county park. Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.”

Continue Reading

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.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education