pennsylvania

Trump’s New FERC Commissioner Rob Powelson Accepted Gifts from Energy Industry as State Regulator

Robert Powelson during FERC commissioner nomination hearing in Senate

Robert Powelson, President Donald Trump’s newly appointed commissioner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), received both gifts and reimbursements for travel, lodging, and hospitality from the energy and utility sectors in his previous position as a state regulator. He will now regulate those sectors at the federal level.

Powelson, a Republican, began his tenure at FERC last week. Documents and emails recently uncovered by the Energy & Policy Institute, a watchdog monitoring attacks on renewable energy, indicate that he maintained a close relationship with industry groups as a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Exclusive: PA Lawmaker Working to Curb Pipeline Protestors Tied to Shadow Lobbyists for Company Behind Project

A recent intensification in protests against Williams Partners’ planned Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania prompted a state senator to propose legislation aimed at limiting demonstrations.

Last month, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Scott Martin announced his intention to introduce legislation that would pass the costs of law enforcement responding to protests onto the demonstrators. Martin also helped introduce a different bill that would criminalize protests at natural gas facilities. 

A DeSmog investigation has found, however, that Martin is intimately tied to an obscure group of lobbyists recently hired by Williams Partners.

New Lawsuit Filed in Next Chapter of Dimock, Pennsylvania, Fracking Water Pollution Saga

Ray Kemble

On April 12, Dimock, Pennsylvania resident Ray Kemble filed a nuisance and negligence lawsuit against Marcellus Shale drilling company Cabot Oil and Gas for alleged contamination of his groundwater and air. Kemble lives around the corner from the embattled Carter Road, where his neighbors have been struggling for years with a similar water pollution suit against Cabot.

Filed in U.S. District Court, Kemble's case is somewhat of a companion to the civil lawsuit brought by the Ely and Hubert families living on Carter Road. Their case began in 2009 and in March 2016, a jury awarded them a $4.24 million unanimous verdict for damages. However, the judge in their case recently overturned the verdict amid an ongoing dispute over the legality of evidence the families' attorney referenced during the trial.

Kemble, who has lived in his home since 1992, said in his complaint that he noticed “a change in his drinking water, including but not limited to discoloration and sediment build up” soon after Cabot began drilling near his property in 2008.

How a Judge Scrapped Pennsylvania Families' $4.24M Water Pollution Verdict in Gas Drilling Lawsuit

Ely family

For many residents of Carter Road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, it's been nearly a decade since their lives were turned upside down by the arrival of Cabot Oil and Gas, a company whose Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) wells were plagued by a series of spills and other problems linked to the area's contamination of drinking water supplies.

With a new federal court ruling handed down late last Friday, a judge unwound a unanimous eight-person jury which had ordered Cabot to pay a total of $4.24 million over the contamination of two of those families' drinking water wells. In a 58 page ruling, Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson discarded the jury's verdict in Ely v. Cabot and ordered a new trial, extending the legal battle over one of the highest-profile and longest-running fracking-related water contamination cases in the country.

Behind Trump’s Push for "American Steel" in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit

In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, President Donald Trump commemorated the one-month anniversary of his executive orders calling for the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, as well as one calling for U.S. pipelines to get their line pipe steel from U.S. facilities.

“I said, who makes the pipes for the pipeline?” Trump told the CPAC crowd. “If they want a pipeline in the United States, they're going to use pipe that's made in the United States, do we agree?”

But while the pipe may be made in the U.S., as DeSmog has shown in previous investigations, ownership tells a different story. Enter: TMK IPSCO, a massive producer of steel for U.S. oil country tubular goods (OCTG) and line pipe, and a subsidiary of TMK Group. A DeSmog investigation has found ties between TMK Group's Board of Directors and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Pennsylvania Environmentalists Cite "Irreparable Harm" in Bid to Halt Mariner East 2 Gas Pipeline

A woman looks out on fracking activities in Pennsylvania

Soon after the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline received the green light from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), three environmental groups appealed to stop construction pending further review. The groups claimed the pipeline construction activities, including tree cutting and horizontal drilling, could cause “irreparable harm” to landowners and the watershed along the project route. 

Last Friday Judge Bernard Labuskes of the state’s Environmental Hearing Board denied the request of the Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association to issue a temporary stay preventing Philadelphia-based Sunoco Logistics from starting construction.

Exxon’s Fracking Linked to 176 Official Complaints in Rural Pennsylvania

The investigative journalism outlet Public Herald documented that ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy has been the subject of 176 citizen complaints in Pennsylvania, many of them drinking water-related. The state is home to the Marcellus Shale basin, the most prolific field for obtaining natural gas via hydraulic fracturing ('fracking”) in the U.S. and an early hotbed of debate on fracking's potential threats.

In its investigation, the Pennsylvania-based publication spent three years digging up complaints submitted by the state's citizens to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). With documents spanning from 2004–2016, the complaints previously have been concealed from the public, and Public Herald says they show “evidence of widespread and systemic impacts” of fracking on water in the state.

A DeSmog review of files housed on the investigation's document-hosting website, PublicFiles.org, shows dozens upon dozens of these wells were owned by XTO. The finding comes as President Donald Trump's nominees for U.S. Secretary of State, recently retired ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General and EPA antagonist Scott Pruitt, await full U.S. Senate floor hearings and eventual confirmation votes.

For-Profit Pipeline Company Claims "Public Benefit" in Seizing Private Lands in Pennsylvania

Activists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, protest fracking at a rally in July 2016.

New and protracted battles in the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) war are breaking out across Pennsylvania and other states near the Marcellus Shale over pipeline companies’ use of eminent domain.

The fiercest battle pits Philadelphia-based Sunoco Logistics against homeowners in the path of a pipeline that crosses Pennsylvania. In a controversial move invoking eminent domain, Sunoco aims to seize private lands to make room for a pipeline extension that would move highly volatile liquids (HVL) used in the making of plastics from the Marcellus Shale region to eastern Pennsylvania.

At Oil Industry Funded DNC Event, Surprising Turn: Protests, Ex-Governor Admits "Mistake" Over Fracking

At an oil-industry sponsored event during this week's Democratic National Convention, all did not go as planners may have hoped.

The event was sponsored by Vote4Energy.org, an initiative by the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's trade association, and featured some of the Democratic party's most ardent supporters of fracking, including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

But protesters with an anti-fracking message repeatedly disrupted the panel and one of the gas industry's best-known cheerleaders, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, admitted he “made a mistake” in failing to adequately regulate shale gas extraction.

High Levels of Chemicals Found in People Living Near Gas Wells: New Report

Chemicals from gas wells were discovered in biological samples drawn from residents of Pavillion, Wyoming, at levels as much as ten times the national averages, according to a new report. The study is the first to sample both the air near drilling sites and the levels of chemicals in people living and working near those wells, allowing researchers to study the ways that toxic air pollutants are entering people's bodies near gas wells and putting their health at risk.

The researchers found evidence of 16 potentially dangerous chemicals in 11 individuals who volunteered to participate in the study by wearing air monitors and providing blood and urine samples. They found benzene, toluene, 2-heptanone, 4 heptanone and evidence of roughly a dozen other substances — including some known to be quite dangerous and others for which little safety information is available.

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