Energy. Environment. Economy.

Marie Cusick


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.

Déjà vu all over again: why the shale gas tax keeps flaming out

GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai


At a June 2015 press conference, GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai voiced his opposition to a severance tax while reading directly from a booklet of talking points prepared by EQT, a major drilling company near his home district in southwestern Pa.

Over the years, both Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg have wanted to raise revenue by passing a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. Polls have consistently shown a majority of Pennsylvania voters support it. Last year, the idea helped propel Democrat Tom Wolf into the governor’s mansion.

But now, as Wolf and the Republican-led legislature struggle to reach a budget deal after a nearly five-month long standoff, the severance tax is once again off the table.

The tax has been debated since the shale boom took off, so why hasn’t it happened?

There are two main reasons: lawmakers who loathe raising taxes– and lobbyists.

Continue Reading

Task force debates pipeline recommendations


Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

DEP Secretary John Quigley at Wednesday's Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force meeting.

At a recent press conference, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley joked with reporters that he’d assembled “the world’s largest committee” to try to deal with the state’s building boom of natural gas pipelines.

He was in a decidedly less jovial mood Wednesday as he tried to corral the 48-member group. Quigley didn’t want them to parse every word of the committee’s 335 page draft report, which contains 184 separate recommendations.

“Folks need to take a breath and realize these are broad recommendations,” he said.

The Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force is comprised of people from government, industry, and environmental groups. The idea is to bring planning and best practices to pipeline projects that move Marcellus Shale products to new markets. Some industry representatives were reluctant to endorse recommendations they viewed as too specific. Continue Reading

Pipeline opponent cleared of wrongdoing after speaking out at public meeting

A Lancaster County schoolteacher and opponent of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline had a disorderly conduct conviction against her thrown out by a county judge Tuesday.

In April, 54-year-old Kimberly Kann was arrested for failing to follow special meeting rules in Conestoga Township, which permitted people to ask questions but barred them from making statements. During the meeting Kann stood up to correct what she viewed as misstatements about a ballot initiative to study home rule. Pipeline opponents had been pushing for the measure in an effort to block the Atlantic Sunrise project.

Although the disorderly conduct conviction was $325 between a fine and court costs, Kann spent about $3,000 appealing it.

“I’ve had a lot of crap thrown at me over this,” she says. “But if you’re not willing to deal with that, and spend the money, it ends with people who speak up getting thrown out of the room. That’s scary to me.”

Continue Reading

Changing Spaces: Williamsport housing stock strained by gas boom

Williamsport has a long history of using its natural resources. It was once the lumber capital of the world. But changing economics and deforestation led to the industry’s decline.

More recently the city saw an economic renaissance, thanks to the Marcellus Shale boom. But the ups and downs of drilling can make it difficult to make long term plans– particularly when it comes to housing. The influx of gas workers led to strains on the region’s housing supply, especially for low-income people and seniors.

StateImpact Pennsylvania partnered with Keystone Crossroads to examine the state’s changing spaces. See our segment below, and tune in for the full show on WITF-TV Sunday, November 15 at 6:00pm.

Continue Reading

Tune in to see Pennsylvania’s changing spaces

Pennsylvania’s rich natural resources and attractive river system have made it a hub of industry since its founding in the 1600′s. These industries’ boom-and-bust cycles spurred rapid growth in cities, then just as quickly left those spaces behind.

The Keystone Crossroads: Changing Spaces TV special explores communities reinventing themselves, using historic legacies or tapping new resources to stay relevant in the 21st century.

StateImpact Pennsylvania partnered with Keystone Crossroads to look at how the Marcellus Shale gas industry has affected housing in Williamsport. Tune in to see the full episode on WITF-TV Thursday, November 12 at 8:00pm.

Continue Reading

Canadian police visited Pennsylvania to learn about fracktivists

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police visited Williamsport, Pa. in 2014 to learn about how to deal with anti-fracking protesters.

AP Photo/Michel Spingler

Officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police spent three days in Williamsport, Pa. in 2014 to learn about how to deal with anti-fracking protesters.

Canadian police visited their American counterparts in Williamsport last year to learn more about how to deal with public resistance to shale gas development.

After a protest against exploratory seismic testing in Rexton, New Brunswick turned violent, six members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took a three-day trip to Williamsport in June 2014, according to documents recently obtained by the Halifax Media Co-op. In a travel itinerary, the RCMP said they were concerned about “considerable protests and criminality with a great deal of rhetoric and misinformation from many sources.”

Continue Reading

U.S. Postal Service subpoenas Chesapeake Energy over royalty payments

Postal Problems

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Chesapeake Energy has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Postal service, seeking information on its royalty practices, according to a regulatory filing.

As StateImpact Pennsylvania has previously reported, the Oklahoma City-based driller faces a slew of disputes and complaints over how it pays royalties.

A year ago, Chesapeake disclosed that it had been subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice and several states. The company is also defending lawsuits related to royalty underpayment in at least half a dozen states, including Pennsylvania. It’s the focus of an ongoing investigation by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office.

A spokesman for Chesapeake declined to comment.

Poll finds voters still want new tax on gas drillers

F&M's public opinion polls show consistent public support for a severance tax.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

F&M's public opinion polls show consistent public support for a gas severance tax.

The latest public opinion poll from Franklin and Marshall College shows solid public support for a new tax on the state’s natural gas drillers. But the levy remains one of the hot topics that continue to stall state budget negotiations in Harrisburg.

As the budget impasse drags on into its fourth month, F&M pollster Terry Madonna thinks enacting a new tax on the gas industry would be a natural compromise between the Republican-led legislature and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf to raise new revenue for the state.

Continue Reading

Environmental agencies feel pinch, as budget impasse drags on

Pennsylvania has been without a state budget for nearly four months.

Teresa Boardman/ via Flickr

Pennsylvania has been without a state budget for nearly four months.

The two state agencies overseeing Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry say the ongoing budget impasse in Harrisburg is not adversely affecting the “critical” parts of their missions. But other bills are going unpaid and meetings are being postponed.

“Our vendors are feeling the pinch,” Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley tells StateImpact. “Landlords from whom we rent space are feeling the pinch. Utilities are feeling the pinch. So all of the non-personnel costs—there is definitely a lot of pain.”

As the state budget stalemate closes in on four months, Governor Tom Wolf has implemented a travel ban, hiring freeze, and purchasing constraints on agencies under his jurisdiction. A 2009 court case requires the Commonwealth to continue to meet payroll for state workers, so oil and gas inspectors remain on the job.

Continue Reading

Protesters target Wolf’s gas pipeline task force

Anti-fracking activist Dory Hippauf outside the state Department of Environmental Protection's pipeline meeting.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Anti-fracking activist Dory Hippauf joined with other protesters outside the state Department of Environmental Protection's meeting. "The pipeline companies do not respect the people," she says.

Anti-fracking protesters are squaring off with Governor Tom Wolf’s administration over its efforts to collaborate with natural gas pipeline companies.

About 20 protesters showed up for the governor’s pipeline task force Wednesday in Harrisburg. The committee is headed by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley. It’s comprised of representatives from local, state, federal government, as well as energy companies, and environmental groups. It’s aimed at creating plans and best practices for the region’s pipeline building boom, which will bring thousands of miles of new interstate pipelines to carry Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas to new markets.

“What you’re doing is wrong,” Bucks County climate activist Jasmine Spence told the panel.”[Natural gas] is not a bridge fuel. It’s a fuel that will lock us into more methane emissions. The problem here is the power of the fossil fuel industry.”

Continue Reading

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 »