Environment & Energy

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

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennslvania

House lawmakers have begun moving a natural severance tax through their chamber.

It’s major priority for Democrats, who have been trying unsuccessfully to pass one for a decade.

But it’s slow going—the bill is saddled with well over 300 amendments.

Along with Democrats, the tax is championed by a coalition of moderate, largely southeastern Republicans.

GOP Representative Kate Harper, of Montgomery County, is one of the most vocal advocates.

Author Uses Pittsburgh As Model For Sustainable Future

Nov 16, 2017
Jon Dawson

Pittsburgh is leading the way to a more sustainable future. That’s the argument Patricia DeMarco makes in her new book, "Pathways to Our Sustainable Future: A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh." DeMarco uses the city’s grassroots environmental successes and commitment to sustainable building and energy use to get at themes of transformation. This week, Kara Holsopple spoke with her about the book and why she chose Pittsburgh as the backdrop.

Rick Callahan / 90.5 WESA

The state Senate is advancing legislation to make the Eastern hellbender the official amphibian of Pennsylvania, as researchers say its population is shrinking because of pollution.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Steel might soon be paying a fine for several violations of both county and federal environmental protections at its plant in Braddock.

Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

A public health researcher delivered a dire warning on Monday during a panel on the implications of the planned Royal Dutch Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County.

"When we allow industry to get way out in front of public health and environmental oversight, we end up counting bodies,” said Dr. Brian Schwartz of the Geisinger Center for Health Research in Montour County.

When President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, he said he represented "Pittsburgh, not Paris."

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto disagreed. He traveled to Germany this week as part of an unofficial delegation of more than 100 Americans, American officials and business owners who say they are still committed to climate talks taking place in Bonn. One element of Pittsburgh's climate strategy has been encouraging innovation in a technology known as microgrids.

High Manganese Levels In Kids In East Liverpool Linked To Lower IQ

Nov 10, 2017
zerozlin / Flickr

 

Building Infrastructure In The Age Of Climate Change

Nov 2, 2017
Charlie Neilbergall / AP

As Congress pays out more than 36 billion dollars in disaster relief, the General Accounting Office recommends that the federal government find ways to minimize the economic impacts of climate change.

Pennsylvania's Biggest Environmental Group Hires New CEO

Oct 30, 2017
Brandon Reefer / PennFuture

Pennsylvania's  biggest environmental group is getting a new CEO.

Jacquelyn Bonomo is succeeding Larry Schweiger as the leader of PennFuture. Schweiger is retiring.

Bonomo has been the organization’s executive vice president and COO for the past two years, and has spent more than three decades working in environmental advocacy. 

Bonomo said she didn’t get much environmental exposure while growing up in Hazelton, Pa., in the heart of the state’s anthracite coal region.

Appalachian 'Innovators' Offer New Ideas For The Region

Oct 27, 2017
Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr

Around 350 community activists from around Appalachia, which includes 13 states from southern New York to northern Mississippi, gathered in Pittsburgh earlier this month for a conference about transforming the region.

While nationally Appalachia is often portrayed as a poor, rural region suffering from the loss of coal jobs, Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, which sponsored the two-day conference, says there is also a lot of excitement about new ways to grow the region’s economy.

Future In Limbo For Coal Ash Site

Oct 26, 2017
Google

A Greene County coal ash landfill won’t be receiving any more coal waste until December, at the earliest. Environmental groups hope the landfill may have seen its last shipment of the waste.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

The fuel efficiency of new cars has improved by 10 percent in the last five years, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, but advocates at PennEnvironment fear the federal standard that required car manufacturers to make those changes could be in danger.

Pennsylvania Power Grid Operator Slams Trump Plan To Aid Coal, Nuclear

Oct 24, 2017
Evan Vucci / AP

The nation's biggest electric grid operator said a Trump administration plan to change the way electricity is priced to reward coal and nuclear power is both unworkable and potentially against the law.

PJM, which operates the grid covering 65 million people from Illinois to Washington, D.C., submitted formal comments on the plan late Monday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In a conference call with reporters, PJM's president and CEO, Andy Ott, said the plan by Energy Secretary Rick Perry is not "workable."

Climate Reality Project Head In Pittsburgh To Train Future Climate Leaders

Oct 19, 2017
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

This week in Pittsburgh, about 1300 people are in training to become climate leaders in their communities. That means convincing other people to make changes to their lives. But how? Ken Berlin is the president and CEO of The Climate Reality Project, which works to build public support for addressing climate change. He says it’s about communicating four key messages. The Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsopple asked him about them:

Ralph Wilson / AP

Better collaboration between employers and workforce training programs is key to filling the expected job openings in the growing oil and natural gas industries, according to research from the RAND Corporation.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania lawmakers might be close to a bipartisan agreement that gets a natural gas severance tax to the House floor.

Similar efforts have failed repeatedly over the last several years—and as recently as this month. But a slightly friendlier committee might make this time different.

Most House severance tax bills end up in the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which is stacked with conservative Republicans who tend to oppose tax hikes or new taxes.

Lawsuits Around Climate Change Are On The Rise

Oct 12, 2017
Matt Wade / flickr

 

This week the Environmental Protection Agency announced it’s repealing the Clean Power Plan. That’s the Obama era rule to cut carbon emissions from power plants in order to fight climate change. The Clean Power Plan never took effect because more than two dozen states sued, arguing the EPA overstepped its legal authority. The Supreme Court had been looking into those claims.

First Pittsburgh Garbage Olympics Makes Trash Clean-Up A Competition

Oct 12, 2017
Keith Srakocic / AP

The first Pittsburgh Garbage Olympics will turn picking up litter into a sport. On Saturday morning five East End neighborhoods will go head to head in the competition to see which can pick up the most trash.

Revoking The Clean Power Plan Could Have A Big Impact In Pennsylvania

Oct 10, 2017
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday the EPA will formally propose to revoke the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s regulation for carbon dioxide from the electricity sector.

Charlie Nielbergall / AP

It’s no secret that the Trump administration is often at odds with scientists. His recent agency nominations continue to reflect that. Sam Clovis is Trump’s pick for Chief Scientist at the U.S.

David J. Phillip / AP

Experts say flat topography, impermeable clay-based soil and building on a low lying coastal plain all contributed to the significant flooding issues in Houston over the past month.

Samuel Brody, professor of Marine Studies at Texas A&M-Galveston, said the city’s rapid expansion and development had a role in making it difficult for water to subside.

“On top of that, [our population is] 6-plus million people and with that, all the roads, rooftops, parking lots, which is pavement, concrete and no water can absorb into the soil,” Brody said.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

In an effort to reduce Pittsburgh's environmental impact and improve air quality, the city is launching a set of goals to achieve by 2030.

Outlined in the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan are the following goals:

Spicer Says Rolling Back Regulations Helping The Economy

Sep 29, 2017
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a natural gas industry conference in Pittsburgh that oil and gas drillers had a “huge friend in the Oval Office”. That huge friend is President Donald Trump, whose administration has targeted dozens of regulations that effect oil and gas drilling, a push which Spicer said was helping grow the economy.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Law enforcement agencies aren't interested in putting protesters behind bars, according to panel speakers at the two-day Shale Insight energy conference Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Maryland is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to act on a petition requiring power plants in five upwind states to reduce pollution, the state's attorney general and an official in Gov. Larry Hogan's administration said Wednesday.

Please Don't Buy Japanese Barberry. Forests Will Thank You

Sep 22, 2017
Paige Walter / Allegheny Front

With reporting by Paige Walter

It would be an understatement to say that Ryan Utz is not a fan of Japanese barberry.

Utz is a professor at Chatham University’s Falk School of Sustainability, and as we walk through some damp, forested land on the property of their Eden Hall campus, north of Pittsburgh, he can hardly contain himself.

Can We Talk About Climate Change Now?

Sep 21, 2017
Gerald Herbert / AP

First Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston, then Irma unleashed savage winds on the Caribbean and parts of Florida. And then the fires – exacerbated by a severe drought – raging in the Pacific Northwest, choking the skies of Big Sky country. All of these events have links to climate change, scientists say.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact PA

In March 2016, workers for one of the nation’s largest natural gas pipeline companies cut down a large swath of maple trees in Susquehanna County–a rural patch of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

As Zaheen Hussain walked through the garden at the Millvale Community Library, he pointed to a small instrument mounted on the library's outer wall.

House Panel Rebrands Marcellus 'Impact Fee,' Now Calling It 'Severance Tax'

Sep 11, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

What’s in a name?

A lot, apparently, when it comes to Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.

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