Pennsylvania

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Feds propose new safety rules for oil trains

This aerial view provided by the Washington state Department of Ecology scattered and burned oil tank cars shows Saturday, June 4, 2016, after the train derailed and burned near Mosier, Ore., Friday. Union Pacific Railroad says it had recently inspected the section of track near Mosier, about 70 miles east of Portland, and had been inspected at least six times since March 21.

Washington Department of Ecology via AP

This aerial view provided by the Washington state Department of Ecology shows scattered and burned oil tank cars Saturday, June 4, 2016, after the most recent oil train derailment near Mosier, Ore. Union Pacific Railroad says it had recently inspected the section of track near Mosier, about 70 miles east of Portland, and had been inspected at least six times since March 21.

Two federal agencies have proposed new safety regulations for oil trains. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration, both divisions of the Department of Transportation, announced the proposals Wednesday, which are aimed at sharing information with state emergency management agencies. The agencies also want to require a new test for the flammable liquids.

“This rule goes one step further to hold industry accountable to plan and prepare for the worst case scenario,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a release.  ”It would help to ensure that railroads have comprehensive plans to respond to derailments when they occur and better ensure the safety of communities living near railroads.”

The rules would require railroads to boost their current response plans from “basic” to “comprehensive” under the federal Clean Water Act, as well as prepare for the worst case scenario. Continue Reading

PA cities headed for more ‘danger days’ as summer temperatures climb, report warns

A paving crew member takes a drink of water during a record-breaking heat wave, July 6, 2012, in Philadelphia.  is among Pennsylvania cities facing an increase in high temperatures and humidity caused by climate change, report warns.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A paving crew member takes a drink of water during a record-breaking heat wave, July 6, 2012, in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania has five cities facing an increase in high temperatures and humidity caused by climate change, a report warns.

Pennsylvania will face more “danger days” of high heat and humidity in future when climate change pushes “real-feel” temperatures above 105 degrees F, a climate-research group warned in a national report published Wednesday.

The state has five of the 50 cities nationwide that have seen the biggest increase in atmospheric moisture since 1970, Climate Central said, identifying Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Lancaster, York and Reading. It warned that Pennsylvania is “particularly susceptible” to the hotter conditions.

Philadelphia is especially vulnerable to increased heat and humidity in future, and is expected to see about 40 “danger days” a year by 2050 compared with about eight at present, said Alyson Kenward, senior scientist at the Princeton, NJ-based group. Continue Reading

Fracking opponents dump on Democratic Party platform

Tamara Clements with Food and Water Watch places dung beneath one of the DNC Donkeys Around Town sculptures. This donkey is at City Hall and represents Georgia.

Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Tamara Clements with Food and Water Watch places fake dung beneath one of the Democratic National Convention ‘Donkeys Around Town’ statues in Philadelphia. This donkey is located at City Hall and represents the state of Georgia.

The Democratic Party’s draft platform, advanced by a committee last weekend, calls for a tax on carbon and other measures to tackle climate change. It also calls for a “phase down” of drilling on public lands.

However, that’s not enough for some environmental groups, which have called for a nationwide ban on fracking.

To protest what they feel is lacking in the Democratic platform, members of Food and Water Watch placed placed piles of papier-mâché poop beneath 19 of the 57 painted donkey statues set up around Philadelphia to welcome delegates to the Democratic National Convention here in two weeks.

In order to make sure the conventioneers got the message, they also spray painted the sidewalk  with “No ban on fracking, the Dem platform is crap.”

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Senate approves bill weakening drilling regulations

The amendment bars state environmental regulators from implementing some of the  new drilling regulations they have proposed.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The amendment bars state environmental regulators from implementing some portions of the new drilling regulations they have proposed.

The state Senate voted Monday to approve an amendment that would undo parts of the state’s pending oil and gas regulations.

SB 1229 is now in the House. The bill was introduced in May and initially pertained to horse breeding, however an amendment approved Monday restricts state environmental regulators from implementing some of their proposed regulations for Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale industry (known as Chapter 78a), which are currently under review at the Attorney General’s office.

It’s the most recent maneuver in a protracted battle over the proposed rules between Governor Tom Wolf’s administration and the Republican-led legislature. Last month it seemed a detente had been reached, when Wolf signed a bill that tossed out half the regulatory package– eliminating the rules for the conventional oil and gas industry.

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Environmentalists challenge grid operator’s new ‘reliability’ regulation

PPL's Brunner Island three-unit coal-fired plant located on the west bank of the Susquehanna River. A bill recently approved by the state House and Senate would give legislators more time to review Pennsylvania's compliance with federal climate regulations.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

PPL's Brunner Island three-unit coal-fired plant located on the west bank of the Susquehanna River.

via NJ Spotlight

A new rule designed to promote reliability of the power grid is being challenged by a quartet of interest groups saying it increases prices to consumers and hinders clean-energy alternatives.The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, and the Union of Concerned Scientists filed a lawsuit Friday challenging a federal agency’s approval of the new regulation adopted by the operator of the nation’s largest power grid, PJM Interconnection.

The regulation provides power suppliers with more lucrative payments if they agree to provide electricity at times when it may be needed because of high demand, but slams them with stiff penalties if they fail to deliver when called upon.

The controversial regulation was adopted by PJM in the wake of an unusually bitter cold snap in the winter of 2014, when many suppliers were unable to supply power, straining the reliability of the grid. New Jersey officials were not happy with the rule, fearing it could spike prices to consumers. Continue reading at NJ Spotlight.

DEP plans public hearings for Sunoco’s Mariner 2 pipeline

The Mariner East 1 line (blue) is already shipping natural gas liquids. State regulators will hold meetings on the proposed Mariner East 2 pipeline (dotted red line).

Courtesy: Sunoco Logistics

The Mariner East 1 line (in blue) is already shipping natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania State regulators will hold meetings on the proposed Mariner East 2 pipeline (dotted red line).

State environmental regulators will hold a series of public hearings in August to get public feedback on pending permit applications for a major natural gas liquids pipeline project.

The so-called Mariner 2 line, would run parallel to its predecessor (the Mariner East 1) through 17 counties in Pennsylvania’s southern tier. But unlike that project, which involved reversing the flow of an existing line, this pipeline needs to be built from scratch. The Mariner 2 aims to transport natural gas liquids from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica Shales 350 miles to the company’s terminal near Philadelphia. Continue Reading

EPA raises concerns about Atlantic Sunrise pipeline

A clearing shows the site of a pipeline, one of many running beneath Pennsylvania's farms, forests and waterways.

Kim Paynter / WHYY

A clearing shows the site of a pipeline, one of many running beneath Pennsylvania's farms, forests and waterways.

The Environmental Protection Agency is raising concerns about the potential impacts of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline.

In a letter sent last week to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the EPA criticizes FERC’s draft environmental impact statement, which found the pipeline would not create significant adverse impacts.

Although FERC is charged with making the final decision about whether the project moves forward, the commission did not fully examine alternative options to building a 197.7 miles of new pipeline, according to the EPA. The agency recommends further study on whether new construction might be avoided by expanding existing infrastructure, or expanding the proposed PennEast pipeline.

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Group intervenes to defend Delaware River Basin drilling moratorium

Water quality in the Delaware River Basin would be endangered if a regulator allows gas drilling in the region, an environmental group said in its intervention in a lawsuit.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Water quality in the Delaware River Basin would be endangered if a regulator allows gas drilling in the region, an environmental group said in its intervention in a lawsuit.

A renewed fight over whether to allow natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin intensified when a leading environmental group joined a lawsuit defending a de facto moratorium on gas development in the region.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) intervened on July 5 in the suit in which the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is defending its stance to determine whether any shale gas wells can be drilled in the basin, in response to a challenge by a group of Wayne County landowners.

The Wayne Land and Mineral Group (WLMG) sued DRBC in federal court in May, arguing that the interstate regulator does not have the authority to require the developer to submit its plans to build a well pad and drill a gas well on a property in Wayne County. Continue Reading

Study: CO2 emissions from coal mine drainage higher than expected

Acid mine drainage from the Potts Colliery near Shamokin, Pa., stains the creek bed orange.

Rick Smith / AP PHOTO

Acid mine drainage from the Potts Colliery near Shamokin, Pa., stains the creek bed orange. New research suggests these waters could also be a significant source of CO2 emissions.

Carbon dioxide emissions from mine water could be greater than previous estimates, according to new research from West Virginia University. The study calculated that CO2 emissions from 140 coal mine drainage sites in Pennsylvania could equal those from a small power plant.

“The numbers are higher than I expected to see,” said Dorothy Vesper, associate professor of geology at West Virginia University and the author of the study “Inorganic carbon dynamics and CO2 flux associated with coal-mine drainage sites in Blythedale PA and Lambert WV, USA.” Vesper’s paper was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Earth Sciences in February. 

Vesper says the findings indicate that CO2 emissions from coal mine drainage could be overlooked when thinking about the Earth’s overall release of carbon, and how those emissions are driving climate change.

“It would be interesting to know if this is important,” said Vesper. “There’s been a lot of research in recent years regarding CO2 evasion, that’s the idea that CO2 escapes from surface waters. And some of those numbers suggest it might be really important and has to be accounted for in a carbon budget.” Continue Reading

Bill would limit Pennsylvania’s ability to regulate methane

Lycoming County

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

The bill would prevent state regulators from creating methane regulations that are more stringent than those recently put forth by the EPA. Methane is the main component of natural gas, and a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It can leak through the process of drilling and processing gas.

A bill recently proposed in the state Senate seeks to limit the Wolf administration’s efforts to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Methane is the main component of natural gas; it’s a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change.

SB 1327 was recently referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. It would prevent state environmental regulators from creating regulations that would be more stringent than those recently put forth by their federal counterparts at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R- Allegheny) is the prime sponsor. In a memo to his fellow lawmakers, he says the state Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts to go beyond the EPA would create a duplicative, confusing, and costly patchwork of standards.

“These actions harm job creation and discourage capital investment across the Commonwealth, all while providing little if any tangible environmental benefit for our communities,” Reschenthaler wrote.

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