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Is Pa. playing 'whack-a-mole' with orphaned wells?

Plus, Biden campaign taps Pa. power players.

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Thursday, May 11, 2023
In today's edition: Oil and gas orphans, on board, home devaluations, game rules, dog fights, and Taylor Swift tickets are how much? This is PA Post.

Abandoned oil and gas wells dot the Pennsylvania landscape, many spewing the powerful, climate-impacting greenhouse gas methane.

But while federal infrastructure money is on tap to start plugging them, some environmental activists fear it won't be enough.

That's in part due to the scale of the problem and incomplete driller disclosures that make pinpointing abandoned wells much harder.

State officials estimate there are roughly 200,000 abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, but the number could be as high as 750,000. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Federal money won’t be enough to solve Pa.'s abandoned oil and gas well problem, advocates say.

THE CONTEXT: Under Pennsylvania law, companies must cap oil and gas wells drilled after 1984 when they become inactive. DEP is charged with enforcing that requirement, but it has struggled to do so.

Between 2017 and 2021, 57% of well operators failed to submit mandatory production reports to the state, according to the DEP. In that same time, the agency issued 3,123 citations for failure to plug orphaned wells.

"It's like a game of whack-a-mole," said state Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), chair of his chamber's environmental committee. "It's great getting federal money to plug these things. But if you're plugging old [wells] as new ones are getting abandoned, then you're not doing anything."


"We can't get into a train wreck like we had last year."

Doug McLinko, a state party committeeman and vice chair of the Bradford County GOP, on Pennsylvania’s Republican Party endorsing candidates in this primary election after failing to do so in last year's marquee contests
» How to vote, where to vote, and everything else you need to know

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POLICING VS. TREATMENT: Join us Thursday, May 25 at 6 p.m. ET for a free panel on how Pa. wants to spend a $1B opioid settlement, the policing versus treatment debate, and how Pennsylvania's spending plans compare to other states'. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, via Kimberly D. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SHORTFALL SOLUTION: Pennsylvania's reorganized Basic Education Funding Commission met for the first time Wednesday to begin addressing a multibillion-dollar funding shortfall for public schools following a landmark legal ruling, Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso reports. They have a statutory deadline of the end of the year. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's budget plan wants $1 billion in new education spending, but public school advocates say it's not enough.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.ADVISORY BOARD: Gov. Shapiro, U.S. Reps. Chrissy Houlahan and Brendan Boyle, and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta were named members of the national advisory board for President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign on Wednesday. The Pennsylvania Democrats are part of a larger group of surrogates and fundraisers tapped to stump for Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in battleground states.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.COMPENSATION FUND: Homeowners within five miles of February's toxic train derailment near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border could be eligible for money from a new Norfolk Southern fund created to cover declines in home values since the crash. The AP reports that homeowners who sell their homes for less than what their property was appraised at before Feb. 3 would qualify for compensation.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SKILL GAMES: State Sen. Gene Yaw (R., Lycoming) has again introduced legislation that would regulate, tax, and formally recognize skill games in Pennsylvania. The skill games industry is seeking formal recognition and has been wooing lawmakers to make it happen. But opponents, mostly casinos that see the slot-like games as a direct threat, have powerful allies of their own

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.PET CUSTODY: A bill from state Rep. Anita Kulik (D., Allegheny) would require judges to consider several factors when determining pet custody in a divorce, including who generally takes the pet to the vet and who has the better financial means to take care of the pet. In semi-related news: Did you know rural Potter County was once the divorce capital of the state "and by some standards, the world"?

SHUTDOWN: After a decade of demanding the closure of an immigration detention center in Berks County, Shut Down Berks Coalition has disbanded and the center has shuttered. A touring exhibit shows how it happened.

CLOSING TIME: Pittsburgh's Fuel and Fuddle will close for good this month, the latest in a string of mainstay closures near Pitt's Oakland campus. Fuel and Fuddle's owner said a rent hike drove the decision.

STICKER SHOCK: Taylor Swift comes to Philadelphia this week for three stops on her Eras Tour, and The Inquirer (paywall) reports tickets start at $1,300 on StubHub, leaving many fans pressed to find a better deal

D.C. TO PHILLY: "DC Swifties Are Descending on Philadelphia for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour," reads the headline in Washingtonian magazine. With no D.C. stop on the tour, beltway fans are heading north. I-95 will be busy. 

HOME AGAIN: Neighboring New Jersey has a testament to the power of housing, via NorthJersey.com, which chronicled Raymond Decker's experience of getting his own apartment after a year in a shelter.

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: Puritanical

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Elaine C., John W., Jon W., Vicki U., Dennis M., Stacy S., Barbara F., Susan N.-Z., Marty M., Kim C., Don H., Wendy A., Bob C., Starr B., Daniel S., James B., William Z., Dianne K., Keith W., Tom M., Bill S., Craig E., and Kimberly D.
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