Friday, August 23, 2013

Mid-August: Juuust about enough August...


Soak in these remaining rays, but start thinking about dusting off and climbing back on that horse! We need you...

The founder of PA Cyber Charter Schools is indicted for $1 million worth of fraud, which should spark renewed reflection on whether those foundational arrangements made with PA taxpayers were ever designed to be an efficient use of resources.

Pennsylvania Turnpike rates are going up again, but political pay-to-play indictments of Turnpike Commissioners are causing some to wonder whether reform isn't a better idea.

New weight restrictions are being applied to PA's bridges due to their disrepair. Senate Republicans and Democrats continue to advocate for passage of that body's comprehensive transportation funding bill, but the Metcalfe Caucus among House Republicans remains unmoved.

Allegheny County continues to debate natural gas fracking beneath its parks. A drilling company reached a three quarter-million settlement with a Washington County couple who accused it of having harmed them, but only after they agreed to a gag order. Another company's president admits candidly that "everybody knows that some wells go bad"; a recent documentary puts that figure at 5% within the first year of operation.

(One of these days, all people who think fracking is every bit as disruptive and hazardous as vital resource extraction has always been, but want it done anyway, will just have to go ahead and put their hands up. We know you're out there.)

Mayor Ravenstahl made a public appearance at a Downtown groundbreaking to defend both his economic development strategies and his continued presence on the city's payroll. Andy Sheehan of KDKA reports that "Even those in his administration privately grouse that he comes to his office downtown infrequently these days." It is suggested that a new restaurant in the works provides fresh evidence of local government transforming and thriving right alongside its City.

CMU is awarding money to start-ups (I had no idea the guy who brought us FlipCams got his start here!); "Mixed-Use Education" is a new approach for adapting to squeezed budgets and multiplying community needs; many states and cities are working on ways to put unused, tax-delinquent property to use; and the potentials and challenges of using data to solve social problems are being examined.

In September, next year's annual budget will be on the agenda, along with Lower Hill redevelopment and any other "last-minute business". Expect there to be some. Winter is coming.


  1. "One of these days, all people who think fracking is every bit as disruptive and hazardous as vital resource extraction has always been, but want it done anyway, will just have to go ahead and put their hands up."

    Every bit as disruptive and hazardous as mountaintop removal? Every bit as disruptive and hazardous as in situ copper leaching, which is like natural gas fracking except done with acid instead of water? Every bit as disruptive and hazardous as deepwater drilling?

    It is a more than fair point that there is an environmental cost/risk associated with natural gas fracking that should be taken into an account in public policy discussions. But this "Every bit as disruptive and hazardous" notion is actually very dangerous, because it could be used to argue that there is no point requiring drillers to minimize that cost/risk.

    Or perhaps it would simply discredit anyone who claims such a thing.

    1. Come on Brian, you know that the progressives in sheep's clothing don't care about facts or reality. They just care about making generalized bs statements without any support. But, when someone makes a general or even specific statement against their interests they ask for exact proof. If fracking is so bad, like as bad as any environmental calamity, then I guess Peduto is in the thick of it. His biggest ally and supporter is trying to frack in our public parks. Bill got a ton of frack money to help him win. But, I can't wait for the comments asking me to prove with precision my remarks while they rationalize and justify their own support of the fracking duo.

    2. Brian, I had not intended the "every bit as" comment to be taken terribly literally, rather only to conjure those eternal truths about cost/risk.

      Drilling supporters seem to rely on insisting that all suggestions of environmental harm are bunk, whereas drilling opponents seem to be under the impression if they can "prove" harms, that will be check mate.

      A mature discussion would embrace the complex cost-risk matrix, and necessitate somebody somewhere eventually admitting, "Yes, fracking on the scale of a regional 'play' is going to ruin some watersheds and sicken some people, but economically we still need to do it." Still waiting on that.

      Anon 8:41, it seems Bill and Rich have different postures toward fracking (as one would expect with a mayor and a county exec) even though they're allies. I don't see that there's much to refute.

    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    4. As Helen and I just discussed over e-mail, my antecedent at 12:34 was unclear. Somebody who supports drilling will eventually need to say, "Yes, fracking on the scale of a regional 'play' is going to ruin some watersheds and sicken some people, but economically we still need to do it."

    5. Just wait, Bill's "public stance" on fracking will change soon enough. It will become a more nuanced position of fracking is ok in certain places and situations, but not in others. That is the perfect position for a politician, because frackers don't want to frack in certain places, thus the politicos and save face by saying it is appropriate where the frackers actually want to drill.

  2. "Ruin some watersheds" may be a bit alarmist, but I think we are largely on the same page here about putting aside the all-or-nothing view some folks on both sides like to push and instead doing fact-based cost-benefit analysis when making drilling policy.

    Incidentally, I for one think we are proving Anony at 8:41 wrong, meaning I think Bram obviously is interested in sincere, fact-based back-and-forth discussions on these issues.

    1. Oh, and Anya Litvak (who I gather moved to the Post Gazette from the Business Times recently) has an interesting article comparing PIT's drilling lease to DFW's, with some information on implementation and other issues that might fall into the general category of risk mitigation (a topic we had previously discussed here):

    2. That article reminds us, what we do with the waste water is also a big part of the overall concern; "treatment" aka dilution, injection wells, what. If it weren't for the intensity of demand there would be a lot of reasons to hold off -- what's starting to interest me is the nature of that demand.

    3. I believe the main factor has been coal to gas switching for power generation. This can temporarily increase the gas to coal price relationship which temporarily constrains switching, but if there is enough additional potential production at economically viable costs the relative price should keep coming back down to allow more switching. And emissions regulations should help that process along.

      This, of course, is one of the main environmental benefits resulting from increased low-cost natural gas production, although to maximize that benefit you need to do a good job minimizing leakage (natural gas being a powerful greenhouse gas).

  3. More airport drilling details in the Trib today.