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.

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

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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?

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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.
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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.

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Sunoco Announces $2.5B Pennsylvania Pipeline Project

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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.

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LISTEN: Kerkstra Talks Philly Fracking Boom on Radio Times

This morning on WHYY’s Radio Times, Philadelphia magazine deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra joined Mark Alan Hughes — professor of practice at PennDesign and faculty director of The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania — for a discussion of his October magazine feature on Philadelphia’s fracking-powered energy future.

Listen to the conversation with Hughes and host Marty Moss-Coane above, then check out Kerkstra’s piece, “Pipe Dreams: Philadelphia is on the verge of a fracking-powered industrial boom that could fundamentally reshape the city’s economy, landscape and image.”

Philadelphia + a Pipeline (or Two) = America’s Next Energy Hub

The PES refinery in South Philly. Photograph by Jonathan Barkat

The PES refinery in South Philly. Photograph by Jonathan Barkat

About 1,400 miles from Philadelphia, at the northern edge of the Louisiana bayou, lies a spaghetti junction of steel tubing called Henry Hub, where 13 natural-gas pipelines converge amid farmland and little else. The nearest town, Erath, population 2,100, is about four miles away.

Gas from all over the country flows through the Henry Hub. Even gas extracted from drill pads just 100 miles or so from Philadelphia — gas sucked from the almost unfathomably rich reserves of the Marcellus Shale — is often pumped to distant Louisiana before making the long, and expensive, return trip to homes and businesses in Philadelphia.

Apart from Henry Hub, this section of Louisiana is probably best known for the bizarre cautionary tale of extraction run amok at nearby Lake Peigneur. There, in 1980, an oil crew dug too deep, puncturing a hole in a working salt mine that lay beneath the lake bed. As water rushed into the mine, a swirling vortex formed on the lake surface, swallowing two drilling platforms and 11 barges. The suction reversed the flow of a canal leading to the Gulf of Mexico, and within a few hours, a shallow fishing hole had turned into a 1,300-foot-deep saltwater lake.
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