Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Marie Cusick

Reporter

Marie Cusick is StateImpact Pennsylvania's Harrisburg reporter at WITF. Her work regularly takes her throughout the state covering Marcellus Shale natural gas production. Marie first began reporting on the gas boom in 2011 at WMHT (PBS/NPR) in Albany, New York. A native Pennsylvanian, she was born and raised in Lancaster and holds a degree in political science and French from Lebanon Valley College. In 2014 Marie was honored with a national Edward R. Murrow award for her coverage of Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.

DEP offers more details on plans to curb methane leaks

State environmental regulators want to curb climate-damaging methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure, like this compressor station, which are used to move gas from wells through pipelines.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

State environmental regulators want to curb climate-damaging methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure, like this compressor station, which is used to push gas from wells through pipelines.

State environmental regulators offered more details Thursday about the Wolf administration’s efforts to cut methane emissions from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry.

Methane is the main component of natural gas, and it’s a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change. Speaking at a meeting of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee, Secretary John Quigley called climate change an existential threat to the state.

“We need to take decisive action,” he said. “It is very plain that if the climate benefits of generating electricity from natural gas are to be realized, we have to minimize methane emissions.”

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Ahead of Wolf’s budget plan, Republicans discuss Marcellus tax bills

State Rep. Kate Harper (R- Montgomery) holds up a copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer with a story about the downturn in drilling.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

State Rep. Kate Harper (R- Montgomery) holds up a copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer with a story about the downturn in drilling.

A day before Governor Tom Wolf is expected to unveil another attempt at taxing Marcellus Shale drillers, House Republicans were discussing their own proposals.

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held an informational meeting Monday to look at two Republican-backed severance tax bills. Rep. John Maher (R- Allegheny) chairs the committee. He says he wants to make sure any new tax won’t hurt the state’s business climate.

“This industry that was once in a boom, is now in a bust,” he says. “And ultimately, we need to have a safe environment, but we need to be the best place for the drilling and production of natural gas.”

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Fracking in the forests: environmental groups ask for more public input

After nearly 500 angry people packed a DCNR meeting about drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest in 2013, the department said it did not keep a record of their comments. Environmental groups are now asking the department to create a  formal public participation process for major land-use decisions.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

After nearly 500 angry people packed a DCNR meeting about drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest in 2013, the department said it did not keep a record of their comments. Environmental groups are now asking the department to create a formal public participation process for major land-use decisions.

A coalition of 11 Pennsylvania environmental groups is urging the state to create a more formal public participation process when it comes to major land use decisions involving state forests, such as leasing mineral rights for oil and gas development.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is currently finalizing an update of its State Forest Resource Management Plan. The document is a strategic road map for the DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry.

A letter from the Save the Loyalsock Coalition urges DCNR to model public participation on the federal government’s process. The coalition includes groups such as PennFuture, PennEnvironment, the PA Forest Coalition, and Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter.

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House Republicans to revive gas royalties bill

Rep. Garth Everett (R- Lycoming)

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

House Republicans unveiled the new royalties bill at a June 2015 press conference. They want to revive the effort this spring.

Republicans in the state House are reviving a bipartisan bill aimed at preventing natural gas companies from shortchanging people on royalty money.

HB 1391 was introduced last summer and has 37 co-sponsors from both parties. Rep. Garth Everett (R- Lycoming) is the prime sponsor and says he held back on pushing the measure during the state’s nearly six-month-long budget stalemate, but he continues to hear from people all over the state who are upset they’re not being paid fairly.

“I’m going to try to re-energize it,” he says of the bill. He’s working to organize a legislative hearing in Bradford County next month. The date is still to be determined.

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Gas royalties from state forest land drop sharply

Low natural gas prices mean the state will receive less royalty money from drilling in public forests this year.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

Low natural gas prices mean the state will receive less royalty money from drilling in public forests this year.

Pennsylvania is getting a lot less royalty money from Marcellus Shale drilling on state forest land this year due to the low price of natural gas, according to a new analysis from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office.

“We’re seeing a large drop off, year-over-year, in the royalty payments,” says IFO director Matthew Knittel. “For the first six months of this fiscal year, royalty payments are about $31 million. That’s down 52 percent from the same six-month period last year.”

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Seven arrested at pipeline task force meeting

Seven people were arrested after they disrupted Governor Wolf's pipeline task force meeting in Harrisburg Wednesday.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Seven protesters were arrested after they disrupted Governor Wolf's pipeline task force meeting in Harrisburg Wednesday.

Seven people were arrested for disorderly conduct after they disrupted the final meeting of Governor Tom Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force in Harrisburg Wednesday.

The protesters shouted as they were escorted out of the meeting by Capitol Police:

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In climate move, Wolf unveils new methane regulations for oil and gas industry

State environmental regulators will develop new regulations aimed at curbing methane leaks from new and existing oil and gas infrastructure.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

State environmental regulators will develop new regulations aimed at curbing methane leaks from new and existing oil and gas infrastructure, like this gas processing equipment in Lycoming County.

Governor Tom Wolf announced new plans Tuesday to cut methane emissions from the state’s oil and gas sector. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Wolf’s announcement follows a similar move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September.

“These are commonsense steps that Pennsylvania can take to protect our air and reduce waste for industry,” Wolf said in a statement. “The best companies understand the business case for reducing methane leaks, as what doesn’t leak into the atmosphere can be used for energy production.”

The rules will create a new permit for oil and gas companies requiring them to use the best available technologies to prevent leaks at well sites and compressor stations. The state Department of Environmental Protection also plans to develop new regulations to curb leaks at existing oil and gas infrastructure.

Methane is the main component of natural gas. Compared to carbon dioxide, it is a much more potent greenhouse gas, although it stays in the planet’s atmosphere for a shorter time period. On a 100-year time scale methane is more than 25 times more powerful than CO2, according to the EPA.

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Wolf to target methane emissions from oil and gas industry

Gov. Tom Wolf will host a live town hall forum on Facebook Tuesday to discuss climate change, energy, and the environment.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf will host a live town hall forum on Facebook Tuesday to discuss climate change, energy, and the environment. He is expected to announce new regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Governor Tom Wolf will make a major announcement Tuesday about his administration’s efforts to combat climate change. He is expected to target methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Gretchen Dahlkemper of the group Moms Clean Air Force is scheduled to meet with Wolf and other parents ahead of a Facebook town hall meeting he’s hosting on climate change.

“The governor ran on protecting our families from the oil and gas industry– especially the air pollution. We’re hoping this is the rule that’s been promised,” says Dahlkemper. “Every indication is that it is.”

No one from the governor’s office was available to comment. State offices were closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

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Enviros ask Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren for FERC investigation

Twenty-four protesters were arrested for blocking a public passageway outside the Washington D.C. headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in July, 2014.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

As the shale boom leads to an expansion of pipeline infrastructure, the once-obscure Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been targeted by environmental activists. In July 2014, 24 protesters were arrested for blocking a public passageway outside its Washington D.C. offices.

Dozens of environmental groups and activists from the Northeastern U.S. sent a letter to Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren this week, asking for an investigation into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The agency is charged with siting and approving much of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure.

“We’re asking for an investigation of FERC and their process because it’s shady,” says Tim Spies of Lancaster Against Pipelines. “They’re rubber stamping everything.”

In the letter, the groups call FERC “a demonstrably biased agency that has become a partner with, rather than a regulator of, the pipeline companies it purports to oversee.”

The letter asks presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to request that the Government Accountability Office conduct an investigation. The two Democrats serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

A FERC spokeswoman declined to comment.

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