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Philly again surpasses 500 homicides in a year

Plus, internal emails show Shell discussing 'responsibility' for waste created by Pa. plastics plant. 


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Thursday, December 22, 2022
Unearthed emails, built back, divergent views, fickle funds, judge questioned, grim record, animals authorized, a favored football, and holiday oldies.

Internal Shell communications made available by congressional Democrats show the energy company worried about its environmental liability ahead of the construction of its multibillion dollar Beaver County plant.

“Frankly, we do have questions to answer about whether we’re going to take any responsibility for where PennChem’s output ends up,” wrote one communications executive to another, referring to the plant by its previous name, Pennsylvania Chemicals.

Ahead of its opening, citizen scientists pledged to monitor the facility out of concern it could pollute the Ohio River and surrounding communities.

Read Inside Climate News' full report: A new Shell plant in Pennsylvania will ‘Just run and run’ producing the raw materials for single-use plastics.

THE CONTEXT: The Shell emails were among a trove of oil company documents that were released by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform as part of an investigation of the fossil fuel industry's role in climate change.

The plant, which turns an ethane byproduct from fracked natural gas into plastic pellets, has been welcomed by some Western Pennsylvania business advocates as a new Appalachian petrochemical hub.

Critics and environmental advocates contend it contributes to climate change and damages health and the ecosystem.

The plant became fully operational in November and has already received a violation notice from environmental regulators.


"It hit the wall, came back, and I fought for it like fighting for a fumble when it hit the ground and eventually came off the bottom of the pile with the football out of all these people."

—Steelers fan Jim Baker recounting how, after the 1-point conversion, he acquired the football from the "immaculate reception" touchdown, which is now on display at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
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Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.'BLEAK MILESTONE': Philadelphia has recorded 500 homicides for the second year in a row, a tally not seen since the height of the crack-cocaine epidemic in 1990. The total is slightly lower than last year's, but the number reflects the ongoing strains of the economic and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Philly's communities of color have been especially affected — 84% of people killed or injured in shootings so far this year were Black, The Inquirer reports.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.STUDENT RIGHTS: Two Pennsylvania groups that influence education policy have differing interpretations of the rights of transgender students in the state, highlighting the patchwork of court decisions and federal and state laws surrounding the issue. York Dispatch notes the Education Law Center and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association's split stances on state schools' LGBTQ policies stems from multiple court cases.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.ROUTE RESTORED: Pittsburgh's Fern Hollow Bridge — the site of a January collapse that injured nine people and became a tragic example of the state and nation's crumbling infrastructure — has been restored, WESA reports. The bridge was rebuilt in less than a year thanks to emergency declarations and procedures that accelerated the construction timeline. A PennDOT official stressed the quick turnaround is not likely to be repeated for other bridges in need of repair.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.MONEY MOVES: Tens of millions of dollars moved from Pennsylvania's Legislative Data Processing Center into the Republican Leadership account, a shift criticized by a Democratic lawmaker and good-government advocate. State Rep. Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster), who initiated the transaction, said the funds were "caucus money" accounted for in the state budget negotiated annually by lawmakers.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.COURT CONFLICT: Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley, known for once jailing the rapper Meek Mill for a probation violation, is facing scrutiny over her judicial record, and has had all her pending criminal cases reassigned. The judge has criticized the move and responded with a discrimination lawsuit. 
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IN MEMORIAM: Two days away from the 50th anniversary of the beloved "immaculate reception," former Steelers player Franco Harris died at 72.

'SIMPLE GIFTS': WHYY chats with composer and pianist Catherine Marie Charlton about her new album of solos. The record is holiday-themed but Charlton opts for more obscure versions of the festive tunes.

DEER DOCTOR: Pennsylvania's state veterinarian inspected "Santa's reindeer" at a Wednesday news conference and declared them fit to fly.

LEBANON BOLOGNA: Daily Meal offers a digestible primer on the history, prep methods, and flavors of Lebanon, Pennsylvania's special deli meat.

GOOD GRIEF: Holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas won't air on broadcast this year after Apple purchased the rights to the Peanuts catalog, but it can still be watched on the tech company's streaming service. 

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.
T T R E A L O A I Y R 

Monday's answer: Funicular

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan D., Jon W., btfoos, Mary W., Kim C., Patricia M., Chuck M., Becky C., Judith D., Craig W., John F., Don H., Lynne E., Justin C., Kimberly D., Susan N.-Z., Wendy A., Bill S., Elaine C., Stanley J., and Rick A. 
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