Trespass Charges Dropped Against Pennsylvania Pipeline Protesters

HARRISBURG (WITF) – A Lancaster County judge on Monday dismissed trespassing charges against seven protesters who blocked construction of the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline almost two years ago. Judge Howard Knisely of the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas released the defendants without charge after the district attorney dropped the misdemeanors in exchange for community service. The judge welcomed the agreement and said peaceful, nonviolent protest is protected, albeit with limitations, by state and federal law. Legislatures, not the courts, are the proper place to protect the natural environment and public safety, he said. But he urged citizens to elect lawmakers who truly represent public interests rather than their own.

Tompkins/Cortland Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton On 2019 Legislative Session

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – The 2019 New York legislative session saw the passage of a raft of legislation that has been blocked in previous years. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton spoke with WSKG’s Celia Clarke in the Ithaca studio. She represents Tompkins County and part of Cortland County in the state Assembly. Lifton spoke about the new farm labor rights, legalization of electrically-assisted bicycles and scooters, and why she thinks marijuana legalization is inevitable. The conversation begins with Lifton talking what she considers the most important accomplishment of the session.

Entering the control room at Three Mile Island Unit 1 is like stepping back in time. Except for a few digital screens and new counters, much of the equipment is original to 1974, when the plant began generating electricity.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant To Close

The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, site of the nation’s worst nuclear accident, will shut down by the end of September. Backers failed to secure subsidies to keep the plant operating.

Efficiencies, Pipelines Help Propel PA Gas Production In 2018

Natural gas production in Pennsylvania is expected to reach a new high by year’s end: 6 trillion cubic feet. Drillers extracted 13 percent more gas in the first three quarters of 2018 than during the same period the previous year, according to a recent report from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office.

PA Study: Pipeline Blast Could Be Devastating, But Risk Is Low

A worst-case explosion of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in PA’s Delaware County would kill anyone within about a mile of the rupture, a new report says, but it concludes the chances of someone dying from a pipeline incident are less than that of dying in a car crash or from falling down stairs.

State Officials Push Growth Of Wind Power In New York

If New York state hopes to reach a goal of getting half of its electricity from renewable resources by the year 2030, wind energy will have to be part of the formula. That was the focus of a wind summit held in Syracuse this week, and boosters of wind power are optimistic it will happen.

Sen. Toomey Raises Alarms About Trump’s New Ethanol Policy

STATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – Philadelphia area refineries are raising alarms about the costs of a recent move by President Donald Trump to boost corn-based ethanol. Following through on a promise made to Iowa voters, Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to allow sales of so-called E-15 fuel throughout the entire year.

In Rarity For GOP, PA Congressman Pushes For Carbon Tax

STATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – In a rare move for Republican lawmakers, U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County and Carlos Curbelo of Florida have teamed up to introduce a climate change bill — a big one.

As Nuclear Power Loses Ground To Natural Gas, Environmentalists Are Torn

STATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – The natural gas boom was supposed to help the electric sector lower its carbon footprint by replacing old, carbon dioxide-spewing coal plants with newer, lower-emitting natural gas plants. And to a degree, that’s happened. As coal plants have retired, carbon emissions from the power sector have decreased.

Mayor From Puerto Rico Aims To Rebuild, Modernize Grid

STATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – Six months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, 200,000 residents still lack electricity, the mayor of the island’s capital city told a crowded Carnegie Mellon University ballroom Wednesday night. Carmen Yulín Cruz, who received a master’s degree from CMU in the 1980s, came back to the campus to speak at “Energy Week” alongside Pittsburgh’s mayor. She said the situation in Puerto Rico is still dire for many. “You have no idea what it is to spend months and months and months with not a flicker of light,” she said. “We don’t want energy to be able to bathe in warm water or to have air conditioning, we want it so our children can go to school.

More Nuclear Power Plant Shutdowns, Bailouts In The Works

TATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – Citing market challenges,” electric utility FirstEnergy says it will close three nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, while at the same time asking the Department of Energy for immediate help to keep its fleet of coal and nuclear plants open.

In Pennsylvania, Unions Throw Political Weight Behind Natural Gas

STATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – On a recent afternoon, Ken Broadbent walked the aisles of his union’s “weld shop.” Behind orange plastic curtains that shield the eye-searing brightness of their torches, a few dozen apprentices practiced welding pipes together. Each will end up with about 700 hours of training.

Jessup Frustrated With PA’s Response To Yellow Power Plant Smoke

Residents of Jessup say they are not satisfied with the response from the state Department of Environmental Protection, after a new natural gas power plant spewed yellow-colored smoke and prompted health complaints earlier this month. The Invenergy plant being built in Lackawanna County started emitting noxious smoke on March 3. According to Jessup Borough Council President Jerry Crinella, DEP sent two people to investigate on March 6, but after they walked around, they said they couldn’t see or smell anything. Read full story here. 

Environmental Group: Methane Pollution Higher Than PA Thinks

An environmental group says that Pennsylvania’s gas drilling industry is releasing much more methane into the atmosphere than the state is reporting. Scientists at the Environmental Defense Fund calculated Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale industry is emitting twice as much methane as companies are reporting to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The analysis, posted to the group’s website, is based on 16 peer-reviewed studies funded in part by EDF, including some involving oil and gas companies. Read full story here.

What Will Sunoco’s $12.6 Million Mariner East 2 Penalty Be Spent On?

The $12.6 million penalty being paid by Sunoco for multiple violations during construction of the Mariner East 2 pipelines will be used to improve water quality and the safety of dams across Pennsylvania, and will be in addition to the company’s work to correct environmental damage caused during the project, current and former state officials said.

Sunoco Appeals PA’s Stop Work Order

Sunoco is appealing the Department of Environmental Protection’s January 3 order to halt construction on the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.

Hearings On Proposed Fracking Ban In Delaware Basin Start This Week

When the Delaware River Basin Commission proposed a ban on high-volume fracking for natural gas in the basin, arguing it “poses significant, immediate and long-term risks” to the watershed, one environmentalist called it “a huge and groundbreaking protection.”

PA Fines Natural Gas Company $1.7M For Drilling Violations

State environmental officials have fined a natural gas company $1.7 million for problems at well sites in Greene and Clearfield counties. Energy Corporation of America was cited for, among other things, operating storage pits without proper permits and for pits that leaked. The violations took place at 17 well sites, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The wells were recently acquired by Greylock Energy. Read full story here.

Judge Fines Environmental Attorneys $52,000 For ‘Frivolous’ Injection Well Suit

A federal judge has ordered a pair of attorneys for an environmental group to pay $52,000 in legal fees to an energy company because, the judge said, they filed a “frivolous” legal challenge to a fracking waste injection well in Indiana County. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter of the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled the attorneys, Thomas Linzey and Elizabeth Dunne, should pay part of Pennsylvania General Energy’s (PGE) legal fees for advancing a “discredited” legal argument that had already been defeated in prior decisions. In addition to the fine, the judge referred Linzey to the state Supreme Court Disciplinary Board for additional discipline. Read full story here. 

A Surge, Then A Fade For Pennsylvania’s Wind Industry

While the wind power industry booms across the United States thanks to favorable federal and state policies, the development of new wind farms has stalled in Pennsylvania. More than two dozen wind farms popped up across the state leading up to 2012, but only one in the years since. Read full story here. 

After New Setback, Constitution Pipeline Says It Will Fight FERC Order

The builder of the proposed Constitution Pipeline from Pennsylvania to New York said it will ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take another look at its recent ruling that upholds New York State’s denial of a water-quality permit for the troubled project. Constitution Pipeline said it will seek a rehearing or appeal FERC’s decision on Jan. 11, in which the commission declined to overturn the permit decision by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). That decision has stopped the company from beginning to build the 124-mile natural gas line. Read full story here. 

Despite DEP Order To Halt Mariner East 2 Construction, Some Work Allowed

When Danielle Otten woke up Monday morning, she didn’t expect to see men working on the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site that sits about 40 feet from her backyard, along Devon Drive in Uwchlan Township, Chester County. For one thing, work in the area had stalled after drilling dried up and damaged nearby water wells this past summer. And just last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a court order halting construction along the 350-mile long pipeline after Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners continued to violate its permits, causing damage to private water wells, streams and wetlands. Read full story here. 

Trump Proposes Oil And Gas Drilling Off The Atlantic Coast

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 proposalcould lead to the largest lease sale ever. But the plan would face substantial opposition along the New Jersey and Delaware shorelines. Read full story here. 

Coal Consumption Drop, But Production Up At Some Appalachian Mines

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. Read full story here. 

Federal Repeal Of Fracking Regulations Affects Relatively Small Portion Of PA Land

You 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

Read full story here. 

PA Suspends All Construction On Mariner East 2 Pipeline

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. Read full story here. 

Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Lawsuit Over Royalty Payments Advances

A lawsuit is moving forward by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office alleging natural gas companies didn’t pay royalties to landowners as they’d promised. Bradford County Common Pleas Court Judge Kenneth Brown denied the preliminary objections raised by the defendants, Chesapeake Energy and Anadarko Petroleum. The lawsuit, filed in 2015, accuses the companies of violating the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, by promising landowners royalty money they never paid. You can read the full story here.

Study: New York Behind On Clean Energy Investments

SYRACUSE (WRVO) – A new study argues that New York state leaders needs to substantially ramp up their green investments to protect the climate. The pro-clean energy coalition New York Renews helped fund the study from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which finds New York’s public and private sectors currently invest $6-7 billion a year into renewables like wind and solar and energy efficiency projects. One of the study’s authors Robert Pollin says that needs to increase five fold to about $31 billion a year if New York state is to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions 50 percent by 2030. “New York state already has very ambitious goals and has a policy infrastructure in place and those are quite favorable developments, the problem is that the level of commitment in terms of funding and regulatory enforcement is just not there,” Pollin said. “There’s no way the state is going to get to this 2030 goal unless it gets much more serious about encouraging and supporting private investments  and expanding public investments.”

Federal Regulators Won’t Reconsider Approval Of Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

Federal regulators won’t revisit their decision to approve a major natural gas transmission pipeline through Pennsylvania. In a December 6 order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied a rehearing request by landowners, anti-pipeline activists, environmental groups, Native American tribes and the public service commissions of North Carolina and New York. They were challenging FERC’s approval of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. Read full story here. 

Study: Low Birth Weights Linked To Fracking Sites

Infants born to mothers who live very close to natural gas fracking sites have a higher risk of low birth weight, according to a new peer-reviewed study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. 

The study is the largest of its kind, and was conducted by researchers from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and Princeton University. It builds on previous research that also found health impacts to infants born near gas wells in Pennsylvania. Read full story here. 

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Time Running Out To Save Three Mile Island From Early Closure

There are multiple efforts underway at the federal, state, and regional levels to try to boost the nuclear power industry. If they all materialize, Exelon might reverse its decision to close its Three Mile Island plant outside Harrisburg. But the stars would have to align for that to happen, and time is running out. Read full story here. 

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Trump Administration Coal Plan Could Have Big Impact On Pennsylvania

The Trump administration’s plan to prop up money-losing coal and nuclear plants could have a big impact on how Pennsylvanians get their electricity. Federal regulators will now decide what to do with it. The Department of Energy has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to act on its proposed “Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule.” The plan would likely help a few energy companies in the mid-Atlantic, but it would just as likely make ratepayers in the region pay more for their electricity. State utility commissions, grid operators, and the oil and gas and renewables industries have all voiced opposition. Read full story here

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Lawmakers Consider Tax Breaks For Oil And Gas

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. Read full story here. 

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

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. Read full story here. 

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PA Eyes New Land For Abandoned Mine Cleanup

Environmental officials in Pennsylvania have long focused on cleaning up the most hazardous old mines, but they plan to start addressing other abandoned mining sites that pose fewer public health dangers. Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, announced Tuesday that his agency is developing a program aimed at converting these spaces into recreation areas. “Traditionally the moneys we’ve had available for mining have been focused on dangerous highwalls, major stream impacts, things like that,” he said. Red full story here. 

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Unpacking Changes To How New York Values Solar

Earlier this month, New York’s Public Service Commission changed how solar energy is valued in the state. Ahead of the decision, some solar advocates were worried a change in regulations would make solar panels less attractive for homeowners and small businesses. WSKG’s Gabe Altieri spoke with Valessa Souter-Kline, who works with NYSEIA, about what the decision means for the solar industry. NYSEIA is a trade association that advocates for the solar industry. On what the Public Service Commission decided: 

Valessa Souter-Kline: This new system gets into ‘what is solar actually providing to the grid?’

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Small Solar Advocates Worry State Decision Will Limit Access

The New York Public Service Commission could make a decision this week that would have a big impact on the state’s solar industry. Advocates for small solar producers worry they’ll be left behind. Big Pay Back For Small Producers 

Meredith Kohn-Bocek has had solar panels on her house for about five years. She seems to be the only one in her small Tioga County neighborhood who has them. “I’m not aware of anyone else in the terrace that has solar,” she said.

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Low-Interest Energy Upgrades Now Available For Tompkins Businesses

 

Tompkins County commercial property owners can learn tonight about a low-cost way to improve their energy efficiency. The Energize New York program has an information session at 5:30 p.m. in The Space at Ithaca’s GreenStar Market. Energize New York has been operational since 2014, but upstate counties are just now getting on board. The program offers low-interest loans to building owners who want to make efficiency upgrades or install renewable energy technology. Executive Director Mark Thielking says the funding is comparable to a public utility, but the benefits it provides come over a longer timeframe.

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Oneonta Residents Split On NED Pipeline Proposal

Federal regulators held a public hearing last night on a proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through several upstate New York counties. Energy company Kinder Morgan wants to build the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline to funnel gas from Pennsylvania to the East Coast. There are four compressor stations proposed for New York State along the pipeline route. Over a hundred people attended the hearing in Oneonta and several gave passionate statements. “It’s unconscionable that we have to beg not to have our air poisoned or our water contaminated or our forests destroyed,” said Lottie Marsh, attendee.