Friday, March 1, 2024

Friday PA Environment & Energy NewsClips - 3.1.24

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

-- Article I, Section 27 Pennsylvania Constitution  [It’s Not A Suggestion]

Senate next voting day March 18, 19, 20

-- Committee Schedule

-- Senate Agency Budget Hearing Schedule.

-- DEP Posted FY 2024-25 Budget Hearing Materials

-- DCNR FY 2024-25 State Budget Legislative Materials

House next voting day March 18, 19, 20

-- Committee Schedule

-- House Agency Budget Hearing Schedule

TODAY’s Calendar Of Events 

-- DEP: Clay-Like Material Polluting Marsh Creek Is Not Bentonite From Mariner East Pipeline Construction, But Naturally Occuring; Sunoco Cleanup Operation Finished  [PaEN]

-- The Allegheny Front - Reid Frazier: Permit Application For CNX Pipeline Project In Westmoreland County Withdrawn, Lacked Wildlife Permits

-- PA Utility Law Project March 15 Webinar On Impacts Of LNG Gas Exports On Energy Costs For Pennsylvania Families; LNG Export Capacity To Double, Even With Permit Pause  [PaEN] 

-- The Center Square - Anthony Hennen: DEP Hiring Dozens Of Workers For Abandoned Conventional Oil & Gas Well Plugging Program 

-- Post-Gazette Guest Essay: Oil & Gas Industry Isn’t Taking Responsibility For Their Wells - By Rep. Greg Vitali, Majority Chair, House Environmental Committee

-- PA Business Report: Chemstream Announces Radical Transparency Fracking Chemical Compliance Initiative

-- MCall: Gas Leak Reported In Hellertown, Northampton County Prompting Evacuations  

-- Utility Dive: 2024 PJM Outlook - Tough Choices Loom On Capacity Market, Plant Retirements, Transmission Planning  [PJM To Process 230,000 MW Of New Generation Over 3 Years]

-- The Center Square - Anthony Hennen: It’s ‘Groundhog Day’ For DEP Permitting Reform In PA

-- PaHomePage: New Details On Underground Mine Fire In Columbia County

-- Inquirer: Federal Study Shows How Firefighter Gear Releases PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ On The Job

-- Tribune-Democrat: Trades Students Get Info On Weatherization Jobs At Somerset Career Expo

-- Reading Eagle: Kutztown University’s Organic Farming Program Gets $1.5 Million State Grant

-- Penn State March 22 Virtual Water Cooler Talk: Algae And Microplastics Stick Together  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension: March 22 Webinar - Forest Management & Climate Change - A Women's Perspective  [PaEN] 

-- Delaware RiverKeeper March 1 RiverWatch Video Report

-- March 2 Pennsylvania Bulletin Now Available

-- Penn State Extension: Gardening And Climate Change

-- DCNR Notice Of Changes To Certain Fees For State Parks And State Forest

-- PA Environmental Council In Case You Missed It In February  [PaEN] 

-- Lehigh Valley-based Wildlands Conservancy Highlight Upcoming Education Programs, Activities 

6th Oil/Natural Gas Spike: True Energy Independence Means Renewables

[There Is No Limit To What Oil/Natural Gas Industry Can Make You Pay]

-- WTAJ: UGI Set To Lower Cost Of Natural Gas 3% March 1

-- Scranton Times: UGI Natural Gas Bills To Drop Again In March

-- Bloomberg: Europe Awash With Gas Is Set To Rely More On Ukraine For Storage

-- Bloomberg: China’s February LNG Gas Imports Climb To Highest Ever For The Month

-- Reuters: Demand For Diesel Fuel, Heating Oil Fell In December To Lowest Since June 2020, EIA Says

Other States/National/International

-- Bloomberg: EPA Narrows Power Plant Rule With Plan For Later Curbs On US Gas Fleet

PA Politics - Everything Is Connected

-- KYW: Fmr Gov. Corbett Aims To Rebuild Trust In Elections With New Group

-- Beaver County Times: Women Of The Year: Chief Justice Debra Todd Always Knew She Would Practice Law

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[Posted: March 1, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

DEP: Clay-Like Material Polluting Marsh Creek Is Not Bentonite From Mariner East Pipeline Construction, But Naturally-Occuring; Sunoco Cleanup Operation Finished

On February 29, DEP reported the clay-like material polluting Marsh Creek is not bentonite from the Mariner East Pipeline construction, but a naturally-occurring substance and Sunoco/Energy Transfer has completed its remediation of the stream leading to Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County.

DEP updated the public in response to a question from Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee, at the Senate hearing on DEP’s budget request.

Ramez Ziadeh, P.E., Acting DEP Executive Deputy Secretary, told the Committee, “As of this morning, we received back the sample results. There was some water testing done to identify the type of material that leaked into Marsh Creek Lake. That was not bentonite, so it was naturally-occurring material that leaked, based on those test results, and I just got those results this morning. The area was remediated completely and cleaned up.”

A citizen complaint on February 15 led to a DEP inspection of a tributary leading to Marsh Creek State Park lake and the discovery of a clay-like material contaminating the stream and a portion of the nearby wetlands.

DEP’s February 16 inspection report said the area is the same location where a sinkhole developed and an “inadvertent return” of drilling mud used in the construction of the Energy Transfer/Sunoco Mariner East Pipeline occurred in August 2020.

DEP’s report added, “It is possible that remaining bentonite in the soil column at this previous inadvertent return location has been pushed to the surface by the rising water table.”

On February 22, DEP Press Secretary Neil Shader said, “The samples collected by DEP are being analyzed by Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. (SPLP), a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners.”

Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. “applied for and received an emergency Chapter 105 permit to conduct cleanup operations,” according to Shader.

Sunoco removed the material from the tributary by hand and DEP inspectors were onsite daily.

A similar incident was reported to DEP in April of 2021 by the Fish and Boat Commission when an unknown substance was found on the banks of the lake at Marsh Creek State Park.

Follow-up sample results found the material was not bentonite, but other naturally-occurring substances.  Read more here.

Visit DEP’s Marsh Creek Lake Community Information webpage for additional inspection reports and background on the 2021 spill incident.

Resource Links:

-- Citizen Complaint Leads DEP To Breakout Of Mariner East Pipeline Drilling Mud That Contaminated The Lake At Marsh Creek State Park, Chester County; Sunoco Pipeline Starts Cleanup [PaEN] 

-- 2.23.24: Drone Video Of Mariner East Pipeline Spill Remediation In Marsh Creek Watershed, Chester County by Christina Digiulio, Physicians for Social Responsibility of Pennsylvania

-- 2.25.24: Drove Video of spill area by Christina Digiulio, Physicians for Social Responsibility of Pennsylvania

[Posted: March 1, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

PA Environmental Council In Case You Missed It In February

PA Environmental Council’s In Case You Missed It In February is now available featuring articles on--

-- PEC Applauds Governor’s Budget Investment In Environment, Outdoor Recreation

-- PEC Opposes Legislation Abrogating RGGI Carbon Pollution Reduction Program

-- Remembering Jim Lang

-- PEC’s Patrick Starr Chairs Circuit Trails Coalition

-- Growing The Circuit Trail Community - Meet The Grantees

-- Clean Energy: Hydrogen And Decarbonization

-- PEC, Aqua Protect Your Drinking Water Grants In Chester, Delaware Counties

-- Join The NE PA Winter Challenge!

-- Save Our Snow!  Why Winter Matters

-- PEC Podcast: Getting Hydrogen Right

-- PEC Podcast: Stricter Oil & Gas Facility Methane Emission Standards

For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Environmental Council website, visit the PEC Blog, PEC Bill/Regulation Tracker, follow PEC on Twitter or Like PEC on Facebook.  Visit PEC’s Audio Room for the latest podcasts.  Click Here to receive regular updates from PEC.

[Posted: March 1, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

Thursday, February 29, 2024

PA Utility Law Project March 15 Webinar On Impacts Of LNG Gas Exports On Energy Costs For Pennsylvania Families; LNG Export Capacity To Double, Even With Permit Pause

On March 15 the
PA Utility Law Project will hold a second webinar on the impacts of LNG natural gas exports on energy costs for Pennsylvania families from Noon to 1:00 p.m.

In 2022, the cost of home energy skyrocketed – squeezing Pennsylvania households and businesses and falling hardest on low income families across our state.  

But why?  

One big contributor: record exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) from the United States to Europe in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the PA Utility Law Project..  

This webinar will explore what every Pennsylvanian needs to know about the pause on federal permits for new LNG gas facilities, what it means for Pennsylvania families, and the steps ahead as the federal government reviews this critically important review process.

Presenters will include--

-- Mark Wolfe, Executive Director, The National Energy Assistance Directors Association

-- Tyson Slocum, Director of Energy Programs, Public Citizen

-- Elizabeth Marx, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Utility Law Project

Click Here to register and for more information.

Energy Insecurity

During the first PA Utility Law Project’s first webinar on this topic February 16, Elizabeth Marx, Executive Director of the Project, said in 2023 Pennsylvania had over 330,000 households facing involuntary termination of their gas, electric and water services.

“Energy costs are accounting for a substantial and increasingly high percentage of household income with low income families paying between 10% and 30% of income compared to about three to 4% of middle income households,” said Marx.

75% Of PA Gas Production Goes Out-Of-State

“Pennsylvania exports a ton of gas and electric,” said Marx. “Over half of our electricity is also generated by gas-fired power plants. So the price of gas in Pennsylvania has a real impact on Pennsylvania families and the price that they're paying [for energy].”

Marx pointed out that 75% of the gas produced in Pennsylvania goes out of state and for export and only 25% is used in-state for our own consumption.

She said national gas prices are highly influenced by LNG exports and events like we saw with the gas price spikes that occurred as a result of the Russian war in Ukraine.

LNG Export Capacity Will Double, Even With Permit Pause

Tyson Slocum, Energy Program Director of Public Citizen, Inc., noted even with the current federal freeze on permits for new LNG gas export facilities, export facilities already approved will double LNG export capacity and are not affected by the pause.

“LNG exports threaten so much energy, access and affordability in this country, and particularly in Pennsylvania,” said Slocum. 

“If Pennsylvania is going to be engaging in the kind of record natural gas production just to ship it in pipelines to LNG export terminals leaving Pennsylvania, that is forcing Pennsylvania to compete with your counterparts in Berlin and Beijing. 

“It's going to expose Pennsylvania to higher prices as a result,” said Slocum.

Federal LNG Permit Analysis Process Out-Of-Date

Slocum said the US Department of Energy’s existing review process for LNG gas export facilities is outdated.

The current federal LNG facility approval process says any volume of LNG gas exports would always be in the public interest because of net economic benefits to American families, said Slocum.

“They found that even if families experienced a price increase in their monthly utility bill as a result of exports, that that increase in their monthly utility bill would be more than offset by income that families earn from stock ownership in LNG export terminals,” said Slocum.

“I don't know anybody who earns more money every month from their stock dividends than they pay in their monthly utility bill,” said Slocum.

“That is a fatal flaw in a very sloppy methodology, and yet that is literally what the Biden Administration had been relying on,” said Slocum.  “And so the Department of Energy thankfully finally was like, ‘You're right. This is a terrible analysis.’ Their methodology is terrible. We need to redo that."

LNG Exports Increase Energy Bills

“It's not just Public Citizen and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project that are complaining about the impacts of record LNG exports on raising Americans' energy bills,” said Slocum.  “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in its annual winter energy market assessment firmly concludes that continued growth and net exports, including from LNG facilities, will place additional pressure on natural gas prices during winter.”

“Traditionally, domestic fundamentals drive US natural gas prices, so that means what happens within North America is what traditionally affected what natural gas prices were doing,” explained Slocum.  “With the fracking boom, all of that gas was trapped in North America. It kept a lid on natural gas prices.”

“The minute you start exporting it through LNG, you are breaking free of that constraint and immediately exposing American families to increased competition and therefore driving up prices.

“LNG exports are the largest source of increased natural gas demand in the United States, and all of that has an upward pressure on prices. That's exactly what FERC concluded. 

“The US Energy Information Administration released a major report in May of 2023 with the same exact conclusion: higher LNG exports create tighter domestic natural gas markets increasing domestic natural gas prices.”

LNG Exports Will Cost Consumers $2 Billion/Year

“Public Citizen, using EIA data, estimates that in aggregate between now and 2050, LNG exports are going to raise consumers' natural gas bills by $58 billion. That's on average $2 billion a year. 

“This is not an insignificant amount,” said Slocum.

“The huge volatility we saw in 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine, that is exactly the type of price spike that only occurs because of exports.

“Obviously we want to help our allies in need, but the volume of projected export increase is unsustainable for US domestic markets,” said Slocum. 

“That's why this pause [in new LNG facility permits] is so important because the first lesson that we all learned when we were little is if you find yourself in a hole, you stop digging.

“Right now, the US is in a hole where our production is not going to be able to keep up with the expansion of LNG exports. 

“That is just going to continually expose Pennsylvania families, particularly vulnerable Pennsylvania families, to these severe price volatility moments,” said Slocum.

Who Benefits From Exports?

“Who are the big beneficiaries [of LNG exports]? Obviously, natural gas producers because everybody wants to sell their product for the highest bidder. 

“If you're able to go all over the planet, you're going to find someone that is willing to pay a lot more than American families. 

“That ends up raising prices for everyone. But the specific types of firms that are making the real money are the financial traders and the big oil companies that act as what's known as portfolio players and Chinese national oil and gas companies.

“That's because the minute the gas leaves the United States, even though there are sometimes firm supply contracts between off-takers, those off-takers are allowed to immediately flip that cargo to a third-party trader, who then can mark up that lower LNG price for a much higher price for its final destination. 

“And so these financial traders, just like we see in Pennsylvania's deregulated electricity market, they are making the biggest profits in history. Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP all announced some of their biggest profits over the last decade. 

“The commodity traders, companies that folks in Pennsylvania have never heard of, like Vitol, which is the largest oil and gas trader in the world, traders like Gunvor, they are making billions and billions of dollars in windfall profits.”

China Is Largest Destination For LNG

“Importantly, China because it is the largest single destination market for LNG, what their state-owned companies do is they buy up all of these contracts. And then these Chinese firms are reselling the gas that China doesn't need,” said Slocum. 

“They are reselling such massive volumes, including from the United States, that Chinese traders are now de facto setting the marginal global price. 

“We are transferring US-produced natural gas to Chinese government-owned firms that are making huge markup profit in the trading markets of US LNG.”

“Europe is already stabilizing its gas demand, and gas demand is projected to continue to decline. The crisis in Europe is over,” said Slocum.  “We are now moving on to where the real growth market is in Asia, and China is by far the largest economy in Asia. And this is what FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] has concluded.”

What Happens Next?

“The [US] Department of Energy is going to be working over the next several months, and I think it might take longer than several months, to put together a comprehensive new review process to determine whether or not future LNG exports are consistent with the public interest,” said Slocum. 

“They're going to be looking at the impact on distributionally on Americans at different income levels. 

“They're going to be looking at impacts on domestic energy markets. 

“They're going to be looking at the impact on climate change. 

“They're going to be looking at the impact on environmental justice communities that are forced to live near these hazardous polluting facilities, and they're going to look at the impact on global energy security.”

“​​Once the [US] Department of Energy is done with that later this year, they are going to notice it for public comment. 

“That is the opportunity for Pennsylvania advocates to formally weigh in about the harm that LNG exports are having on energy access and affordability in Pennsylvania. 

“There is going to be an important public participation process as part of this LNG pause and reconsideration,” said Slocum.

Click Here for presentation slides from the February 16 webinar.

Click Here for an on demand video of the February 16 webinar.

NewsClips - LNG:

-- Reuters: European Union Receives Bids For Nearly 3 Times The Volume Of Gas They Need 

-- PA Independent Oil & Gas Association: An Increase In LNG Gas Exports Is Expected To Increase Seasonal Price Volatility In The Future  

-- Financial Times: Household Energy Costs Factor Into Biden’s Pause On New LNG Natural Gas Export Facilities  [Industrial Energy Consumers: “More Exports Equal More Reliability And Price Risk”]

-- Reuters: Chesapeake Energy Says Gas Market Oversupplied, Plans To Cut Output, Spending 

-- S&P Global: US Gas Producers Tout LNG Growth Outlook Despite Regulatory Uncertainty; [EQT - ‘There’s Really No Impact [from new facility permit pause] through at least the end of 2026’]

-- Reuters: European Union Says Biden’s Pause On Approvals Of New LNG Natural Gas Export Facilities Will Have No Effect On US LNG Supplies To Europe Over Next 2 or 3 Years  [LNG Exports Are Expected To Double By 2030 On Already-Approved Projects] 

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: A Political Battle Brews Over Natural Gas Exports Over Impacts To Gas Prices, Climate, Demand For Gas

-- Natural Gas Intelligence: 76% Increase In LNG Natural Gas Export Capacity Already Under Construction; US Group Fears Buildout Will Hurt American Businesses Urge ‘US Consumers First’ Policy  [PaEN]

-- Bloomberg TV: Canada’s Energy Minister: Period Of Using Natural Gas As Transition Fuel Should Be Short; Gas Should Not Replace Renewables; Canada Has Adopted Controls On LNG Exports The US Has Not  [PaEN]

-- Bloomberg: European Natural Gas Prices At Pre-Crisis Levels Seen Spurring Asian Demand

-- Reuters: Slumping US Natural Gas Prices Cause Hedge Funds To Despair 

Related Articles - LNG In PA:

-- 150+ Residents Of Chester Opposed To An LNG Natural Gas Export Facility Proposed In Their Community Let Their Feelings Be Known To The House Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force  [PaEN]

-- Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force Issues Report On The Best Ways To Increase Exports Of PA's Natural Gas; Minority Report Rebuts Need For LNG Facility, Outlines Impacts   [PaEN]

-- NRDC: U.S. Dept. Of Transportation Denies Special Permit For Shipping LNG Natural Gas By Rail From A Proposed Bradford County LNG Plant; Shipping By Truck Still Allowed   [PaEN]

-- Marcellus Drilling News: New Fortress Energy Reapplying For Wyalusing LNG Natural Gas Plant Permits In Bradford County

-- Scranton Times Editorial: Local Leaders, DOT Must Stop Plant In Wyalusing, Bradford County From Shipping LNG Natural Gas By Rail Or Truck Or Both To Philadelphia  [PaEN]

-- WHYY: Environmentalists Decry DRBC Permit Extension Approval For LNG Natural Gas Terminal In South Jersey To Export PA Natural Gas   [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week - Gas:

-- DEP: Oil & Gas Regulatory Program Will Be In The Red By Fall; All Sectors Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program No Go; Update On Permitting Reform  [PaEN]

-- 40 Individuals File Appeals, Most Handwritten, Of DEP’s Permit For Catalyst Energy Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well In McKean County  [PaEN]

-- EPA Appeals Board Allows Protect PT, Three Rivers Waterkeeper Appeal Of Penneco Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well Permit In Allegheny County To Move Forward  [PaEN]

-- Incomplete Application For CNX Midstream Slickville Fracking Wastewater, Natural Gas Pipelines Project In Westmoreland County Withdrawn By DEP  [PaEN] 

-- PA Environmental Groups: New PUC Rules, DEP Guidance Victory For Increased Safety In Pipeline Construction And Operation  [PaEN]

-- Chemstream Chemical Maker Agrees To Disclose Information About Its Proprietary Chemicals Used In Natural Gas Drilling  [PaEN]

-- IFO Reports 2023 PA Natural Gas Production Up 1.0% Over 2022, Thanks To Strong Q4 Production; Fewest New Wells Drilled In Last Decade  [PaEN]


-- Spotlight PA: Federal Money Supercharged PA’s Plugging Of Dangerous Conventional Oil & Gas Wells, But Critics Want More Oversight

-- TribLive: Murrysville Officials OK Olympus Energy Project For 2 Fracking Water Pipelines, 2 Natural Gas Pipelines In Westmoreland 

-- PUC Reminder Of Opportunities To Comment On Proposed 18.7% Peoples Natural Gas Rate Increase 

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Panel: Washington County State Of The Economy Explores Impacts Of ARCH2 Hydrogen Projects

-- Reuters: European Union Receives Bids For Nearly 3 Times The Volume Of Gas They Need 

-- Bloomberg: Qatar Has Eyes On More Long-Term Deals As It Bets Big On LNG Gas

-- Financial Times: Oil And Gas Industry Profits Triple Under Biden, Even As Industry Decries Him

[Posted: February 29, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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