Pennsylvania

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New fracking reports clash over effects on health, environment, climate change

A new compilation of reports and studies on fracking says there's growing evidence of a link between ill-health and gas wells like these in Lycoming County.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

A new compilation of reports and studies on fracking says there's growing evidence of a link between ill-health and gas wells like these in Lycoming County.

A long-running fight over whether unconventional oil and natural gas development harms air, water and human health entered its latest round with the simultaneous release of reports from both camps claiming accumulating evidence for their arguments.

Two groups of physicians on Thursday released their latest compilation of scientific studies, government and industry reports, and journalistic investigations that claim fracking for oil and natural gas damages human health, pollutes air and water, and contributes to climate change.

At the same time, the American Petroleum Institute issued its own summary of scientific studies, state and federal regulations, and peer-reviewed reports to defend last year’s finding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that after a six-year investigation it had found no widespread, systemic impact from fracking on drinking water.

The API said it wanted to present a range of evidence for its case ahead of the expected finalization of the EPA report before the end of 2016, while the medical groups presented the fourth edition of their digest of hundreds of studies, saying that most show fracking causes actual or potential harm to human health and the environment.

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Natural gas and renewables will be ‘big winners’, says IEA chief

Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, speaking in Philadelphia Thursday.

Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, speaking in Philadelphia Thursday.

The head of the International Energy Agency said Thursday that Pennsylvania will be among the states that will continue to benefit from strong global demand for natural gas. He also said renewable fuels will see big increases in coming years as countries try to cut their carbon emissions to hit the goals of the Paris agreement.

Fatih Birol said natural gas from major reserves like the Marcellus Shale will meet an increasing share of world energy demand regardless of the policy decisions taken by world governments. The rosy outlook is driven by the low gas price that is undercutting coal, and the environmental risks associated with coal.

“Given the economics natural gas can provide for the energy system, whatever policy we have, natural gas always comes out one of the big winners,” Birol said in an interview with StateImpact during a visit to the University of Pennsylvania.

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State lawmakers discuss ways to improve pipeline safety

Representatives from the oil and gas industry answer questions about pipeline safety at a hearing in the state Capitol Wednesday.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Representatives from the oil and gas industry answer questions about pipeline safety at a hearing in the state Capitol Wednesday. From left to right: Joe McGinn of Sunoco Logistics, Pam Witmer of UGI Energy Services, and Stephanie Catarino Wissman of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania.

State lawmakers, regulators, oil and gas industry representatives, and concerned citizens discussed ways to improve pipeline safety at a joint committee hearing Wednesday, following a building boom of new projects and several recent incidents in Pennsylvania including one work accident that killed a man and a pipeline explosion that left another man severely burned.

“When everything’s going good, we all forget about it, but infrastructure is something we have to look at constantly,” said Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R- Allegheny), who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committee.

Stephanie Catarino Wissman, head of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, says the industry is constantly seeking to improve its safety record.

“When it comes to emergency and spill response, the industry’s first line of defense is preventing a spill in the first place,” she told the committees. “We are proactively funding research, including ‘smart pigs’ used to identify defects such as corrosion, dents, or cracks.”

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Secretary of State John Kerry says market forces will drive U.S. to meet Paris goals

US Secretary of State John Kerry gives his speech at the COP22 climate change conference on November 16, 2016, in Marrakesh.

AFP PHOTO/POOL

US Secretary of State John Kerry gives his speech at the COP22 climate change conference on November 16, 2016, in Marrakesh.

Speaking at the United Nations climate change conference in Morocco on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry struck a defiantly optimistic tone about the continued U.S. role in reducing global emissions. He addressed a crowd that had come to Marrakech elated by the success of last year’s Paris Agreement, but who are now worried that president-elect Donald Trump will follow through on his plan to scrap U.S. commitments on both emission reductions and climate finance.

Trump could choose several ways to pull the U.S. out of the climate deal, which puts into question what other countries will do. The U.S. accounts for about 20 percent of global carbon emissions, and had committed about $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. So far here in Marrakech, no country has said it would withdraw from the pact if the U.S. cancels its involvement, including China.  Kerry was adamant that the emissions reductions agreed to in the accord cannot be reversed.

“I can tell you with confidence that the United States is right now today on our way to meeting all the international targets that were set and because of the market decisions that are being made, I do not believe that that can or will be reversed,” he said to wide applause. Continue Reading

Natural gas demand will outpace other fossil fuels, IEA says

Demand for natural gas from wells like this in Zelionople, Pa. will exceed that for other fossil fuels in coming years, the IEA said.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Demand for natural gas from wells like this in Zelionople, Pa. will exceed that for other fossil fuels in coming years, the IEA said.

This story has been updated with an additional statement issued by the IEA’s Executive Director, Dr. Fatih Birol.

Demand for natural gas will grow faster than for coal or oil over the next quarter-century,  whether or not the world meets carbon-reduction targets set in last year’s Paris agreement on climate change, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday.

The IEA’s influential World Energy Outlook did not take into account the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president but presented its forecasts on the basis of three possible scenarios: the new policies that are expected to be implemented following recent agreements; no change in current policies on energy and climate change, and the policies that would be needed to meet the Paris target. Continue Reading

Google Street View cars to seek methane leaks in Pittsburgh

Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell next to one of the Google Street View cars that will be fitted with sensors to detect gas leaks in Pittsburgh.

Courtesy: PA DEP

Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell next to one of the Google Street View cars that will be fitted with sensors to detect gas leaks in Pittsburgh.

Leaking methane from natural gas pipes in Pittsburgh will be detected by sensors attached to Google’s Street View cars under an agreement announced on Tuesday.

The tech giant will be working with Carnegie Mellon University, the Environmental Defense Fund, the People’s Natural Gas utility, and the office of Governor Tom Wolf to develop a map of methane leaks in the city, officials said.

The program is the first in Pennsylvania and follows others in 10 other U.S. cities. Continue Reading

Trump’s election overshadows pipeline protests around the U.S.

Protesters demonstrate in solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota over the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, in Philadelphia, Tuesday.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Protesters demonstrate in solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota over the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, in Philadelphia, Tuesday.

Activists are holding a national “day of action” Tuesday to protest the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline. Native American groups’ opposition to the project has gotten a lot of attention recently, but it’s just one of many pipeline battles going on across the country. And Donald Trump’s election and his stance in favor of fossil fuels are likely to mean those battles will continue.

Pipelines have taken center stage in an intense fight over the nation’s energy future, concerns about global climate change and private property rights. As the domestic drilling boom continues to produce massive amounts of oil and gas, there has been a secondary boom of new pipelines as the industry tries to move it all to market.

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Ban Ki-moon optimistic Trump will change his mind on climate

Morocco's King Mohammed VI, is welcomed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, at the U.N. climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he hopes Donald Trump will shift course on global warming and "understand the seriousness and urgency" of addressing the problem.

AP Photo / Mosa'ab Elshamy

Morocco's King Mohammed VI, is welcomed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, at the U.N. climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he hopes Donald Trump will shift course on global warming and "understand the seriousness and urgency" of addressing the problem.

United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon says he’s optimistic that president-elect Donald Trump can be convinced of the urgency to act on climate change. Ban spoke at a gathering of almost 200 nations assembled in Morrocco to work on reducing global carbon emissions. Trump has said he would withdraw the U.S. from the agreements ironed out in Paris last year aimed at making sure the world does not warm any more than 2° degrees Celsius. He has also called climate change a “hoax.”

Ban Ki-moon said he had spoken to Donald Trump over the phone recently, and he’s sure Trump can be convinced through Reason.

“I believe that he understands that there are market forces already at work on this issue,” said Ban. “And we need to harness these forces for good of the planet and all the species in this planet.”

Ban didn’t give any more details about his conversation with the president-elect. But the outgoing secretary-general said he plans to meet with Trump face-to-face, where he will further emphasize the need for reducing carbon emissions. Continue Reading

Officials weigh emergency action to repel salt front in Delaware River

Petty Island in the middle of the Delaware River as seen from Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia.

Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Petty Island in the middle of the Delaware River as seen from Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia.

Delaware River Basin officials are considering taking emergency measures to release more water into the river to keep downstream pressure on a line of tidal salt that has crept upstream to its second-highest point since a severe drought in the 1960s.

The Delaware River Basin Commission is already releasing water from two Pennsylvania reservoirs to keep the so-called salt front well away from drinking-water intakes in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and is now considering drawing on other reservoirs amid a continued shortage of rainfall. Continue Reading

2016 stacking up to be hottest year on record

Climate protesters in Marrakech urged world leaders to take action last week. The World Meteorological Organization released a report today showing 2016 shaping up to be the hottest year on record so far.

Mosa'ab Elshamy / AP Photo

Climate protesters in Marrakech urged world leaders to take action last week. The World Meteorological Organization released a report today showing 2016 shaping up to be the hottest year on record so far.

It’s another record breaking year for global warming. 2016 is expected to surpass temperature records broken last year, according to the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization, which announced its report during the global climate talks in Marrakech on Monday. The organization says average temperatures for the first nine months of the year reached about 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“Another year. Another record. The high temperatures we saw in 2015 are set to be beaten in 2016,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.  The extra heat from the powerful El Niño event has disappeared. The heat from global warming will continue,” he said. Continue Reading

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