Councilman Curtis Jones Hosting Industry-Sponsored Fracking Tour Friday

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Update (10:15 a.m., October 30th): This piece has been updated to include comment from Councilman Jones. 

City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. is co-hosting an industry sponsored tour of the Marcellus Shale on Friday, according to a flier.

A Food and Water Watch member discovered the flier. The group — which, among other things, does anti-fracking advocacy — sent a letter (below) to Jones expressing “surprise and dismay” at Jones’ sponsorship of the tour.

“We are disappointed and concerned about this,” the group’s Sam Bernhardt said. “For Food and Water Watch, as a group that has worked with Jones on environmental issues previously, he’s been one of the outspoken opponents of fracking.”

In January 2011, Jones sponsored recommendations that called for a temporary ban on new wells in the Delaware River basin. The report, which also urged PGW to avoid buying gas that comes from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, was symbolic: PGW had no plans to buy such gas, and a region-wide drilling moratorium in the area was already in place. (The state later voted to ban fracking in the South Newark Basin, parts of which are in Montgomery and Bucks counties.)

At the time, Jones said he was sending a message to the gas industry opposing drilling in the Philadelphia area. “Philadelphia is a major city and we’re hoping that behind this push, that we can use it for leverage,” a spokeswoman told ProPublica that year.

Though unavailable for comment on Thursday evening, on Friday Jones responded via email:

“As an elected official and a member of the Philadelphia Gas Commission, I have a responsibility to sometimes conduct public policy research on a first hand basis.  Today is one of those days,” Jones wrote. “I always keep an open mind when formulating opinions and crafting legislation so I took the Marcellus Shale Coalition up on their invitation to tour a rig today. In 2011 when I introduced and passed my resolution to ban fracking in the Delaware River basin, industry proponents asked me if I had ever been to a fracking site, four years later I am finally on that fact finding mission.”

An email sent to a Marcellus Shale Coalition email address on the flier was not returned. In addition to Jones, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation, UGI Energy Services, Sunoco Logistics and other groups are sponsoring the event. Read more »

Gas Execs Call for “Philadelphia Energy Hub”

Photo from Shutterstock.

There’s a big push for a pipeline in Philly. (Shutterstock)

If leaders in the energy sector have it their way, Philadelphia would become a world-class city for processing and exporting gas and liquids from the Marcellus and Utica Shales.

At the Shale Insight conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Wednesday and Thursday, executives “urged a sharp increase in pipeline capacity, which they said would enable the creation of a so-called “energy hub” in Philadelphia where an influx of cheap, plentiful gas would attract manufacturers and spark an economic resurgence in the region,” according to NPR’s State Impact. In fact, hydraulic fracturing and other techniques have made Pennsylvania the state with the second-highest gas production. Now it’s a matter of getting it where it needs to go. Read more »

Activists Hold Pope-Themed Protest Against Fracking

Anti-fracking protesters

Papal-themed environmentalist protesters near the Convention Center, site of this year’s Shale Insight conference. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

Everything in Philadelphia seems to be pope-themed this month — even the protests.

Activists dressed in homemade cassocks and mitres and held an anti-fracking demonstration near the Pennsylvania Convention Center this morning — protesting the Shale Insight conference being held today and tomorrow in Philadelphia.

“If you’re not going to shut down the conference, you might as well yell in their faces about it.” organizer Liz Arnold said outside the protest this morning. People walking in heard the message, apparently, though they were not convinced by it.

The shale industry is in a bit of a slump recently; the Inquirer reports the 69 drill rigs in Pennsylvania are operating at half of peak capacity. But energy companies want to turn Philadelphia into an energy hub by, in part, building a $2.5 billion pipeline. Read more »

BizFeed: Gas Drillers Are Not Happy With Tom Wolf

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

1. Wolf, Frackers in Heated Dispute

The News: On the campaign trail, Gov. Tom Wolf promised to tax natural gas drilling in an effort to fund education. It was one of the key platforms that got him elected.

Now that Wolf is in office, members of Pennsylvania’s natural gas sector are questioning the governor’s commitment to the booming industry. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that they’re not too pleased with Wolf’s recent actions to propose stricter drilling rules to curb wastewater contamination and heavily fine companies for wrongdoing. In fact, Wolf’s regulators just imposed an $8.9 million fine against a gas operator, the largest ever in the state. Read more »

Wolf Reverses Corbett Order, Bans Fracking on State Parkland

Tom Wolf - Fracking

Photos | Jeff Fusco

New Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is continuing to undo moves former Gov. Tom Corbett made during his last year in office.

Wolf appeared at Benjamin Rush State Park in Far Northeast Philadelphia today to sign an order banning fracking in state parkland, reversing a move Corbett made last May. In his first week in office, Wolf voided two dozen “pending executive nominations” Corbett made late in his term. Today’s moratorium, effective immediately, forbids fracking leases on parks and forests owned or managed by the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Read more »

Natural Gas Price Plummets, But Fracking Tax Still a Wolf Priority


States that depend on energy resources to power their economies and budgets are tightening their belts as the prices of oil and natural gas fall, but that won’t — and maybe shouldn’t — stand in the way of a new fracking tax in Pennsylvania, officials say.

Governor-elect Tom Wolf, who takes office in two weeks, won election in part on a promise to impose a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas production in Pennsylvania and use the revenues — he estimated as much as $1 billion — to restore funding to the state’s K-12 public schools. But a “glut” of natural gas production is driving prices lower, and Wall Street is casting a dubious eye on companies making big drilling investments in the Marcellus Shale.

Which raises the question: Did Pennsylvania — the only gas-producing state without an extraction tax — miss its moment to tax the fracking industry for the best benefit of its citizens?

Read more »

Wolf Reiterates Fracking Support

Tom Wolf

Governor-elect Tom Wolf won’t be following the lead of fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who on Wednesday banned the practice of fracking in New York state.

Cuomo’s camp cited health and environmental concerns in deciding on a ban, but those issues won’t deter drilling in Pennsylvania, which like New York sits atop vast deposits of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
Read more »

New York State Is Banning Fracking

In a policy decision that will no doubt be heard in Pennsylvania, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will ban fracking in the state. New York has had a de facto ban for several years, predating Cuomo’s administration.

Fracking in Pennsylvania is centered in the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from surrounding states into Western Pennsylvania and Northwestern New York. It was an issue in the governor’s race largely because of Tom Wolf’s push to tax fracking to fund schools.

Read more »

Sunoco Announces $2.5B Pennsylvania Pipeline Project


Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. announced today a $2.5 billion pipeline that will transport natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale to the Marcus Hook plant south of Philadelphia.

The plan, called Mariner East 2, will create a pipeline to take gases extracted via fracking from Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Eastern Ohio to the industrial complex at the former refinery in Marcus Hook. Philadelphia magazine’s Patrick Kerkstra recently wrote in the magazine about the possibility of Philadelphia becoming the country’s next energy hub.

Read more »

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