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Faulty Pipe in Deadly 2011 Explosion was Faulty 30 Years Ago; PA Throws the Book at UGI

I hazarded the commonsense assumption that UGI knows its pipes need to be replaced sooner than it bothers to replace them, all the while paying investors 5 times what’s spent on scant improvements.

Today we learned that the faulty pipe that caused the death of five Allentown residents last year was on UGI’s radar over 30 years ago:

According to state documents, an internal UGI Utilities Inc. work order from December 1979 recommended that same pipe be replaced because it had experienced four breaks dating to 1974.

The pipe was never replaced, and that 1979 work order was the last recorded document regarding any repair discussions for that pipe, according to the utility commission.

That particular detail has the attorney for one of the victims’ family members questioning whether last year’s gas explosion could have been avoided if that repair work had been done.

Meanwhile,

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission today filed a complaint against UGI Utilities Inc. for safety violations the agency claims led to the Allentown gas explosion last February that claimed five lives.

The complaint, issued after a 16-month investigation, calls for corrective actions, the replacement or improvement of gas pipelines, and a $386,000 fine — the maximum possible financial penalty.

So the Commonwealth threw the book at UGI.  It needs a heavier book.

Mid-Sized Cities As Reverse-Frontiers: Why You Should Move to Allentown, PA.

At about 118,000 people, Allentown is the third-largest and fastest-growing city in Pennsylvania. It’s a city that’s fallen from its place as a national commercial and industrial leader and a city in transition, with a downtown redevelopment project poised to renew the economic vitality of the urban core.  Big plans are afoot, but they’re not without controversy.  Suburban townships unhappy with a recently-passed state law creating a 130-acre redevelopment district partly funded, in theory, but Earned Income Tax money from wages made in the City by suburban township residents, have filed a suit against Allentown and other parties they believe have done them wrong.  Until that’s sorted out, “poised” is the best way to describe the situation.  Poised for the kind of failure jealousy has often wrought, or for the kind of success we’ve been waiting for for thirty years.

Allentown is a mid-sized city.  I realized today after some regular meetings with civic leaders precisely what mid-sized means to me:  big enough to be burdened with great responsibilities and blessed with great potential, but small enough that people — and partnerships — can make real differences.  Small enough, then, for me to take the success of my city personally.  There are real opportunities to be part of the change.  That also means there are real opportunities for territorialism and silo-building, and real opportunities to have a personal stake in the subversion of those things.   I believe those things are bad for my city, and I can be given to take that personally.

The opportunities in Allentown mean specific things for young Gen Xers and Millennials.

Creative class: we need you.

Come here.  Move here.  Create here.  Advocate here.  A hundred more of you could be the tipping point that creates thriving art and green scenes that you’ll build with the people here who are working hard at connecting around those kinds of issues even now.  If developers and litigious townships assert that Allentown is up for grabs, I’ll assert it with them.  And if it’s up for grabs for them, it’s up for grabs for us.  We need you to help us chart the course of Allentown’s civic identity in the 21st Century.  Help us see our iconography anew.  Help us celebrate our history by building a future together.  Join the good work being done here and stake your own claim on this reverse-frontier.

Someone found my blog today by searching the term “Generation X is broken.”  We’re not, and neither is this place.  We are poised to make a difference, to create and lead the change.  Come back from the hinterland and be part of something real.

For reference, Allentown is bigger than fellow mid-sized cities like Springfield, Illinois; Athens, Georgia; Lansing, Michigan; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Berkley, California; and Burbank, California.  Like most of these cities, Allentown is part of a larger metropolitan area.  And we’re uniquely positioned within reasonable distances from Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and DC. We have unique colonial, consumer and creative heritage, an institutional art scene and an emerging network of eager independents.

See you soon.

Half of Gen-Y Underemployed? Another Round of Debt Crisis?

Andrew Sullivan shares grim news you sort of already knew.  But now there are numbers.

Mark Cuban doesn’t blog often, but when he does, it’s about the coming student-loan bust.  Is he right about the bubble?

See also: Occupy, Mark Cuban, and Your Predatory Student Loans.

Dear Delta Thermo Energy: We Hope So, Too

If you search for Delta Thermo Energy’s website, this is what you’ll find:

Interestingly, that’s what DTE is basically also saying about the future site of their recently-approved and controversial Waste to Energy Plant:

Other details about the company on the web are sparing.  The LinkedIn profile is sparse, but we do learn that the CEO, Rob V. (Rob Van Naardan), used to work for a private equity firm. Mr. Van Naardan, if you’re reading this, I’d sincerely like to talk to you about emissions issues and I’d love to learn as much as possible about your process.  I’d also like to connect you and your company with the Air Quality Partnership of Lehigh Valley – Berks.  Given your committment to near-zero emissions, DTE and AQP likely have some interests in common.

My Thoughts on the Delta Thermo Deal and Last Night’s City Council Meeting and What I Said There

I just got home from City Council.  I had to leave before the vote, but not before I waited 4 hours to share my thoughts with the public and with Council.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can learn about it here.  In the interest of time, I’m just going to post my thoughts as I shared them.  Some context:  you should know that there was a very large union presence at the meeting, so much so that before 7 PM the Council Chamber was packed out and people weren’t being let in.  It was at this point that some folks reached out to some local media, because it looked like the fairness, integrity (and possibly, legality) of the meeting was in jeopardy.  Thankfully, that got resolved (and the media was already there).  More context: the unions are strongly in support of the DTE project.  I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’m not.

What I ended up saying, in a nutshell, around 11 PM:

  • I live in Allentown, work in Allentown and pay taxes in Allentown.
  • I work for the Air Quality Partnership of Lehigh Valley – Berks, but I also sit on the Justice and Advocacy Committee of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches.  In both capacities, labor issues are extremely important.   The Justice and Advocacy Committee deals with issues of worker justice, livable wages, economic disparity, and I’m sympathetic to those concerns.
  • I was able to have a conference all today with Peter Crownfield (of the Alliance for Sustainable Communities LV) and permitting official with DEP.  That official explained to us that DTE does NOT have an air quality permit from the Commonwealth (they’ve used vague language to intimate that they do).  They DO have an exemption that pertains to research and development, not a commercial facility.  (Here I affirmed what Peter already said).
  • I talked about my discomfort with this and other transparency issues in this process.  I said that unions know better than anyone that when Business isn’t transparent, Labor doesn’t win.  The environment doesn’t win, our communities don’t win, and our politicians [in this case] don’t win.
  • The Mayor (he’s strongly in favor of the project) said he thought it was a progressive solution.  I said “I’m having trouble reconciling that with the fact that I’ve seen nothing in this discussion that shows me there’s anything in place to incentivize our communities to waste less and reuse/recycle more.  Progressive movements nationally have said with one voice that reduction and reuse are the way forward, and there’s nothing here that makes me think this project will reward that over the next 35 years.  (It’s a 35 year commitment to 2012 technology.  After 10 years, there’s an opt-out option, but  that wold require the City to buy out DTE’s interest and/or facility.  That’s a lot of money we don’t have).
  • With respect to the gentleman from DTE who talked about one of the other bidders having just gone out of business as a sign that the City was right to chose DTE, I said that frankly, that makes me worry more about the utility of this project and its long term prospect for success.
  • I said that as City Council knows, the Pennsylvania Constitution makes some pretty progressive claims about the environment.  Clear air, clean water, and clean land (all germane to this discussion) are a right of all Pennsylvanians.  We need to be committed to a truly progressive way forward, and a deal that locks us in long-term to today’s technology (actually, three technologies that have never been used together in the way DTE proposes, and never put into a practice in a plant anywhere by DTE) negates the possibility of us moving forward in truly progressive ways.
  • 35 years ago, Bethlehem Steel would have paid a  lot of the salaries in this room and put chickens in every pot.  Whatever happened to Lehigh Structural Steel?  Anyone remember Hess’s?  Things change, and they change quickly and that’s truer now than ever.  We know that this kind of technology is changing all the time: entering into this deal on these terms prevents us from pursuing truly progressive technologies as they emerge.
  • Thank you for the time.

Christopher Cocca:

Tiffany Erkisen is raising money for clean water, and there’s a really cool art piece in the mix. Check out her most recent post!

Originally posted on Vintage Pages:

When I have little to no clue what I’m doing here, in this life, with these dreams, and with my junk drawer of mismatched talents.

I just don’t get it.

My life at times seems to resemble that bag that Mary Poppins had- she just kept pulling things out here and there, things that didn’t seem to fit, things that may not have made sense, other things that were simply magical, yet they all served some purpose to her. What do you do with what you have when it doesn’t seem to fit together?

You throw it out there and you let the pieces lay where they fall. *

*Disclaimer: this is in no way foolproof.

This past year had been such a fun and incredible journey with The Adventure Projectand I have enjoyed every step of it. I knew that I would be part of typeTAPagain this…

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