Environment & Energy

Weather
2:24 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Local Farmers Protect Their Plants from Late Spring Frost

April showers may bring May flowers, but what are we going to do with this frost?

With temperatures forecast to dip below the record low of 35 degrees, a frost advisory has been issued for Southwestern Pennsylvania starting at 3 a.m.

Local farmers are trying to protect their plants, strawberries in particular, from the chilling temperatures.

Ross Trax from Trax Farm in Bethel Park said it’s still early for strawberries, but the farm is trying to protect the blossoms.

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Environment
1:22 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Allegheny County Health Department Issues Combined Sewer Overflow Alert

The Allegheny County Health Department issued its second combined sewer overflow (CSO) alert of the season Thursday.

The advisories notify swimmers, boaters and other river-goers if the water has been contaminated by raw sewage after heavy rainfall clogs waste treatment facilities. The length of the advisories depends on the time it takes for the sewer systems to return to normal levels.

The CSO alerts do not prohibit recreational river activity, but advise the public to reduce water contact, especially those with weak immune systems or open cuts and sores.

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Environment & Energy
10:15 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Lovers of PA’s Loyalsock Forest Fight to Limit Drilling There

"We have to be the voice of the birds," said Paul Zeph, of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society.
Credit Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY/Newsworks

Deep in the Loyalsock State Forest, where no cell phone signal reaches, the sounds of rushing waterfalls and forest birds are suddenly interrupted by the sound of a helicopter.

Paul Zeph of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society says the noise could be related to gas drilling. Drillers will often drop seismic testing equipment into remote areas that are difficult to reach by roads. And that leads Zeph to cite one of the many worries that naturalists and outdoors lovers have with plans to expand drilling in the Loyalsock.

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Environment
7:21 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Game Commission to Track Newly Hatched Peregrine Falcons in Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania Game Commission Tuesday affixed special tracking bands to the legs of peregrine falcons that have hatched atop a state office building in Harrisburg.

The agency has been monitoring the offspring of falcons nesting on the building ledge since 2000 as part of an effort to help the recovery of a bird that is on the state’s endangered species list.

Game Commission biologist Art McMorris said the falcon population may improve enough to come off that list in the next decade.

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Environment & Energy
10:24 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Poll Shows Support for a Drilling Moratorium in Pennsylvania

A drill rig in Susquehanna County.
Credit StateImpact Pennsylvania

A new poll out Tuesday shows strong support for a moratorium on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, despite showing general support for gas extraction.

The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan, in conjunction with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, surveyed both Pennsylvania and Michigan residents on fracking. The survey shows general support for gas extraction in Pennsylvania. Forty-nine percent of respondents approve, and 40 percent oppose.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:28 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Green Stormwater Solutions from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh

George Hawkins is General Manager of DC Water, the water and sewer authority for Washington DC
Credit DC Water

    

Washington DC and Pittsburgh have a common trait of being build right by the water, with low lying areas and old infrastructure. When it became necessary for DC to improve its water and sewage systems - like Pittsburgh - the nation’s capital opted for a focus on traditional "gray" options. Tunnels and pipes were the main solution for Washington's sewage and storm water problems.

But George Hawkins, General Manager of DC Water has worked to convince the district and the EPA to embrace green infrastructure ideas. By reopening the EPA consent decree, DC is on track to becoming a model of sustainable infrastructure.

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Environment
2:19 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

EPA Supports DEP Findings, Will Not List Susquehanna River As Impaired Waterway

For years, both anglers and scientists have witnessed death and disease in the Susquehanna River’s smallmouth bass population.

The issue has gained national attention, yet two state agencies have clashed over how to handle the problem.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission disagreed over whether a 100-mile stretch of river’s main stem should be officially labeled as “impaired.”

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Phipps Conservatory
4:35 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

New Book Documents Construction of Phipps 'Living Building'

The cover of "Building in Bloom," a new book about Phipps' Center for Sustainable Landscapes.
Credit Noah Brode/90.5 WESA

Phipps Conservatory is celebrating the release of a book that details the construction of its new Center for Sustainable Landscapes, a $23.5 million facility that produces all of its own water and energy.

Called "Building in Bloom," the book by Mary Adam Thomas is the first of a series commissioned by the Living Future Institute, an Oregon company that administers the ultra-green Living Building Challenge certification program for structures.

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Marcellus Shale
3:30 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Pitt Study Finds Perceptions of Fracking Linked with Higher Stress Levels

A small sampling of people living near Marcellus Shale development sites were found to have higher rates of perceived health problems and stress levels.

That’s according to a study done by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. This was not a clinical study, but researchers said it could provide insight into effects of stress.

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Air Quality
5:14 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Liberty-Clairton Air Quality Plan Won't Include Environmentalists' Demand for Stricter Controls

A week after the American Lung Association declared that the Pittsburgh area has the seventh-worst air quality in the nation, the Allegheny County Board of Health approved an air quality improvement plan mandated by the federal government for the Liberty-Clairton area.

The vote of approval on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to the plan without including several local groups' suggestions for stricter pollution guidelines.

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Environment
2:28 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

In Sunbury, Drilling Waste, Politics and a Pile of Dirt

The dirt covers about an acre of a former industrial site in the city of Sunbury. It's in a floodplain next to the Susquehanna River and a residential neighborhood.
Credit StateImpact Pennsylvania

A pile of dirt has sparked controversy in the city of Sunbury, Northumberland County.

Recently, an otherwise civil city council meeting devolved into a shouting match. Councilman Joe Bartello and Mayor David Persing sparred over the city’s stormwater management rules.

“It’s already a law!” Bartello yelled. “Council doesn’t have to vote to get a stormwater plan!”

“Just bring us something that proves they need (a stormwater plan),” Persing fired back.

“I can’t give you more than you already have,” Bartello replied, “You have the codebook.”

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Environment
3:30 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Hemlock Killer Makes Its Way to Western Pennsylvania

A small killer is making its way through Pennsylvania, leaving dead hemlock trees in its wake.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the hemlock woolly adelgid has been detected in Cook Forest State Park in Clarion County and Clear Creek State Park in Jefferson County.

The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is an invasive beetle-like insect originating from southern Japan. The adelgid multiplies at the base of a tree and moves upward attaching itself to the underside of branches.

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Essential Pittsburgh
9:00 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Don't Just Sit There, Do Something About Climate Change

Ever more people are concerned about global warming and climate change but perhaps no group more so than women, since air quality issues caused by C02 emissions can have such damaging consequences on our children (asthma), babies and unborn children (mercury poisoning). We'll talk with Joylette Portlock who has launched DoSomethingAboutClimate.com, a humorous and informative volley to get people to listen, and act.

Marcellus Shale
3:19 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Industry Group Tries To Improve Drilling Trucks' Safety Record

In June 2010, Pennsylvania State Police placed 250 trucks hauling wastewater or supporting shale drilling operations out of service along with 45 drivers. 

Three months later, in the next “Operation FracNET,” troopers removed 208 trucks and 64 drivers from Pennsylvania roads for everything from faulty brakes and lighting to permit violations.

In the most recent crackdown on shale industry trucks, a two-day period in March 2011, troopers pulled 131 vehicles and 14 drivers off the road.

Now gas drillers and truckers are trying to further reduce those numbers. 

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Marcellus Shale
3:14 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

House Dems, Environmentalists Seek to Block Drilling in Loyalsock State Forest

State House Democrats and environmental advocates are asking the Corbett administration to block natural gas drilling in a state forest that straddles three counties in the thick of Marcellus Shale country.

Anadarko Petroleum owns subsurface rights to tens of thousands of acres of the Loyalsock State Forest, but it could only access the shale below by way of scattered chunks of land that also happen to be ecologically sensitive.

Now, some lawmakers want Anadarko’s request for an agreement that would allow drilling in the forest to be turned down.

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Environment & Energy
4:12 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Quaker Group to Protest PNC Mining Investments

The Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) is coming to Pittsburgh once again to challenge PNC’s financing of mountaintop mining.

The group made headlines last year as members set out on a 17-day walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to protest during the annual shareholders meeting.

While they’re not walking this year, EQAT will be protesting at Tuesday’s meeting.

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Infrastructure
3:30 am
Mon April 22, 2013

10 Years After Blackout, Power Grid Still Needs Updating

As the weather warms, the chances increase for strong storms triggering power outages. 

The last U.S. blackout was nearly a decade ago, when a portion of the nation's power grid was overloaded by re-routed electricity. It impacted 50 million people over two days in the northeast portion of the nation, and a small portion of Canada.

Recent storms, like Hurricane Sandy, have also caused extended power outages. 

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Earth Day
3:30 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Pittsburghers Celebrate Earth Day and Pledge Continued Action

Across the world, people are celebrating Earth Day in a variety of ways today, from trash clean ups to tree plantings.

Pittsburgh didn’t wait for the actual day, as Earth Day events started last week and will continue in the coming weeks and days.

On Friday ALCOSAN workers gathered at several spots in Allegheny County to pick up litter.

“All the litter we pick up has the tendency to blow into the rivers,” said ALCOSAN spokeswoman Nancy Barylak, “so that litter you see on the side of the road could easily end up in the rivers.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:59 am
Sat April 20, 2013

Earth Quaker Action Takes Direct Action Against PNC

Members of the EQAT walking from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in 2012
Credit Earth Quaker Action Team

  The mission of the Earth Quaker Action Team, also known as EQAT, is to call attention to PNC Bank’s financial funding of coal companies engaging in mountain top removal coal mining. Last year they set out on a two-hundred mile walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to protest at a PNC shareholders meeting. This year EQAT Board Member Ingrid Lakey is back in Pittsburgh, she talks with us about the actions they would like PNC's new CEO to take. 

Environment
3:30 am
Mon April 15, 2013

White-Nose Syndrome Wiping Out PA's Bat Population

Since February 2006 when it was first discovered, White-Nose Syndrome has caused the deaths of 5.7 million to 6.7 million North American bats, many of those in Pennsylvania.

Greg Turner is a wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Diversity Section of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. He counts and identifies hibernating bats and conducts migratory telemetry on our federally endangered Indiana bats.

When searching the abandoned Durham Mine in Bucks County, he found just 23 were alive and over 10,000 bats were dead.

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Greening the City
4:10 pm
Wed April 10, 2013

Pittsburgh Opportunities for Green Infrastructure

Syracuse, NY has invested $25 million on more than 100 green infrastructure projects and now it is being held up as a model for what other cities could be doing. 

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Marcellus Shale
4:38 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

State Website Shows Where Marcellus Shale Impact Money is Going

Credit Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

A year after Pennsylvania enacted an impact fee on the Marcellus Shale industry, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) launched a new website that would allow the general public and local governments to see where the revenues are going.

Under Act 13, or the Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett in February 2012, certain Marcellus Shale drillers have to pay a fee to the PUC every year. 

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Land Conservation
1:40 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Allegheny Land Trust May Buy 180 Acres in Richland Township

The Allegheny Land Trust is under contract to purchase 180 acres in Richland Township — land formerly owned by the Pittsburgh Cut Flower company but unused for the past 20 years.  

There are about 10 acres of dilapidated greenhouses and other structures on the property. Some may be reused, but most will be removed.  

Chris Beichner, Allegheny Land Trust's executive director, expects the sale to go through this summer if further environmental testing indicates the land can be made safe for public use. 

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PennDOT roadside cleanup
3:30 am
Mon April 8, 2013

PennDOT Seeks Volunteers for Spring Cleaning

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is asking for volunteers to help "Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful." 

Each year, PennDOT conducts the "Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania" from the beginning of spring until the end of summer. It's a statewide effort to pick up roadside and shoreline litter and debris.

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Pittsburgh Parks
2:09 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Plans Improvements to Panther Hollow Watershed

Pittsburghers can remember boating, fishing and ice skating on Schenley Park’s Panther Hollow Lake in years gone by, but in recent years, storm water runoff has degraded water quality and filled the lake with silt. 

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has developed plans to restore the 384-acre watershed.  

Panther Hollow Lake sits almost at the bottom of the watershed, according to Philip Gruszka of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, so to dredge and make capital improvements to the lake without improving the watershed would not be sustainable.  

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