natural gas

Amy Sisk, StateImpact Pennsylvania

As lawmakers hash out differences between the tax bills in front of Congress, they must decide whether to keep a proposed tax break for oil and gas investors — and just how big the reduction should be. 

Both the House and Senate versions cut the tax rate for owners of oil and gas companies that operate as publicly traded partnerships. These companies, such as Shell and Energy Transfer Partners operating in Pennsylvania, span many aspects of the industry, from drillers to pipeline operators to gas processors and oil refiners.

New York’s Fracking Ban Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Dec 8, 2017
Kimberly Paynter

In 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a bold statement by banning hydraulic fracturing in the Empire State, declaring alongside his health commissioner that “no child should live near” a shale-gas well because of its potential harm. 

The governor’s proclamation made him a hero among environmentalists and persona non grata in the oil and gas industry. Energy in Depth, an industry-funded website, criticized Cuomo for basing the moratorium on dubious science “to kowtow to Yoko Ono, Mark Ruffalo, and all of the environmental pressure groups in New York.”

In truth, though, the picture is murkier, and Cuomo’s ban is less than absolute. Moratorium notwithstanding, New York is still reaping the rewards of fracking, importing shale gas from neighboring Pennsylvania and preparing to process it in a mammoth power plant under construction 65 miles northwest of New York City.

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. will pay $99,000 as part of an agreement with the state environmental protection department, which found air quality violations at natural gas well sites in Susquehanna County. 

The DEP also said that for 20 wells, Cabot didn’t submit reports that are used to figure out whether the wells would be exempt from permitting requirements.

“Cabot has acknowledged these violations and taken necessary corrective measures to come into compliance,” the DEP said in a news release.

State Impact Pennsylvania

The Delaware River Basin Commission on Thursday proposed a ban on fracking for natural gas in the basin. 

The interstate regulator said it had determined that high-volume hydraulic fracturing “poses significant, immediate and long-term risks” to the waters of the basin, including so-called Special Protection waters that have a high ecological, recreational or scenic value.

“High volume hydraulic fracturing in hydrocarbon bearing rock formations is prohibited within the Delaware River Basin,” it said. The ban would cover both the Marcellus and Utica Shales.

Gerry Dincher / Flickr

Nearly two years ago, the Wolf administration made national headlines by saying it would limit climate-damaging methane emissions produced by Pennsylvania’s drilling industry. But plans the state unveiled Thursday don’t mean much for curbing pollution in the near future. 

Methane is the main component of natural gas. Compared to carbon dioxide, it’s much more potent as a climate-warming greenhouse gas, although it stays in the planet’s atmosphere for a shorter time period.

State Impact Pennsylvania

A Democratic lawmaker from Delaware County says the current debate over the severance tax is unduly influenced by the natural gas industry, which has spent millions lobbying lawmakers. 

With more than 200 gas industry lobbyists registered in Harrisburg, State Rep. Greg Vitali says the industry has spent $3.7 million on lobbying the Capitol this year alone.

Using campaign finance reports, lobbying disclosure reports, lobbying registration statements and lawmakers’ statements of financial interests, Vitali has regularly tracked industry spending.

Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania

In another challenge to the expansion of natural-gas pipelines, a conservation group is accusing a federal agency of unlawfully allowing the taking of private land in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Trenton. 

The lawsuit filed against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is the latest legal entanglement involving the 120-mile PennEast pipeline, a project spanning two states and crossing the Delaware River.

The $1 billion project, facing strong opposition in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, has been troubled by numerous delays, including the refusal of property owners to allow PennEast Pipeline LLC access to land along the route.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.  

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. 

MARIE CUSICK/ STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

Police are expected to have an almost constant presence in Lancaster County during construction later this month of the Atlantic Sunrise interstate natural gas pipeline. Brett Hambright, of the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office says he’s hoping planned protests against the project are peaceful but, “we’re not naive to the point we think this would go absolutely smoothly and no feathers will be ruffled.”  

Spicer Says Rolling Back Regulations Helping Economy

Sep 30, 2017
Reid Frazier, The Allegheny Front

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a natural gas industry conference in Pittsburgh that oil and gas drillers had a “huge friend in the Oval Office”. That huge friend is President Donald Trump, whose administration has targeted dozens of regulations that effect oil and gas drilling, a push which Spicer said was helping grow the economy. 

MATT ROURKE / AP PHOTO

Two Pennsylvania families have settled a lawsuit against a major natural gas producer, ending an almost decade-long fight over alleged water contamination in the northeast Pennsylvania town of Dimock.  Read full story here. 

Lindsey Lazarski, WHYY

Four opponents of the Mariner East 2 pipeline sued Sunoco Pipeline and its parent, Energy Transfer Partners, in federal court on Monday, alleging the company violated several constitutional rights when police arrested the plaintiffs on a private property in Huntingdon County. 

futureshape / flickr

It’s unclear whether federal regulators are properly prioritizing safety inspections on the nation’s massive network of natural gas and hazardous liquids pipelines,according to a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

JON HURDLE/STATEIMPACT PA

A Delaware County homeowners association is asking an appeals court to halt local work on the controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline until its builder, Sunoco Pipeline, finds a way to stop disturbance of contaminated soil at the site. 

Williams

Williams Partners has announced construction is officially underway on its multi-billion dollar Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, which is being built to connect Marcellus Shale gas in northeastern Pennsylvania to markets along the eastern seaboard. 

MARIE CUSICK/ STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

In March 2016, workers for one of the nation’s largest natural gas pipeline companies cut down a large swath of maple trees in Susquehanna County–a rural patch of northeastern Pennsylvania. A video shot by an activist shows the trees crashing down as chainsaws buzz.

KIM PAYNTER / WHYY

Cheers erupted at the Delaware River Basin Commission meeting Wednesday on the campus of Bucks County Community College in Newtown after commissioners from three states including Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, approved a resolution that could lead to a fracking ban in the Delaware River watershed. New Jersey abstained and the federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers voted no, which elicited a round of boos.

Betty Sutliff

Two years ago, Governor Tom Wolf reportedly told a group of pro-drilling landowners and elected officials he would try to help them end a moratorium on natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin, if they helped him pass a severance tax on drillers, according to several people who attended the meeting. 

Kumar Appaiah / via flickr

What’s in a name? A lot, apparently, when it comes to Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry. A state House committee voted along party lines Monday, to rebrand the impact fee levied on the state’s Marcellus Shale drillers, calling it a severance tax instead. 

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