Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Mariner East 2 pipeline completion delayed again

A pipeline construction site in Jackson Township, Butler County, Pa.

A pipeline construction site in Jackson Township, Butler County, Pa. A recent ruling over a disputed valve station in Chester County has created more construction delays for the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.

Sunoco Pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, said Wednesday that its Mariner East 2 pipeline will be put into service in the second quarter of 2018, some 18 months later than originally planned, because of delays caused by Pennsylvania regulators.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Long said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call that the project has been held up in part by the Public Utility Commission’s recent ban on horizontal directional drilling at a location in Chester County’s West Goshen Township until the PUC hears a dispute between the township and Sunoco over the siting of a valve. The hearing is scheduled for April next year. Continue Reading

‘People are furious’: Wolf aide criticized after downplaying royalty problems

Advocates for Pennsylvania mineral owners are criticizing a comment by one of Gov. Wolf's senior aides, who says complaints over royalty payments have subsided.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

Advocates for Pennsylvania mineral owners are criticizing a comment by one of Gov. Wolf's senior aides, who says complaints over royalty payments have subsided.

Advocates for Pennsylvania landowners are challenging a statement made recently by one of Governor Tom Wolf’s top aides, after he said complaints over unfair gas royalty payments have subsided.

In some cases, Pennsylvania mineral owners have received royalty checks showing negative balances, saying they owe money to drillers. At an energy conference in Hershey last week, Wolf’s deputy policy director Sam Robinson said the administration hasn’t heard as much about it lately.

“I think there was a crescendo of that kind of claim in 2015 to 2016,” he told the audience. “There’s been real movement in a positive direction on that issue.”

‘People are furious’

But advocates for mineral owners dispute those claims. Over the years, the controversy around the payments has resulted in multiple class action lawsuits from landowners who say they’re being cheated by certain gas companies. Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko is in one of the most heavily-drilled parts of the state and has been hearing from constituents every day for more than four years.

“It is a huge topic in Northeast Pennsylvania,” says McLinko. “It has not quieted down. People are furious.”

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Activists offer pancakes to pipeline workers, are rebuffed

Activists in Lancaster County offered pipeline workers a pancake breakfast Friday morning, but the invitation was declined.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Activists in Lancaster County offered pipeline workers a pancake breakfast Friday morning.

Protesters are continuing to demonstrate against the construction of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in Lancaster County.

The activists latest tactic Friday morning involved setting up a pancake breakfast picnic on an Amish farm in Conestoga adjacent to a construction site and inviting the pipeline workers to share a meal.

About 30 people sang and held signs as they confronted three pipeline workers, who lined up several feet away and watched silently.

“We’d like you all to join us– like human beings,” said Mark Clatterbuck, a leader of the protest group. ”Let’s sit down with our shared humanity and talk about what we’re doing and what you’re doing. Do you understand what an incredible desecration this is to us? And what a threat this is to our community?”

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Big power plant ignites political fight in small Pennsylvania town

A wave of new gas-fired power plants is hitting the nation, with uncertain implications for the climate. The local consequences can be just as thorny.

Lackawanna Energy Center

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

At 1,485 megawatts the Lackawanna Energy Center is one of the largest natural gas power plants in the works nationwide.

JESSUP—The biggest new natural-gas power plant in a state awash with them is taking shape on a mountain ridge overlooking the community it cleaved apart.

First came questions about pollution and property values. Lawyers and public-records requests followed. Now this borough of 4,500, where it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that everybody knows everybody, is embroiled in a full-out political revolt.

Pro-plant incumbents up for election this year — two council members and the mayor — were booted in the May primary. A ticket organized by plant opponents boasts five people on the ballot in next week’s general election — candidates for all the open council seats and even school board director, which shows just how far the fault lines over the Lackawanna Energy Center extend. Relationships have been upended. Mistrust in local government has surged.

“It’s like a raw nerve,” said Ellen Nielsen, president of the school board.

Pennsylvania has long been a power-plant colossus, exporting electricity to other states because it makes more than it uses — historically with coal and nuclear. The Jessup plant is at the vanguard of a new boom fueled by the state’s plentiful natural gas.

Only Texas has more planned gas-fired generation in the queue, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Energy firms have proposed over 40 gas-fired projects in Pennsylvania since 2011, including in Jessup’s neighbor Archbald. Fourteen are under construction or operating. At 1,485 megawatts, Jessup’s Lackawanna Energy Center is one of the largest in the works nationwide, according to EIA data — part of a dramatic coast-to-coast expansion of gas-fired plants.

Developers have proposed more than 40 gas-fired power plants in Pennsylvania since 2011, spread around the state. Red icons on the map represent small projects using internal combustion engines. The plant-shaped orange icons represent larger, combined-cycle turbine projects. (Map by WITF’s Tom Downing.)

Map tiles by Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0.

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Activists: Clean up Coke Plant

US Steel's Clairton Coke Works. Photo: Reid R. Frazier

US Steel's Clairton Coke Works. Photo: Reid R. Frazier

A group of activists demanded Allegheny County health officials rein in air pollution from the largest coke plant in North America. The Clairton Coke Works is one of the biggest pollution sources in Western Pennsylvania. The Allegheny County Health Department determined the plant violated the terms of its air permits 6,700 times over a 3 ½ year period.

The long record of violations drew a crowd of activists to a meeting at the health department Wednesday, where several told the agency to clean the plant up. Continue Reading

Plaintiffs ask judge to revoke ‘illegal’ Mariner East 2 permits

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Environmental groups have asked a judge to revoke the permits issued by DEP to Sunoco.

Three environmental groups urged a judge to revoke some environmental permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline without holding a trial, saying there are ‘undisputed’ facts showing that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection broke the law in issuing the permits.

Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Mountain Watershed Association filed a motion for summary judgement with Judge Bernard Labuskes of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board late Friday as part of their appeal against issuance of the permits.

The groups say there is a set of facts in the case that are not in dispute and which make the case suitable for a judge to rule on without holding a full trial to hear the opposing arguments by Sunoco Pipeline and the DEP. Continue Reading

Pennsylvania’s environmental rights amendment is back from the dead

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Scott LaMar/ WITF

Pennsylvania is one of only a few states to recognize environmental quality as a basic civil right.

Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states to recognize clean air and pure water as a basic civil right. However, the powerful language in the state constitution was dismissed for decades.

That’s all changing, says John Dernbach, director of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Center at Widener University.

Speaking Friday at the Decade of Disruption: Marcellus Shale and Regional Energy Markets conference in Hershey, Dernbach highlighted recent court rulings that mark a revival for environmental rights in the state. He sat down with StateImpact Pennsylvania to explain what’s happening.

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Enviro Group Hires New CEO

Jacquelyn Bonomo, CEO of PennFuture. Image: PennFuture

Jacquelyn Bonomo, CEO of PennFuture. Image: PennFuture

Pennsylvania’s biggest environmental group is getting a new CEO.

Jacquelyn Bonomo is succeeding Larry Schweiger as the leader of PennFuture. Schweiger is retiring.

Bonomo has been the organization’s executive vice president and COO for the past two years, and has spent more than three decades working in environmental advocacy.  Continue Reading

PUC’s West Goshen ruling cheers advocates for local control over pipelines

Mariner East 2 pipeline construction in Aston, Delaware County. Construction includes underground drilling along parts of the route. In Chester County, Sunoco's crews punctured an aquifer, leading to some residents having to drink bottled water and shower at hotels.

Emily Cohen / StateImpact PA

Mariner East 2 pipeline construction in Aston, Delaware County. Construction includes underground drilling along parts of the route. The Public Utility Commission has blocked Sunoco from constructing a valve station in West Goshen.

Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission halted Sunoco’s plans to build a valve for its Mariner East 2 pipeline in Chester County’s West Goshen Township, raising questions about whether the massive cross-state project will be completed on time, and encouraging advocates for local control over gas development.

The commission voted unanimously on Thursday to uphold a judge’s ruling that prevented Sunoco from building the valve and associated equipment on private land on the basis that the construction breached a settlement agreement between the township and the company. Continue Reading

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