A year ago, Chesapeake disclosed that it had been subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice and several states. The company is also defending lawsuits related to royalty underpayment in at least half a dozen states, including Pennsylvania. It’s the focus of an ongoing investigation by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office.
As the budget impasse drags on into its fourth month, F&M pollster Terry Madonna thinks enacting a new tax on the gas industry would be a natural compromise between the Republican-led legislature and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf to raise new revenue for the state.
In a sign of the widespread opposition the project faces, more than 1,440 property owners, government agencies, and interest groups are seeking to intervene in the proposed PennEast pipeline case before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The 118-mile natural-gas pipeline beginning in Luzerne County in Pennsylvania, crossing the Delaware River into Hunterdon County and ending in Mercer County is perhaps the most contentious of at least a dozen similar projects proposed in New Jersey.
Intervener status would allow parties to present evidence as to why the $1.1 billion project should be approved or rejected and to appeal in federal court if they oppose the FERC decision. It is up to the agency to grant intervener status to those requesting it.
Besides the opposition, about a dozen or so utilities and other companies have sought to intervene in the case, according to Patricia Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast Pipeline Company LLC. Continue reading at NJ Spotlight.
Candidates at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court debate, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, at the Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, Pa. On Nov. 3, voters will fill three vacancies on the seven-member state Supreme Court.
Three out of seven seats are up for grabs on Pennsylvania’s highest court, the largest number of open seats since colonial days. A record-setting $15.8 million has been spent on the state Supreme Court race, which indicates just how much is at stake here. Education funding, gun control, abortion, state redistricting (can you say Red or Blue?), and in our neck of the woods, the new court may also grapple with the Robinson Township decision, the controversial and wide ranging environmental ruling that struck down parts of the state’s oil and gas law Act 13.
When the court rejected state preemption over local zoning control for oil and gas production almost two years ago, the judges did not all agree. Only three cited the state’s Environmental Rights Amendment as reason to overturn the law. The fourth justice, while agreeing to overturn the law, cited due process, not the state constitutions article 1, section 27, referred by many as the Environmental Rights Amendment. But two of those justices are gone, including the former Chief Justice Ron Castille, who actually wrote the opinion. And today, voters will be deciding who takes their place.
In addition to several unresolved issues related to that ruling scheduled to come before the new court, the justices may end up reviewing the key argument cited in the 2013 Robinson decision by the plurality of three judges. What is the weight given to the literal interpretation of the Environmental Rights Amendment?
A hydraulic fracturing site in Susquehanna County, Pa.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments related to its December, 2013 decision regarding the state’s comprehensive update to its oil and gas law, known as Act 13. In an order published this week, the court determined that it would take up several unresolved issues, but it would not revisit its interpretation of article 1, section 27 of the state constitution, also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment.
In the 2013 landmark decision, a plurality of justices ruled that it would be unconstitutional for the state to preempt local zoning decisions, as outlined in the new oil and gas law approved by the legislature and signed by then Governor Tom Corbett back in February, 2012. Three justices, including Chief Justice Ron Castille, struck down the provision based on what was at the time, the state’s little known Environmental Rights Amendment, which guarantees ”clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. ”
The decision was both surprising and controversial, celebrated by environmentalists, and derided by industry attorneys. Continue Reading →
Pennsylvania has been without a state budget for nearly four months.
The two state agencies overseeing Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry say the ongoing budget impasse in Harrisburg is not adversely affecting the “critical” parts of their missions. But other bills are going unpaid and meetings are being postponed.
“Our vendors are feeling the pinch,” Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley tells StateImpact. “Landlords from whom we rent space are feeling the pinch. Utilities are feeling the pinch. So all of the non-personnel costs—there is definitely a lot of pain.”
Anti-fracking activist Dory Hippauf joined with other protesters outside the state Department of Environmental Protection's meeting. "The pipeline companies do not respect the people," she says.
Anti-fracking protesters are squaring off with Governor Tom Wolf’s administration over its efforts to collaborate with natural gas pipeline companies.
About 20 protesters showed up for the governor’s pipeline task force Wednesday in Harrisburg. The committee is headed by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley. It’s comprised of representatives from local, state, federal government, as well as energy companies, and environmental groups. It’s aimed at creating plans and best practices for the region’s pipeline building boom, which will bring thousands of miles of new interstate pipelines to carry Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas to new markets.
“What you’re doing is wrong,” Bucks County climate activist Jasmine Spence told the panel.”[Natural gas] is not a bridge fuel. It’s a fuel that will lock us into more methane emissions. The problem here is the power of the fossil fuel industry.”
An aerial shot of the former Sunbury coal plant. A new natural gas powered plant will be constructed to replace the shuttered facility along the Susquehanna river.
A private equity firm has announced financing for a new natural gas power plant in central Pennsylvania’s Snyder County, along the west bank of the Susquehanna river. Panda Power, a Texas company, says Goldman Sachs, ICBC, and Investec have invested $710 million, while Siemens Financial Services will provide $125 million in equity to build the new power plant at the site of the former Sunbury coal plant in Shamokin Dam, Pa. The entire project will likely cost about $1.1 billion. Bechtel and Siemens Energy were selected to build the 1,124 MW plant, which the company says is one of the largest coal-to-gas conversions in the nation. It will use Marcellus Shale gas to generate enough power for about 1 million homes, or its equivalent.
The coal plant closed in 2014, after operating for 65 years. Like many coal plants across the country it was a victim of lower natural gas prices, combined with new federal limits on air pollutants. The Sunbury coal plant generated 400 megawatts of electricity, less than half of what the new plant is expected to produce.
“The natural gas revolution has arrived in the heart of coal country,” said Todd W. Carter, president and senior partner of Panda Power Funds, in a release. “I’m proud Panda is leading the way toward clean natural gas-fueled generation. We’re ready to take what we’ve learned in Pennsylvania and apply it to other coal-fired projects across the nation.” Continue Reading →
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy said the addition of natural gas processing plants to the reporting requirements of the Toxics Release Inventory would add significantly to public information on the issue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose a rule that would require natural gas processing plants to report their emissions of toxic chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and hexane.
The decision followed a request in 2012 by the Environmental Integrity Project and 17 other environmental groups for the EPA to include the oil & gas industry to the reporting requirements of the Toxics Release Inventory, a public database to which most other industries have had to report for many years.
The EPA estimates that more than half of the approximately 550 U.S. natural gas processing plants meet a threshold for emitting toxic air and water pollutants that would be covered by the TRI.
“As a result of these considerations, the Agency agrees with the portion of the Petition asking that EPA commence the rulemaking process to propose adding natural gas processing facilities to the scope of TRI,” the EPA said in a letter sent to the Environmental Integrity Project on Monday. Continue Reading →
The DEP has spent four years crafting new drilling regulations and received 30,000 comments.
Pennsylvania’s newly proposed oil and gas drilling rules have been written and re-written for the past four years. They’re now one step closer to being finalized.
“This is our near-final rule-making,” says Kurt Klapowski, Director of Oil and Gas Planning and Program Management at the state Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s been a monumental effort from the department, industry, and the public to review and submit thoughtful comments.”
The regulation-drafting process was started in the wake of the shale gas boom, when the state’s updated oil and gas law, known as Act 13, was enacted in 2012. The agency received roughly 30,000 comments on the regulations.