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Divisions emerge over Pa. hydrogen hubs

Plus, the hidden hazards moving by rail.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Hydrogen splits, hidden hazards, armed and dangerous, big pensions, in custody, and a heat wave hits. Thanks for checking in.

Serious divisions are emerging as Pennsylvania lawmakers look to tap huge federal subsidies for hydrogen energy production here.

The Biden administration's push to "jumpstart the clean hydrogen economy" through the backing of so-called regional hydrogen hubs — up to 10 of them nationwide — puts billions of dollars toward the cause. 

But efforts to make Pennsylvania attractive to the industry is pitting jobs-oriented lawmakers on both sides of the aisle (and powerful unions) against environmental advocates urging stricter safeguards.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. is competing for billions to build hydrogen hubs. Will they really be green?

THE CONTEXT: “The tension in the hydrogen hub issue is that many people view this as just economic development, job creation,” state Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, told Spotlight PA. “But it's a real climate issue.”

There are several ways to produce hydrogen energy, which can be a carbon-neutral fuel option when made in a certain way. 

Now, after approving a $50 million state tax credit for the industry, lawmakers are split on related requirements, including carbon capture, with those like Vitali warning that hydrogen's environmental benefits aren't a given.


"I'm sure at some point in August we'll be able to get the general appropriations signed."

State Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) offering a rosier assessment of the budget impasse that threatens to hold up state funding for social services, schools, and more if it drags on much longer
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania: The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now to Spotlight PA.
» Pa. lawmakers won’t appeal school funding ruling, via Associated Press

» Poll: Shapiro at 56% approval, 28% disapproval, via @MorningConsult

» Two Pa. lawmakers want a primary runoff system, via WESA

» Clock ticking on Pa.’s presidential primary date, via PoliticsPA

» Cappelletti's pro-outdoor laundry drying bill, via @StephenJ_Caruso

» Pa. Treasury returns record $274M in property, via Center Square

@johnmcculloughphotography looking down on the fog from the Penn's View lookout in Centre County. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

An overhead view of a natural valley shrouded in fog.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MYSTERY SHIPMENTS: Scrutiny of hazardous railroad shipments is up, but real-time information remains almost impossible to come by due to 9/11-inspired security measures, meaning local governments often have no idea what's moving within their borders until it's too late, LNP (paywall) reports. State legislation that would create a database of hazardous shipments here has faced quiet resistance.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.$1M PAYMENT: Norfolk Southern has paid $1 million to western Pennsylvania communities impacted by February's catastrophic train derailment near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Monday. That includes $660,000 for Darlington Township, Beaver County and $340,000 for Lawrence County. County commissioners will decide how the dollars are distributed.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.GUN CHECKS: Nearly two in three domestic violence homicide victims were killed with a gun last year in Pennsylvania, but the Inquirer (paywall) reports a state law requiring abusers relinquish their firearms isn't adequately enforced in Pennsylvania's largest city: The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office received notice of more than 10,000 orders for relinquishments, but completed only about 13% of the cases.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.PA PENSIONS: PennLive (paywall) reports at least 1,809 retirees are collecting more than $100,000 annually from Pennsylvania’s two public pension systems — a number that has almost doubled in eight years. One former Penn State math teacher collects $1.2 million in benefits annually. PennLive's full public pension coverage includes a searchable database and a list of notable names.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.JAIL DEATH: A 59-year-old who died in Allegheny County Jail custody Sunday had been brought in by police on suspicion of retail theft, disorderly conduct, and evading arrest. He waited for a bed at Torrance State Hospital since April following an incompetency evaluation, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism reports.
Investigative journalism that gets results: Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

CORRECTION: Yesterday's PA Post included an incorrect age for nine-month-old Conrad Sheils, the boy missing after flash flooding in Bucks County earlier this month. The AP reports that the search has narrowed. A body believed to be that of his two-year-old sister Matilda was recovered last week.

METHANE MISSION: Agriculture is a leading cause of planet-warming methane emissions, much of it from burping cows. StateImpact reports a Penn State study will use a $25 million grant and 70 farms across Pennsylvania to find a way to reduce that pollution

ROAD TO HELL: A survey of 3,000 drivers has ranked Route 6 the most feared route in Pennsylvania, Centre Daily Times reports. The sparsely populated road is also among the nation's most scenic drives.

GOING WEST: Ukrainian refugees will be arriving in Westmoreland County this month on trips funded by a Catholic diocese, which hopes they'll stay. CNA reports refugee families in Philadelphia are considering it.

HEAT WEEK: The longest stretch of hot weather this summer arrives in Pennsylvania this week, WHTM reports. Expect thunderstorms and several straight days with temperatures in the 90s — or higher.

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 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Bailiwick

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Eric F., Lynne E., Vicki U., Jon W., Dan A., Don H., Barbara F., Starr B., Beth T., Marty M., Bob C., Joel S., Kim C., Kimberly D., Honey B., Julie K., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Becky C., Ronnee G., Art Z., Susan D., Judy M., Beth H., James B., Sherri A., Tish M., Craig E., Carol S., Dennis M., Daniel M., David W., Johnny C., Tom M., Wendy A., William Z., Stanley J., Jodine M.., Beth B., Ben P., Jane R., Jerry G., and John H.
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