A sign opposing the PennEast pipeline project on a lawn in Durham Township, Pa.
Backers of a controversial pipeline project that would ship Marcellus Shale gas from northeast Pennsylvania to New Jersey filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday, while opponents vowed to block the proposal.
The FERC application marks the first major step toward seeking approval of the proposed 114 mile-long PennEast pipeline that would transport shale gas from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to other major interstate natural gas pipelines near Trenton. The planned 36-inch line would carry one billion cubic feet of high-pressure gas through six counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Pipeline proponents say the line will provide needed reliability and price stability to the densely populated New Jersey and New York markets during the winter months, and supply new natural gas power plants with a cleaner burning fuel that would cut the state’s carbon emissions. PennEast representatives say the gas is not intended for export, rather it would help boost domestic manufacturing by supplying a cheap source of energy to factories.
But opponents of the line say they’re not buying those arguments and are organized and ready to block the pipeline project.
“We are absolutely committed to fighting this pipeline,” said Patty Cronheim, with the Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline, one of dozens of grassroots opposition groups that have sprung up to fight the proposal. ”There’s widespread commitment between citizens groups, municipalities, county, state and federally elected officials as well as the landowners and we will take every possible measure to stop this pipeline.” Continue Reading →
An unidentified worker passes a truck owned by Halliburton at a remote site for natural-gas in Colorado.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday it had come to an agreement with the oilfield giant and fracking pioneer Halliburton to pay $18 million for unpaid overtime to more than 1,000 workers in several states around the country, including Pennsylvania.
The Department, in a release, called it “one of the largest recoveries of overtime wages in recent years.”
The agency said its wage and hour division investigated the company “as part of an ongoing, multi-year compliance initiative in the oil and gas industry in the Southwest and Northeast.”
Thirty-nine workers in Pennsylvania are affected by the settlement, and as a group these workers would receive $800,000 in back pay, announced the Department of Labor.
Halliburton spokeswoman Susie McMichael said in an email the company reported the case to the government after finding out about the unpaid overtime in a “self-audit.” Continue Reading →
A DEP Clean Power Plan listening session at Carnegie Mellon University drew a crowd.
State regulators heard comments on how quickly it should address the EPA’s plan to curb carbon emissions Monday night in Pittsburgh. Around 100 people came to a DEP listening session where more than three dozen speakers discussed the economic benefits of energy efficiency, the health effects of air pollution, and whether cutting carbon will hurt the economy and raise energy costs.
DEP Secretary John Quigley and several DEP staffers attended the session, one of 14 planned for around the state to address the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The plan sets a target of lowering carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 32 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.
The EPA gave each state a target for carbon dioxide reductions–Pennsylvania’s target is about 33 percent of its 2012 levels. Each state can come up with their own plan on how to achieve those goals, and the DEP is beginning to come up with the plan. Continue Reading →
Operators of gas rigs like this one in Tioga County should be fully transparent about their plans when making applications for municipal approval, industry experts say.
Natural gas companies seeking municipalities’ permission to build well pads should disclose every aspect of their plans to residents and local officials and should do so with a respectful approach to local sensitivities, experts said on Thursday.
Attendees at the annual Shale Insight conference, hosted by the Marcellus Shale Coalition trade group, were offered guidance on how to present their plans in a way that would be approved by zoning boards at a time that some are asserting a local right to control oil and gas development.
Panelists at a session on “Community Engagement on Conditional Use Hearings” urged companies to be completely transparent about their plans, to meet with community members and officials in advance of a zoning hearing and to establish a record of their case that can be used as evidence before a judge in any appeal.
Advocates of local control over gas development cheered in December 2013 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a controversial part of Act 13 that said state law pre-empted local zoning ordinances governing industrial development.
More recently, Middlesex Township in Butler County has been sued by opponents of gas development after it sharply increased the amount of township land that is zoned for industry. The plaintiffs argue that the township has violated a constitutional responsibility to zone in a way that protects the health and safety of its residents.
At the Shale Insight session, Thomas Gillespie, director of health, safety and environment for the Williamsport-based natural gas supplier Inflection Energy, said full disclosure of development plans is the best way to calm local fears that he said are often based on fear and misinformation.
The gas industry should work to overcome misplaced fears of shale operations like this one in Pennsylvania, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on Wednesday urged the natural gas industry to mount a public-relations campaign to overcome what he said was an irrational fear of fracking among some sections of the public.
Speaking to Pennsylvania industry professionals at the annual Shale Insight conference in Philadelphia, Giuliani said the industry is being held back by unfounded fears about the dangers of shale gas development, which he said had been fanned by some liberal media and “extreme” environmental groups.
“We have a PR problem. A lot of people dismiss the shale revolution,” he said. “They are irrationally afraid of it. We really do need a national effort to explain how relatively safe this process is.”
In this Thursday, April 17, 2014 photo, workers continue the construction at a gas pipeline site in Harmony, Pa.
Natural gas industry executives on Wednesday renewed calls for investment in new pipelines to carry abundant gas and liquids from the Marcellus and Utica Shales to southeastern Pennsylvania where they would be processed, exported, and used to attract a new generation of manufacturers.
At the annual Shale Insight conference of the state’s gas industry leaders, officials urged a sharp increase in pipeline capacity, which they said would enable the creation of a so-called “energy hub” in Philadelphia where an influx of cheap, plentiful gas would attract manufacturers and spark an economic resurgence in the region.
Speakers also called on manufacturers and other heavy energy users to consider Philadelphia as a location where a newly plentiful supply of gas would be available in addition to a skilled workforce, brownfield sites, good transportation links to the Northeast, and port access to export markets.
Friends and foes of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants welcomed or deplored the proposal, and sparred over how or whether Pennsylvania should implement it, at the state’s first “listening session” on the program on Tuesday.
Twenty-seven speakers representing interests ranging from job creation to clean air, building standards and environmental justice gave a succession of five-minute speeches urging officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection to take their causes into account in its compliance plan – and in a few cases, called for its rejection.
The three-hour event was the first in a series of 14 across the state at which interest groups and private citizens will be given the opportunity to put their views on how Pennsylvania should meet tough new goals on reducing carbon emissions.
Most speakers backed the federal plan, and urged the DEP to comply by increasing the use of renewable fuels and boosting energy efficiency. Several supporters said the state should not include natural gas in its compliance plan because of concerns over its leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
“That’s a lot of the economy of this region,” she said. Coal truck drivers, power plant workers, and local coal mines have depended on this plant for decades. “I would hate to see something happen to this power plant.”
The Homer City Generating Station, Homer City, Pa.
Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators say they need extensive public input before putting together a plan to reduce carbon emissions. The call for comments comes on the heels of the recent federal mandate that states reduce climate-warming carbon dioxide from power plants.
Last month, the EPA announced standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Under the plan, each state gets a target reduction level.
For Pennsylvania, that was a 33 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from 2012 levels by 2030. Though it set targets for reducing emissions, the EPA has left it up to the states to figure out how to reach those goals. In general, the three main avenues to emission reductions include improving the efficiency of coal-fired plants, converting coal plants to natural gas, and increasing use of renewables. But the state can also use other options, including energy efficiency.
Much is at stake for Pennsylvania, including the role of coal and natural gas in generating electricity. The state will also have to analyze the impact on electricity prices. EPA has laid out guidelines, but the Wolf administration has lots of policy decisions to make regarding the plan it must submit to the federal government by September 2016.
“It’s important to note that we’re starting with a blank page here,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley on a call with reporters. “We want to hear from all stakeholders about what the best path is for Pennsylvania.”
In an effort to draw in as much public and stakeholder comment as possible, Quigley said the DEP is “open to everything and attached to nothing.” Continue Reading →
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