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EPA takes next step toward replacing Obama-era climate rule

From an Article by Timothy Cama, The Hill News, July 10, 2018

The Trump administration is taking a big step forward in its effort to replace the Obama administration’s climate change rule for power plants with a more industry-friendly alternative.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that on Monday it sent a proposed rule to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

The OMB review, an internal process that checks for compliance with various laws and administration priorities, is the final step before the rule can be released publicly and made available for public comment.

The EPA hasn’t revealed the contents of the proposal. The Trump administration in December requested public input on ideas for a replacement.

The rule would replace the Clean Power Plan, the main pillar of former President Obama’s climate change agenda that sought a 32 percent cut in carbon emissions from the country’s power sector by 2030. States were allowed to decide how best to accomplish that goal.

The Obama rule was put on hold by the Supreme Court in 2016 as a result of litigation led in part by then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Pruitt went on to become EPA administrator before resigning last week under the cloud of numerous scandals.

Pruitt and President Trump prioritized repealing the Clean Power Plan, and Pruitt formally proposed undoing it last year, an action that has not yet been made final.

Sources familiar with the EPA’s deliberations say the agency wants to write a regulation that focuses almost exclusively on making coal-fired power plants more efficient. That would result in minimal reductions in carbon emissions, and environmentalists say emissions could in turn increase since coal plants would be cheaper to operate.

While Pruitt initially did not want to replace the Clean Power Plan, industry leaders pushed him in that direction, arguing that doing so would reduce the risk of climate-change lawsuits against companies, as well as future lawsuits against the EPA for not regulating greenhouse gases.

Both Pruitt and current acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler have expressed skepticism of the scientific consensus that the climate is changing and that human activity is the primary cause.

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Mariner East 2 Pipeline in East Goshen Twp. PA

Shell granted request for extension for Falcon Pipeline information

From an Article by Paul J. Gough, Pittsburgh Business Journal, June 27, 2018

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has granted Shell Pipeline Co. LP’s request for an extension of time to respond to technical deficiency letters it sent over its permit application for the 97-mile Falcon Pipeline.

PA-DEP granted the request June 21 to allow Shell Pipeline to have until August 1 to submit responses to two types of letters that asked for more information about Shell’s plans for Falcon, which will connect the ethane supplies in Ohio and Pennsylvania to the giant petrochemical plant Shell is building in Potter Township.

In its June 1 letters to Shell Pipeline, PA-DEP asked for generally technical notes about the permit applications for pipeline construction in several townships in Washington, Allegheny and Beaver counties. Shell told the Business Times in a statement Monday that it would comply with the requests for information and was committed to working with regulators.

A Shell official last week said it was expecting to get the permits required from the PA- DEP by the third quarter and construction would begin in 2019 and end later that year.

A PA-DEP spokeswoman told the Business Times that technical deficiencies weren’t uncommon for a project of Falcon’s size.

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DEP wants more information from Shell on ethane pipeline

Article by Paul J. Gough, Pittsburgh Business Journal, June 25, 2018

Shell Pipeline Co. said it’s working with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials following the PA-DEP’s sending of three technical deficiency letters to Shell in the permitting process of the Falcon Pipeline.

Shell received so-called technical deficiency letters for the three-county route of the Falcon Pipeline, which will carry ethane from the MarkWest Houston fractionation plant to a Raccoon Township hub and, from there, to the Royal Dutch Shell petrochemical plant under construction in Potter Township.

PA-DEP identified what it called “serious technical deficiencies” in the plan for Findlay and North Fayette townships in Allegheny County; Chartiers, Mount Pleasant and Robinson townships in Washington County; and Greene, Independence, Potter and Raccoon townships in Beaver County. PA-DEP’s review and approval of Shell’s permit to build the 97-mile pipeline, which includes a section in Pennsylvania, is required before construction can begin.

In a statement Monday, Shell said it was committed to working with the PA-DEP and other regulators on the permitting process.

“As is common in such a comprehensive permitting process, the review identified areas where the agency would like additional data. We appreciate the PA-DEP’s feedback and will work diligently to ensure PA-DEP has the necessary information upon which to base its decision,” Shell said.

Shell is required to address each of PA-DEP’s points in all three letters within 60 days of the date of the letters, which were June 1.

Some of the PA-DEP’s concerns included the potential discharge of stormwater or wastewater, the impact of open-cut pipeline construction methods, the location of the centerline of the pipeline at a location that had been previously mined, and whether the construction would impact the nesting of the Northern Harrier, a type of hawk.

While not specifically addressing the PA-DEP concerns, the head of the pipeline project for Shell Pipeline told an industry conference that he expected receiving the necessary pipeline permits in the third quarter. It wasn’t clear whether the PA-DEP letters would change that time line.

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Another section of Mariner East 1 pipeline exposed in Uwhclan Township

Article from Digital First Media, Local Daily News, West Chester (PA), July 20, 2018

WEST CHESTER  —  “The perils of the pipeline continue to pile up.”

Mariner East 1, the old, existing pipeline that was retrofitted by Sunoco Logistics to carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region to Marcus Hook – and which was exposed in a section of West Whiteland – has now been exposed in a second area of Chester County.

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Goshen said Thursday that Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) officials have confirmed that the 87-year-old Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline has been exposed near Crump Road in Uwchlan Township.

Dinniman said his office reported the issue to the PUC after being notified by local residents and seeing reports on social media. In response, PUC officials indicated that they had been aware of the pipeline being exposed in the Uwchlan area after being informed by the company and that they instructed Sunoco to monitor the situation. Apparently neither entity notified officials in Uwchlan Township. The PUC indicated there was “no imminent danger” to the public from the exposed pipe.

“PUC Pipeline Safety is investigating and has data requests in to Sunoco requesting additional information on this section of line,” said PUC spokesman David Hixson in a statement. “Pipeline safety inspectors have been on site, conducted their own inspections and reviewed records.”

PUC officials also said they had notified the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and would investigate the claims to ensure that this was not a new exposure.

“At this point, you’d think that nothing could shock me when it comes to the Mariner East project, but I’m astonished by the latest turn of events and the seemingly inexplicable lack of action from our state government agencies,” said Dinniman, one of the fiercest and most outspoken critics of Sunoco’s multi-billion-dollar pipeline project. “Basically, it sounds like the PUC has known for some time that an active, hazardous material pipeline is exposed to the surface in a residential area and has done nothing about it except to instruct Sunoco to ‘monitor’ the situation. If that’s not letting the fox guard the henhouse, I don’t know what is.”

Dinniman pointed out that it was just last month that the PUC gave the green light to allow Sunoco to resume operations on the ME1 after it was halted by an administrative law judge due to safety concerns raised in his complaint. The shutdown occurred after sinkholes developed in a West Whiteland neighborhood as part of the construction of Mariner East 2 that exposed the older pipeline.

Eventually, Sunoco expects Mariner East 1 and 2 to transport as much as 650,000 barrels a day of volatile gases such as ethane, butane and propane the width of the state to the former Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook. Once there it will be stored and then shipped, mostly to overseas markets.

Mariner East 2 will traverse about 23 miles through the heart of central Chester County and another 11 miles in western Delaware County.

The project, which Sunoco says is 95 percent complete, has sparked intense community opposition and been plagued with spills and runoff problems, in addition to the sinkholes. Construction on the project has been halted twice by state regulators.

Dinniman remains outraged at this latest problem. “The question here is: What did the PUC know and when did they know it? Did PUC officials allow operations to resume on Mariner East 1, knowing it was exposed to the surface in one of our residential neighborhoods?” Dinniman asked. “And that’s just the beginning. Has the property owner and other nearby residents been notified? Have other protocols been followed? Keep in mind, when Mariner East 1 was exposed earlier this year, the PUC suspended its operations within days. Why has that not been done this time?

“Whatever the case, I will demand answers to these and other questions as the very health, safety, and well-being of my constituents is at stake.”

Dinniman said his office also has notified the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as the exposed pipe appears to be in an unnamed tributary of the Valley Creek.

Based on his conversations with residents, Dinniman believes homeowners near the site were not notified of the exposure and only learned of it when looking into water issues apparently related to disturbances to a stream from pipeline activities.

Since then, residents have reported that Sunoco has attempted to block the view or access to the exposure site with wooden boards, plastic sheeting and fencing.

“When Mariner East 1 was exposed back in March, it was a major concern to our state agencies,” Dinniman said. “The PUC Bureau of Enforcement and Inspection was at the site and the next day the operation of the pipeline was shut down. But now, for some reason, this exposure is treated like an afterthought. The pipeline appears to be sitting exposed practically on the surface for weeks or more with no action, no notification, and no response. And when we do get the PUC’s attention, the only response seems to be having Sunoco try to hide the problem from view.”

The ME1 pipeline, which dates back to 1931, originally carried petroleum products from the port at Marcus Hook to western Pennsylvania. Today, it is permitted to carry liquid propane, butane, and ethane in the opposite direction.

Sunoco is building two new additional pipelines, Mariner East 2 (ME2) and Mariner East 2X (ME2x) in the same right-of-way, as well as seeking to activate and repurpose an existing 12-inch petroleum pipeline to carry liquid natural gas products in Chester and Delaware Counties.

Since the beginning, the Mariner East project has been beset with problems:

• Last summer, drilling activities in West Whiteland Township damaged an aquifer, causing water-quality issues in dozens of nearby residential wells.

• In January, after numerous violations, DEP suspended construction permits for Mariner East 2 across the state.

• In February, DEP and Sunoco reached a settlement agreement with Sunoco that included a $12.6 million fine.

• In March, multiple sinkholes appeared on Lisa Drive in West Whiteland, threatening private homes and leading to the evacuation of at least one family.

• Later that month, the PUC suspended operations of ME1 finding that “permitting continued flow of hazardous liquids through the ME1 pipeline without proper steps to ensure the integrity of the pipeline could have catastrophic results impacting the public.”

• In April, Senator Dinniman brought a formal complaint and petition for emergency relief before the PUC to halt operations of ME1, and construction on ME2 and ME2X in West Whiteland.

• In May, the PUC allowed Sunoco to resume operations on ME1.

• Later that month, a PUC judge sided with Dinniman, halting all three pipelines in West Whiteland.

• In June, the PUC maintained the shutdown of ME2 and ME2X but allowed operations to resume on ME1.

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Major East Coast Cities Challenge Fossil Fuel Industry on Climate Change

July 21, 2018

On ‘Front Lines of Climate Change,’ Baltimore Lawsuit Aims to Hold 26 Fossil Fuel Companies Accountable From an Article by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, July 20, 2018 “These oil and gas companies knew for decades that their products would harm communities like ours.” Baltimore, Maryland on Friday became the latest city to file suit against major [...]

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ORSANCO: “Review of Ohio River Pollution Control Standards“

July 20, 2018

OHIO RIVER VALLEY WATER SANITATION COMMISSION (ORSANCO) Press Release: 6/26/2018 Contact: Lisa Cochran, Communications Coordinator ORSANCO, 513-231-7719, lcochran@orsanco.org Notice of Public Hearing for Review of Ohio River Pollution Control Standards The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) sets Pollution Control Standards for industrial and municipal waste water discharges to the Ohio River. ORSANCO is [...]

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FERC to Update Pipeline Authorization Procedures, But When? Comments Now Due!

July 19, 2018

LaFleur: FERC unlikely to act on pipeline review before Powelson exit From an Update by Iulia Gheorghiu, UtilityDive.com, July 18, 2018 Utility Dive Briefs: >>> The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will not take any surprise action on its pipeline policy review at its Thursday open meeting, as comments are still coming in until July [...]

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Water Contamination May Well be Widespread Due to Drilling & Fracking

July 18, 2018

Rex Energy Pays $159K to PA Woodlands Families to Settle Water Claims Article by Reid Frazier, NPR StateImpact Pennsylvania, July 11, 2018 A State College-based fracking company recently paid $159,000 to settle water contamination claims brought by a group of families in Butler County. Rex Energy revealed the settlements in bankruptcy documents filed this month. [...]

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Wisconsin Hearing Set for Air Pollution from Frack Sand Processing Operation

July 17, 2018

Public Notice of an Air Pollution Control Permit Application Review Facility Description: Piranha Proppant LLC, located at US Highway 53 and County Highway SS, Dovre Township, Barron County, Wisconsin, FID 603107010 SUBMITTED application, including plans and specifications for the construction of a sand dryer and a rail loadout and the operation of a dry sand [...]

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Should We Continue Self-Interest Government or Try Public-Interest Planning?

July 16, 2018

“WV POLITICS IS BASED ON SELF INTEREST RATHER THAN LONG RANGE PLANNING FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD” Essay by S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemistry Professor & Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV It’s an unfortunate fact that one of the most important driving forces of history is self-interest. We like to trade on “democracy,” “freedom,” “natural rights,” [...]

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Major Capital Projects & Industry Jobs Threatened by “Trade War”

July 15, 2018

Trade war creates risk to major capex projects and industry jobs From an Article by Heather Doyle, PetroChemical Update, July 12, 2018 Hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of projects and jobs in the U.S. chemical industry are at risk as a result of a massive new round of U.S. tariffs released late July 10 [...]

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The Two-Party Political System Has Submerged Many Critical Issues

July 14, 2018

The Democrats Could Win If They Stood For Something From an Essay by Robert C. Koehler, Common Dreams, July 12, 2018 Now, more than ever, the whole of humanity needs leaders who can who can envision and articulate a global transition beyond war and dominance, beyond environmental exploitation, beyond policies and practices that dehumanize part [...]

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