Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

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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PUC gives Philadelphia utility green light on raising fee to replace leaky gas mains

Kevin McDonald, PGW Senior Pipe Mechanic uses a compressor to back fill soil covering main and service pipelines in North Philadelphia.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

Kevin McDonald, PGW Senior Pipe Mechanic uses a compressor to back fill soil covering main and service pipelines in North Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Gas Works customers will soon be paying a little bit extra to help speed up replacement of the utility’s old, leaky gas mains.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has given PGW the green light to raise its customer infrastructure surcharge by 2.5 percent. For the average consumer, that means paying about $1.65 more on their monthly gas bill. For the utility, spokesman Barry O’Sullivan said it means cutting the time it will take to replace less than 1,500 miles of old gas mains down from 88 years to 48 years.

“So in one stroke of the pen or in one considered ruling, we’ve been able to take 40 years off a length of time we anticipate it will take to replace the older elements of PGW’s infrastructure across Philadelphia,” O’Sullivan said.

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Shale gas boosts Delaware River port traffic

INEOS plans to begin exporting ethane to Norway and Scotland in mid-February. Eight new ships have been built for the project.

courtesy of INEOS

INEOS plans to begin exporting ethane to Norway and Scotland in mid-February. Eight new ships have been built for the project.

Ship traffic up and down the Delaware River is bouncing back after a slump that began in 2008 due to the Great Recession. In addition to the improved economy, a new export product has driven much of that growth — natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale.

Dennis Rochford leads the Maritime Exchange, which acts as a chamber of commerce for the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. He says propane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale are increasingly heading to Europe.

“This is going to be a growth of cargo on the river that will help expand overall the number of vessels arriving on the river.”

Rochford says ship traffic jumped ten percent between 2010 and 2015. Propane exports more than doubled from 2014 to 2015, jumping from 28 to 75. In mid-February, the first ships full of ethane are expected to leave the port of Philadelphia for Europe.

Rochford says at its peak, the river’s ports handled 2500 ships a year.

“It appears that the trend line now is going to move our port back up to the 2500 vessel arrivals, which is what the norm was prior to the recession,” he said. Continue Reading

Fuel oil spills into Schuylkill River

Oil and snow mix on the surface of the Schuylkill River in Center City Philadelphia. DEP says a total of 4200 gallons leaked from a nearby building. About 200 gallons have made it into the river.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Oil and snow mix on the surface of the Schuylkill River in Center City Philadelphia. DEP says a total of 4200 gallons leaked from a nearby building. About 200 gallons have made it into the river.

Environmental clean up crews continue to remediate the site of a 4200-gallon heating oil spill, some of which has contaminated the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. A strong hydro-carbon odor is present in the area of contamination, which appears as a reddish sheen of oil.

The City’s Office of Emergency Management says the leak resulted in between 200 to 250 gallons of home heating oil leaking into the river beginning Saturday night. The Philadelphia Water Department was alerted to the incident via Twitter and sent a crew over to investigate.

PWD spokesman John DiGiulio says the spill is downstream of the city’s water intakes, and poses no threat to drinking water supplies.

“PWD visited the site and investigated the report that night with a follow up visit Sunday and today,” said DiGiulio in an email. Continue Reading

Lack of data on fracking spills leaves researchers in the dark on water contamination

Workers vacuum water or fluids surrounding a frack site in Harford Township, Susquehanna County, Pa.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

Workers vacuum fluids surrounding a frack site in Harford Township, Susquehanna County, Pa.

A recently published peer-review of the EPA’s fracking study criticized the agency for reaching conclusions in their draft report without adequately explaining the lack of data and research available, including information related to wastewater, chemical and fuel spills resulting from oil and gas production. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board, an independent group of scientists tasked with reviewing the report, said in a draft review released earlier this month that the EPA failed to address “significant uncertainty regarding frequency, severity and type of hydrofracking related spills.”

The Board also criticized the EPA for reaching conclusions by looking at data from just two states — Colorado and Pennsylvania. But if Pennsylvania is any indication, even that data on spills is severely lacking.

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NJ homeowners hire D.C. law firm to fight PennEast pipeline

Jacqueline Evans, whose farm near Stockton, N.J., lies in the path of the proposed PennEast pipeline, speaks out against the project.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Jacqueline Evans, whose farm near Stockton, N.J., lies in the path of the proposed PennEast pipeline, speaks out against the project.

Homeowners in Hunterdon and Mercer Counties have joined together to hire a D.C. law firm to fight the construction of the controversial PennEast pipeline that would carry Marcellus Shale gas to Northeast markets. The move marks a preemptive strike by residents along a wealthier stretch of the 114-mile long proposed pipe, aiming to fight off potential eminent domain actions.

“This is not just for this group of people,” said Vincent DiBianca, one of the new group’s organizers who lives along the proposed route in Delaware Township. “If this starts to set a precedent, and corporate gain is one of the fundamental principles at play here and people can lose their properties, that’s unconstitutional. It’s certainly not fair and just.”

HALT PennEast — which stands for “homeowners against land taking” — criticized the PennEast Pipeline Company for proposing a route for the pipeline that would abut or intersect the properties of dozens of New Jersey residents. The proposed 36-inch line would begin in Luzerne County, PA, pass through six Pennsylvania counties, cross the river into New Jersey, traveling through Mercer and Hunterdon counties to supply other major interstate pipelines with Marcellus Shale gas near Trenton. Continue Reading

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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DEP plans more monitoring to clamp down on methane leaks

Researcher Melissa Sullivan uses an infrared FLIR camera to determine if methane is leaking from a well site.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Carnegie Mellon University researcher Melissa Sullivan uses an infrared FLIR camera to determine if methane is leaking from a well site.

Pennsylvania Department on Environmental Protection has announced plans to crack down on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry in ways that exceed new EPA standards. Calling climate change the “greatest environmental issue of our time” DEP secretary John Quigley says Pennsylvania should act as a national leader in curbing fugitive leaks of the potent greenhouse gas from the shale gas production process, which begins at the wellhead and includes transportation and processing.

Although Pennsylvania’s carbon emissions have been reduced by burning natural gas instead of coal for electricity, the concern is that the gains at the power plant are getting outweighed by methane leaks during production. Pennsylvania would be the second state, after Colorado, to go after methane leaks.

“Here’s where Pennsylvania stands today,” said Secretary Quigley during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, “more than 500 compressor stations, with hundreds more coming; almost 3,300 well pads most with multiple wells; thousands of miles of pipe and thousands more coming.” Continue Reading

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