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Energy

Pa. cuts off drilling wastewater in midst of power shake-up

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Power: something nobody seems to be able to agree on these days.

The Associated Press reports the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has made a big decision: It's asked companies drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale to stop taking their wastewater to treatment plants.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cited elevated levels of bromide in rivers in western Pennsylvania in its announcement. "Now is the time to take action to end this practice," acting Department of EnvironmentalProtection Secretary Michael Krancer said in a statement Tuesday. Bromide is a salt that later reacts with the chlorine disinfectants used by drinking water systems and creates trihalomethanes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that trihalomethanes can be harmful to people who drink water with elevated levels of the chemical for many years.

An industry representative told the AP that companies would be taking steps to address the bromides ending up in Pennsylvania rivers.

Power Play

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been getting press for saying he'll sue to protect the Delaware River Basin from pollution by drillers in the Marcellus Shale. But the AG's office also went to bat before the Supreme Court yesterday in a lawsuit over a different type of power-related pollution.

The Albany Times-Union's Capital Confidential blog recapped the argument.

State Solicitor General Barbara Underwood will argue the case, which relates to New York’s participation in a suit against five polluting power companies brought by New York (state and city) as well as California, Connecticut, Iowa, Rhode Island and Vermont. Her argument, in a nutshell: The power companies are causing a “public nuisance” by releasing greenhouse gases into the air, and can therefore be held accountable in court.

The New York Times reports the nation's highest court was "skeptical." The Washington Post is also "skeptical," so let's call the prospects of this suit "uncertain."

Reuters reports that power company AES Corp., which owns and operates power facilities across the region -- including one that we visited in Johnson City -- is doing some big spending to pick up a rival.

AES' deal to buy DPL, which serves over 500,000 customers in West Central Ohio and runs 3,800 megawatts of power generation facilities, will add to its regulated power profile that now makes up for more than half of its total annual revenue.

Reuters notes that:

Deal activity in the power sector has picked up as companies, hurt by falling electricity prices due to the economic downturn, eye assured returns from regulated power and brace for the huge costs facing the sector.

AES's eastern division put four of its New York power plants up for sale in February.

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