Scott Detrow was StateImpact’s Harrisburg reporter until February 2013. Prior to that, he was Pennsylvania Public Radio’s State Capitol Bureau Chief from 2009 to 2011, covering the 2010 gubernatorial campaign and 2009 budget impasse, among other stories. Scott has also worked as a reporter and anchor at WITF-FM and WFUV-FM, and won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for covering a Pennsylvania National Guard brigade’s deployment to Iraq. He grew up in New Jersey and Wisconsin.
It’s that time of year again – the Pennsylvania Farm Show has unveiled the 2013 butter sculpture.
This year’s creation is quite elaborate, as sculptor Jim Victor told witf’s Mary Wilson. “There’s Pennsylvania Christmas trees in there and there’s maple syrup and there’s wine and there’s poultry and there’s you know all the stuff, the hard woods,” he said. “There’s even a bee on the back, there’s a honeycomb around the back of the thing.”
“The top issue on everyone’s radar right now is fracking,” Don Elliott, a former EPA official who is a lawyer and professor at Yale Law School, said in an interview. “How EPA weighs in on it is very important.”
On the one hand, the glut of natural gas has allowed power plants to shift away from dirtier coal-fueled production; on the other, local activists and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club complain that gas production is fouling the water, triggering earthquakes, and even causing global warming from the methane emissions that escape during production and transport.
EPA’s study on the impact of fracking on drinking water is scheduled for release in 2014. Analysts say it could lead Congress to rewrite federal rules for the oversight of the practice or the agency to issue further regulations. Fracking is now primarily overseen by state regulators.
Among the new state laws going into effect tomorrow: an environmental measure barring people from throwing electronics out with the trash. The Tribune-Review explains:
Trash haulers will be prohibited from picking up discarded electronics such as computers and televisions.
Residents will have to return the used item to retailers such as Best Buy and RadioShack, which must accept them free of charge, said Bill Klimovich, assistant director of Pittsburgh Public Works Bureau of Environmental Services.
Trash haulers, including the city and private firms such as Waste Management and BFI, must notify customers of the change.
Klimovich said his crews will leave the waste at the curb and a foreman will double-back to let residents know about the law. Residents could face a citation if the trash is not removed after 48 hours.
According to the federal energy reports Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia now produce 7 billion cubic feet of gas per day. That’s about 25 percent of all shale gas production nationwide, and nearly double the Marcellus production of the previous year.
The Marcellus could contain “almost half of the current proven natural gas reserves in the U.S,” a report from Standard & Poor’s said, while other experts noted the powerful combination of resource, cost and location is altering natural gas prices and market trends across the nation. In other words, natural gas that used to come all the way from the Gulf Coast or Canada to feed the power-hungry Northeast is now coming from Marcellus producers.
The article also recaps the major regulatory changes that occurred in 2012, including Pennsylvania’s Act 13.
After his re-election, and a campaign in which global warming was barely mentioned by either candidate, Mr. Obama said that his first priority would be jobs and the economy and that he intended only to foster a “conversation” on climate change in the coming months.
That ambivalence is a far cry from the hopes that accompanied his early months in office, when he identified climate change as one of humanity’s defining challenges. Mr. Obama put the White House’s full lobbying power behind a House cap-and-trade bill that would have limited climate-altering emissions and brought profound changes in how the nation produces and consumes energy.
An antique Shell gasoline pump at an Ohio oil and gas museum
Royal Dutch Shell won’t be making a decision any time soon on whether or not to proceed with plans to build a major petrochemical plant in Beaver County. The energy giant’s agreement with Horsehead Corp, which owns the potential site outside Monaca, required Shell to make a determination of whether or not to proceed with its project by the end of 2012.
The chemical arm of Royal Dutch Shell plc had a Dec. 31 deadline to buy land in Center and Potter, but the company and landowner Horsehead Corp. signed a six-month extension, officials from both companies said. Shell may build a multibillion-dollar ethane processing plant on the site but needs more time to assess its suitability, Shell spokeswoman Kimberly Windon said in an email.
The facility would convert the ethane found in shale deposits into ethylene, which is used to produce plastics.
A major Environmental Protection Agency report on natural gas drilling will include a lot of information from Pennsylvania.
The federal study won’t be released until 2014, but the agency recently published a progress report. The EPA is examining five stages of hydraulic fracturing, and assessing each step’s risk of contaminating drinking water. That includes everything from where drillers withdraw their water, to what chemicals they mix in, to how fracking fluid is stored on drilling sites. The study will also probe well construction standards and waste disposal methods.
The study includes an extensive look at drilling in Bradford and Washington Counties. The EPA is also looking at spill data from Pennsylvania drilling sites, and using computer models to predict how much water will be withdrawn from the Susquehanna River Basin in the future.
Keep reading for a look inside the EPA’s progress report. We’ve annotated the document to flag the highlights, as well as the Pennsylvania-specific information.
StateImpact Pennsylvania's recent project, BoomTown, examines a similar trend in northeastern Pennsylvania. Click on the above image to view our report.
The New York Times profiles the men and women – many of them just out of high school – who are migrating to oil boom towns in Montana and North Dakota in search of drilling jobs. Just like in Pennsylvania, communities in the mountain west are rapidly expanding to accommodate drilling rushes powered by hydraulic fracturing.
Less than a year after proms and homecoming games, teenagers like Mr. Sivertson now wake at 4 a.m. to make the three-hour trek to remote oil rigs. They fish busted machinery out of two-mile-deep hydraulic fracturing wells and repair safety devices that keep the wells from rupturing, often working alongside men old enough to be their fathers. Some live at home; others drive back on weekends to eat their mothers’ food, do loads of laundry and go to high school basketball games, still straddling the blurred border between childhood and adulthood.
Just as gold rushes and silver booms once brought opera houses and armies of prospectors to rugged corners of the West, today’s headlong race for oil and gas is reshaping staid communities in the northern Plains, bringing once untold floods of cash and job prospects, but also deep anxieties about crime, growth and a future newly vulnerable to cycles of boom and bust.