Despite Storms, Luzerne County Under Drought Watch

Editor’s note:  There are 27 Pennsylvania counties under this watch, including Berks.

Keith Hilliard has been watching the sky from his farm in Sugarloaf Township, hoping for rain.

Hilliard hasn’t seen the weather he’d like so far this spring.

The dry weather helped him plant seeds, but now, “if we don’t get any rain, it will affect those crops pretty quickly,” he said.

Some crops are worth irrigating for Hilliard, president of the Luzerne County Farm Bureau. Others won’t offer enough return on his investment. About 40 percent of his hay crop has already been affected by the dry weather.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do with a lack of rain,” he said.

Read more:

Air Pollution From Natural Gas Production In Pennsylvania Up Significantly In 2013

Air pollution from natural gas sites in Pennsylvania increased significantly in 2013, the state Department of Environmental Protection says.

Emissions from sulfur dioxide, a precursor of acid rain, was up 57 percent from 2012, DEP said. Volatile organic compounds increased 19 percent. Methane gas, a greenhouse gas, was up 13 percent. Particulate matter (also called soot) was up 12 percent and nitrogen oxides, which form soot, increased 8 percent.

The increased emissions were not unexpected as natural gas production and related processing operations were up in the state as compared to 2012, said John Quigley, DEP secretary.

Read more:

Donora Demolishing Former Fifth Street School

For more than a decade, Virginia Summers anticipated the day she could gaze across the street from her Donora home and see – nothing.

She is about to get her wish.

The borough on Thursday began demolition of the century-old building known as Fifth Street School. The structure, located at the intersection of Fifth Street and Allen Avenue, has been deteriorating for years and had become a safety issue.

“It’s been a pest,” Summers said. “… It is unsafe and everybody knows it. You could see bricks falling down. We’ve been troubling council for 10 years asking to please get it down, get it down. And I’m grateful they were finally able to make it happen.”

Read more:
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Washington County Hamlet’s Residents Worry About Safety Of Tap Water

Sunlight spilled through a window into Pat West’s darkened kitchen as she filled a glass with water.

“It smells fine. It looks fine,” said West, 70, holding the etched glass to her nose and peering at it. “I still drink the water, but my kids won’t.”

West and her husband, Don, raised 13 children in their two-story house in Millsboro, a hamlet in East Bethlehem, Washington County.

Theirs is one of four houses on Harmony Avenue, where the Wests have lived since 1959. Between them and the Monongahela River is Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority, which is under orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection to reduce potentially carcinogenic chemicals in the water it pumps to homes.

Read more:
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Turning Off The Gas: Region’s Last Exploratory Natural Gas Well To Be Plugged

Since the Marcellus Shale drilling boom started in 2008, seven natural gas wells have been drilled in and around Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.

Six of them were plugged when they failed to produce enough gas to market.

This week, the seventh — WPX Energy’s Martin well on state Route 487 in Sugarloaf Township, Columbia County, between Ricketts Glen and Benton — will also be shut down for good.

“From what I understand, we’re the last well to be plugged,” WPX Energy spokeswoman Susan Oliver said.

Read more:

Wolf Brings Urban Policy Expertise

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s next governor knows all about distressed cities.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf spent 12 years as president of Better York, a nonprofit bent on revitalizing the city of York. In that role, he worked closely with a nationally prominent urban expert who promotes regional solutions for urban woes.

As he prepares to take office Jan. 20, Wolf said he wants to lead a statewide discussion about how the future of older cities such as Scranton, inner ring suburbs and the surrounding townships are interrelated.

“What I bring to this is a real appreciation for what cities do,” he said in an interview.

Read more:

Details Emerge On Jessup Natural Gas Plant

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jessup may soon be home to one of the state’s largest natural gas power plants.

Chicago-based Invenergy LLC plans to place its Lackawanna Energy Center on 80 acres bounded by Valley View Drive and Sunnyside Road, according to a permit application the company filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Invenergy plans to begin construction in June and finish by 2017, Invenergy spokeswoman Alissa Krinsky said in an email. The company will employ a workforce of 600 during the two-year construction phase.

During regular operations, the plant will provide about 30 jobs, she said.

Read more:

Exelon Nuclear’s Limerick Generating Station Leaks 100 Gallons Of Bleach In To The Schuylkill River

Location of Limerick Township in Montgomery County

Location of Limerick Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LIMERICK, PA – A faulty valve at Exelon Nuclear’s Limerick Generating Station caused about 100 gallons of bleach to leak into the Schuylkill River Tuesday night.

The company issued a four-sentence statement announcing the spill Wednesday afternoon.

In an email, Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, wrote that the spill occurred around 9 p.m. and “had no impact on nuclear safety at the plant.”

Read more:

Two Top DEP Officials Resign Over Porn E-Mails

HARRISBURG, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo and a top aide resigned Thursday over revelations that they were among dozens of state officials who sent or received pornographic e-mails over state computers.

In a letter to Gov. Corbett, Abruzzo said he had not been able to review the explicit messages he allegedly sent or received, but said he accepted responsibility for “any lack of judgment” he may have exhibited. He added: “It is my concern that these assertions have become a distraction from the great record of this administration.”

Hours later, the department’s deputy chief counsel, Glenn Parno, also resigned.

Their resignations made them the first high-ranking casualties of a scandal that has coursed through the capital as Corbett vies for a second term and one that widened Thursday to touch one of the state’s most prominent judges, Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery.


Range Resources To Pay $4.15M Fine, Close Old Gas Drilling Impoundments

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Range Resources Corp. will pay the largest state fine levied against a Pennsylvania shale gas driller and close five drilling wastewater impoundments in Washington County because of leaks into soil and groundwater, officials said on Thursday.

The Fort Worth-based company signed an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection that requires paying a $4.15 million fine, closing the troubled facilities and rebuilding two impoundments using what regulators call “next generation” technology.

“There are two messages we are sending today. One is we take these kinds of situations very seriously and there are going to be consequences even when a company is a good corporate neighbor,” department Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo told the Tribune-Review. “And to the citizens, the message is we’re going to handle these matters.”

Davitt Woodwell, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council said, “I commend Range for coming forward. And it appears DEP has taken this as an opportunity to leverage better standards.”

Read more:
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Gas Production From Marcellus Shale Sets Record Despite Fewer New Wells Going Online

English: Cropped portion of image from USGS re...

English: Cropped portion of image from USGS report showing extent of Marcellus Formation shale (in gray shading). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pennsylvania drillers are pulling record amounts of natural gas from the Marcellus shale even as they bring fewer new wells online, according to state data released on Monday.

About 5,400 shale wells produced nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of gas during the first six months of the year, a 14 percent increase in production over the past six months of 2013, the data from the state Department of Environmental Protection show.

Energy companies accomplished the record despite connecting fewer than 500 new wells during the period. Previous semiannual reports showed an average of 675 new wells every six months.

“We’re seeing the results of technical developments that allow much greater efficiency,” said Kent Moors, executive chair of the global energy symposium at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

Read more:
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Survey Of Washington, Greene Elected Officials Shows Positive Views Of Gas Industry

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A survey of elected leaders in Washington and Greene counties found generally positive experiences with the gas exploration industry that has changed the face of their communities.

“They’re starting to see a lot of vitality. There’s physical activity in the communities and new wealth among some property owners. New employees. That’s all very positive,” said Diana Stares, the director of the Center of Energy Policy and Management at Washington & Jefferson College, who oversaw the survey. “Now they’re anxious to draw from that development some long-term results. And some don’t know how to go about that.”

Interactions between drilling companies and local officials are improving as both sides get to know each other, and as money and jobs flow into the region, several people said.

“It was a growing experience, I think, by some of these companies coming in here,” said Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, a Democrat. “But they saw that if you treat people fairly, they’ll respond in a positive way.”

Read more:
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Hazelwood Neighbors Await Bankruptcy Result As Trash Resters At Recycler

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mounds of garbage left behind when a Hazelwood recycling center went bankrupt in January are providing a place for rats to breed and causing a public health hazard, residents and government officials said on Thursday.

Residents say debris at Pittsburgh Recycling Services Inc. along railroad tracks at Vespucius and Dyke streets reeks of decay.

“Since they closed up, I’ve had a major problem with rodent infestation,” said Stanley Benovitch, 71, whose backyard faces the site. “I have two little dogs, and one of them’s a hunter. She’s killed three rats right here in the backyard.”

On Thursday, Benovitch found a fourth that his dog Trixie killed.

Read more:
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pennsylvania Gas Well Blaze Extinguishes Itself

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Greene County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Greene County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A fire that burned for four days at a gas well in rural Greene County went out by itself, but officials said on Sunday they will approach the site very cautiously to stop the gas leaking from two damaged well heads.

For reasons that were still unclear, the methane gas that was pouring from one of the three wells on the pad decreased in volume and the fire extinguished itself about 3 p.m. Saturday, said Bill Zempolich, manager for asset development out of the Moon office of Chevron, which owns the well in Dunkard.

The fire had been going out intermittently, but the gas kept hitting a superheated crane left on the pad and reigniting. Crews at the site used a laser Saturday to determine the crane cooled and shouldn’t re-ignite the gas, said Scott Perry, deputy secretary for the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas Management.

Read more:

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pennsylvania Climate Plan, Recommendations Released

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pennsylvania’s climate action plan arrived just in time for Christmas, but it’s already a year late.

The draft document — an update of a 2009 plan to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the state — comes out of the Department of Environmental Protection. It’s based on workplans recommended by a 15-person committee representing industry, government and nonprofits.

The legislation that required this report said the update should have been issued at the end of 2012.

The latest climate action plan proposes expanding natural gas distribution pipelines to give more Pennsylvanians access to the fuel. It also advocates encouraging operators of coal mines to capture some of the methane vented into the air before, during, or after mining activity.

Read more:

Air Quality Alerts Issued Across Broad Swath Of Pennsylvania

Stagnant weather patterns in recent days have caused high air pollution levels in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and nearly all of the eastern half of the state, prompting health concerns and the issuance of air quality alerts that more commonly occur in the summer.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has declared Air Quality Action Day alerts due to high concentrations of airborne particles over a broad swath of the eastern half of Pennsylvania this week, and predicted lesser but still elevated air pollution levels for Pittsburgh and the southwestern corner of the state.

Eric Shirk, a DEP spokesman, said the high pollution readings have been caused by a stationary front that has controlled the state’s weather for most of the week.

“The winter tends to have much more wind, which prevents the stagnation of the often damp air,” he said. “When there is less or no wind, as has been the case in the past several days, it allows the moisture and particulate matter to build to a level that warrants an Air Quality Action Day.”

Read more:

Centralia Residents Free To Stay After Settling Suit Against State

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Columbia County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Columbia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All they ever wanted was to be left alone, free to live out their lives in the central Pennsylvania coal town whose population had fled an underground mine fire.

After 20 years, the residents of Centralia have finally gotten their wish.

A lengthy battle over eminent domain culminated this week when eight residents settled their lawsuit against state officials who had been trying to evict them from their condemned homes – the only homes left standing after most of this Columbia County town was razed in the 1980s due to a still-burning coal-mine fire.

The settlement, notice of which was filed in U.S. District Court, allows the residents to stay in their homes for as long as they live. It also includes a cash payout of $349,500.

Read more:

State To Undertake $500,000 Cleanup Of Pottstown Plating

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This is great news!

POTTSTOWN — The state is stepping in to make sure a half-million-dollar environmental cleanup at a closed plating facility in the borough gets completed after the bankrupt owner stopped work.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Wednesday it would take over the removal of hazardous materials left over at the former Pottstown Plating on South Washington Street at the intersection with Industrial Highway.

The company, which performed electroplating, opened in 1950 and closed in 2009 just before going bankrupt, according to the DEP.

When the DEP inspected the site in 2009, it found a number of environmental issues that needed to be addressed and the company’s owners hied a contractor to removed hazardous waste there.

Read more:

A Legend Will Fall: Wilkes-Barre’s Sterling Hotel End Nears

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kurt Sauer will get a long-awaited birthday present next Thursday: The demolition of the Hotel Sterling.

Since Wilkes-Barre officials decided in January to bring the building down without the help of Luzerne County, the city had to start the process from scratch.  That meant Sauer, the city’s director of community development, had to fill out reams of paperwork – he points to a 4-inch binder chock-full of various documents – as he worked to get approval from various state and federal agencies.

So when Brdaric Excavating finally begins work Thursday, Sauer will be a year older and a step closer to finishing the job.  And the current chapter of the Sterling’s life, one filled with hopes of restoration and disappointing and expensive failures to save the historic building, will near a close.

John Brdaric, owner of Brdaric Excavating, didn’t respond to requests for an interview about the $419,000 demolition.  But Sauer and Butch Frati, Wilkes-Barre’s director of operations, explained how they believe the process will unfold.

Read more:

Wilkes-Barre Gets Final Funding Needed To Raze Dilapidated Hotel Sterling By Early Summer

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Demolition of the historic Hotel Sterling, once a grand city landmark that has fallen into disrepair and become a dangerous eyesore, should begin by late June to mid-July, the city has announced.

The city on Monday received an official release of about $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that is the final piece of funding needed to cover demolition.  The city will advertise for demolition bids this week, city Municipal Affairs Manager Drew McLaughlin said.

The funding is a portion of the city’s annual Community Development Block Grant allocation from HUD for removal of blighted properties.

“We are nearing the final stages of this demolition,” Mayor Tom Leighton said in a prepared statement.  “This has been a top priority since the flooding of 2011.  We all look forward to the day when the public safety threat has been addressed and the detour in downtown Wilkes-Barre is lifted.”

Read more: