Energy and Environment

Lindsey Lazarski, WHYY

Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators are considering tougher restrictions on Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline project after a continuing series of drilling fluid spills and violations of environmental laws. 

A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection said the massive cross-state project has been far more of an enforcement challenge than officials expected because of multiple drilling leaks that have seeped into wetlands, bubbled up into residential areas, and in some cases turned private well water cloudy.

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- House lawmakers have begun moving a natural severance tax through their chamber. 

It's major priority for Democrats, who have been trying unsuccessfully to pass one for a decade.

But it's slow going--the bill is saddled with well over 300 amendments.

Along with Democrats, the tax is championed by a coalition of moderate, largely southeastern Republicans.

GOP Representative Kate Harper, of Montgomery County, is one of the most vocal advocates.

PJM

PJM, which operates the electric grid for Pennsylvania and 12 other states, on Thursday defended a plan to change its rules so that coal, nuclear and some other generators can build their costs into the market price of electricity. 

The proposal, in a paper published Wednesday, would result in a net increase in retail power prices of 2 to 5 percent and would give the coal and nuclear plants, some of which are scheduled for retirement, the opportunity to pass their costs to consumers, PJM said.

PA Waste Water Spill Tops 63,000 Gallons

Nov 17, 2017
SCOTT DETROW, StateImpact Pennsylvania

More than 63,000 gallons of natural gas drilling waste spilled into an unnamed tributary of the Loyalsock Creek this week from a well site in Lycoming County. 

The spill occurred at a well operated by Colorado-based Inflection Energy, in Eldred Township, about 10 miles north of Williamsport.

Neil Shader, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said state investigators don’t believe the spill will threaten public drinking water supplies, even though some drilling waste did reach a small stream.

project_manager / Flickr

Charges that the U.S. pipeline industry is building far more natural gas pipelines than it needs are being fueled by a new report showing that the capacity of lines approved by federal regulators over the last two decades was more than twice the amount of gas actually consumed daily in 2016. 

New Website Tracks Progress On Great Lakes

Nov 11, 2017

GREAT LAKE TODAY - Over the years, billions of dollars have been allocated to restoring the Great Lakes – whether its money spent cleaning up pollution, preventing invasive species, or educating the public.  A new regional initiative will analyze how effective some of these efforts – and dollars – have been so far. 

Atlantic Sunrise Construction Resumes After Two-Day Delay

Nov 10, 2017
WITF Radio

Construction on a controversial natural gas pipeline has resumed after a two-day court delay. 

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a temporary hold on the Atlantic Sunrise project as it reviewed an emergency motion filed by environmental groups to halt construction.

The court denied the motion on Wednesday.

Mariner East 2 Pipeline Completion Delayed Again

Nov 9, 2017
JON HURDLE/STATEIMPACT PA

Sunoco Pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, said Wednesday that its Mariner East 2 pipeline will be put into service in the second quarter of 2018, some 18 months later than originally planned, because of delays caused by Pennsylvania regulators.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Long said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call that the project has been held up in part by the Public Utility Commission’s recent ban on horizontal directional drilling at a location in Chester County’s West Goshen Township until the PUC hears a dispute between the township and Sunoco over the siting of a valve. The hearing is scheduled for April next year. 

Staff at the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County powered down the facility last weekend in response to an internal leak.

FitzPatrick spokesperson Tammy Holden says they recently discovered a defect in a few of the plant's more than 30,000 fuel rods - long, thin metal tubes that contain uranium. They're located within the reactor's core and help produce power. The issue was higher than normal radioactive contamination in the water that the fuel rods heat to produce steam.

Joe Ulrich / WITF

Advocates for Pennsylvania landowners are challenging a statement made recently by one of Governor Tom Wolf’s top aides, after he said complaints over unfair gas royalty payments have subsided.

In some cases, Pennsylvania mineral owners have received royalty checks showing negative balances, saying they owe money to drillers. At an energy conference in Hershey last week, Wolf’s deputy policy director Sam Robinson said the administration hasn’t heard as much about it lately.

MARIE CUSICK/ STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

JESSUP—The biggest new natural-gas power plant in a state awash with them is taking shape on a mountain ridge overlooking the community it cleaved apart. 

First came questions about pollution and property values. Lawyers and public-records requests followed. Now this borough of 4,500, where it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that everybody knows everybody, is embroiled in a full-out political revolt.

Gabe Altieri / WSKG

Even with no update on the station, Fenton Planning Board meetings are packed and tense. At a meeting this week, residents protested the station wearing white t-shirts that read “no compressor station” in red and black writing. There's a picture of a gas pipeline on the bottom.

PA's Biggest Environmental Group Gets New CEO

Oct 31, 2017
PennFuture

Jacquelyn Bonomo is succeeding Larry Schweiger as the leader of PennFuture. Schweiger is retiring. 

Bonomo has been the organization’s executive vice president and COO for the past two years, and has spent more than three decades working in environmental advocacy. 

Bonomo said she didn’t get much environmental exposure while growing up in Hazelton, Pa., in the heart of the state’s anthracite coal region.

Emily Cohen, State Impact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission halted Sunoco’s plans to build a valve for its Mariner East 2 pipeline in Chester County’s West Goshen Township, raising questions about whether the massive cross-state project will be completed on time, and encouraging advocates for local control over gas development. 

Lindsey Lazarski, WHYY

Three environmental groups urged a judge to revoke some environmental permits for the Mariner East 2 pipeline without holding a trial, saying there are ‘undisputed’ facts showing that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection broke the law in issuing the permits.

Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Mountain Watershed Association filed a motion for summary judgement with Judge Bernard Labuskes of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board late Friday as part of their appeal against issuance of the permits.

Marcellus Shale Boom Cuts Costs For PA Ratepayers

Oct 30, 2017
https://www.flickr.com/photos/wcn247/7797064130/in/photolist-cSZZwb-cSZNn3-cSZAVL-cT1hUL-cT12k7-cSZXqb-cSZRYQ-cSZKd3-cT1aCf-cSZMfS-cT13d7-cSZPu9-cT1n3E-cT1kMy-cSZJgS-cT1eff-cSZYMb-cT19Ry-cT15ME-cSZVwC-cT1cLh-cT16uq-cXvTuy-cXw2VY-cXvUm1-cXvXSq-cXw1o5-cXvMs
WCN 24/7 / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas boom has significantly cut energy costs for consumers across the state, according to a new study released Friday by the University of Pennsylvania. Residential gas customers have seen a price drop of 40 percent on average, compared to costs ten years ago. Before Marcellus production ramped up, Pennsylvania produced just one percent of the nation’s supply of natural gas, but today the state accounts for 16 percent. Production jumped 2,800 percent in the ten-year period covered by the report.

Scott Lamar, WITF

Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states to recognize clean air and pure water as a basic civil right. However, the powerful language in the state constitution was dismissed for decades.

That’s all changing, says John Dernbach, director of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Center at Widener University.

KIM PAYNTER / NEWSWORKS/WHYY

PJM Interconnection, the region’s electric power grid operator says the Trump administration’s proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear is “unworkable.” In commentsfiled with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday, PJM opposes the effort by Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to have utilities compensate coal and nuclear plants that store a 90-day supply of fuel, in the interest of grid reliability. 

As New York State moves toward its goal of getting 50 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030, much of the focus is on wind and solar energy. But there’s another energy source out there that boosters want to shine a light on.

Pulling methane gas from cow manure and other organic matter has been going on for years. But in order to get biogas to the next level as a source of renewable energy, it needs to become more economically viable.

CREDIT CAITLIN BARRALE

ROCHESTER (WXXI) - A local couple who built their own "tiny home" is offering advice to other minimalists.  Caitlin Barrale and Mark Walther started construction on their home in the spring of last year. They just recently moved in to the 238-square foot space.  Caitlin said it wasn't too difficult for her to pare down her belongings because she likes to live a minimalist lifestyle and keep her home tidy.

Karen DeWitt

We walk up the trail to the summit of Hadley Mountain  in the southern Adirondacks, fallen leaves crunching underfoot.

The wind picks up a bit as we climb up the fire tower for the panoramic view.

“We’re looking at the most marvelous combination of balsam fir and northern hardwood trees on a ridge line that stretches north,” said David Gibson, with Adirondack Wild. “From here we can see the high peaks of the Adirondack Park.”

MARIE CUSICK/ STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

Nearly 30 people were arrested and charged with defiant trespassing Monday after they blocked construction equipment for the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline in Lancaster County. 

The showdown between the pipeline company and the protesters has been in the making since the project was first announced three years ago.

JON HURDLE/STATEIMPACT PA

Water impacts continue at numerous Pennsylvania sites where Sunoco is building the Mariner East 2 pipeline two months after a court-brokered agreement. The settlement between environmental groups and Sunoco Pipeline was designed to prevent horizontal directional drilling from damaging aquifers and spilling fluid into wetlands. 

MARIE CUSICK/ STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

Anti-pipeline activists in Lancaster County formed a vehicle blockade Monday that temporarily obstructed access to a work site for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. Protesters parked 16 cars along Witmer Road in Manor Township to impede workers’ access to a horizontal directional drill site where the pipeline builder, Williams, intends to install the line under the Conestoga River. 

Reid Frazier, The Allegheny Front

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday the EPA will formally propose to revoke the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s regulation for carbon dioxide from the electricity sector. The decision could impact what kind of sources Pennsylvania uses to make electricity for decades to come.  

Buffalo (WBFO) - Yet another discharge of cloudy black water was seen in the Niagara River Monday morning, just below Niagara Falls.

A chlorine smell could also be detected by observers at the Falls. According to the National Weather Service, more than 1.2 inches of rain fell at the Niagara Falls International Airport weather station as of about 8 a.m.

JON HURDLE/STATEIMPACT PA

Blasting to remove rock for construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Lebanon County showered a home and its swimming pool with debris, and may have prompted the spread of existing underground contamination from a former gasoline depot, township officials said on Thursday.  

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says she’s not sad or depressed by the pronouncements now coming from the new administration on rolling back environmental protections. “I am filled with great hope for a number of reasons,” she said. “The core values that created EPA and led it to a really bipartisan support all of its 47 years of existence, still remains.” 

Chris Caya, WBFO

BUFFALO (WBFO) - The Niagara Falls Water Board is facing more criticism from state regulators following another unplanned discharge from its wastewater treatment plant late Wednesday afternoon. 

The state Department of Environmental Conservation responded to a report from the board anddiscovered badly discolored water in the Niagara River. The discharge occurred as the region encountered heavy rain.

Lindsey Lazarski

Opponents of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 and other pipelines have disavowed an anonymous blog post that linked them to a supposed attack on construction equipment used for the Pennsylvania pipeline. The post, with the headline “Action Against Mariner East 2 Pipeline” had originally claimed an act of sabotage was done in solidarity with groups opposing pipeline construction in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

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