Absurd crazy long lines as West Philly state liquor store implodes. PLCB suggests you drive to Paoli.
On January 14, the state liquor store at 40th and Market was abruptly shut down thanks to safety concerns about the apparently decrepit building. As a result, displaced customers have flooded into the store at 4906 Baltimore Avenue, prompting crazy long waits at a two-cash-register store that already (anecdotally appeared to) have some of the longest lines of any liquor store in the city.
“We are in the process of securing a new location,” says Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) Director of External Affairs Stacey Witalec, a process she says will take between six and eight months.
In the meantime, however, the state agency that runs Pennsylvania wine and liquor stores has no plans to do anything at all to ameliorate the situation at 49th and Baltimore Avenue. And the situation is truly dire―or at least dire as booze-related situations get.
On Friday, January 27 employees turned away this reporter's mother, visiting from out of town, saying that she would have to wait outside because the store was so packed. Unfavorable comparisons to the Soviet Union were later made.
When Tom Corbett inevitably gets elected governor (unless you bum liberals actually vote during a midterm election for once), and all of Pennsylvania's forests are ravaged by an industry that doesn't pay the state one cent in extraction taxes, and unemployment benefits are vanquished because everyone collecting them is "lazy," and not a single new tax is ever created because of a man's stubborn ideology, at least there will be one good thing to come out of it, maybe:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett says he'll push for the privatization of liquor and wine sales in Pennsylvania's if he's elected governor.
Corbett said Tuesday that he will submit a plan to get the state out of the liquor business as one source of the revenue that will be needed to balance the state budget. He did not offer any details.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato has said he would not propose any change in the state store system if he's elected.
Screw you, Corbett, for taking the drunk vote, too.
According to the Patriot News, some state politicians think we should sell off the state's 621 state liquor stores to get some quick cash in order to ameliorate Pennsylvania's budget crisis. Sadly, those people are Republicans. Attorney General/GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Corbett is all for it, says his spokesman Kevin Harley:
There are a lot of variables that need to be considered before going forward with the privatization, but [Corbett] does support in general the liquidation of commonwealth assets, such as the state's liquor control system.
As for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato? Not so much.
"The current Wine and Spirits store system generates significant revenue for the state each and every year, and it keeps liquor out of the hands of minors," said Brian Herman, an Onorato campaign spokesman.
Having been a minor in Pennsylvania myself a few years ago, that last claim (which is routinely given by state store supporters) jumps out at me. Is it true? Or even provable? The only thing the state store system seemed to do for my peers was inspire us to befriend people 21 and older.
Perhaps it's not: According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in Pennsylvania report that they've drank alcohol in the past month. (For some reason, the survey lumps 18- to 25-year-olds together, so it's impossible to measure all minors, i.e. 12- to 20-year-olds.) Compared to other states, this puts us somewhere in the middle: In Utah, the lowest amount, or 7 percent, of 12- to 17-year-olds drank in the past month; the highest was in Rhode Island, at 20 percent.
We're not the worst, but we're definitely not the best. Is being average really enough to prevent the state liquor stores from being sold?
The recent explosion of a Marcellus Shale mine only the latest and worst in a series of spills, leaks, well contaminations, and other environmental damage resulting from the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") method of gas drilling in Pennsylvania seems to finally have got some of our representatives questioning the pace at which fracking is allowed to develop in this state.
So far, that pace has been as fast as possible, damn the risks as evinced by the more than one thousand environmental violations racked up against the industry in just the last two years, including more than a hundred spills, according to Department of Environmental Protection documents reviewed by the City Paper.
But it looks like the pressure to keep that pace fast or increase it is mounting in the wake of the BP spill, which has investors looking at the natural gas below Pa. with new attention.
A couple of days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chesapeake Energy a major player in hydraulic fracturing here is selling stock in its company like hotcakes:
"Chesapeake Energy Corp. said it has sold $900 million in preferred stock to a group of private investors, including Asian sovereign wealth funds, cashing in on heightened interest in onshore energy following the BP PLC offshore drilling disaster.
Turns out, Chesapeake isn't the only Marcellus Shale company cashing in on increasing thirst for this region's gas. Reports the Motley Fool:
The increasing presence of Asian funds clearly comes as interest in natural gas ratchets higher worldwide. Other deals have involved India's Reliance Industries forking over $1.7 billion in April to Atlas Energy (Nasdaq: ATLS) in exchange for a sizable position in the Marcellus Shale. Also, two months earlier, Japan's Mitsui paid $1.4 billion for about a third of Anadarko's (NYSE: APC) Marcellus holdings.
With this kind of global pressure to keep drilling, it becomes even more important to ask whether our state officials, legislators and the increasingly beleaguered regulators both, will be able to keep this industry in check or whether it's time for a federal agency like the EPA to take this thing over. (Currently, fracking is exempted from federal oversight by a loophole in the energy bill masterminded by former V.P. Dick Cheney).
Josh Fox's film "Gasland" an expose on deep well natural gas drilling (hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking") airs tonight, 9 PM Eastern, on HBO. Among other fascinating tidbits, the film includes footage of a homeowner in Dimock, Pennsylvania lighting his water on fire, a feat made possible by the migration of methane into his well supply after many of the small town's residents leased land for drilling.
If you're just catching up on the issue, Pennsylvania has become a unique test case in what happens when the gas drilling industry rushes headfirst into a state with (even the head of our Department of Environmental Protection has acknowledged) insufficient regulation in place.
The rush is due to a unique geologic formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which lies below much of the state. (Click here for more of our coverage of Marcellus Shale drilling.)
In light of tonight's airing, and as state lawmakers actively consider harsher regulations, a few sobering stats:
- Well permits issued so far in 2010: 1,272
- Number of permits denied, returned, or withdrawn, 2010: 15, or 1.2%
- Drilling applications submitted to DEP since 2005: 4,248
- Drilling applications denied, returned, or withdrawn since 2005: 58, or 1.3%
- Number of violations found in 2009: 638
- Number of violations recorded so far in 2010: 421
- Number of violations for illegal/improper "discharge" of toxic materials 2010: 58
New standards approved for salts in gas drilling wastewater but it's still OK to discharge carcinogens!
|Photo | Isaiah Thompson|
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved new regulations aimed at protecting Pennsylvania surface waters from potential impacts of drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The regulations can still be challenged by the House or Senate environmental resources committees, but given Governor Rendell's support of these measures, it seems unlikely.
Probably most significant is a limit on Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) salty chlorides and sulfides in discharged fracking water.
Lest the gentle reader think a stream's "saltiness," isn't a big deal, check out the contamination and massive fish kill that resulted from elevated TDS levels in Dunkard Creek in western Pennsylvania.
Interestingly, Marcellus Shale Coalition executive director Kathryn Klaber issued a statement yesterday saying rather inexplicably that the standards would "not provide any additional environmental benefit."
While environmental watchdog groups like Penn Environment and Clean Water Action praise the new rules, they point out that these regulations don't cover other toxic discharges like carcinogens benzene and arsenic.
"This rule is about setting a discharge standard, but we don't have that for chemicals," Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action, told me over the phone. "There are contaminants being discharged in Marcellus Shale wastewater that there need to be more standards for."
Erika Staaf, Clean Water Advocate for Penn Environment, agreed, pointing me to a report authored by the Environmental Working Group's Dusty Horwitt, who reports that gas companies may be regularly injecting "toxic petroleum distillates" which contain benzene into wells:
Companies that drill for natural gas and oil are skirting federal law and injecting toxic petroleum distillates into thousands of wells, threatening drinking water supplies from Pennsylvania to Wyoming. Federal and state regulators, meanwhile, largely look the other way.
These distillates include kerosene, mineral spirits and a number of other petroleum products that often contain high levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen that is toxic in water at minuscule levels. Drillers inject these substances into rock under extremely high pressure in a process called hydraulic fracturing that energy companies use to extract natural gas and oil from underground formations.
Ready for the really scary quote?
In a worst case scenario, the petroleum distillates used in a single well could contain enough benzene to contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water to unsafe levels, according to drilling company disclosures in New York State and published studies. ... That is more than 10 times as much water as the state of New York uses in a single day.
The Inky reports that Rep. Robert Donatucci, chair of the House Liquor Control Committee, will hold hearings on whether the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board registration regulation the thing that got our buddies over at Memphis Taproom, Local 44, Origlio Beverage and Resurrection Ale House in trouble needs to be updated (der!). Also up for debate, apparently: "other parts" (all? please?) of the state's liquor code.
Thank you, backlash.
In my cover story last week ("Drill Baby Drill"), I described, among other things, the potential for wastewater spills from hydraulic fracturing, the process used to drill for gas in the Marcellus Shale.
In the latest news of contamination linked to drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, a Pennsylvania driller has admitted to dumping some 200,000 gallons of drilling wastewater into an abandoned well just outside of Allegheny National Forest.
The story was reported today by Pro Publica, a non-profit dedicated to investigative journalism in the public interest:
As part of a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania, part-owner Michael Evans, 66, of La Quinta, Calif., and John Morgan, 54, of Sheffield, Penn., admitted dumping 200,000 gallons of brine salty wastewater thats created in the drilling process down an abandoned oil well. The maximum penalty for both Evans and Morgan is three years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Sentencing will be June 24. Attorneys for both men declined to comment.
Swamp Angel Energy was drilling in the Allegheny National Forest, in McKean County in northwestern Pennsylvania, and the brine was dumped just outside the border of the federal land.
The company, Pro Publica reports, has 77 active, permitted wells in Pennsylvania, all in McKean county.
Read more CP coverage of drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
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