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Pa. pipeline spills fuel sprawling criminal case

Plus, a ‘vicious cycle’ for Pa.’s working parents.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 6, 2021
Environmental crimes, school safety, legal front, missing money, working parents, elder care, and how to get your legislator to listen. It's Wednesday.
Dozens of criminal charges have been filed against the company behind a natural gas pipeline project that Attorney General Josh Shapiro says polluted lakes, rivers, water wells, and "put Pennsylvania's safety at risk." 

Shapiro announced 48 criminal counts against Texas-based Energy Transfer — most for releasing industrial waste at 22 sites in 11 counties along the Mariner East pipeline route, the Associated Press reports.

Shapiro announced the charges Tuesday at the site of a 2020 spill that fouled wetlands, a stream, and a lake near Downingtown. Shapiro said spills also contaminated drinking water for at least 150 families statewide.

The company has said it intends to defend itself.

THE CONTEXT: Per the AP, since its construction began in 2017, the Mariner East project has become one of the most penalized public works in Pennsylvania history, drawing millions in fines and periodic shutdowns by the state.

Environmental issues joined public safety concerns as Spotlight PA reported on the hundreds of thousands of people living in the pipeline's "harm radius" with little notion of what to do in the event of an accident or emergency.

In June, Pennsylvania regulators proposed new safeguards for energy pipeline projects here, inspired in part by Mariner East's plentiful problems, the Post-Gazette reported.

"We've been giving and giving and giving. It's time for us to stand and fight for what we believe in."

—Local union leader Kerry Williams on a strike now underway at Kellogg's cereal plants in Lancaster County and sites nationwide
COVID-19 UPDATE: AstraZeneca has requested emergency approval for a first-of-its-kind antibody shot to prevent COVID-19; studies suggest newer variants of the virus are better at spreading through air; and data show the Pfizer vaccine's effectiveness in preventing infections dropped to 47% from 88% six months after the second dose. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CRISIS OF CARE: Join us Friday, Oct. 8 at noon EST via Zoom for a free Q&A on rising rates of Alzheimer's disease in Pennsylvania, the barriers to care, and the solutions urged by advocates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Looks like Peter Parker stopped by on this foggy morning in Pittsburgh. Hope you are safe, Anna F. Send us your gems (or photos of Spider-Man), use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
SAFETY RISKS: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered the FBI to meet with local law enforcement nationwide to address threats against school officials and staff — many involving pandemic protocols and critical race theory. USA Today's Capital Bureau reports mask mandates alone prompted death threats in Pennsylvania.

SUIT GROUP: Good government groups and eight voters are looking to join Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro's lawsuit against a Republican bid to obtain personal voter information en masse for a partisan election review. Capital-Star reports the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a motion to intervene on their behalf

MEAL MONEY: Some Pennsylvania families are still waiting for funds the state promised to give them to make up for school meals students missed during the pivot to online learning more than a year ago. WESA reports the effort slowed amid a spotty pivot back to in-person classes, leaving some families waiting months — and counting — for payment

WORK OUT: The political debate about an ongoing and nationwide worker shortage has focused largely on the role that expanded safety nets and unemployment benefits may have played. But WHYY reports a crisis in Pennsylvania's child care sector is "creating a vicious cycle for working parents" and keeping some on the sidelines.

CARE COSTS: New research shared by The New York Times finds almost one-quarter of American 65-year-olds will require extensive elder care and 38% will face moderate needs. In Pennsylvania, Spotlight PA and PublicSource found rising dementia rates and warnings of a "public health crisis with a financial crisis on top."
EARLY VOTES: A push to move up Pennsylvania's presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday in March is on the move. The proposal from state Sen. John Gordner (R., Columbia) would mean a larger role in presidential contests, as Capital-Star explains. 

HEAR, HEAR: Want to get a legislator to listen? In a first-person piece for PublicSource, a Duquesne University political science major and former congressional intern says call, write, be nice, and skip the postcards.

HUB HELP: The hub of a Philly nonprofit providing free menstrual products to people who need them was destroyed by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. They're crowdfunding $120,000 to fix it, KYW Newsradio reports.

FIRST OFF: Pennsylvania's first Latina district judge is retiring after 30 years serving south Bethlehem. Nancy Matos Gonzalez tells The Morning Call about lessons learned and hurdles overcome.

MEAT TWEETS: Fresh off a springtime Twitter "war" with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Pennsylvania's most famous frozen meat-based social media account is back, this time to preach mindful media habits. "Steak-umm bless."
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.
Yesterday's answer: Taxidermied

Congrats to our daily winners: Bill C., Judith D., Michelle T., Craig E., Suzanne S., Don H., Tim B., Doris T., David W., Beth T., and Elizabeth W.
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