Trucks on Towanda's Main Street (Photo by NPR's Becky Lettenberger)
Presentation-wise,”BoomTown” is the most ambitious project I tackled at StateImpact. Working with photographer Becky Lettenberger, developer Wes Lindamood and editor Chris Swope, I tried to answer two basic questions:
- How has the Marcellus Shale boom changed Towanda, Pennsylvania?
- What happens next?
You can see what we came up with here.
Jobs on natural gas drilling sites can have funny names: there are roustabouts, mud men, doodlebuggers and snake wranglers.
That last one – snake wrangler – is exactly what it sounds like, as I reported earlier this year:
How did I find Matt? A chance encounter in an over-booked Williamsport hotel. I blogged about the episode in June:
An abandoned well near Allegheny National Forest
When Shell admitted a geyser of natural gas and water that sprang up near a Marcellus Shale site in Tioga County this summer was likely caused by the intersection of an active drilling site and an abandoned gas well, that led to a couple obvious questions:
- Just how many of these abandoned wells are there in Pennsylvania?
- How many are located near active drilling sites?
The answers took several months — and several thousand words — to figure out. My reporting on the topic eventually led to a four-part series called “Perilous Pathways: The Danger of Drilling Near Abandoned Wells.” The series ran in October, with a companion radio piece airing on Morning Edition in November.
Part 1: How Drilling Near An Abandoned Well Produced A Methane Geyser
Part 2: Behind The Staggering Number Of Abandoned Wells In Pennsylvania
Part 3: Hunting For Hidden Wells
Part 4: Abandoned Wells Don’t Factor Into Pennsylvania’s Permitting Process
Here’s the broadcast piece that ran on Pennsylvania’s public radio stations:
Finally, click here to listen to the version that ran on NPR’s Morning Edition.
A Bradford County man lights a jar of methane on fire. The gas has been seeping onto his property since May.
In two northeast Pennsylvania communities, methane gas has been leaking into water wells and streams for several months. State regulators think the migrating methane is coming from nearby natural gas drilling operations.
Here’s StateImpact Pennsylvania’s close look at how stray gas is disrupting life for people who live near faulty wells:
Last September, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon declared to a Philadelphia energy conference that the problem of methane migrating through the ground near natural gas drilling sites had been fixed. “Problem identified. Problem solved,” he told an industry-heavy crowd at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Nearly a year later, Bradford County resident Michael Leighton is worried about the flammable gas seeping into his woods.
Leighton lives about a half-mile from a Chesapeake Energy well that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection suspects leaked methane gas through holes in its casing. For more than two months, gas has been gurgling into creeks and wetlands on Leighton’s property. That’s in addition to the methane in Leighton’s water well, and the methane in his basement.
“It bothers me because this is a big investment for us,” said Leighton, who moved with his wife to Leroy Township from Chester County two years ago. “This is our retirement home. I built this house, built the barn.” Now, he’s worried about drinking his own water. “They say it’s safe to drink, but I hesitate.”
Chesapeake isn’t the only energy company the Department of Environmental Protection is investigating for ongoing methane migration problems. 13 miles west of Leroy, in Union Township, Tioga County, Shell is trying to stop a month-old suspected methane leak by flaring off natural gas and plugging an abandoned gas well discovered near its drilling site.
Governor Corbett brought a lot of people to today's press conference
This Transom post by Robert Smith and Phyllis Fletcher is the best broadcast journalism guide I’ve read in years. Their argument: just because a newscast spot lasts 60 seconds doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
By writing strong, using short sentences, focusing on one or two main points, and being creative with sound, you can tell a great story.
My favorite spots from the post: Robert Smith’s St. Patrick’s Day report and Zoe Chace’s autotuned piece.
Here’s my first attempt at spicing up a spot news story:
Governor Corbett brought a lot of friends — and some opponents – to an event aimed at driving up support for a nearly one-point-seven billion dollar tax break he wants to give Royal Dutch Shell. StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Scott Detrow reports.
In 2009 I spent the month of July embedded with Pennsylvania’s 56h Stryker Brigade. The soldiers were stationed in Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad.
The goal of the project was to show listeners what life is like for deployed soldiers. I rode along on missions, but also filed stories on how the guardsmen and women killed time on base.
This is a report about a routine patrol that almost took a wrong turn:
I’m about halfway through Robert Caro’s Passage of Power. I had the good fortune of being smack in the middle of the section on Lyndon Johnson’s Vice Presidential years when Joe Biden forced President Obama’s hand on gay marriage.
Kennedy benched Johnson, and Johnson coped with the sudden loss of power by turning passive. But there was one issue where LBJ actively worked to influence policy: civil rights. Caro recounts how Johnson cornered Ted Sorensen, offering advice on how to craft and introduce a civil rights bill. The marginal victory of integrating just one Florida dinner animated the listless Johnson, who pushed for Kennedy to take a more active stand on the issue.
The New Yorker’s George Packer summarizes the obvious parallels between Johnson’s and Bidens’ (unsolicited) roles as intra-administration agitators:
DEP Secretary Mike Krancer
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection Secretary doesn’t pull his punches. Here’s my latest report on the blunt – at time angry - letters Mike Krancer has written to the Environmental Protection Agency:
When the EPA began launched an investigation of whether or not the water in Dimock, Susquehanna County was safe to drink, Krancer essentially told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson she didn’t know what she was talking about.
“We realize and recognize that EPA is very new to all of this and the EPA’s understanding of the facts and science behind this activity is rudimentary,” he wrote. “Fortunately, Pennsylvania is not new to all of this and we have a long history of experience at overseeing and regulating oil and natural gas extraction activities in our state, including hydraulic fracturing.”
The letter questioned the EPA’s motives, calling the agency’s investigation of possible fracking-related pollution in Pavillion, Wyoming a “rush to conclusions.”
The tension goes beyond natural gas drilling. In 2010, EPA began reviewing the permits the state issues for water-related coal mining operations. The federal agency was essentially looking over Pennsylvania’s shoulder as it set coal extraction guidelines. In a letter to regional EPA Administrator Shawn Garvin, Krancer expressed his “dismay,” called the new practice “disconcerting,” “unnecessary” and “overreaching,” writing, “this elevated scrutiny by EPA has little or no environmental or scientific basis and is contrary to almost three decades of past relationship between EPA and DEP.
Image Via WikiCommons
The Huffington Post has a smart piece today on the ongoing legacy of Pennsylvania’s drawn-out 2008 presidential primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
In short: Pennsylvania politicians who endorsed Clinton are cashing in their I.O.U.s with the counrty’s 42nd president. Obama-backers are being left out in the cold.
The most recent example comes from Kathleen Kane’s win over Patrick Murphy in yesterday’s Democratic Attorney General primary. Murphy entered the race with the backing of Democratic power brokers like Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter. Kane’s largest asset: her husband’s willingness to pour company money into her campaign. But Kane had worked for Clinton during the 2008 race, and called in a favor with former President Bill Clinton.
From the HuffPo article:
The Inquirer’s Tom Fitzgerald is outraged – outraged! – by all the outrage:
Manufacturing may be struggling in many American places, but the factories of the political-industrial complex are adding shifts, busy stamping out fresh outrage, packaged for easy digestion on Twitter and cable news.
The latest template is “war.”
The race between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney has been dominated in recent days by a GOP “war on women,” Democrats’ war on stay-at-home moms, rocker Ted Nugent’s declaring war on the administration. It also has gone to the dogs – as pets and as dinner.
Each outburst is flanked by demands that one side or the other denounce somebody’s outrageous statements, followed by declarations that the refusal to denounce said statements reveals dark truths that will turn off swing voters. And so on.