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Pa. could be 'ground zero' for voting lawsuits


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Joseph Darius Jaafari
October 16, 2020
Pipelines and people with disabilities, lawsuit "ground zero," QAnon, no charges in Fetterman racial attack, bacon masks, and NOT THE PICKLES! TGIF

What would happen if something went wrong along the Mariner East pipeline route? It's an unlikely scenario, but not out of the question. Just ask the people in Blenheim, N.Y., where a pipeline carrying natural gas liquids exploded in 1990, killing two people.

Mariner East carries the same type of chemicals, which many experts and emergency planners say require planning above and beyond general hazmat training. But part two of Spotlight PA's new investigation into the system found Pennsylvania falls well short of the mark.

Investigative Reporter Rebecca Moss uncovered broad disagreement about what information is needed and how much planning should be done to prepare for a natural gas liquids disaster. There is no standardized, statewide plan, leaving it up to counties and towns to find their way.

What has resulted is a patchwork of preparedness that leaves the most vulnerable at risk: people with disabilities, the elderly, and children.

The Context: Nearly 14% of Pennsylvania’s 12 million residents are classified as disabled, among the highest percentages in the nation. The state also has one of the highest percentages of people over 65.

Sunoco advises the public to self-evacuate on foot, which does not account for vulnerable populations who need assistance. Pennsylvania’s more than 800-page emergency plan mentions people with disabilities twice, saying there is information for them and the elderly online.

Pennsylvania emergency planners have considered the broad strokes of accidents involving fire and explosions, but rarely the specific harm involving a pipeline system like Mariner East.

Four years ago, a task force convened by Gov. Tom Wolf recommended, in part, that the state develop standardized pipeline emergency response plans, but that has not happened. Should the worst occur, the response would fall first on volunteer fire departments, which are underfunded and overburdened. 


“Life has turned upside down. I’ve already seen a dude walking down my street with a gun, looking to, quote, unquote, ‘protect’ my neighborhood.”

–– Xavier, 34, a Philly resident on how the current stress associated with the pandemic and the presidential election have compounded into hysteria 
POST IT: Thank you, @morgan.hilliard, for the flashback to summer in Loyalsock State Forest. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
'GROUND ZERO': In the weeks leading up to November’s historic election, there has been one constant: lawsuits and court decisions that have shaped the way Pennsylvanians can cast ballots, and how their votes will be counted. One legal expert thinks Pennsylvania could be "ground zero" for Election Day lawsuits, Spotlight PA reports.

COMBINING CAMPUSES: Pennsylvania’s state higher education system is moving forward with a plan to merge six public universities into two “academic powerhouses," TribLIVE reports. Most of the 14 state schools have struggled in recent years with declining enrollment.

NO CHARGES: Pennsylvania's Second Lady Gisele Fetterman won't pursue charges against the woman who hurled racial slurs at her during a trip to a grocery store. "It’s our fervent hope that she is able to secure the necessary treatment and intervention needed in order to break this cycle," Fetterman said on Twitter.

QANON DANGER: The feds this week raided the home of a postal worker near Pittsburgh who apparently had eight large bags of undelivered mail at his home. According to Pittsburgh City Paper, the worker appears to subscribe to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.

VOTING BEHIND BARS: An estimated 37,000 people are incarcerated in a county jail in Pennsylvania, and most are eligible to vote in the upcoming election, The Morning Call reports. By law, jails have to make registering to vote easy and available, but because of the misconception that people incarcerated can't vote, many don't. 

» UPCOMING EVENTSRegister now for our upcoming live interview with Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar on ensuring a fair and accurate election in Pennsylvania. You can also submit your questions.

Also, don't miss Inquirer LIVE Don’t Panic, Vote: Join The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday for an exclusive conversation with Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to learn everything you need to know to vote in PA for the 2020 Election. Register today!

CRAYONS, GEORGE ROMERO & PRETZELS: All things you can dress up as for Halloween this year. Here's an old but handy list of Pennsylvania-themed costumes you can try out this year, be it over Zoom or a socially distanced candy hunt. 

HAUNTED PENNSYLVANIA: Continuing down that Halloween rabbit hole, if you're a haunt-seeker, take some time to plan out a few visits to some of Pennsylvania's most haunted places. Also, a fun side effect of the coronavirus pandemic: pumpkin patches are thriving.

THANKS! I HATE IT: Tired of your face mask smelling like your bad breath? Well, Hormel (the company that offers such delicacies as beans in a can) is now giving away bacon-smelling masks using a special "pork-scented technology." You can go to breathablebacon.com to sign up for a free mask. 

ARRRRRGH: If you have the harrrrt of a real-life swashbuckler, a company called Blackbeard Treasure Hunt announced yest-arrr-day that it will bury $1 million dollarrrrs in 10 states, including Pennsylvania. You have to just parrrrchase a map for $49.99 on its website

THANKS, COVID: If you like canning or making your own jam, you probably already know about the latest shortage to come about from the coronavirus pandemic. ANYTHING BUT THE PICKLE JAR!

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Bacteria 

Congrats to our other winners: Craig W., Theodore W., Steve D., Thomas B., Chip K., Karen A., Edward M., George S., Ann S., Jeff M., Karen W., Tracey C., Brandie K., Jenn C., Irene R., Joel S., David W., Ron P., John P., John H. and Gail H.
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