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'Stop the Steal' believers on Pa. ballot


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 26, 2021
Known risks, power struggles, ballot believers, Biden Country, gun case, PAC fans, and how to walk on water. It's Monday, welcome to the week.
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A Pennsylvania judge says Sunoco failed to properly disclose risks associated with its contested Mariner East pipeline system and must update public information campaigns to highlight the potential for property damage, personal injury, asphyxiation, burns, and even death, Spotlight PA reports.

In a 212-page ruling, Public Utility Commission judge Elizabeth Barnes found Sunoco violated several state and federal regulations and was "intentional" and "negligent" in refusing to meet with local emergency officials in need of more information. 

But the ruling was not a total victory for the Pennsylvania residents whose legal challenge prompted it. That's because Barnes also ruled there wasn't enough evidence or legal jurisdiction to grant key actions those residents wanted, including the movement of pipeline valve sites used to control the flow of gas or shut down operations altogether. 

THE CONTEXT: As many as 345,000 people in Pennsylvania live within Mariner East's so-called "harm radius." But Spotlight PA found Pennsylvania's patchwork preparedness system has left many unsure of what to do should an accident occur. The pipeline system is expected to be fully operational later this year.

Barnes' own findings confirmed those of a year-long Spotlight PA investigation on emergency preparedness along the Mariner East system, which spans 350 miles under 17 southern Pennsylvania counties. That investigation found secrecy and a jumble of emergency plans have left communities in the dark about what to do in case of an accident.

While Barnes' ruling was arguably a win for transparency, residents and their attorneys say the PUC is side-stepping its responsibility to keep them safe.

"The most vulnerable among us are at greatest risk from this ruling," said Christine Marshall of Chester County. "To alert us to the inherent dangers does not solve in any way the issue of escaping those dangers once they occur."

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"144 children [...] at the Emergency Intake Site for unaccompanied children at the Pennsylvania International Academy in Erie, Pennsylvania, will be transferred." 

—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a statement announcing the relocation of migrant children held in Erie
VACCINE UPDATE: The FDA and CDC have cleared the way for states like Pennsylvania to resume using Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, saying they are confident in its effectiveness and safety after examining rare reports of blood clots linked to the shot. Federal regulators say a warning label will be applied. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» A LIVE GUIDE TO THE MAY PRIMARY: On Tuesday, May 4 at 5 p.m., join Spotlight PA as we break down the judicial candidates and four questions you’ll see on the primary ballot. RSVP FOR FREE
» BE PREPARED: Everyone — regardless of political affiliation — can vote May 18 on four ballot questions. Here's a breakdown of each one. Plus, WHYY has a great primer on the appellate court judge candidates. We'll have more resources in the days and weeks ahead.
A photo from Pittsburgh's Frick Park on Saturday, courtesy of my wife. Thanks, Katie W.! Have you seen my car keys? Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
POWER DYNAMIC: Pennsylvania Senate Republicans are blocking Gov. Tom Wolf’s Public Utility Commission appointments in protest of his push to rein in climate pollution from power plants. GOP leaders say Wolf's use of his executive authority left them with no options. Wolf's office says the GOP's blockage sets a "reckless precedent," via the Post-Gazette. 

ON THE BALLOT: A husband-and-wife duo running for school board in Lancaster County attended the Jan. 6 rally that proceeded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and subscribe to the false belief the 2020 election was stolen, LancasterOnline reports. The couple has also objected to their daughter's public school curriculum including reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" and learning about Black Lives Matter.

PROMISES MADE: Erie voters who helped deliver Pennsylvania for President Joe Biden in November say they're pleased with his coronavirus response. Even some Republicans there offered begrudging credit. But economic recovery, infrastructure, poverty, immigration, and trade are very much on the swing county's mind, NBC News found.

GUN RULES: The gun reform fight is central to the GOP race for state Supreme Court, as candidates showcase pro-gun group endorsements, their own pro-gun legal decisions, and more. With an increasing number of Pennsylvania cities taking the push for local-level firearm rules to court, Republicans see this vacancy as a key firewall, the AP reports.

PAC MONEY: Next year's U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania is likely to be one of the most expensive ever, with a critical seat up for grabs and powerful PACs getting into the mix. This includes the newly formed Jobs for Our Future Super PAC, which has raised more than $750,000 to date and is backing Republican contender Jeff Bartos, Politico reports. 
'LEAST LIVABLE': Pittsburgh's most famous writer is leaving the city, saying "one of the worst places for Black people" is no place for her. Deesha Philyaw, award-winning author of "The Secret Lives of Church Ladies," explains the decision in a raw, first-person essay for CityLab.

BAT COUNTRY: Pennsylvania bats were part of a large-scale new study that found a 90% die-off of three species in less than 10 years due to a fungal disease. The "impact of this disease on bat populations is staggering,” one of the paper’s authors said, per TribLIVE. 

WATER STEPS: Walk on water (and in water) by fall of 2022. Billy Penn reports a planned floating art installation on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia "will change in elevation as you walk around it — so at different points you’ll be walking above the water, and at others you’ll be eye level with the river."

COUNTING CICADAS: Want to help scientists track the coming cicada emergence? There's an app for that. Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati created one to crowdsource the kind of data needed to better understand the bug's long lifecycles and how different broods relate to each other.

ELECTION REMINDER: There is one week left to register for the May 18 primary. The deadline for online registration is 11:59 p.m. on May 3. The deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot is May 11. And Spotlight PA has a useful guide to four important questions voters will get to answer.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Friday's answer: Retirement

Congrats to our weekly winner: James B.

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Theodore W., Mary Ellen T., Dixie S., Ben S., Becky C., Elaine C., Susan D., Neal W., Kevin H., Steve D., Brian B., Steven Z., Irene R., Janet C., Al M., Christine M., Keith F., Christine M., Jill A., Kerri G., Dennis M., Carol D., George S., Brandie K., Tish M., David W., Dianne K., Elizabeth W., Ron P., Joel S., Mary Kay M., Suzanne S., Michelle T., Dianne B., Bob R., Ronald T., Chris R., Lance L., Eddy Z., Yvette R., Beth T. (double winner, left off Friday's list), Daniel M., Patricia R., and Ken S.
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