Pennsylvania

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Could the future bring subsidized air conditioning to Pa.?

File photo: Michael Hall, 2, pulls down the edge of the pool while others swim on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in Philadelphia. Climate change is expected to bring hotter weather to the state, which may mean subsidized air conditioning in the future.

Brynn Anderson / AP Photo

File photo: Michael Hall, 2, pulls down the edge of the pool while others swim on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in Philadelphia. Climate change is expected to bring hotter weather to the state, which may mean subsidized air conditioning in the future.

Climate change will bring longer, hotter heat waves to Pennsylvania, according to experts. Some are worried how those living without air conditioning will survive. 2016 was the hottest year on record. It broke the heat record set in 2015, which broke the record set in 2014.  Climate scientists say it’s expected to get worse. With President Trump pulling out of the global climate agreement, there’s a new push to get cities and states to pick up the slack. And they might also have to pick up the tab.

Speaking after an event in Philadelphia on Friday, hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Public Utility Commissioner David Sweet said the state should look at how to bring subsidized cooling to low-income residents.

“I think that’s an area we have to look at to see if we can encourage additional government assistance in some way for the summer months as well as the winter months,” he said. Continue Reading

Trump touts new Pa. coal mine, but rebound in doubt

Matt Owens, the safety manager for the Acosta Deep mine says he's happy to be back at work.

Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Matt Owens, the safety manager for the Acosta Deep mine watches over preparations for the opening of the metallurgical coal mine.

When President Trump announced the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, he said he was doing it to protect American workers. He gave a shout out to the coal industry, and a surprise mention to the Acosta Deep mine in Somerset County.

“A big opening of a brand, new mine. It’s unheard of. For many, many years that hasn’t happened,” Trump said.

The mine, owned by Canonsburg-based Corsa Coal Corp., received a $3 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, a fund the state gives to “regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects.” The Governor’s office says it will create 100 direct, and 500 indirect jobs.

The Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier explains why this mine is opening up, while others have shut down. And why, although it may be a beacon of hope for the coal mining community, it’s not a harbinger of the future of coal. Read more at The Allegheny Front.

Fire fighting foam contamination sites clustered along Delaware River

In this June 15, 2016 file photo, a girl holds a sign during a news conference at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., calling for hearings on the state's handling of PFOA contamination in drinking water in Hoosick Falls. New York environmental regulators are looking statewide for potential sites of groundwater contamination from a cancer-causing chemical previously used to make Teflon and other products. The Department of Environmental Conservation sent formal surveys last week to more than 150 facilities that may have used PFOA. Surveys were also sent to scores of fire departments, airports and other facilities that may have used the related chemical PFOS in firefighting foam.

Mike Groll / AP Photo

In this June 15, 2016 file photo, a girl holds a sign during a news conference at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., calling for hearings on the state's handling of PFOA contamination in drinking water in Hoosick Falls. The village was one of the first to detect the contaminant. EPA data shows about 15 million people could be exposed to the chemical through their tap water.

A national mapping project detailing tap water contaminated with toxic chemicals used in fire fighting foams and nonstick frying pans shows a large number of those public water systems along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Researchers at Northeastern University and the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) based their map on federal drinking water data and documented cases of pollution by a group of chemicals known as perfluorinated compounds.

The chemicals, commonly referred to as PFC’s, (and include PFOA and PFOS), are used by manufacturers in making non-stick pans, waterproof clothing, take out food packaging, and fire-fighting foams.The compound is no longer manufactured in the U.S., but increasing numbers of drinking water sources have been found to contain levels that exceed EPA’s maximum contaminant levels.

The EPA says that long-term exposure to PFOA and PFOS at above its health-advisory limit may result in kidney and testicular cancer, damage to the liver and the immune system, developmental problems such as low birth-weight in infants, and thyroid problems. Continue Reading

Lawmakers, state officials clash over regulatory oversight

In a House committee meeting, the subject of how Pennsylvania manages its regulations was front and center.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

In a House committee meeting, the subject of how Pennsylvania manages its regulations was front and center.

GOP lawmakers and the Wolf administration have renewed their sparring over state government regulation, butting heads on environmental rules.

The discussion in a House State Government committee meeting was ostensibly focused on Department of Environmental Protection regulations. However, it also delved into some more deep-seated disagreements over how the commonwealth is run.

Officials from the DEP testified before the panel, primarily about general permit revisions to methane regulations, which some lawmakers contend need to have more legislative oversight.

Secretary Patrick McDonnell maintained that the state is doing all it is required to under Independent Regulatory Review Commission guidelines. Continue Reading

PA DEP approved 11th underground injection well for oil and gas waste

A sign protesting a proposed deep injection well sits on the lawn of a home in Brady Township, Clearfield County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign protesting a proposed deep injection well sits on the lawn of a home in Brady Township, Clearfield County. Community opposition to deep injection wells is strong because of links with earthquakes and fears of drinking water contamination.

Pennsylvania officials approved the latest underground injection well to hold wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations.  The move renews concerns about whether nearby residents will have their drinking water contaminated or if it will increase seismic activity.

The Department of Environmental Protection said last week that it had approved a plan by Sammy-Mar, the operator of the Povlik #1 well, in Huston Township, Clearfield County. The well, which is licensed to contain produced fluids from the oil and gas industry, is the 11th to be permitted in Pennsylvania, according to Lauren Fraley, a community relations coordinator for the DEP.

Scott Perry, the DEP’s Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas Management, said the new well would be safe. “DEP’s review process included a thorough evaluation of the application, plans, and public feedback,” he said. “The department ultimately concluded that the well would comply with all regulations and include adequate safeguards.” Continue Reading

Suburban Philadelphia Republicans break with Trump over Paris Accords

Protesters gather outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 1, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris climate change accord.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

Protesters gather outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 1, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris climate change accord. Three suburban Philadelphia congressmen had urged Trump to remain in the agreement.

President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the landmark global climate agreement is for the most part supported by Republican lawmakers. But a look at the Philadelphia suburbs, where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton beat President Trump in the four surrounding counties, shows GOP congressmen not in lock step with the President over climate.

The three Republicans who represent the 6th, 7th and 8th congressional districts – Ryan Costello, Pat Meehan and Brian Fitzpatrick – are all members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a group trying to create bipartisan support for climate legislation. Twenty-one members of the caucus, led by Florida congressmen Carlos Curbelo (R-26) and Ted Deutch (D-22), signed a letter urging President Trump to stay with the Paris Agreement.

“Remaining in the UNFCCC will strengthen American leadership on environmental stewardship and help transform today’s low-carbon investments into trillions of dollars of clean energy prosperity,” wrote the Congressmen. “Withdrawing would mean squandering a unique opportunity to promote American research, ingenuity, and innovation.”

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PA, Philadelphia will press on with climate policies despite Trump withdrawal from Paris pact

Solar panels are among Philadelphia's ways of cutting carbon emissions to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump's withdrawal from the pact..

Emma Lee / WHYY

Solar panels are among Philadelphia's ways of cutting carbon emissions to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump's withdrawal from the pact..

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord isn’t likely to derail Pennsylvania’s efforts to curb methane emissions, and it strengthens Philadelphia’s determination to set its own climate policy, officials said.

Trump’s rejection on Thursday of the historic agreement to stop global temperatures rising more than an average of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels prompted howls of protest from other signatory nations but is expected to result in business as usual in Pennsylvania. Continue Reading

DEP demands more information on plans for Bucks County hazardous waste site

Plans to build a hazardous waste processing plant in Bucks County are opposed by environmentalists who say it risks the health of the Delaware River at downstream sites like this at Washington Avenue Green Park in Philadelphia.

WHYY Photo

Plans to build a hazardous waste processing plant in Bucks County are opposed by environmentalists who say it risks the health of the Delaware River at downstream sites like this at Washington Avenue Green Park in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania on Tuesday again delayed a controversial project that would recycle hazardous waste in Bucks County, saying that a permit application was incomplete.

The Department of Environmental Protection said part of the application by Elcon, a processor of waste from industries including petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and semiconductors, had not submitted the required information in six categories, and so was “administratively incomplete.” Continue Reading

Battle over Delaware River water supplies worries conservationists

Dan Plummer fishes for trout in the Delaware River, Delaware County New York. The Delaware watershed hosts world class trout fisheries. But a dispute over water allocation between New York City and New Jersey could put those fisheries in jeopardy.

courtesy of Trout Unlimited

Dan Plummer fishes for trout in the Delaware River, Delaware County New York. The Delaware watershed hosts world class trout fisheries. But a dispute over water allocation between New York City and New Jersey could put those fisheries in jeopardy.

Update: On Thursday June 1, New York City Department of Environmental Protection agreed to voluntarily release water based on last year’s “Flexible Flow Management Plan,” which will continue to provide trout streams with sufficient cold water and provide flood mitigation.

The upper part of the Delaware River hosts some of the world’s best trout fishing spots. The river also supports humans – about 16 million people living in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware share the river’s water. Now a lingering battle over how to divvy up the water between New Jersey and New York City has anglers and environmentalists worried.

The bureaucratic wrangling is over agreements made under a 1954 Supreme Court decree on drinking water withdrawals allocated between the city of New York and the four states that draw from the Delaware. And there’s a looming deadline. If the parties don’t agree by Wednesday evening, water releases from the New York reservoirs revert to an old water management system that conservationists say could hurt fisheries, aquatic ecosystems and flood mitigation.

It’s a complicated system that needs to take into consideration not just drinking water supplies, but managing reservoir releases to prevent flooding, keeping the salt line from reaching Philadelphia’s water intakes, and supporting fragile ecosystems. Continue Reading

Exelon to prematurely close Three Mile Island nuclear power plant

Exelon says it will close Three Mile Island's Unit One reactor in September 2019.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

Exelon says it will close Three Mile Island's Unit One reactor in September 2019.

Exelon has announced it will prematurely close the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in September 2019—15 years before its license expires.

The plant’s been unable to compete. Like coal companies, the nuclear power industry faces slowing demand for electricity, along with a glut of cheaper natural gas and renewables. Around the country, five nuclear plants have retired in the past five years, and another five are scheduled to close within a decade.

TMI is located outside Harrisburg. It has 675 workers and one functional reactor. Its Unit 2 reactor was mothballed after the 1979 accident when it partially melted down.

Touting itself as a form of clean energy, the industry has recently been lobbying state legislatures with a controversial pitch for help.

David Fein, Exelon’s vice president for state government affairs, is hoping Pennsylvania follows the example of other states– like New York and Illinois– which have enacted new legislation to shore up their nuclear fleets.

“If we’re fortunate enough that policy changes take hold in Pennsylvania, then maybe there will be an opportunity to reverse this decision,” says Fein.

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