StateImpact Pennsylvania

StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration between WITFWHYY, WESA and Allegheny Front. Reporters cover the fiscal and environmental impact of Pennsylvania’s booming energy economy, with a focus on Marcellus Shale drilling.

Terry Engelder, professor emeritus of geosciences at Penn State, holding a large rock.
John Beale / Penn State

In 2007, Terry Engelder, then a professor of geosciences at Penn State, estimated how much natural gas could be accessed in the Marcellus Shale formation using hydrofracking. That calculation led to a drilling boom across the Marcellus region in Pennsylvania.

Widely recognized for his work, Engelder has advised state agencies and received funding from companies in the industry. Now retired and a professor emeritus, Engelder is working on a book called “A Frackademic from Appalachia.” 

Amy Schirf, education coordinator at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority, in one of the authority's trucks.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Regan Hosterman, operations manager at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority, started a truck that runs on compressed natural gas.

“Much quieter,” Hosterman said, comparing it with the old diesel trucks.

The compressed natural gas or CNG truck is not only less noisy — it’s cleaner. 

The authority’s move to CNG trucks is one of 18 cleaner fuel vehicle projects in 13 counties getting a total of $2.1 million in funding from the Department of Environmental Protection to support cleaner fuel vehicle projects around the state. 

Terry Engelder, professor emeritus of geosciences at Penn State, holding a large rock.
John Beale / Penn State

In 2007, Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Penn State, calculated that trillions of cubic feet of natural gas could be recovered from the Marcellus Shale.

 

The now-retired geologist is credited with opening the door to Marcellus Shale development. Looking back, he says the industry did make mistakes when it came to tapping into that reserve. Like not doing baseline water chemistry testing and keeping chemicals used in fracking a secret.

 

Workers install solar panels on the roof of a house
Business Wire

Green energy businesses had been seeing growth, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.

“We’re all doing the best we can in the new normal here,” said Kevin Gombotz, vice president of Envinity, a green design and construction company.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission logo
PUC

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has told companies they can’t turn off customers’ utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PUC’s action means utilities including electric, natural gas, water and telecommunications cannot be turned off if someone falls behind on their bills. It will last as long as Gov. Tom Wolf’s declaration of disaster.

Tanya McCloskey, Pennsylvania’s acting consumer advocate, said access to utility services will be critically important in the coming weeks, and the commission did the right thing.

From left to right, Joe Polaski, John Hecker and Larry Bickel, officials from the Moshannon Forest District, gather around the alidade, an instrument used to help personnel staffing lookout towers pinpoint the location of wildfires.
Amy Sisk / Stateimpact Pennsylvania

John Hecker pointed out the window of the truck as it passed oak, maple and birch trees in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

Up ahead was a fork in the road.

Manuel Ortiz looks out his living room window to the street construction outside his home. Ortiz says he wasn't informed that replacing a water main could cause lead to leach into his tap water from the lead service lines delivering water to his house on
Catalina Jaramillo / StateImpact PA

 

About five years ago, doctors found high levels of lead in the blood of Manuel Ortiz’s oldest son. Ortiz and his wife were surprised. They say Manuel Jr. acted like a normal kid.

Health inspectors told them the culprit was lead-based paint in their rented apartment. Ortiz says the landlord didn’t do anything to fix it, so the family moved out as soon as they could.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The Wolf Administration says Pennsylvania will be getting tens of thousands of new pipelines over the next couple of decades. Recently we reported on how poorly mapped some of these pipelines are.  Many of those unmapped pipelines are also unregulated. These are rural gathering lines, or pipelines that take the gas from the wellhead to a larger transmission line, or gas processing facility.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

This story began with a simple task: Let’s make a pipeline map!

Everyone wants to know where all the new Marcellus Shale gas pipelines are or will be. The new proposals have been piling up.  Many have poetic names like Atlantic Sunrise, Mariner East, and Bluestone. There got to to be so many they started to get numbers: Mariner East I, Mariner East II.

On public land, a gas company takes private control

Aug 14, 2014
Fracking Tower
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

On any given day Bob Deering doesn’t know how much trouble he’ll have getting to and from his home. He lives on a mountain in Lycoming County and he’s routinely stopped and questioned by security guards. It’s been happening for the past six years– ever since the natural gas boom began. Read more...