Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Report: Mariner East pipelines could have a $9 billion financial impact

Mariner East 2 construction site on Shepherd Road in Edgemont Township, Delaware County. A new report says the pipeline construction could generate $9 billion in economic benefits for the state over six years.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Mariner East 2 construction site on Shepherd Road in Edgemont Township, Delaware County. A new report says the pipeline construction could generate $9 billion in economic benefits for the state over six years.

The Mariner East pipelines and related plant could have a potential $9 billion financial impact in the state over six years, according to a report by the firm Econsult Solutions.

Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the $2.5 billion pipeline, paid for the report. It analyzes the economic benefits of the Mariner East 1, 2, and 2X pipelines that will carry natural gas liquids from the western part of Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio about 350 miles across the state to a processing and export facility in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

The report, published Monday, comes less than a week after the Department of Environmental Protection shut down a large part of the construction on the Mariner East 2 following months of continued permit violations and damaged waterways. It uses project budgets and standard modeling to forecast potential economic benefits, including spending and employment, between 2014 through 2019. The report does not factor in social and environmental costs, or potential loss of property values.

“There are potentially other benefits that we haven’t counted and there are costs that we haven’t counted,” said Stephen Mullin, president of Econsult Solutions Inc. and an author of the report. “We say, if you build a pipeline you’re going to hire construction workers and you’re going to buy stuff and you’re going to spend money and it’s going to have an impact on the economy here.”

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Federal commission kills Trump’s plan to save coal plants

-A Norfolk Southern freight train hauling coal makes it way through downtown Pittsburgh Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. The Department of Energy has proposed subsidizing coal and nuclear power in the face of competition from natural gas and renewables.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

-A Norfolk Southern freight train hauling coal makes it way through downtown Pittsburgh Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. The Department of Energy has proposed subsidizing coal and nuclear power in the face of competition from natural gas and renewables.

An independent federal commission terminated a Trump administration proposal that would have propped up struggling coal and nuclear plants.

On Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — an independent body with both Republican and Democratic members – unanimously rejected the Department of Energy’s “Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule.” Continue Reading

Changing climate and Philly’s freezing temperatures

Youths play ice hockey on a frozen pond at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park during a winter storm, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia.

Matt Slocum / AP Photo

Youths play ice hockey on a frozen pond at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park during a winter storm, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia.

It might seem counterintuitive, but the freezing temperatures and recent snow storm actually line up perfectly with predictions made by climate scientists for the Philadelphia region. Average global temperatures are rising, and the Philadelphia area is no exception. Sixteen of the seventeen warmest years on record happened since 2001.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t have cold, wet weather, especially in this region. Christine Knapp is Philadelphia’s Sustainability Director. She’s in charge of helping the city prepare for and understand a changing climate, which for the Delaware Valley means warmer and wetter weather.

“The precipitation is most likely to increase in the winter in the form of snow,” Knapp says.

That’s because warming oceans put more moisture and energy into the atmosphere, creating conditions for stronger storms. Continue Reading

Mariner East 2 shutdown is latest in a spate of challenges to major Sunoco project

stock_pipelinesThe Mariner East 2 pipeline’s shutdown was big news this week — and, as Sunoco has said it plans to do what’s required so it can start construction again, there is more to come.

StateImpact Pennsylvania has been following this story for years, and you can track the history of the project, its promises and its problems through our collected reporting.

Recent stories include:

With coal consumption down, production ticks up from some Appalachian mines

The Acosta metallurgical coal mine opened in Somerset County in 2017.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Acosta metallurgical coal mine opened in Somerset County in 2017.

While the United States burned less coal in 2017 than it had in three decades, an uptick in global demand for Appalachia’s metallurgical coal — used in the steelmaking process — helped boost production this past year, according to a new analysis by an economic research firm.

Coal production rose 6 percent across the United States in 2017, which coincided with a 70 percent jump in coal exports, according to the Rhodium Group.

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Trump proposes oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic 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

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 exploration in the Atlantic Ocean proposed under the Obama administration. Obama abandoned his plans. But Trump has now proposed opening up 90 percent of the nation's coastlines to drilling.

President Trump wants to open up almost all federal waters to offshore drilling, including waters along the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware. The draft proposal could lead to the largest lease sale ever. But the plan would face substantial opposition along the New Jersey and Delaware shorelines.

The proposal reverses course from previous administrations and would make more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf available to oil and gas developers. Most of the lease sales would be in Alaska. But Trump also proposes to open up the Atlantic coast. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says it’s part of Trump’s “America first” strategy.

“This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance,” Zinke said in a call to reporters Thursday. “And under President Trump we’re gonna become the strongest energy superpower.” Continue Reading

Who will pay for Trump’s plan to save coal?

The Trump proposal would subsidize coal plants that would otherwise be driven out of business by natural gas. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Trump proposal would subsidize coal plants that would otherwise be driven out of business by natural gas. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Trump administration has asked a federal agency to step in and help save the coal and nuclear industries. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has proposed a rule that will force the electric grids in some parts of the country to basically guarantee profits for coal and nuclear plants.

But who will pay for that guarantee? Anyone who gets an electric bill, said Ben Storrow, a reporter for E&E News, on the Trump on Earth podcast. Storrow says the proposal is a response to changes in the grid, which is changing because of new technology. Continue Reading

Power grid bracing for ‘bomb cyclone,’ bitter cold

FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in Shippingport, Pa. Photo: Reid Frazier

FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in Shippingport, Pa. Photo: Reid Frazier

A one-two punch of bitter cold temperatures and Winter Storm Grayson, a so-called ‘bomb cyclone’ moving up the Atlantic Coast, will stress the electrical grid in Pennsylvania and much of the Northeast this week.

But the region’s grid operator says it’s better prepared to deal with the winter misery because of recent experiences with extreme winter weather.

During the Polar Vortex of 2014, the electric grid in Pennsylvania and much of the Northeast was severely stressed by high demand and mechanical problems at power plants caused by cold weather. PJM Interconnection, the grid operator in Pennsylvania and a dozen other states, instituted emergency measures to prevent power outages.

Since then, PJM has made changes, like mandating more testing for power plants before the winter months, and increasing penalties for power companies that can’t guarantee their plants will work in  cold.

“All of those efforts combined together really help ensure that generators are there when we need them. I think they’ve been a big reason why we’ve seen much improved performance since the Polar Vortex four years ago,” said Chris Pilong, director of dispatch for PJM, in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

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DEP suspends all construction on Mariner East 2 pipeline

Eric Friedman, right, who lives nearby, takes video of a Mariner East 2 pipeline work site at Shepherd Lane in Glen Mills on Wednesday. Because of permit violations, construction of Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline was halted Wednesday by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which said the company must meet certain conditions before it will be able to resume work.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Eric Friedman, right, who lives nearby, takes video of a Mariner East 2 pipeline work site at Shepherd Lane in Glen Mills on Wednesday. Because of permit violations, construction of Sunoco's Mariner East 2 pipeline was halted Wednesday by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which said the company must meet certain conditions before it will be able to resume work.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday suspended all construction on Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline, saying it has violated the conditions of two kinds of permits.

“Sunoco must cease all construction activity on the pipeline project, except for maintenance of erosion controls and limited maintenance of horizontal directional drilling equipment,” the DEP said in a statement.

“Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We are living up to our promise to hold this project accountable to the strong protections in the permits.”

DEP directed the company to submit details on how it plans to prevent drilling mud spills – or “inadvertent returns” – that have challenged the project in their dozens since construction began last February.

It also instructed the company to address impacts to private water wells in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County, and to identify all “in progress and upcoming construction activities.” Continue Reading

Federal repeal of fracking regulations affects relatively small amount of Pa. land

SIPA_StandardThumb_NaturalGasPower_2xYou might have seen a headline last week about President Trump repealing fracking regulations.

Anything fracking-related is likely to turn heads in Pennsylvania. But the regulations in question had to do with fracking on federally owned land. Because of that, Trump’s action isn’t expected to significantly affect Pennsylvania, which had fewer than 10,000 acres of federal land with oil and gas leases as of fiscal year 2016, according to the Bureau of Land Management

That ranked Pennsylvania 28th among states with such leases, according to BLM data.

The Washington Post reported that the repealed regulations “would have tightened standards for well construction and wastewater management, required the disclosure of the chemicals contained in fracking fluids, and probably driven up the cost for many fracking activities.”

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