Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Play in it to preserve it

Water is not only for drinking and washing dishes.I often tout the idea of getting the kids down to the swimming hole. Let them splash in the creek, and watch the fish and turtles that live in the water and on the shores. Let them flip over rocks and identify some of the larva.

One of the ways biologists determine the quality of water is to check for macroinvertebrates such as May and Stone fly larvae. If the water is too polluted for human consumption, it also will not support the bugs – or the fish that feed on them.

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Flying in formation

Snow geese in flight.I saw something last weekend I’d never seen off television. Tens of thousands of Snow geese covered a rather large pond near Kleinfeltersville, occasionally lifting off en masse to create a low cloud of white over the water. The birds were enroute their Arctic birthing grounds.

At rest, they virtually blanketed large portions of the pond, mostly paddling around in small circles filling the air with a sound like hundreds of playing puppies. Here and there, a pair would actually move from one side of the crowd to another, but mostly they stayed where they landed.

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Report: Lawmakers’ poor environmental performance

Long Pine Reservoir.Three conservation organizations have released their 2014 environmental scorecard, giving Pennsylvania lawmakers poor grades for protecting the environment in which we all live.

Place the right industry near the creek and the effect of all that work is gone.

The report had been delayed to await the results of a Senate vote on a House initiated bill that essentially makes voluntary previously mandatory requirements that developers protect the state’s high value waterways as they pursue corporate profits. The Senate approved, and as I write this the bill awaits the signature of Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Marcellus, to turn it into law.

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Japan, Ukraine foreshadow environmental risks in PA

John's thumbnail(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 5/9/2014)

Nuclear disaster in Japan and aggression in Ukraine could be good for natural gas producers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region. For Pennsylvania taxpayers, not so much.

Much of western and central Europe buys about a third of its natural gas from Russia. That’s a lot of countries wondering how they will cope if Russian President Vladimir Putin makes good on his threats to close the valve.

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Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster

Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster, by Walter M. Brasch(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/4/2013)

Well before most Pennsylvania residents were aware of a natural gas industry north of the Gulf of Mexico, it was taking root in the Commonwealth. “Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster,” by Walter M. Brasch, is the story of that enterprise.

The narrative begins in 2000, when Mitchell Energy, with help from the U.S. Department of Energy, finally proved that extracting natural gas from shale a mile and-a-half below the state’s surface was a practical – read profitable – undertaking.

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Carly came with the wine

The waitress recommended a wine, then brought the bottle.I’m pretty good at remembering who people are. I’m not worth a flip at remembering names – at least until I’ve sat down and chatted several times with a person, and then written about them.

We had stopped at our favorite winery in North East, Pa, one to be lauded for its Port – a good Port being sometimes difficult to find, in a vineyard or a storm. After chatting a few minutes with the clerk – an Australian lass whose husband had brought her back to Pennsylvania – we headed for a restaurant at which we had dined on our previous trip. Continue reading

Judge’s decision could have broad consequences for public Right to Know

Author's pen seeks to expose government secrecyA Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, judge may soon have a say in whether citizens have a right to know what decisions are made when their elected officials gather to make them. Currently, some gatherings of elected officials are claiming to be protected from the state’s Right to Know Law. A decision either way could affect other agencies, from school boards to economic development corporations.

Last July, a Bloomsburg-based author asked the PA State Association of Township Supervisors for information about its lobbying efforts as the legislature formulated a law to, purportedly, regulate the controversial Marcellus Shale industry. Continue reading

Letter to Obama

A natural gas pipeline slashes a mountaintop in Trout Run, PAMy son used to tell untruths. Sometimes he’d even say he hadn’t done a thing I’d just stood there watching him do. But he’s all grown up and haired over – except that place on his head where you could draw a map of Alaska and not mess up any follicles.

OK, maybe a map of Delaware. What’s a little exaggeration between friends? I’m guessing if you and Mitt would get in a private room together, both of you could come up with some things you wished your parents hadn’t found out didn’t happen just the way you said they did.

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Shorting-funding DEP is false economy

Several pipelines arrive at a compressor collector before gas is sent over a mountain in Loyalsock State ForestPennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection may not be protecting the environment and the Commonwealth’s citizens as much as they deserve.

That is the assertion of a report issued Tuesday by Earthworks, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental watchdog agency.

The report begins by noting “more than 5,700 ‘unconventional’ shale gas wells have been drilled (in Pennsylvania) since 2005.” It also acknowledges DEP’s claim that staffing has increased – including, in 2012, about 83 inspectors. If the “unconventional wells” – a euphemism referring to deep shale fracking wells – were the only wells needing oversight, that would mean about 68 wells for each inspector.

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State and national parks and forests: a great value for taxpayers’ dollars

A footpath through Michaus State ForestMichaux State Forest encompasses more than 87,000 acres of woodland, including a reservoir, several streams and a section of the Appalachian Trail.

The Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website still claims about 85,000 acres, but I think that does not include 2,500 acres purchased from Glatfelter’s paper company circa 2008 and donated to the state.

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Pocket change: Fracking industry invests $23M in Pa legislature, reaps $1T profit

Fracking money pours from a golden faucet into capitol dome inverted to be a funnelAccording to a release last week by MarcellusMoney.org, the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has spent $23 million in direct contributions to favored legislator campaigns and lobbying efforts since 2000.

The big winners in the Cash for Legislation sweepstakes between 2000 and April 2012 were:

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“UnClean Coal” not listed on billboards

Coal heaped and waiting for customersKing Coal loudly proclaims its place in our society, from the employment it claims to offer to the electricity it sends to our homes. Billboards along the Interstate insist that coal – often referred to as “clean coal” – is the way to go for continued prosperity and energy independence.

But the billboards and television commercials leave out some established, and troubling, truths their supporters hope we will not notice lurking behind those huge signs.

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Pennsylvania’s parallel governments: a journey to The Outer Limits

Two Pennsylvania capitals side by sideFor decades, science fiction has been telling of parallel universes. I was introduced to the idea in my youth by “The Twilight Zone,” a weekly television show that ran 1959 – 1964 and featured people in strange situations – often in places they thought they recognized, but were not where they thought they were – their home town, but with no people, for instance.

Or “imagine, if you will,” as show host Rod Serling would say, finding yourself on the street where you lived. You walk up to your home and are met by – yourself. It’s you, your wife, your child, your dog – and none of them know who you are.

Sometimes the evening news resembles reruns of those old shows. We recognize the representatives we voters sent to Harrisburg to oversee the state’s operations, but they seem not to recognize us. It’s as though we live under parallel governments.

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Pa. lawmakers find billions for Marcellus Shale Welfare Fund

Mountaintop cleared for a well pad and pipeline connecting to wells across Gray RunIt’s looking as though Pennsylvania lawmakers may repeat last year’s performance and get the 2013 budget approved in time for them to go home for the July 4 holiday. The hot dog industry is depending on them.

To get it done, House and Senate Republicans (Democrats – at least those who would object – have pretty much been left out of the discussions) seem to have struck a deal with Gov. Corbett. If he gives back the cuts he proposed to higher education, they will give him another $1.65 billion for his favorite charity.

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Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Sign identifies Range Resources drill site and DCNR permit for five million gallons a day water useLower-than-hyped revenue, plunging natural gas prices, and growing environmental concerns could spell trouble for the Marcellus Shale industry.

It’s attempt to recover corporate value could be problematic for Pennsylvanians at both ends of the state, as natural gas producers leave the northeast for the, hopefully, more profitable western hills.

While those away from the drilling fields see little effect from the industry’s efforts, those within it notice promised riches, flammable water, and eviction notices.

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“Poverty-stricken” Shell Oil offered $2B taxpayer handout to set up in Pa.

Shell oil stands to gain two billion in tax incentives to build a 400-job plant near PittsburghShell Oil Co., a child of Royal Dutch Shell – the latter reportedly the largest oil company in Europe and second largest company in the world – is thinking about building an ethane cracker plant in Monaca Borough, Beaver County, 30-some miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Pa.

The proposed plant would be used to “crack” ethane from natural gas derived from wells drilled into the Marcellus Shale in the southwestern region of the state. The cracking process results in ethylene, used mostly in making plastics.

If Gov. Corbett has his way, Pa. taxpayers will pay Shell about $2 billion to come to the state.

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Some Marcellus-related companies may be boosting profits by importing illegal workers

A quarter mile from a Marcellus Shale job site, WV union workers protest imported laborers

A newspaper story Thursday reported a federal indictment against a Texas-based company accused of bringing illegal workers to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fracking fields.

Coincidentally, workers in West Virginia are staffing road-side positions, protesting the practice of some Marcellus-related companies bringing out-of-state workers to take jobs for which local workers are available.

“We have a lot of people trained to do the work,” Stephen “Vern” Montoney, of Randolph County, W.Va told me last week.

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Sometimes it takes us all

A row of 300-foot tall wind turbines visible from the Pennsylvania turnpikeWind power, a Pennsylvania state politician recently said, is accomplishing one thing: spending taxpayer money.

But there is growing evidence it is doing other, more positive things, such as creating jobs and supplying the electrical grid – with considerably less risk than the Keystone State’s other burgeoning energy source.

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Late may not be better than never

50-foot wide pipeline path cuts through Loyalsock forestLast month, the EPA announced new regulations that will require natural gas drillers to capture the methane they ordinarily allow to escape before they cap their well. The new rules take effect in 2015.

Last week, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, announced proposed regulations that would require drillers to tell us what chemicals they are pumping into the ground – and sometimes spilling onto the ground and into our waters – to release natural gas by fracturing shale thousands of feet underground.

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Replacing humans with machines not necessarily a cost savings

NASA photo of Alan Shepard's launch of first US astronaut into spaceThe Messeder Space Pod (for want, at present, of a better name) finally is ready to go. My co-pilot in life and other travels went visiting her sister a couple months ago, and came home in love with an r-Pod, a small (18-foot) camper trailer not much bigger than the original space capsule that carried Astronaut Alan Shepard from Cape Canaveral to a wet spot in the Atlantic Ocean.

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