Environment & Energy

We explore issues of energy and the environment, along with our partners from Allegheny Front and StateImpact Pennsylvania.

EarthJustice

When  President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cut funding for environmental justice work at the EPA, Mustafa Ali took a stand. 

Carnegie Mellon University via Creative Commons

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are hoping a new quarterly report will help policymakers and the public keep track of the carbon dioxide impact of the nation’s electricity industry.

Along with reporting the total amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by all electricity plants, the quarterly Power Sector Carbon Index will break down the data by the type of generating plant.

York Residents 'Kind Of Used To' Blasts From Quarries

Jun 21, 2017
Google Maps

For about three decades, Richard and Laceda Waring have lived in a rancher in York, a couple of blocks away from a limestone quarry. Every so often, the earth rumbles, and the house shakes.

"Well, there's our daily blast," they'll say.

It's happened when they eat at a local diner nearby in West Manchester Township, surprising the other patrons.

"Sometimes I think we're going to go right down through the floor," Laceda Waring said with a laugh.

Irina Zhorov / Keystone Crossroads

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously agreed Tuesday to create a bipartisan group tasked with investigating lead exposure in the state.

CMU Scientists Help Clairton Residents Find Out What's In Their Air

Jun 13, 2017
Kara Holsopple / AP

R. Subramanian has been working on air quality issues for about 15 years. He started with a background in mechanical engineering, then added chemistry and atmospheric science while working on a Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University.

“There are problems to be solved. And I’m an engineer. And I will learn what I need to solve them.”

Trump Touts A New PA Mine, But Is Coal Actually Rebounding?

Jun 8, 2017
Reid R. Frazier / Allegheny Front

Matt Owens stands at the bottom of a freshly dug hole, about the size of a football field, cut 120 feet deep into a hillside in Somerset County. The pit will soon become the entrance to the Acosta Deep mine.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Until this week, the Mid Mon Transit Authority in Donora had eight Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG, fueled buses but no permanent place to fill them. That's changed thanks to a public-private partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Trillium CNG.

Life Smells Better After Shenango

Jun 1, 2017
Julie Grant / Allegheny Front

In late 2015, many folks who live just north of Pittsburgh got what they considered to be welcomed environmental news: DTE Energy would be closing its Shenango Coke Works on Neville Island. 

Joe Ulrich / WITF

Exelon has announced it will prematurely close the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in September 2019—15 years before its license expires.

The plant’s been unable to compete. Like coal companies, the nuclear power industry faces slowing demand for electricity, along with a glut of cheaper natural gas and renewables. Around the country, five nuclear plants have retired in the past five years, and another five are scheduled to close within a decade.

Guess What Else The Border Wall Keeps Out ...

May 31, 2017
Bureau of Land Management/US Fish and Wildlife Service / AP

President Trump’s proposed 2,000-mile long, 30-foot high border wall would impact more than just a pretty landscape. It could bring an end to the species that live in the lush coastal grasslands, searing hot deserts, and staggering mountain peaks in the path of the wall.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Every day, about 200 barrels of something called produced water bubbles out of each of the roughly 9,600 shale gas wells in Pennsylvania. The water is laced with chemicals and minerals, and since energy companies have been fracking gas wells, they have tried to figure out the best way to deal with it.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The Allegheny County Health Department is proposing to remove monitors for lead air pollution in Bridgeville and Lawrenceville at the end of this year.

The changes are outlined in the department’s Air Monitoring Network Plan for 2018, on which it is currently seeking public comment, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Deciphering 'Lead Free' Labels At The Store Isn't Always Easy

May 25, 2017
Dennis Amith / Flickr

We’ve heard a lot about lead service lines after the Flint water crisis and Pittsburgh’s efforts to replace its old pipes. But that’s not the only way lead can get into your drinking water.

EPA Won't Declare Lake Erie's Waters In Ohio Impaired

May 25, 2017
Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency won't declare Ohio's western end of Lake Erie impaired by toxic algae, siding with state regulators who say they are making progress in tackling the problem.

Dale Sparks / AP

The Allegheny County Health Department has reached a settlement with a steel company over emissions violations at its Harrison Township processing facility.

The department ordered Allegheny Technologies Inc., to pay a $50,000 fine to the county’s Clean Air Fund and allow some of its property to be used as a bike lane along the Allegheny River.

Dick Daniels / Carolina Birds

The Highland Park Bridge is noisy—traffic speeds by as barges pass through the nearby lock and a train rattles underneath. But in the past few years, a new, natural sound has joined the orchestra of automobiles and industry: gulls. To be more specific: Herring gulls.

Fractracker Alliance / StateImpact PA

Pennsylvania’s shale gas drillers continued to break records for production in 2016, tapping about 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Although the increase in production was not as high as in previous years, it still represents an upward trend, while the number of new well permits are declining, according to data published this week by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Pennsylvania still ranks second behind Texas in total volume of natural gas production.

Want To Save Monarch Butterflies? Start Planting Milkweed

May 18, 2017
Vicki DeLoach / Flickr

If Monarch butterflies are going to stay off the endangered species list, they need more to eat. And it’s up to us to feed them.

'Aquahacking' Aims To Improve Water Quality In Lake Erie

May 16, 2017
via Allegheny Front

When we hear about hacking, it’s usually not a “good news” story. “Aquahacking” is an exception.

To improve water quality in Lake Erie, teams of engineers, software developers and students worked for months on a hacking competition. Erie Hack is billed as the intersection of the environment and the regional economy.  The Cleveland Water Alliance offered up cash and support, and the ideas started flowing. The final nine teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

midquel / Flickr

New data suggests that Pittsburgh sewer overflows may be 15 percent greater than prior estimates, which were based on data from 2003. A new report from the RAND Corporation analyzes data collected by ALCOSAN between 2004 and 2013.

 

Furthermore, the volume of water overflowing from local sewers could rise in coming decades, according to Jordan Fischbach, co-director of RAND’s Water & Climate Resilience Center.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

Next to steel and Super Bowl championships, Pittsburgh is synonymous with three rivers. In the summer, the Three Rivers Arts Festival dominates downtown and the moniker is part of a number of companies in the region -- not to mention there used to be a stadium that bore the name.

But does the city technically have three distinct rivers?

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Just ahead of Earth Day, two dozen Pittsburgh nonprofit CEOs are calling on residents to lobby against a rollback of environmental laws at the federal level.

President Donald Trump has proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent, as well as eliminating the clean power plan.

NRG Energy

When Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt visited a Greene County coal mine last week, he said, to applause, “the war on coal is done.”

One Way To Respond To A Warming Planet? Get Smaller

Apr 13, 2017
Kai Schreiber / Flickr

Though the earth is experiencing its first bout of human-induced climate change, the planet has faced massive global warming events in the past. For instance, 56 million years ago, the earth was 46 degrees hotter on average than it is right now. And in response, mammals literally shrank. Imagine an early horse ancestor the size of a cat.

Chris Stalnaker / 90.5 WESA

Although the smokestacks are largely gone, Pittsburghers still breathe some of the sootiest air in the Eastern U.S., according to a report issued Thursday by a local environmental advocacy group.

 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Seven years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil well blew out, spilling an estimated 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators found numerous mechanical and human errors, which led to the explosion at the concrete base of the rig. One of the possible failures included the foamed cement used to line the bore hole.

Bruce Damonte / Chatham University

Chatham University is inching closer to divesting its $80 million endowment fund of investments in the fossil fuel industry.

At a recent meeting of the investment committee of the Board of Trustees, members voted to approve two new investment opportunities that are specifically aimed at excluding fossil fuels and supporting sustainable energy.

Chatham’s Senior Vice President of Finance, Walt Fowler, said reducing the university’s support of fossil fuel companies is in line with its goal of pursuing sustainability in every part of its operations.

Report Finds Fracking Companies Often Get Slap-On-The-Wrist Fines

Apr 3, 2017
Ted Auch / FracTracker Alliance

According to a new report from the group PennEnvironment, only 17 percent of environmental or health violations by fracking companies in Pennsylvania resulted in fines. And when companies did get fined, the penalties were relatively small. In fact, the report found the median fine was just $5,263.

Lead-Tainted Water Is A Big Problem In Pittsburgh. So Is Lead In The City's Soil

Mar 29, 2017
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

On a chilly Saturday afternoon in March, people trickle into Grow Pittsburgh’s Garden Resource Center in the city’s Larimer neighborhood. 

Is A Petrochemical Boom Heading For Pennsylvania?

Mar 23, 2017
GoogleEarth

Shell is expected to begin constructing its $6-billion petrochemical plant in Beaver County later this year. But a new, state-commissioned report says that may be only the beginning for Pennsylvania’s petrochemical industry.

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