Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

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

Vincent DiBianca, a resident of Delaware Township contends that the PennEast pipeline is unnecessary

Emma Lee / WHYY

Vincent DiBianca, a resident of Delaware Township, NJ holds a sign protesting the pipeline. DiBianca has helped organize a group of homeowners who hired a D.C. law firm to fight the proposal.

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

In climate move, Wolf unveils new methane regulations for oil and gas industry

State environmental regulators will develop new regulations aimed at curbing methane leaks from new and existing oil and gas infrastructure.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

State environmental regulators will develop new regulations aimed at curbing methane leaks from new and existing oil and gas infrastructure, like this gas processing equipment in Lycoming County.

Governor Tom Wolf announced new plans Tuesday to cut methane emissions from the state’s oil and gas sector. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Wolf’s announcement follows a similar move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September.

“These are commonsense steps that Pennsylvania can take to protect our air and reduce waste for industry,” Wolf said in a statement. “The best companies understand the business case for reducing methane leaks, as what doesn’t leak into the atmosphere can be used for energy production.”

The rules will create a new permit for oil and gas companies requiring them to use the best available technologies to prevent leaks at well sites and compressor stations. The state Department of Environmental Protection also plans to develop new regulations to curb leaks at existing oil and gas infrastructure.

Methane is the main component of natural gas. Compared to carbon dioxide, it is a much more potent greenhouse gas, although it stays in the planet’s atmosphere for a shorter time period. On a 100-year time scale methane is more than 25 times more powerful than CO2, according to the EPA.

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Wolf to target methane emissions from oil and gas industry

Gov. Tom Wolf will host a live town hall forum on Facebook Tuesday to discuss climate change, energy, and the environment.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf will host a live town hall forum on Facebook Tuesday to discuss climate change, energy, and the environment. He is expected to announce new regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Governor Tom Wolf will make a major announcement Tuesday about his administration’s efforts to combat climate change. He is expected to target methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Gretchen Dahlkemper of the group Moms Clean Air Force is scheduled to meet with Wolf and other parents ahead of a Facebook town hall meeting he’s hosting on climate change.

“The governor ran on protecting our families from the oil and gas industry– especially the air pollution. We’re hoping this is the rule that’s been promised,” says Dahlkemper. “Every indication is that it is.”

No one from the governor’s office was available to comment. State offices were closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

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A coal plant cleans up in Indiana County

The Homer City Generating Station looms like a cathedral in the landscape of Indiana County, Pennsylvania. The plant can be seen for miles near the western foothills of the Allegheny Mountains.

Four years ago, Homer City—in operation since 1969—was faced with a choice: either clean up to comply with new EPA air rules or close its doors.

A Coal Plant Cleans Up In Indiana County from The Allegheny Front on Vimeo.

 

Enviros ask Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren for FERC investigation

Twenty-four protesters were arrested for blocking a public passageway outside the Washington D.C. headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in July, 2014.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

As the shale boom leads to an expansion of pipeline infrastructure, the once-obscure Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been targeted by environmental activists. In July 2014, 24 protesters were arrested for blocking a public passageway outside its Washington D.C. offices.

Dozens of environmental groups and activists from the Northeastern U.S. sent a letter to Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren this week, asking for an investigation into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The agency is charged with siting and approving much of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure.

“We’re asking for an investigation of FERC and their process because it’s shady,” says Tim Spies of Lancaster Against Pipelines. “They’re rubber stamping everything.”

In the letter, the groups call FERC “a demonstrably biased agency that has become a partner with, rather than a regulator of, the pipeline companies it purports to oversee.”

The letter asks presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to request that the Government Accountability Office conduct an investigation. The two Democrats serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

A FERC spokeswoman declined to comment.

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Obama administration halts new coal leases on federal lands

A train loaded with coal from the Powder River Basin travels through northeast Wyoming. Most of the federal coal leases are in Wyoming's Power River Basin.

AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File

A train loaded with coal travels through northeast Wyoming. Most of the federal coal leases are in Wyoming's Power River Basin.

As part of the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to combat climate change, the Department of Interior announced Friday it will temporarily halt new coal leasing on federal lands.

“There was broad agreement the federal coal program was in need of modernization,” says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The leasing moratorium will be in place while agency engages in a three year review to examine royalty practices, transparency issues, and climate change goals.

“I want to be clear the pause does impact existing mine operations,” says Jewell. “This is not a pause on coal production.”

The move does not directly affect Pennsylvania, which does not have any federal coal leases, according to the Bureau of Land Management. However it was quickly criticized by Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, a trade association representing the industry. Pennsylvania is the nation’s fourth largest coal-producing state.

“The global demand for coal is projected to continue to grow as developing nations are hungry for affordable, reliable electricity,” said Coal Alliance CEO John Pippy in an email. “We should be leading the global energy market by investing in research and development of carbon capture and utilization technologies to capitalize on one of our most abundant resources, rather than doling out short-sighted policies aimed at ‘keeping it in the ground.”

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Science panel faults EPA fracking probe for excluding baseline water testing

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, before President Barack Obama spoke about his Clean Power Plan.

Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, before President Barack Obama spoke about his Clean Power Plan.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark investigation into the impact of fracking on drinking water lacked baseline testing that would have made its results more illuminating, according to a scientific panel that assessed it, and independent analysts.

The Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel, a unit of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB), published its evaluation of the EPA’s report on Jan. 7.

The panel said the EPA’s report excluded “prospective case studies”, also known as baseline testing, in which water quality is assessed before drilling takes place to determine whether subsequent natural gas development has an impact on water sources.
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