Energy. Environment. Economy.

Coal pleads its case against the Clean Power Plan to state lawmakers

Coal miners in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Kim Paynter / Newsworks/WHYY

Coal miners in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Things were already pretty bad for Pennsylvania’s coal industry, and the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan will make things worse. That’s the message from industry to a joint hearing of the state’s House and Senate coal caucuses on Tuesday.

“We talk about the perfect storm, what we are in the midst of is the perfect nightmare for coal,” said Emily Medine, a coal consultant with Energy Ventures Analysis.

Medine said the coal industry has taken a hit from low natural gas prices, which has displaced coal in electric power generation, and the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which has led to a large number of domestic coal-plant closures. Since 2010, six Pennsylvania coal powered electric plants have announced plans to close.

Overseas, the strong U.S. dollar has also made coal uncompetitive, to the point where Pennsylvania coal exports have screeched to a halt. And this year’s predicted mild winter won’t help demand.

On top of all this comes the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in August and seeks to cut carbon emissions from electric power plants 32 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels. It’s up to the states to figure out how to reduce their carbon emissions, or face having to implement a plan created by the federal government. 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.

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EPA hearings in Pittsburgh bring out climate activists

Members of the public gather at a climate rally outside EPA hearings in Pittsburgh, November 12, 2015. The EPA is currently taking public comment on the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants and provides incentives for renewable energy.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Members of the public gather at a climate rally outside EPA hearings in Pittsburgh, November 12, 2015.

The EPA’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants should be as strong as possible to curtail the worst impacts of climate change. That was the message coming from a stream of speakers at a public hearing on the plan in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Thursday’s hearing was the first of four to be held around the country this month to collect public comment about the new rules. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan was finalized in August and seeks to cut carbon emissions from the electric sector by 32 percent of 2005 levels by the year 2030.

The plan gives states the option to come up with their own ways to cut down on carbon pollution. If they don’t put together their own plas, states will have to accept a federal plan, which involves a cap-and-trade system. Pennsylvania is planning to submit its own plan, but environmentalists said what goes into the federal plan is still relevant for the state.

Jamin Bogi of the Pittsburgh-based Group Against Smog and Pollution said a strong federal plan would protect the state from air pollution in the event that upwind states decide against submitting proposals. Continue reading more from The Allegheny Front.

Pipeline Task Force report as massive as scale of expected buildout

A pipeline under construction in Butler County, Pa.

Reid Frazier

A pipeline under construction in Butler County, Pa.

Updated with comments from DEP Secretary John Quigley

The number of additional gas pipelines projected for Pennsylvania in coming years was always impressive, and now the number of proposals for how to manage them is equally striking.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force has produced no fewer than 184 sets of ideas for how to reap the economic benefits of the expected massive buildout of pipeline infrastructure while ensuring that it operates safely, doesn’t damage the environment, and involves the public in deciding where to build the lines.

The ideas are the result of several months’ work by 12 committees of federal, state and local officials, gas industry executives, legislators, business people, trade unionists and others who were asked to come up with a set of best practices, and have done so in a 335-page draft report, released on Tuesday by the Department of Environmental Protection.

When the report is finalized to present to Gov. Wolf next February, it may become a blueprint for development of as many as 30,000 miles of new pipeline that the DEP expects to be built over the next 20 years to take abundant Marcellus Shale gas to market. 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.

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Gas tax unlikely part of tentative budget deal

A severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers does not appear to be part of a tentative state budget deal in Harrisburg.

David Flores/ via Flickr

A severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers does not appear to be part of a tentative state budget deal in Harrisburg.

Legislative leaders and the Wolf administration said Monday they have a rough map to reach a final budget deal by Thanksgiving.

“This is the first time I think that we’ve seen a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Governor Tom Wolf.

The details remain fuzzy.

The Wolf administration says Republicans have committed to a $350 million funding boost for schools – a sizable increase, if not as much as the governor wanted. Republicans declined to specify an education spending figure when asked by reporters, but agreed that the working budget framework includes a substantial increase for schools.

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Pipeline Critics, Encouraged by Keystone Decision, Call for Halt to Mariner East 2

mechanicsburg mariner east protester

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

Opponents of a plan by Sunoco Logistics to pump natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania renewed their call on Saturday for the company to abandon the project, less than 24 hours after President Obama killed the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project.

The critics gathered outside a Sunoco Logistics pumping station in Mechanicsburg to urge the company to scrap its plan to build the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline from the Marcellus Shale in western Pennsylvania to a processing and export facility at Marcus Hook on the Delaware River near Philadelphia.

The event drew about 30 protesters including landowners from along the route who have refused Sunoco’s offers of compensation for building the pipeline beneath their land and have now gone to court to fight the company’s assertion of eminent domain. Organizers said the event was the first meeting of landowners from the entire pipeline route, and represented a new statewide approach to the campaign.

The protest came during a break in a day-long meeting in nearby Carlisle at which the landowners and some of their lawyers discussed legal strategies and proposals to build public support for the campaign against the pipeline.

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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.”

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Sunoco plans to start ethane exports from Marcus Hook by year end

The Sunoco Logistics Industrial Complex in Marcus Hook, Delaware County will become the shipment point for Marcellus Shale ethane from western Pennsylvania.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Sunoco Logistics Industrial Complex in Marcus Hook, Delaware County will become the shipment point for Marcellus Shale ethane from western Pennsylvania.

Massive new ships are due to begin carrying refrigerated ethane from Marcus Hook in southeastern Pennsylvania to Europe at the end of the year as Sunoco Logistics completes a plan to pump the gas from western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to the point where it will have more access to world and local markets.

The Philadelphia-based pipeline and storage company said on Thursday that it expects to begin processing ethane at the Delaware River industrial complex by the end of November and to start selling it there to global, regional and local buyers by the end of the year.

The shipment plan marks a new stage in the development of southeastern Pennsylvania’s so-called energy hub, a proposed complex of pipelines, terminals, refineries and petrochemical plants that boosters say will establish the metropolitan area as a major nexus for the processing and transportation of a range of petroleum products.

Sunoco Logistics’ CEO Michael Hennigan said during a quarterly earnings call that the company is preparing to market the gas at Marcus Hook after pumping it across southern Pennsylvania along the Mariner East 1 pipeline, which is already pumping propane along the route. Continue Reading

Philadelphia “energy hub” proponents plan to counter rural pipeline opposition

Philadelphia Energy Solutions CEO Phil Rinaldi, PGW CEO Craig White and City Council President Darrell Clarke share a moment before today’s hearings on the future of Philadelphia as an energy hub.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennslylvania

Philadelphia Energy Solutions CEO Phil Rinaldi (L), Philadelphia Gas Works CEO Craig White (C) and Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke (R) share a moment before hearings on the future of Philadelphia as an energy hub earlier this year.

Organized business interests and politicians working to bring Marcellus Shale gas to Philadelphia have a new plan to tackle one of their largest obstacles — pipeline opponents. The Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team wants to use the state’s abundant, and cheap natural gas supply to revive the city’s manufacturing sector. But the gas will never get to Philadelphia without thousands of miles of new pipelines.

The Wolf Administration estimates tens of thousands of miles of pipe will be installed over the next 20 years to carry Marcellus Shale gas to markets across the country.

Speaking to a group of business people at a conference in downtown Philadelphia, the man behind this “energy hub” concept said he will be taking his pitch to rural and suburban Pennsylvania. Continue Reading

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