Pennsylvania

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Sunoco halts drilling in Chester County where pipeline construction damaged drinking water wells

A sign marks the path of the Mariner East 1 pipeline through Chester County.

Kim Paynter / Newsworks

A sign marks the path of the Mariner East 1 pipeline through Chester County.

Sunoco has agreed to halt drilling operations related to the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction in Chester County where 15 households have been without water for the past couple weeks due to aquifer intrusion by horizontal directional drilling. The West Whiteland Township residents who rely on private drinking water wells have experienced cloudy water or loss of water completely. More than 100 community members gathered at the West Whiteland Township building on Thursday night to discuss the situation with both township and Sunoco officials.

Township supervisor George Turner told the gathering that the company agreed to suspend drilling operations until “the water situation is addressed.”

“Effective today they are not drilling north of that site until further notice,” said Turner.

Sunoco has been supplying bottled water and offered to pay for hotel rooms so impacted residents can shower and bathe since the July 4th holiday weekend, when it was first notified by home owners that their wells had either run dry or had tainted water. Continue Reading

Wolf weighs bill that would aid development of long-wall coal mines

In this Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010, file photo, the new CONSOL Energy Center is reflected in Pittsburgh.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

In this Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010, file photo, the new CONSOL Energy Center is reflected in Pittsburgh.The company wants to expand a long wall mine beneath Ryerson State Park in Greene County.

Governor Tom Wolf is weighing a bill that would make it easier for an energy company to obtain permits for the controversial process of long-wall coal mining beneath a state park in southwest Pennsylvania but which opponents say could damage streams in the area.

Senate Bill 624 landed on Wolf’s desk on Tuesday after being approved handily in both houses of the Republican-controlled legislature, amid protests by environmentalists and sympathetic lawmakers who say the measure is an attempt to block a court challenge currently before the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB). Continue Reading

Sunoco to replace private well water with public supply in Chester County

Benjamin Eckert, a resident of Chester County's West Whiteland Township, with some 30 cases of bottled water that Sunoco had delivered to his house after water from his well turned cloudy. Sunoco is drilling nearby for the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline, and hit the aquifer from which Eckert and his neighbors draw their water.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

Benjamin Eckert, a resident of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township, with some 30 cases of bottled water that Sunoco had delivered to his house after water from his well turned cloudy. Sunoco is drilling nearby for the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline, and hit the aquifer from which Eckert and his neighbors draw their water.

This story has been updated with information from Sunoco.

Sunoco Pipeline agreed on Tuesday to pay for public water to be supplied to about 30 homes in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township where water from private wells turned cloudy after a Sunoco pipeline drilling operation for the Mariner East 2 resulted in loss of water pressure or cloudy water for some residents, a township official said.

The company made the commitment at a meeting with township officials on Tuesday morning, said George Turner, a township supervisor. The homes will be connected to the local water line operated by Aqua America.

Turner said details such as how long it would take to make the connections and how long the affected households will be supplied with bottled water or extra filtration systems have yet to be worked out, but that residents will be sent letters explaining the changes later Tuesday.

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Chesco residents deal with tainted water after Sunoco drills into aquifer

David Mano, a resident of Chester County's West Whiteland Township, holds a sample of water taken from his well after the  local aquifer was punctured by drilling for the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

David Mano, a resident of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township, holds a sample of water taken from his well after the local aquifer was punctured by drilling for the planned Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The first Dan Rich knew of it was when he came home from work last Wednesday, and found his water cloudy and discolored.

“It was like vegetable broth,” said Rich, a resident of West Whiteland Township, Chester County, where Sunoco Pipeline is drilling a horizontal tunnel to build its planned Mariner East 2 pipeline underneath some of Philadelphia’s densely populated western suburbs.

Like his neighbors, Rich gets his water not from a public system but from a private well that draws on an aquifer that was punctured in recent weeks by the drilling. The incident has raised residents’ doubts about whether the previously pristine water is safe to drink, bathe in, or use for laundry.

After discovering his tainted water, Rich contacted a Sunoco representative who was already dealing with similar complaints from his neighbors along Valleyview Drive. They were all supplied with pallets of bottled water, and offered the services of a local hotel where they could stay or shower until the water problem was fixed.
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Chesco homes hit with water problems near Sunoco pipeline construction site

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, seen here in Huntingdon County, may be linked to water problems in some households in Chester County.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, seen here in Huntingdon County, may be linked to water problems in some households in Chester County.

Around a dozen Chester County households experienced cloudy water or loss of supply from their private wells this week, forcing some families from their homes near a location where Sunoco Pipeline is conducting horizontal directional drilling about 150 feet below ground for the construction of its Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Five families spent Wednesday night in a local hotel, and three of them spent a second night on Thursday away from their homes because of the water problems, according to the company, which supplied bottled water to affected homes. Continue Reading

Sunoco’s PR firm aims to ‘neutralize opposition’ to Mariner East pipeline project

Max Brenneman, 14, protests outside of the Huntingdon County Courthouse in support of the Gerhart family. “I have to do something,” says Brenneman.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Max Brenneman, 14, protests outside of the Huntingdon County Courthouse in support of the Gerhart family who oppose Sunoco's construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline on their property. “I have to do something,” says Brenneman. Sunoco has hired a new public relations firm to "neutralize opposition."

A public relations firm for Sunoco Pipeline says it wants to “neutralize opposition” to the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

Bravo Group, which has worked with different parts of Sunoco for at least five years, makes the statement on its website, in describing its role in working on the cross-state Mariner East 2 pipeline, which is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of this year.

“We’re helping Sunoco build public and policyholder support for its Mariner East projects, an infrastructure investment of more than $3 billion,” the statement says. “The goal: secure regulatory approvals, neutralize opposition, and develop the Mariner East projects on budget and without capital losses.” Continue Reading

Environmental legal advocate seeks Pa. budget declared unconstitutional

A caravan of trucks travel through the Loyalsock State Forest to a natural gas drilling site.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

A caravan of trucks travel through the Loyalsock State Forest to a natural gas drilling site. An advocate has asked the Commonwealth Court to declare the state budget unconstitutional.

Responding to the Supreme Court’s recent decision bolstering the state’s Environmental Rights Amendment, the environmental lawyer who successfully argued the original case challenging the use of revenue from oil and gas operations on state land for non-conservation activities has asked the Commonwealth Court to declare the current state budget unconstitutional.

John Childe, with the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation, argues using proceeds from the state’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay general operating expenses at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources runs afoul of the Supreme Court’s decision, which ruled article 1, section 27, or what is also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment, requires all three branches of government to hold the state’s natural resources in public trust, incorporating all the fiduciary responsibilities associated with the state’s private trust laws.

“If that’s a constitutional use of our natural resources then we don’t have control over those funds,” said Childe. “They can’t commingle that money with commonwealth money.” Continue Reading

Court to decide if nearly $400 million in state oil and gas bonuses fund conservation

A trail in Ryerson Station State Park, managed by the DCNR whose leasing of state lands for oil and gas development is at issue in a new court challenge by an environmental group.

Chris Collins / Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources

A trail in Ryerson Station State Park, managed by the DCNR whose leasing of state lands for oil and gas development is at issue in a new court challenge by an environmental group.

State revenue from oil and gas signing bonuses should be used to fund conservation in the same way as the proceeds from oil and gas royalties, an environmental advocate argued, urging an appeals court to support a recent landmark ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation said almost $400 million in bonus payments for drilling on state forest land from 2009-2010 should be used for the conservation of natural resources, echoing the Supreme Court’s June 20 ruling that the proceeds from oil and gas sales are part of a public trust that must be used to defend the natural environment. Continue Reading

Does offshore drilling have a future off the Jersey Coast?

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2016 file photo, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez addresses a large rally in Asbury Park, N.J., opposing federal plans that would allow oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. The Obama administration has moved to restrict access to offshore oil drilling leases in the Atlantic, as well as off Alaska. But President-elect Trump has said that he intends to open up offshore drilling, and environmentalists and coastal businesses say it could be the first major fault line that divides them from the new president.

Mel Evans / AP Photo File

In this Jan. 31, 2016 file photo, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez addresses a large rally in Asbury Park, N.J. The Obama administration banned offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic. But President Trump will review the policy with the goal of achieving "American energy dominance." Environmentalists and coastal businesses oppose it.

Trump administration plans to review Obama-era policy on offshore oil and gas drilling, including areas off the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware, opened up to public comment Monday. And it’s likely the Department of Interior will get lots of pushback from beach communities along the Atlantic coast, including Maryland and Virginia.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says leasing more coastlines to oil and gas exploration is part of President Trump’s goal for “American energy dominance.”

“Offering more areas for energy exploration and responsible development was a cornerstone of the President’s campaign and this action is the first step in making good on that promise for offshore oil and gas,” said Zinke.

In vetoing plastic bag bill, Wolf cites Environmental Rights Amendment

Gov. Tom Wolf, in this Dec., 2015 file photo, said a plastic bag bill would have violated the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

Gov. Tom Wolf, in this Dec., 2015 file photo, said a plastic bag bill would have violated the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday vetoed a bill that would have curbed the right of towns and cities to regulate use of plastic shopping bags, saying it would have violated the Environmental Rights Amendment of the state Constitution.

His use of the Amendment as justification for the veto follows a landmark ruling by the state Supreme Court last week saying that the measure must be the guiding principle of state policy on the preservation of natural resources. Continue Reading

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