Pa. regulators: Natural gas driller flouting ‘good faith’ agreement

Company avoided fine by promising to fix methane leaks, but never did

  • Emily Previti/PA Post
If you drive more than 11 mph over the posted limit in a highway work zone, expect to get a ticket — even if you don’t spot a squad car. Starting March 4,  PennDOT and the Pa. Turnpike Commission plan to issue violations based on data from speed cameras, which are being tested now, according to this York Daily Record post. Drivers will get a warning for their first strike; however, they might not get a ticket in the mail for as long as 90 days — and, PennDOT tells me, offenders can rack up additional offenses with increasing penalties (fines, but never points) in the meantime. –Emily Previti, Newsletter Producer/Reporter
Johnie Perryman, of Clairton blames pollution from U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works for a heart condition.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Johnie Perryman of Clairton blames pollution from U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works for a heart condition. (Reid R. Frazier, StateImpact Pennsylvania)

  • Clairton residents who are part of a class-action lawsuit against U.S. Steel over harmful air pollution have until Monday to decide whether to give up their rights to future legal action in exchange for what could be a small amount of cash and $6.5 million worth of plant improvements to address emissions and odors near their homes. The court-approved settlement includes $2 million for plaintiffs, which works out to less than $200 per household, one resident told StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Reid Frazier. Reid’s full story is here.

  • Meanwhile, in Harrisburg: state officials say they’re pressing a major natural gas driller to take responsibility for methane leaks in a Lycoming County well that contaminated groundwater and streams. Range Resources pledged to address the issue, which got the company out of the $8.9 million fine that was a record when issued in 2015 (regulators later rescinded it). But more than four years later, nothing’s changed. More here from the Associated Press.

  • The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would replace NAFTA is backed by most of Democratic presidential hopefuls who made it to Tuesday night’s debate, the last one before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3. Asked about USMCA, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., noted that environmental groups have panned the proposal in explaining his objections (echoed by billionaire longshot Tom Steyer), and contended U.S. jobs would continue to be outsourced.

  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg supports the USMCA deal, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said she’ll vote for it, citing improvements such as labor concessions added since it was first introduced. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called the proposal a “net positive.” Former VP Joe Biden said on stage that labor and environmentalists would “have a seat at the table” to discuss a trade deal in his administration; however, he’s previously supported the USMCA.

  • How will Pennsylvania benefit from USMCA? For one thing, Canada will have to open its market to American dairy and poultry farmers — a big win for Pa. agriculture. Here’s a fact sheet published by the Trump administration. Most unions like it too, saying it gets Pa. manufacturers closer to “fair trade” with competitors in Mexico and Canada.

  • Still, the deal has its critics, including Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. senator, Pat Toomey. USMCA, he said, “will create little economic growth, and outlined specific provisions he believes hurt the auto industry and pharmaceuticals,” WESA reported Wednesday. And here’s a video of him speaking against the deal last week at a Senate hearing.

  • While we’re on the topic of trade … the only American manufacturer of metal beer kegs just sold a “major stake” to a German company. Just last fall, Pottstown-based American Keg got the Trump administration to slap tariffs on imported kegs from China and Germany. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Bob Fernandez has the story.

Best of the rest

Jonathan Elderfield / AP Photo

A man runs along the canal path in Delaware Canal State Park at Washington Crossing, Pa., Bucks County, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.  The park’s central feature is the 60-mile path parallel to the Delaware River in southeastern Pennsylvania. (Jonathan Elderfield/AP Photo)

  • State officials say they need about half a billion dollars for Pennsylvania’s public park system, between the backlog of maintenance projects and those expected to be needed in the near future. But they didn’t have any firm suggestions for how to come up with the money, at least none shared during a state House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee meeting focused on the topic. PA Post’s Ed Mahon was there. You can read his full story here. 

  • York Republicans want the county’s new director of elections and voter registration fired because of his lack of experience and alleged liberal bias. The demand came just a couple days into Steve Ulrich’s tenure, reports Logan Hullinger of The York Dispatch, and on the eve of a special election that included some York precincts. County Dems say Ulrich shouldn’t be fired, but agreed “his lack of experience is troubling,” Logan writes.

  • SEPTA recently filled one of its top slots with the assistant general manager whose former unit is now under federal investigation. It’s unclear to what extent Robert L. Lund, Jr., is or was directly involved in actions that sparked the FBI probe; however, Lund spent the past several years overseeing a division where a number of facility supervisors allegedly forged invoices and paid them with agency credit cards. WHYY’s Ryan Briggs has the full story.

  • Former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg is all in on Pennsylvania. The Democratic presidential hopeful plans to have a 100+ staff in the Keystone State ahead of the April 28 primary, according to this story by The Inquirer‘s Jonathan Tamari.

  • Drivers, put that phone down! Smartphones are a dangerous distraction behind the wheel, and the legislature is poised to ban it. The state House passed a ban on Wednesday, but some safety advocates say the bill lacks teeth. Why? Because it bars police from stopping drivers if they are spotted using a phone while driving. The Morning Call’s Ford Turner has more.


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