David Smith / AP

In a win for environmentalists and municipalities, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down a number of provisions to the state’s oil and gas law. 

Flickr user Travis Estell

When Erie native Ida Tarbell was investigating John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Company more than a century ago, she had to crisscross the country to search through public records and interview sources in person.

Her 19-part series in McClure’s magazine, titled The History of the Standard Oil Co., is credited as the first example of investigative journalism and had a direct influence on the 1909 antitrust lawsuit that eventually broke up the company.

Fracking Billionaire Backs Trump

Sep 27, 2016
Reid R. Frazier / Allegheny Front

 At an oil and gas conference in Pittsburgh last week, one of Donald Trump’s top energy advisers warned that a Hillary Clinton presidency would harm the drilling industry.

Fracking billionaire Harold Hamm spoke to the Shale Insight Conference, telling the audience that he was impressed with Donald Trump when the two met while working on the Mitt Romney campaign and that he thought Trump was the right choice for the oil and gas industry.

Keith Srakocic / AP

As natural gas and energy industry leaders gather at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this week for the Shale Insight conference, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald remembered years ago when conference organizers didn’t want to come to Pittsburgh because the Steel City was perceived to be a haven for the anti-fracking movement.

Aftershocks Of The Gas Boom Ripple Through New York's Wine Country

Aug 4, 2016
Julie Grant / Allegheny Front


  Driving around Seneca Lake, evidence of industry is everywhere.

The wine industry, that is.

New Study Links Asthma With Fracking

Jul 21, 2016
National Institutes of Health / Flickr


Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have published a study linking unconventional gas development with asthma attacks.

“We found that patients living closer to more—or bigger—unconventional natural gas wells had higher risk for an asthma attack,” says Sara Rasmussen, the study’s lead author.

A federal judge in Wyoming has struck down the Obama administration's regulations on hydraulic fracturing, ruling that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management doesn't have the authority to establish rules over fracking on federal and Indian lands.

In the ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl said Congress had not granted the BLM that power, and had instead chosen to specifically exclude fracking from federal oversight.

New Photography Exhibit Explores Impacts Of The Fracking Boom

Jun 16, 2016
Lynn Johnson


The story of the fracking boom in Pennsylvania and nearby states runs as an almost continuous narrative in the region’s press. But covering the blow-by-blow of new drilling sites, protests, lawsuits and regulations is just one way to look at how fracking has changed the region.

Shell Finalizes Plan For Beaver Co. Plastics Plant

Jun 7, 2016
Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The oil giant Shell on Tuesday gave the final go-ahead for construction of a major petrochemical complex in western Pennsylvania where ethane from the Marcellus and Utica shales will be used to make ethylene for the manufacture of plastics.

The long-awaited multi-billion-dollar plant will be built in Potter Township, Beaver County, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Shell said in a statement from its unit, Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC.

Is There A Link Between Fracking And Earthquakes?

May 3, 2016
Protect Our Water PA / Facebook

Last week's multiple minor earthquakes in an area just west of New Castle were below a magnitude that humans can feel but does that mean we shouldn't be concerned about them? The other big question for seismologists to answer whether the quakes were triggered by fracking. We'll put that question to Michael Brudzinski, a geology professor at Miami University in Ohio, and Andrew Nyblade, a geosciences professor at Penn State University.

Democratic Senate Candidates Spar Over Fracking

Apr 7, 2016
Matt Slocum / AP


The Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate is heating up, and sparks are flying on a topic that’s always hot in Pennsylvania—fracking.

At a debate this week, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and former congressman and Navy Vice Admiral Joe Sestak both tried to brand their opponent, Katie McGinty, as a friend of fracking.

They targeted McGinty’s record as former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Governor Ed Rendell. She left the department in 2008, just as the fracking boom was getting started.

Tim Lambert / WITF

Pennsylvania is facing a $2.9 million deficit in the fund that supports its oversight of oil and gas wells in the next fiscal year, according to a projection from Governor Tom Wolf’s budget office.

When The Fracking Boom Goes Bust

Mar 30, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front


At Jerry Lee’s Emporium in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, there was a sign on the front door, handwritten in marker: “Store closing for good.”

Jerry Lee Edwards opened the store in 2014. He came from southern West Virginia to sell clothes to workers in Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry. 

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania


An interfaith group of religious organizations held a rally at the state Capitol Monday, calling on Governor Tom Wolf to halt natural gas development. About 50 people attended the event and asked the governor for what they called a “moral-torium” on unconventional gas development and related infrastructure, such as pipelines.

“We are calling on our legislators to listen to science and protect public health,” says Rev. Dr. Leah Schade of the United in Christ Lutheran Church in Lewisburg. “This is one area where science and religion are actually in agreement.”

What Are Sanders And Clinton’s Positions On Fracking?

Mar 10, 2016
Carlos Osorio / AP


At a recent CNN debate in Flint, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred on a range of environmental issues, including a hot-button issue for many in her party’s base: fracking. While Sanders’ response was brief and unequivocal—“No, I do not support fracking”—Clinton’s required a bit more explanation.

Clinton gave a list of conditions that would have to be met in order for her to support hydraulic fracturing—including full disclosure of chemicals used, pollution controls and local approval for any projects.

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As environmental news has garnered more attention in recent years, Point Park University will now have the opportunity to obtain environmental journalism degrees. 

The new degree, available to undergraduate and graduate students, will be offered in the fall of 2016.

Students will be able to focus on print or broadcast and will pair journalism classes with classes in environmental sciences, like ecology and biology, according to School of Communications Chair Thom Baggerman.

Police: Ex-Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon Dies In Crash

Mar 2, 2016

Aubrey McClendon, a natural gas industry titan, was killed when police say he drove his sport utility vehicle "straight into a wall" in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, a day after he was indicted on a charge of conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Seven people were arrested for disorderly conduct after they disrupted the final meeting of Governor Tom Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force in Harrisburg Wednesday.

The protesters shouted as they were escorted out of the meeting by Capitol Police:

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

The Commonwealth's once-mighty manufacturing sector has been ailing for decades. But some industry leaders think the key to a massive comeback may be buried deep in the Marcellus shale.

"This new petrochemical-based manufacturing industry, which is waiting to be born, will be bigger than the economic impact of the drilling," said David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association. Between ethane-derived plastics and recent advances in additive manufacturing technology, Taylor sees potential for a manufacturing revival.

How Low Gas Prices Affect Consumers And The Natural Gas Industry

Jul 31, 2015
Gerry Dincher / flickr

With the local economy relying more and more on the gas and coal industry, the news that Consol Energy posted a loss for the past quarter and outlined spending cuts for the next year-and-a-half can't be good. As the price for natural gas continues to slide, what does it mean for us? We talked with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer David Conti.

Many natural gas drilling companies use treated water from abandoned coal mines for fracking, but that number is decreasing due to questions on liability issues, according to Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Greene, Washington).

While the American West grapples with drought, lack of water isn’t much of a concern in Pennsylvania.

Still, it’s a natural resource that is finite. A bill in Harrisburg aims to promote the use of treated coal mine water rather than fresh water for natural gas development.

“It’s going to recycle the treated water that comes from a coal mine, which would typically be pumped right back into a mine to hold it,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington/Greene). “It would also really reduce the use of fresh water in the fracking process.”

AP Photo/Ralph Wilson

Somehow Pennsylvania lost 160,000 gas industry jobs overnight.

What happened? Did drillers flee at the specter of a new tax on production? Not quite. Although companies have been laying off workers and cutting costs– lackluster market conditions don’t explain this shift.

Pipelines: The New Battleground Over Fracking

Apr 6, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Forget the battles over the Keystone XL. Pipeline wars are now raging in Pennsylvania, where production is high and pipeline capacity is low.

Approaching Pittsburgh issues such as natural gas extraction, the arts, community development and public health from a social science bent will be the focus of “Pittsburgh Day” and the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology on March 24 at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

As Fracking Nears Schools, Parents Push Back

Feb 17, 2015
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Last week, Joanne Wagner got what —for her—is good news.

The drilling company Range Resources withdrew its application to drill near her childrens’ school in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The company already developed one well nearby. The latest plan would have added three more.

“Our school ultimately would be completely surrounded by wells,” if the plan had gone ahead, Wagner says.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf campaigned on a promise to pump $1 billion into public education, and he was in Monroeville Monday promoting his plan to do just that.

Wolf has proposed severance tax of 5 percent plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet of natural gas extracted. He said the Independent Fiscal Authority determined that would amount to an overall tax of about 5.8 percent.

Local Meets Global When It Comes to Fossil Fuel Divestment

Feb 12, 2015
Universal Pop / Flickr

Diplomats from all over the world are meeting in Geneva this week to draft a crucial plan to address climate change. For this reason, a worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement has marked February 13 and 14 Global Divestment Days.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Despite passionate pleas from local activists, Allegheny County Council on Tuesday voted down a measure that would have placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in county parks for the next two years.

The bill was written and introduced into Council by the residents themselves, using a provision of the county’s charter that has never actually been put into practice. Activists with the group Protect our Parks gathered nearly 2,000 signatures, well beyond the 500 signatures required to put the bill before Council.

"Protect Our Parks" Fights Fracking in Allegheny County Parks

Feb 2, 2015
Marcellus Protest / Flickr

This Tuesday, the Allegheny County Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance to put a 2-year moratorium on further fracking in county parks.

The ordinance was introduced by the volunteer organization Protect Our Parks. Joining us in Studio A are Joni Rabinowitz and John Detwiler, volunteers with the organization.

The office of Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald said that he would veto any legislation related to a moratorium on fracking in county parks.

His office issued the following statement:

"The effort being led by Protect Our Parks is similar to legislation that was voted on previously and was defeated by Council. If such legislation were to pass, the Executive would veto it. He believes that blanket legislation sends a bad message to the industry and is a bad precedent. Each opportunity should be considered on a case by case basis. In the case of the Deer Lakes Park proposal, we were able to enter a lease that extends environmental protections to those communities that would not have been possible otherwise. That being said, the Executive has indicated that he has no intent of considering other drilling opportunities in the county at this time. He wants to see how the two current drilling operations will play out before moving forward with anything else." 

John Detwiler talks about why Protect Our Parks wants to do away with fracking in the county parks: