Environment & Energy

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

Is Fracking An Environmental Justice Issue?

Jul 26, 2017
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Kirk Jalbert started thinking about fracking and environmental justice last year.

Going For A Swim In Lake Erie? You Might See Some Jellyfish

Jul 24, 2017
Mark Duncan / AP

They've been in the Great Lakes Basin for decades, but recently entered lakes Erie and St. Clair.

Freshwater jellyfish — about the size of a penny or quarter — are translucent, slimy blobs that inhabit lakes, streams, ponds, and some rivers in Pennsylvania and much of the northeastern United States.

Like their saltwater counterparts, freshwater jellyfish will sting people, but their stingers are so small they would not penetrate human skin.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Six Pittsburgh students are spending their summer learning about the plants and animals in Frick Park and how to protect them with erosion control and managing invasive species. 

Students working in the Young Naturalist program don’t typically have access to nature. 

90.5 WESA’s Sarah Schneider spoke with Taiji Nelson, a naturalist educator with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, about teaching kids to be park stewards. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Kamil Kaczor / Flickr

Officials announced Tuesday that PWSA is back in compliance with federal standards for lead levels in drinking water. The next day, City Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow the authority to replace the private side of residential lead service lines when it replaces the public side.

Natural Gas Industry Wastewater Pollution May Linger For Years

Jul 21, 2017
Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A new study finds the treated wastewater from Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry may pollute rivers, lakes, streams and creeks for longer than previously thought.

Richard Shiro / AP

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress say they’re not so sure about the science of climate change, even though the vast majority of scientists agree: we’re warming the planet and if we don’t stop, it’ll have big consequences for us.

Is Green Slime As Bad For Your Health As It Looks?

Jul 13, 2017
Haraz N. Ghanbar / AP

Algae blooms are expected to form again this summer on western Lake Erie, and people want to know whether the toxin in those blooms is making them sick.

How Cities Are Planning To Survive Climate Change

Jul 13, 2017
Magnus Larsson / Flickr

Cities all over the world are receiving funding to become more resilient. That means preparing them to handle long-term stresses, like income inequality, and short-term shocks, like a flood. In 2014, Pittsburgh became one of those cities. It’s now part of the 100 Cities program, a Rockefeller Foundation initiative designed to help promote resiliency.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Speaking Friday at the National Energy Technology Laboratory near Pittsburgh, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry emphasized the link between energy innovation and national security and talked about what he sees as coal’s strong future.

Calling his position as energy secretary “the coolest job” he’s ever had, Perry thanked the standing room-only crowd of scientists and researchers for their work in advancing energy technology, specifically when it comes to coal.

Climate Change Forces Local Birds To Breed Sooner

Jul 7, 2017
Powdermill Nature Reserve

Several species of birds that call southwestern Pennsylvania home are breeding as much as three weeks sooner than they did 50 years ago.

If the shift continues, bird populations could begin to decline, according to Powdermill Nature Reserve Avian Research Coordinator Luke DeGroote.

Researchers at the facility in Westmoreland County, run by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, have been capturing and banding birds since 1961 and have seen a shift, which DeGroote links to climate change.

Alex Nixon / 90.5 WESA

The Seneca Rocks area of West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest re-opened Friday morning after a nearly week-long, 5-acre fire tore through the western base of its north peak.

Officials said climbers should use caution when re-entering the area because of unstable footing along access routes and possible changes to climbing routes. The feature's hiking trail and observation platform were both impacted by the fire, but have been cleared of immediate hazards, officials said.

Paul A. Selvaggio / Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

At the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, inside a tall concrete room, kept warm and humid, is a series of cages filled with the most illegally trafficked animal in the world: the pangolin.

Ken Lund / Flickr

This story was originally published by Allegheny Front on July 8, 2016. 

Look at a satellite map of Pennsylvania and you’ll see a lot of green. Part of the reason: There’s a ton of water in the state, and much of it resides in the ground. But what that glance at the map won’t reveal is many lakes. (OK—there’s Lake Erie, of course, but hold that thought.)

Pittsburgh artist Travis Mitzel wanted to know what was up with that.

Concerned About How Fracking Is Affecting Your Health? This Organization Can Help

Jun 30, 2017
Environmental Health Project

With all the oil and gas development happening in the region, people are wondering how it is affecting their health.

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.

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