Sunday, January 25, 2015

PA's new governor faces large environmental challenges

PA Gov. Tom Wolf and Chief of Staff Katie McGinty

Pennsylvania's new governor, Tom Wolf, promised voters he will protect the environment and public health through tighter controls on natural gas drilling. He also said he would provide more money for education and other programs by getting the gas industry to pay more for the privilege of operating in the Keystone State.

Policy Director John Hanger

The moderate Democrat's plans may not sit well with many in the Republican-controlled legislature who are quite kindly disposed to the companies that introduced fracking to the state.

PADEP Secretary nominee John Quigley
Fractivists protest at Gov. Wolf's inauguration ceremony

Nor might new regulations and fees satisfy an activist segment of the environmental community that wants Wolf to follow neighboring New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in banning fracking entirely.

So, who has Gov. Wolf selected to help him with his daunting environmental agenda, and what can he reasonably expect to accomplish in his administration's early going?

DCNR nominee Cindy Adams Dunn

In the latest episode of our EnviroPolitics Podcast, we review the backgrounds of those he has appointed to key environmental and advisory positions.

We also speak with State Rep. Kate Harper
  with environmental advocacy organization PennFuture’s Director of Outreach
Andrew Smart, and with Cindy Adams Dunn, who was PennFuture’s president at the time. Weeks later, she was selected by Gov. Wolf to lead the  Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

You'll find lots of valuable information here. Let us know what you think and consider subscribing to our free podcast on iTunes (Apple) or Stitcher (Android). If you do, you’ll be alerted to all new episodes.

Episode 10: Pa. Gov. Wolf's new environmental lineup - Interview with Cindy Dunn

Recent Blog Posts:
Did you miss this good stuff the first time around?
What CARFAX says about Tom Wolf's trademark Jeep

Pa. Senate panel to take up oil and gas bills tomorrow
Will anti-frackers wreck Gov. Wolf's inauguration?
Divestment: A small but growing problem for fossil-fuel  
NJ Senate panel holds off vote on Gov.’s Pinelands pair 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What CARFAX says about Tom Wolf's trademark Jeep

It’s well equipped, not as worn as portrayed, and he may have driven it illegally
"Tom Wolf loves his 2006 Jeep Wrangler Sport. His daughters say he bought it to fulfill some sort of midlife crisis. At his post-election party, supporters could hop into a photo booth that featured a cardboard cutout of him in the vehicle. "

Billy Penn
says it found Wolf’s license plate number and ran a CARFAX report on his beloved car. CARFAX provides information such as accidents, major repairs, registrations and owner changes on a given vehicle.
What did the upstart Philly blog learn from the rating service? Find out here.

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Pa. Senate panel to take up oil and gas bills tomorrow

natural gas well drilling - AP

**UPDATE - SB147 was amended and released. SB148 and SB279 both released without changes**

The Pennsylvania State Senate's Resources and Energy Committee will consider the following three bills when it meets tomorrow, January 21, at 10:30 a.m. in Room 8E-A
in the Capitol’s East Wing:

 and SB 148 Sponsored by Republican Senator Gene Yaw. The first bill in this two-bill package allows natural gas royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of the gas company to verify proper payment.  All information provided by the gas company will be confidential in nature and cannot be disclosed to any other person.  In addition, the bill requires that proceeds from production of oil and gas shall be paid within 60 days of production.

The second bill,SB 148, would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against a royalty interest owner by terminating the lease agreement or ceasing development because a landowner questions the accuracy of the royalty payments.

The sponsor says that the  package is meant to support leaseholders who seek more transparency and protection while engaging the gas industry on their lease agreements

 Sponsored by Republican Senator Scott E. Hutchinson, the bill would establish the Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, which would "study existing regulations and assist the Department of Environmental Protection in making changes that better address the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas production."

The Council would include membership by the Department of Community and Economic Development and be charged with "promoting Pennsylvania’s historic conventional oil and gas industry and advocating its future development."

The Council will be a public/private partnership modeled after the successful Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council established in 1988.
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BPU to decide on PSE&G upland switching station

Tom Johnson reports today in NJ Spotlight:

"The state Board of Public Utilities is expected to approve a settlement today that will let Public Service Electric & Gas build a new switching station in Newark’s West Ward, a project the utility says could prevent some of the widespread outages that left most of the city in the dark after Hurricane Sandy.

"The agreement between PSE&G and Newark may end a year-old dispute over the utility’s plans to build a $138 million switching station, a project required by the operator of the nation’s largest power grid to increase reliability and relieve congestion. The latter can spike power prices for both consumers and businesses."

"At one point during Hurricane Sandy, 95 percent of Newark was without power for at least 24 hours, largely because enormous storm surges flooded switching stations and substations that were located closer to the water, according to Karen Johnson, a spokeswoman for PSE&G.

"The new switching station is located farther inland. If it had been built before the storm, it could have helped keep the lights on in Newark for thousands of customers, the utility said."

Full story:
 Approval expected for upland PSEG switching station in Newark

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Divestment: A small but growing problem for fossil-fuel

"Inspired by global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, environmentally focused donors want institutions to divest themselves of investments in companies connected with fossil fuels like petroleum and coal," John F. Wasik reports in the New York Times.
"Momentum for divestment has been building for years, pushed primarily by the environmentalist Bill McKibben and his group. But the fossil-free campaign has attracted some prominent participants lately.
"In September, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the $860 million philanthropy built on John D. Rockefeller’s petroleum fortune, said it would join the divestment movement. It aligned with nearly 200 institutions, a number that has nearly doubled since the beginning of 2014, according to, a divestment campaign.
"All told, groups managing an estimated $50 billion have joined the movement, and nearly $3 billion has been sold or pledged to be sold from individual portfolios. While that’s small change in the multitrillion-dollar world of institutional investing, the movement continues to grow.
“Fossil-free is the new apartheid,” says Thomas Nowak, a certified financial planner with Quantum Financial Planning who is based in Grayslake, Ill., and specializes in green investing. “This movement has legs. A large number of my clients are asking for fossil-free portfolios.”

Saturday, January 17, 2015

NJ Senate panel holds off vote on Gov.’s Pinelands pair

                                           Inquirer photo: Akira Suwa
** Updated at 10:20 a.m. on Jan. 19, 2015**
** Updated at 1:20 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2015**

“Gov. Chris Christie’s nominees to the Pinelands Commission are in limbo after taking a hard line of questioning Thursday regarding a controversial pipeline proposal for the region.”

S. P. Sullivan reported for that Dennis Roohr, the mayor of New Hanover Township, and Robert Barr, of Ocean City, were scrutinized by legislators during a two-hour hearing but did not receive an up or down vote from the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
The two men have been nominated by the Christie administration to replace Pinelands commissioners Robert Jackson and D'Arcy Rohan Green, both of whom voted against the pipeline proposal, which would allow South Jersey Gas to build a 22-mile natural gas pipeline through the region. It was rejected 7-7 with one abstention earlier this year, but could come up for a vote again.
Environmental advocates have accused Christie, who supports the pipeline, of attempting to pack the commission with allies who would give it the green light. Neither candidate would say for sure how they’d vote on the issue under repeated questioning. 
“To give an opinion on a hypothetical situation would be wrong,” Roohr told the committee, adding that he was not familiar with the particulars of the pipeline controversy, including the accusations that Christie’s office was seeking to replace its opponents on the commission. 
“Are there newspapers in your area?” state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) asked Roohr, alluding to the high-profile debate that has played out in the press over the proposal. 
Roohr, a Burlington County farmer whose property sits at the edge of the Pinelands, said if appointed, he would thoroughly research the topic and reach a decision “made on facts.”
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Range Resources hit with second big fine by PA's DEP

The drilling company, Range Resources, has agreed to a $1.75 million settlement over concerns that the firm didn't properly record how much water it drew from waterways to use when creating natural gas wells, Pennsylvania environmental officials said today.

It was the second massive fine in two years for Range which entered into a $4.15 million agreement with the PADEP in September, 2014. That fine was described by DEP as "the
largest against an oil and gas operator in the state's shale drilling era."
Under today's deal, Canonsburg-based Range Resources-Appalachia will be fined $800,000 and will spend roughly $950,000 to help the state expand, repair and operate an abandoned mine-drainage (AMD) treatment project in Findlay Township, near Pittsburgh.  The project is unrelated to Range's operations.

The DEP and Range both said the company has fixed procedural problems in how the company records its water usage.

DEP said it had approved the Hamilton AMD project in lieu of receiving additional penalties because the project will provide a substantial benefit to public health and the environment. The project also has strong local support

Record fine paid in 2014

In September, 2014, Range Resources agreed to pay $4.15 million to settle violations at six impoundments, or holding ponds, in Pennsylvania's Washington County. The DEP ordered the company to shut down some sites and do repair and upgrade work at others.
The charges against Range Resources at that time included improper monitoring of leaks from a wastewater containment pond as well as releases of contaminants, such as leaking flow back, that has affected soil and groundwater.
Then DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said that Range Resources had signed a consent order stipulating, among other things, that the company perform soil and groundwater investigations at each of the closed impoundments.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Energy, environment bills in committee today in Trenton

An old political chestnut will be roasted for the umpteenth time today in the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee (2 p.m., Room 9, State House Annex).

A-1763, sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon, (D-Essex); and  its identical Senate counterpart, S-151, sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), would clarify that a law passed in 2007 requires the state's participation in the multistate, carbon-fighting compact called RGGI (pronounced Reggie, formally, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative).

Republican Chris Christie yanked New Jersey from RGGI early in his first administration and the Democratic-controlled Legislature has been crying foul ever since.

The bill has passed both houses on several occasions only to be vetoed by Christie who surely would veto it again were it to reach his desk.

Christie says RGGI serves little purpose other than to force an additional tax on New Jersey utilities and their customers. Democratic lawmakers, like McKeon and Sweeney, disagree, claiming RGGI has been helpful in reducing greenhouse gases and generating funds for green energy and other projects in participating states.

The rest of today's lineup:
 A-2514  McKeon, J.F. (D-27)
Allows installation of solar arrays by municipalities on preserved open space in certain circumstances.
Related Bill: S-1138
A-3548  Schaer, G.S. (D-36); Spencer, L.G. (D-29); Simon, D.M. (R-16)
Requires local governments and authorities to obtain financing cost estimate required to be provided by NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust for certain projects.
Related Bill: S-2354
A-3583  Eustace, T.J. (D-38)
Prohibits retrofitting diesel-powered vehicles to increase particulate emissions for the purpose of "coal rolling"; prohibits the practice of "coal rolling".
Related Bill: S-2418
S-1138  Codey, R.J. (D-27)
Allows installation of solar arrays by municipalities on preserved open space in certain circumstances.
Related Bill: A-2514
S-2418  Greenstein, L.R. (D-14); Gordon, R.M. (D-38)
Prohibits retrofitting diesel-powered vehicles to increase particulate emissions for the purpose of "coal rolling"; prohibits the practice of "coal rolling".
Related Bill: A-3583
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