Susan Phillips

Susan Phillips tells stories about the consequences of political decisions on people's every day lives. She has worked as a reporter for WHYY since 2004. Susan's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election resulted in a story on the front page of the New York Times. In 2010 she traveled to Haiti to cover the earthquake. That same year she produced an award-winning series on Pennsylvania's natural gas rush called "The Shale Game." Along with her reporting partner Scott Detrow, she won the 2013 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Journalism Award for her work covering natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania. She has also won several Edward R. Murrow awards for her work with StateImpact. She recently returned from a year as at MIT as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow. A graduate of Columbia School of Journalism, she earned her Bachelor's degree in International Relations from George Washington University.

SCOTT DETROW, StateImpact Pennsylvania

In a landmark environmental decision, a majority of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court justices established a broad interpretation of the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state constitution Tuesday, cementing in place the commonwealth’s role as trustee for public natural resources. The move is a victory for environmental advocates, and a defeat for the state and industrial polluters, who had argued that granting a wider interpretation could deter economic development. 

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

Sunoco Pipeline has asked a Huntingdon County judge to order a family protesting the Mariner East 2 pipeline, and their supporters, to refrain from obstructing pipeline construction or face arrest. It’s the latest legal maneuver in a stand-off that has pitted the pipeline company against the Gerhart family. 

PJM

A rush to build power plants fueled by cheap natural gas from the Marcellus Shale will swell power supply in the region coordinated by PJM Interconnection, operator of the largest power grid in North America, driving down prices and forcing the closure of many coal-fired plants over the next four years, according to a new analysis by Moody’s Investors Service. 

MARIE CUSICK/ STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

President Donald Trump has nominated Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Rob Powelson to fill a vacancy on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees interstate pipeline projects. Powelson, who also serves as the president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, recently compared anti-pipeline activists to jihadists, a statement he later walked back

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

Although anti-pipeline activists decry the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the agency that never met a pipeline project it wouldn’t approve, the natural gas industry says the regulatory process led by FERC is facing longer delays. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce heard testimony Wednesday about a proposal to speed-up that process, which currently involves a mix of federal and state permit approvals. 

Reid Frazier, The Allegheny Front

The embattled PennEast natural gas pipeline suffered another blow on Wednesday when New Jersey officials rejected the company’s application for a freshwater wetlands permit, saying its application lacked a long list of information. 

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline leaked about 20 barrels of ethane and propane near Morgantown, Berks County, on April 1, the company said on Thursday. The leak, at 5530 Morgantown Road, Morgantown, Pa., did not reach water sources, according to the US Coastguard’s National Response Center, which records spills of hazardous materials such as oil and chemicals. 

JONATHAN WILSON / NEWSWORKS

Eighteen-year-old Sophie Kivlehan says she doesn’t remember when she first heard about climate change. It was a normal topic of conversation at the dinner table, one that often included her grandfather, Jim Hansen, an astro-physicist at Columbia University and perhaps one of the worlds’ most well-known climate scientists.

New reports out of the White House shine more light on the proposed 31 percent cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. President Trump’s current plan would eliminate 25 percent of  EPA jobs. And it would slash water protection programs, including clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay. 

MARIE CUSICK/ STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

A federal court has thrown out a case brought by environmentalists that charged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with bias in pipeline cases. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a federal lawsuit last year, alleging FERC favored industry in disputed pipeline cases. 

Emily Cohen, State Impact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection issued final permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline even though the pipeline’s builder, Sunoco Logistics, had not met all regulatory requirements at the time of issuance, DEP documents show. 

DNREC WETLAND MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT PROGRAM

On the campaign trail, President Trump promised to get rid of regulations, especially those designed to protect the environment. One of those regulations has to do with water. In fact very small bodies of water. 

Sunoco Logistics

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has approved earth-moving and water-crossing permits for Sunoco’s controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project, paving the way for construction on the 350-mile line that would begin in Ohio and West Virginia, and travel through 17 counties across Pennsylvania to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook plant in Delaware County. 

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection held a hastily arranged meeting on Monday with several opponents of the proposed Mariner East 2 pipeline in an apparent attempt to calm public concerns over the project which may soon get its final environmental approvals. 

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

Sunoco Logistics officials declined to say whether they are expecting Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to issue on Friday the final two state permits that the company needs to begin construction of the company’s controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline. A spokesman for DEP also said “there is no timetable for a decision.” 

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection received 9,442 public complaints about environmental problems in areas where unconventional natural gas development occurred from 2004 to the end of November 2016, an investigation reported, unveiling a trove of documents from the state’s natural gas boom. 

KIM PAYNTER/ WHYY / WHYY/NEWSWORKS.ORG

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) says it needs more time to issue its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the $1 billion PennEast pipeline project, shifting it’s planned release from February 17 to April 7, 2017. FERC says additional information provided by state agencies, as well as the PennEast Pipeline Company prompted the delay.

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

With every new administration, government held information disappears. Digital archivists know this. They’ve worked in the past to preserve Bush Administration data when Obama was elected. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of budget priorities. Funds no longer exist to keep up a website. 

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

A community in western Pennsylvania says families are entering their sixth year without clean water and they blame gas drilling. About 50 people living in the rural Butler County community known as The Woodlands, 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, continue to rely on donated water, according to Lee Dreyer, pastor of the White Oak Springs Presbyterian Church in Renfrew.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

Within the next decade, the U.S. could be exporting more energy than it imports, something that has not occurred since the early 1950′s.

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

Landowners battling pipeline companies over eminent domain takings got an early Christmas gift from the Commonwealth Court in the form of a new legal maneuver this week. An attorney representing a family fighting Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County will be able to use a recent Supreme Court ruling to try to strengthen their case. 

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

EPA’s fracking study, published last week, was supposed to be the definitive look at whether or not drilling for shale gas and shale oil impacts drinking water. But instead, the final report concluded that fracking impacts drinking water “under some circumstances,” and qualified that conclusion with a discussion about a lack of definitive data.

SCOTT DETROW, StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Environmental Protection Agency, in a revision from its earlier draft report on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, says in its final study that fracking can impact water supplies “under some circumstances.” The report details the circumstances where water has been impacted, and provides guidance on how to avoid water contamination. 

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

The climate change conference in Morocco ended over the weekend with an urgent message to president-elect Donald Trump – join the battle against global warming or risk contributing to catastrophe and moral failure. About 25,000 people attended the gathering aimed at keeping the earth from over-heating, and staving off the impacts like rising seas, droughts and increasingly destructive storms. 

AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy

The election of Donald Trump has created uncertainty among delegates at the United Nations climate talks taking place right now in Marrakech, Morocco. President-elect Trump has called climate change a hoax, and threatened to pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris Agreement ratified a few weeks ago. 

MARIE CUSICK/ STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

Eminent domain attorneys and their clients battling new pipelines in Pennsylvania courts feel they may have a new weapon in the fight against controversial projects like Sunoco’s Mariner East. The recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to toss out industry-friendly provisions of the state’s oil and gas law included eminent domain for gas storage.

Sunoco Logistics

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA continue to sample water downstream from a gasoline pipeline break in Lycoming County, and say so far no levels of petroleum have been detected that would risk public health. 

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

When it comes to Beltway politics, all eyes are on the Pennsylvania Senate race. The tight contest between incumbent Republican Pat Toomey and his Democratic challenger Katie McGinty could help decide which party controls the Senate. 

WILL VON DAUSTER / COURTESY OF NOAA

A new study from NOAA, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, puts a new twist on a tricky question about the impact of increased oil and gas production on greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists have detected increased rates of methane emissions globally since 2007.

A private practice attorney representing the Public Utility Commission before the Supreme Court in the Robinson Township case, has told a Pittsburgh newspaper that he was discouraged by the court’s decision to toss aspects of the state’s oil and gas law saying “there’s an industry trying to bring prosperity to Pennsylvania and there seems to be a small cadre trying to kill it.”

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