03/24/2019 - The Three Mile Island accident and the enduring questions of ties to cancer and deaths

Even the most comprehensive studies have fallen short of drawing conclusive verdicts on the ongoing debate.

03/22/2019 - Gov. Wolf highlights Philly school conditions in severance tax push

Emma Lee / WHYY

Gov. Tom Wolf visits Taggart Elementary School in South Philadelphia to stump for legislation that would tax natural gas extraction to pay for school improvements. 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf visited a school in South Philadelphia Thursday to stump for his severance tax proposal.

The location was strategic, giving Wolf a chance to highlight the kind of infrastructure projects he’d like to complete with the $4.5 billion his administration says the tax would produce.

Unlike past years, Wolf proposed the tax as a separate item from the general budget. He wants the revenue earmarked for an initiative called “Restore Pennsylvania,” which would address things such as flooding, broadband access, public transit, and, as emphasized Thursday, school repair.

By separating the money this way, Wolf said he hopes to alleviate fears that the money would disappear into the state’s general fund.

“This is for specific capital projects to address the real needs of Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said Thursday.

The governor appeared alongside other officials at John H. Taggart School in South Philadelphia. The state and city set aside a combined $15 million last year to remove lead paint at Taggart and 29 other public schools in Philadelphia.

That emergency money came after a series of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News highlighted dangerous conditions in the city’s aging schools.

By the district’s own account, it would take $4.5 billion to bring all of its buildings up to code.

Wolf believes some of the money raised through his proposed severance tax should go toward rehabbing old schools. He framed the idea as a money-saving initiative.

“If we do that, we’re saving ourselves the billion dollars it would cost to build each of these school buildings from scratch,” Wolf said.

Pennsylvania is the only state with a large natural gas industry that also does not impose a severance tax on producers. The commonwealth does levy an “impact” fee for each new well drilled.

Opponents of the tax say it would hamstring energy companies and kill jobs.

So far, the debate has produced stalemate after stalemate.

Wolf, however, believes separating the tax proposal from the general budget will help get it passed faster. It also allows him to highlight the potential uses of the revenue, much like Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney did when he campaigned for a sweetened beverage tax.

Wolf’s stop Thursday at Taggart was part of that effort.

He did not say how much of the $4.5 billion would go specifically to school construction or projects in Philadelphia.

“I’m open to having the legislature work with me and figure out exactly how we spend this money,” the governor said.

03/21/2019 - Higher operating pressure prompts new safety concerns over Sunoco’s Mariner East 2X pipeline

Documents indicate Sunoco has a new maximum operating pressure for the line, which is under construction. An engineer who conducted a risk assessment of the Mariner East project said a higher pressure increases risk.

03/21/2019 - Photos: A look back at the Three Mile Island accident, evacuations, protests and cleanup

These photographs depict scenes from Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Middletown, Dauphin County, and the surrounding region in the days before and after the partial meltdown at the Unit 2 reactor.

03/20/2019 - How Three Mile Island and the nuclear industry influenced popular culture

After the accident at Three Mile Island, Dickinson College teacher Lonna Malmsheimer interviewed about 400 residents. One thing she noticed was how many people turned to fiction to make sense of the real-world events around them.

03/19/2019 - What will become of Three Mile Island’s nuclear waste if the plant closes?

In the absence of a long-term solution, the country’s nuclear power plants are left with one option: indefinite on-site storage.

03/18/2019 - Crews investigate possible gasoline leak from Sunoco pipeline near Reading

Crews are investigating whether gasoline leaked from a Sunoco pipeline in Berks County, the state Public Utility Commission said in a news release.

The PUC said people reported a “strong gasoline odor” on Sunday near a home on Mountain Home Road in South Heidelberg Township, near Reading. The Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement’s Pipeline Safety Division, PUC’s independent investigation and enforcement bureau, as well as crews from Sunoco are trying to figure out whether a leak occurred.

The pipeline is a 14-inch steel line that was moving gasoline on Sunday, the PUC said. The line transports petroleum products from Sunoco’s Montello terminal near Reading to north-central Pennsylvania and New York state.

Sunoco workers dug test holes and a trench to try to find the source of the odor. “Testing of the monitoring wells and soil around the site is ongoing,” PUC spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said.

A spokesperson for Energy Transfer, Sunoco’s parent company, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The 14-inch line is not part of Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline project. Those lines carry, or will carry, natural gas liquids.

03/15/2019 - Auditor general on climate change: Each disaster is ‘a hit to the state’s taxpayers’

Eugene DePasquale said he is gathering feedback for a report on how climate change-related issues could affect the state's finances, and what actions the state can take.

03/15/2019 - Thyroid cancer study re-ignites debate over Three Mile Island accident’s health effects

The 2017 Penn State College of Medicine study found a certain type of thyroid cancer to be common to those who were near the nuclear plant during the accident.

03/14/2019 - Watch: Gov. Thornburgh speaks two days after Three Mile Island partial meltdown

"We're getting conflicting reports too," Gov. Dick Thornburgh said in response to a reporter's question at a press conference March 30, 1979.