The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has released an updated plan outlining its priorities for managing Pennsylvania’s 2.2 million acres of public forest land. It’s the the first time DCNR has updated the plan in nine years.
“It’s a good road map for us to use over the next several years,” says State Forester Dan Devlin. “It’s a guidance document for our own staff, but it also informs everybody else how we intend to manage the state forest system.”
When the Marcellus Shale gas boom was taking off, Bradford County welcomed it with open arms. With more than 1,000 active wells, this region in north-central Pennsylvania became one of the most heavily drilled places in the state.
But the enthusiasm turned to anger, and many people now allege they’re being cheated out of royalty money by drilling companies.
“We’ve had enough,” says Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko (R). “This has been going on for years.”
McLinko says he remains a big supporter of the shale gas. He’s feeling pretty awkward as the county prepares a public relations campaign against the state’s main gas trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which he accuses of blocking legislative attempts to address the problem.
“We feel their lobbying efforts have cost our county probably $100 million.” says McLinko.
Residents in one of the most drilled-on parts of Pennsylvania want to block companies from producing natural gas, citing anger over royalty payments.
The supervisors in Wilmot Township, Bradford County plan to pass a resolution Tuesday demanding, “production be discontinued from wells where landowners are having their royalty checks diminished to nothing or nearly nothing.” Wilmot supervisor Mark Dietz is particularly worried about some residents’ threats to engage in violence or possibly tamper with gas infrastructure to disrupt production.
“People are getting really angry,” says Dietz.
As landowners battle Sunoco Logistics in court over eminent domain takings, critics are pushing back against the pipeline on another front — permits the project needs from the state to move forward with construction. Sunoco has already begun felling trees along the 300-mile long proposed pipeline route through Pennsylvania, but the company can’t lay any pipe without erosion and sedimentation control permits from the Department of Environmental Protection. It also can’t cross any waterways without the water crossing permits.
The deadline for public comment period on the Chapter 105 permits, which regulate stream and wetlands crossings, has already passed. The deadline for public comment on the erosion and sediment control permits, known as Chapter 102, is Tuesday. Residents at recent public hearings on the pipeline project have complained that DEP went ahead with the public comment periods without having received completed permit applications from Sunoco.
“That’s what makes this different,” said Alex Bomstein, an attorney with the Clean Air Council, which along with several environmental and landowner organizations, submitted a 34-page detailed comment letter outlining the deficiencies in Sunoco’s permit applications for stream and wetland crossings. Continue Reading
America’s biggest power-grid operator said electric supplies to a 13-state region would not be disrupted by state efforts to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan, and that wholesale electricity costs would rise only modestly in the drive to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants, thanks largely to low natural gas prices.
An analysis by Pennsylvania-based PJM of the controversial CPP concluded that states could ensure adequate supplies of power at little extra cost to customers regardless of how they opt to comply with emissions-reduction targets.
Wholesale electricity costs would rise by 1.1 percent to 3.3 percent on average, PJM said, depending on whether states choose to meet the CPP targets individually or in cooperation with other states, such as in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative among nine northeastern states not including Pennsylvania. Continue Reading
A Pennsylvania appeals court has ruled that the Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to consider the impact of gas drilling wells on public and natural resources including, but not limited to, public drinking water supplies, parks, forests, game lands, habitats of rare and endangered species, historic and archeological sites, scenic rivers, and historic landmarks. The Commonwealth Court ruled 5-2 in favor of DEP, and against the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, or PIOGA, which includes about 550 members primarily engaged in conventional drilling operations.
Acting DEP secretary Patrick McDonnell praised the ruling.
“Today’s ruling is important for DEP’s permitting of oil and gas wells across Pennsylvania,” McDonnell said in a statement. “It unconditionally confirms that the Department has legal authority under Act 13 (the 2012 Oil and Gas Act) to consider the impact that a proposed well site will have on public and natural resources. This decision will assist the Department in its work to ensure responsible development of natural resources in Pennsylvania.”
Every year the King Coal parade winds through the center of Carmichaels. Hundreds of people line up to see the fire engines, classic cars, floats, and marching bands.
It’s fair to say the presidential race has people pretty fired up –and worried– in this small town in Greene County, about an hour’s drive south of Pittsburgh. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised to bring back coal, with few details on how he will accomplish it. Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton has said she’d put miners out of work, but is pushing a big plan to reinvest in coal communities.
Despite the black and yellow banners hanging around Carmichaels proclaiming, “King Coal”, times are changing for mining communities.
More than three months have passed since the controversial resignation of Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, John Quigley, and Governor Tom Wolf is still looking for a permanent replacement.
The law requires the governor to nominate someone to fill the vacancy within 90 days. In order to comply, the administration submitted a placeholder name, Thomas Yablonski Jr., to the state Senate last week. Yablonski is a staffer in the governor’s office, and his name was used for 24 different appointments. Although placeholder names are submitted sometimes, it’s unclear why there is a delay in this case.
Pennsylvania environmental regulators have green-lighted a proposal to use 3,950 tons of natural gas drilling waste for an experimental road construction project at a Lycoming County hunting club.
This approval marks the first time the waste– known as drill cuttings– can be re-purposed as construction material at an area that’s not an industrial site. The work is being done by Clean Earth, the same firm that backed out of controversial plans to put 400,000 tons of drilling waste near Pennsylvania’s “Grand Canyon” last year amid a public backlash.
Drill cuttings are the waste dirt and rock that come up from deep underground in gas development and may contain naturally-occurring radiation and chemicals. Usually, cuttings are disposed of in landfills.
On the morning of April 29, a natural gas transmission line exploded in a field in Salem Township in western Pennsylvania. The blast was so powerful it ripped a 12-foot crater into the landscape, burned a section of the field with a quarter-mile radius and threw a 25-foot section of the 30-inch steel pipeline 100 feet away. At the time of the explosion, a 26-year-old man was in his house, a few hundred feet away. He was badly burned, and his home destroyed.
When local fire chief Bob Rosatti arrived at the scene, the flames were so hot, he had to stay in his truck.
“They were massive—I would say 300 feet at the least,” Rosatti says. “That was the biggest fireball I’d ever seen in my life. Thank god it was in a rural area. It could have been a lot worse if it had been in a more populous area.”
Investigators think external corrosion on the pipe is to blame for the blast. But they are still poring over a decade’s worth of pipe inspection reports to determine exactly what caused it.
The explosion comes as the federal government is undertaking a new effort to make gas transmission pipelines safer. It has become an even more urgent issue now that the country is building more pipelines, especially in the Northeast. The fracking boom in the Marcellus and Utica shales is a big reason for that. The Department of Energy predicts Pennsylvania and Ohio will nearly double their natural gas production by 2030. Read more at The Allegheny Front.