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Hydrogen hub details shrouded in secrecy

Plus, a mountain of mystery chemicals.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023
In today's edition: Open questions, fracking follow-ups, AI approach, Ellis plea, Pennridge policy, and good funeral guests. It's mourning in Philadelphia.

The Biden administration is betting big on hydrogen energy to cut carbon pollution and fight climate change, including with an investment of $1.6 billion for two hubs that will be partially located in Pennsylvania. 

But while the broad strokes of the projects have been released, critical details that will determine exactly how environmentally friendly the projects will be and the impact they will have on local communities are unknown. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Officials celebrate Pa.’s two hydrogen hubs but many details remain shrouded in secrecy.

THE CONTEXT: Top state officials remain focused on the hubs' potential to spur new construction jobs and scientific industries. 

"Those who are attacking this project, they're standing in the way of real progress," Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro said. “Clean energy progress is going to be good for our environment, good for job creation.”

Some doubt the longevity of any realized economic benefits, while environmentalists worry about the unknowns of greenhouse gas emissions, community impact, and effects on air and water quality.

Pete Budden, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the U.S. Department of Energy hasn’t released the hub applications, and has mandated little public disclosure regarding the details of the plans.


“Obviously, he’s our president. I believe he won the election. There are people in my party who don’t believe that. I do believe that I’ll be very clear about it. And I should have just been more direct in the beginning.”

—Republican Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidate Carolyn Carluccio after she was asked by the Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board if Joe Biden won the 2020 election; Carluccio's initial answer was "I have no idea"
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Driftwood, Pa., as seen by Denise D. in September. Have a Pennsylvania photo you'd like to share with the whole commonwealth? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Sunny hillside with steam rising from the mountains in the background.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MYSTERY CHEMICALS: Oil and gas drillers used 160 million pounds of mystery chemicals in Pennsylvania between 2012 and 2022, according to new research by an activist group. Toxic "forever" chemicals were used in at least eight wells in Beaver, Lawrence, and Washington Counties. The industry says that's rare, but Inside Climate News reports weak disclosure rules makes it impossible to know for sure.
  • RELATED: Major health survey links fracking in Pa., US to cancers, birth defects, other health harms, via Inside Climate News
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.A.I. IN GOV'T: Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro is embracing AI technology in government services, but what does that actually mean? Less controversially: City & State reports governmental bodies use AI to help prevent cyberattacks and detect public health threats. More controversially: It's also used by Pennsylvania police agencies to identify suspects based on social media and surveillance footageToday's third top news story in Pennsylvania.LATEST ENTRY: Blake Lynch, a former executive at Harrisburg public radio station WITF, has joined the crowded Democratic primary for Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry's York County-area seat, PennLive reports. Lynch enters the contest weeks after former area TV news anchor Janelle Stelson, who campaign polling has at a 13-point lead over her closest primary competitor, Harrisburg's Shamaine Daniels.
  • RELATED: Make that 3 Dems vying for the state House seat being vacated by Patty Kim in Dauphin County, via Capital-Star
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.GUILTY PLEA: Jenna Ellis, the Trump attorney-turned-Doug Mastriano campaign adviser, pleaded guilty Tuesday to election interference-related counts in Georgia, the third Trump attorney to do so in the past week. Ellis played a role in efforts to overturn Pennsylvania's 2020 results, headlining a Gettysburg hearing marked by false claims and working to get state lawmakers to appoint fake electors.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SPORTS BAN: The Pennridge School Board has unanimously approved a policy to ban trans students from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity, the Pottstown Mercury (paywall) reports. The vote came days after the Bucks County district was ordered by a Court of Common Pleas judge to produce library records and pay legal fees for a dad who suspected the district of secretly banning books.
  • RELATED: Pa. Senate passes ‘explicit content’ legislation after heated debate over whether it’s a book ban, via Capital-Star

BATTISTA INJURED: Pennsylvania Superior Court candidate Maria Battista was hospitalized after she was hit by a car while placing yard signs Sunday, the AP reports. The campaign released few other details.

PARKER'S PLAN: Philly's tough-on-crime Democratic nominee for mayor, Cherelle Parker, says the military will be "part of the solution" in addressing the drug problem in Kensington, The Inquirer (paywall) reports.

CANNABIS CASE: A budtender at New York City's first legal cannabis dispensary is being held on Rikers Island to face old cannabis charges in Pennsylvania, where the drug remains illegal, via The City.

TRANS HEAVEN, PA: New Hope's status as an LGBTQ haven and Trans Heaven are the subject of the new "Queer Cuts: New Hope" film run that's screening at the Bucks County Playhouse and online next month.

BIG SENDOFF: Even the dogs wore ties to the funeral of popular Lancaster County mail carrier Joani Sheaffer, who recently died from post-surgical complications at the age of 53, LNP (paywall) reports.

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