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Is Pa. headed for a fracking waste reckoning?

Plus, Trump's private concerns about a Mastriano Senate run.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Friday, April 21, 2023
Fracking fluids, promises made, tuition decision, tax levies, alcohol-related, Tree of Life trial, and a town without a liquor store. Happy Friday. 

Natural gas drillers produced 2.6 billion gallons of wastewater in Pennsylvania last year. Most was used to drill new wells, but hundreds of millions of gallons were held in manmade ponds or injected into storage wells that have drawn the ire of fracking foes and some state governments.

The industry is producing far more wastewater than it knows what to do with, some experts say, and a fracking-focused grand jury convened in 2020 said of Pennsylvania wastewater management: "The fracking industry has never had a good solution for this problem, and it persists today."

And while most experts view underground injection wells as the safest storage option, public opposition to them has only grown.

Read Inside Climate News' full report: Awash in toxic wastewater from fracking, Pennsylvania faces a disposal reckoning.

THE CONTEXT: The energy industry has dismissed capacity concerns, citing the reuse of wastewater in drilling, but the Environmental Protection Agency said some industry insiders are worried about narrowing disposal options for the rest. Toxicity concerns have only added to those limitations.

The grand jury convened by then-state Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office in 2020 recommended stronger labeling of wastewater shipments and full chemical disclosures to the public, as they aren't currently required. 

Now governor, Shapiro's office told Inside Climate News he "supports implementing the [jury's] key recommendations" and believes "we must reject the false choice between protecting jobs and protecting our planet."

State Sen. Katie Muth (D., Montgomery) has introduced bills that would "hold the oil and gas industry to the same waste regulations as other industries and would keep harmful radioactive toxins out of Pennsylvania’s air, groundwater, waterways, and drinking water supplies across the state."


"I believe that I had a responsibility to do the debate, but after that point, to me, that was where the depression really started to set in."

—U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.), who recently received treatment for clinical depression, on how the Senate race worsened his mental health
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» How to request, fill out, and return your mail ballot

» How to vote, find your polling place, understand mail ballots

» A guide to vetting candidates for school board, judge, and more

» A guide to the Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» High court candidates with party backing show fundraising edge

» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary; deadline May 9

Support Spotlight PA's public-service election and voting coverage now.
» Los candidatos a la Corte de la Commonwealth y Cortes Superiores

» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado

» Una guía completa para el día de las elecciones primarias de Pa.

Apoye ahora la cobertura electoral de servicio público de Spotlight PA.

» LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: Join us Thursday, April 27 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on what issues and policies are on the state legislature's 2023 docket. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Gazing on grass with James L. from Abington. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A small purple flower sprouts in a thicket of grass.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.NOT DELIVERED: President Joe Biden promised to play a key role in ensuring opioid settlement funds went toward tackling the nation's addiction crisis, NPR reports, but two years later, with billions of dollars now moving, the promise hasn't materialized. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Spotlight PA reports clashes over how to use the money are following a familiar fault line: policing vs. treatment.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.TUITION DELAY: The State System of Higher Education has delayed setting next year's tuition rate until July. The Inquirer (paywall) reports: "Chancellor Dan Greenstein and board members on Thursday indicated their desire to freeze tuition for an unprecedented fifth consecutive year, but noted that would take a substantial increase in state funding, more than Gov. Shapiro has proposed in his budget."

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.TAX POWERS: Exiting Pennsylvania's recovery program for financially distressed municipalities means the loss of extraordinary taxing abilities. Deputy secretary with the Department of Community and Economic Development, Rick Vilello, told state House members this week that the abrupt loss of that power risks backsliding into financial collapse, per CNHI, and that a slower phase-out should be considered.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CRASH REPORT: Police say alcohol was a factor in a car crash involving state Rep. Torren Ecker (R., Adams) on Tuesday. Police say a vehicle driven by Ecker, 37, "drifted off the west side of [Carlisle Pike] and struck a guide rail." The vehicle was disabled by the collision. Ecker said: "I am relieved that my lack of judgment did not result in any injury to others or myself," adding, "I take responsibility."

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.TREE OF LIFE: With renovations of Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue set to begin more than four years after the mass shooting there, congregants will gather Sunday to say goodbye to the old building. The federal trial of the accused gunman is set to start the next day. TribLIVE has a preview of the trial. WESA reports on how shooting survivors and families are leaning on each other.
🏆  TEST TIME: You know the drill: If you're confident you've been following the news closely, there's only one way to prove it. Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz.

In this week's installment: "Snow-starved" winter, a mail ballot blunder, and clashes over opioid settlement cash.

2024 VISION: Add former President — and 2024 candidate — Donald Trump to the list of Republicans privately expressing concern about the possibility of a 2024 Doug Mastriano U.S. Senate run, Politico reports. 

VOTER BLOCKS: Philadelphia's important mayoral primary is coming up on May 16. Votebeat wants to know what's impacting your decision to vote or not in the race and what would make voting easier for you.

CLEANUP BILL: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with Maryland and other states that sued the agency for not making Pennsylvania do its part to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

DRY RUN: Kane's only liquor store is one of the most remote in the state-run system and it's closing for renovations tomorrow. The closest liquor store is 23 miles away. The Inquirer (paywall) says locals still have plenty of options.

DERBY-BOUND: Angel of Empire, a thoroughbred raised in Schuylkill County, is headed to the Kentucky Derby and looking to become the third Pennsylvania horse to win the celebrated race, per PennLive (paywall).

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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Pollyanna

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Vicki U., Kimberly D., Tracy S., Mike B., Eric F., Marty M., Elaine C., Starr B., Don H., Dianne K., Karen W., Tish M., James B., Susan D., Debbie M., Bob C., Lynne E., Dennis M., Elizabeth W., Stanley J., Ginny M., Bill S., Joel S., Leann T., William Z., Ada M., Kathy H., and Mark W.
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