Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

The brutally cold winter experienced by much of the Midwest and Northeast this year is partly to blame for higher propane prices and for making the fuel harder to come by in parts of the country.

The Pennsylvania Propane Gas Association, or PAPGA, said other factors include a decreased capacity to get the fuel from one place to another.

“There actually is a pretty strong supply of propane in the country," said PAPGA spokesman Michael Meath. "It’s not that there’s a shortage, that’s not the case at all. It’s really been a matter of moving the product.”

There is a direct connection between national security and climate change, according to the American Security Project (ASP), a small non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Senior flag officers from ASP are touring the country to talk about the connection between energy, environmental policy and national security. Senior fellow for energy and climate policy Andrew Holland said they will be talking to people outside of the traditional environmental groups, including businesses, veterans groups and lawmakers, about how a changing climate affects homeland security.

A new study by a team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University suggests that electric car owners can cut costs if they forfeit control over when to charge their vehicles.

The study found that allowing the power grid to control charging is more beneficial than charging the vehicles during peak electricity times.

In response to frigid temperatures and increases in energy costs, the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance is calling for a hearing to examine recent power supply problems.

The alliance points to the closing of three Pennsylvania coal-fired power plants on Oct. 9, including the Mitchell plant in Courtney and the Hatfield Ferry plant in Masontown, as a potential reason for the state’s sudden energy issues.

PA Coal Alliance CEO John Pippy said the lack of coal energy has strained available electricity.

What Happened to DCNR’s $6 Million Marcellus Monitoring Report?

Jan 27, 2014
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

After spending more than three years and $6 million to monitor how gas drilling is affecting public forests, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has yet to release the information, and environmental groups are beginning to raise questions.

In late 2010, the Rendell administration launched the program– touting it as one of the most aggressive monitoring initiatives by a public agency in the nation.

More than three years later, under the Corbett administration, DCNR has so far refused to share its findings with the public.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection continues its swing through southwestern Pennsylvania Thursday night as it takes testimony on proposed changes to the rules that govern gas and oil drilling in the state.

The DEP took input for several hours Wednesday night in Washington County and will be in Indiana County Thursday night ant the IUP Convention and Athletic Complex. The rules change, known as Chapter 78, represents the first major overhaul in decades.

In the early hours of Monday morning, a train traveling from Chicago derailed over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

Six of the seven derailed cars carried crude oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, a substance that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said is more dangerous than other types of crude oil.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is collecting public comments on a set of proposals meant to give further consideration to parks and wildlife, prevent spills and manage waste in oil and gas drilling operations.

These would be implemented under Act 13, the law that governs the oil and gas development in the state. Provisions of the act are being challenged in court, but others are going forward.

As Pittsburgh and other cities continue to look for ways to reduce pollution in streams and rivers, more and more are looking toward green solutions rather than big gray infrastructure projects.

These are things such as rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavement. A recent report from the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) finds these sorts of improvements not only benefit the public sector, but also the private sector.

PA Chemical Tank Laws Tougher Than West Virginia

Jan 17, 2014
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

The chemical leak at Freedom Industries that left 300,000 people without water in West Virginia brings up questions in other states, like Pennsylvania, about the possibility of other water contamination catastrophes. There have been spills into Pennsylvania waterways before, and regulators say those incidents have led to more strict laws here. Regulators say a spill is less likely here than in West Virginia, but clean water advocates aren't so sure.

The Bicycle Air Monitoring website is a new effort that will show air quality in areas throughout the city. Volunteers on bicycles were equipped with a laser particle counter and GPS system to collect the data.

What was once one of the most polluted cities in the nation now has 49 Energy Star certified commercial facilities. 

It was announced Thursday that the City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star rating, meaning the building performs in the top 25 percent of similar facilities in terms of energy efficiency nationwide.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said sustainability is something Allegheny County has been focused on for some time.

Cheetahs are More than Just an Attraction at the Pittsburgh Zoo

Jan 15, 2014
Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The cheetahs at the Pittsburgh Zoo are more than strikingly beautiful and graceful animals. They could play an important role in the breeding of future cheetahs.

When the Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell power plants were closed last fall, PJM officials assured customers and legislators that the power grid’s reliability would not be affected.

However, many southwestern Pennsylvania customers were asked to limit power consumption when temperatures reached a record low last week.

Now state Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington) and state Rep. Pam Snyder (D - Fayette) have written a letter to PJM officials and the Public Utility Commission expressing concern — and frustration — about the warnings.

An energy supply and consumption watchdog group is taking its fight against a proposed moratorium on shale drilling in Pennsylvania to the lawmakers sponsoring the bill and to their constituents. 

The Consumer Energy Alliance sent a letter to State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) asking him to pull the legislation from consideration.  SB 1100 was introduced in September and was referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee where it has languished ever since.

PA Game Commission Seedling Bundles Up For Sale

Jan 13, 2014

Landowners hoping to support wildlife habitats on their properties can currently purchase trees and shrubs to be planted in the spring from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The Game Commission’s state land is repopulated each year by seedlings grown at the Howard Nursery, which is located just outside of State College.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has 40 varieties of native plant life including the Black-gum/Black Tupelo, northern red oak, chestnut oak, and pin oak that are available in bundles of 25 seedlings.

About 300,000 residents in West Virginia are still without water for a fourth day, and one local organization is lending a helping hand to make sure residents have water to drink, cook with and bathe in.

Brother’s Brother Foundation is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that provides disaster relief across the globe, and right here at home.

Democratic candidate for governor John Hanger wants to see tougher regulations on the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania.

During a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection hearing, Hanger proposed his 19-point program to increase regulations on gas drilling. Among other changes, Hanger proposed: stronger enforcement of air emissions; extending the minimum distance between a well site and public land; prohibiting the use of outdoor pits for wastewater storage; and adding 105 employees to enforce regulations.

Thousands of dollars are heading out of the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg on pitchforks, wheelbarrows, and tractor trailer loads.

It’s the cost of getting rid of animal manure left in and around the Farm Show complex.

The job of orchestrating the process falls to Jim Sharp, show manager for the past 11 years.

He said as many as 28 tractor trailer loads will carry waste out of the complex, and all that manure is kept in separate piles based on the type of bedding used by the animals.

The Allegheny County Health Department is celebrating a legislative victory that will allow them to more effectively monitor air and water pollution.

In December, County Council passed a law that requires companies performing hydraulic fracturing within the county to notify the Health Department as each phase of the process begins.

artnoose / Flickr

From mild, rainy, and in the 40's Sunday, to an all-time record low of -9 Tuesday to 50 degree temperatures by end of the week. Pittsburgh is experiencing unprecedented temperature fluctuations and weather patterns. The question is what’s going on with this wacky weather. John Radzilowicz, science expert and director of professional development at ASSET-STEM, believes he has the answer.

While he awaits a decision whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will reconsider its decision to strike down part of Act 13, Gov. Tom Corbett is asking oil and gas drillers to continue to follow the environmental requirements established in that statewide drilling law.

“I am calling upon Pennsylvania’s oil and gas operators to honor both the spirit and intent of these setback provisions to continue helping us protect Pennsylvania’s water and natural resources,” Corbett said.

Passion for Pawpaws with Pittsburgh's Pawpaw Ambassador

Jan 6, 2014
The Pawpaw Book/Andy Moore / Flickr

Andy Moore is a writer who lives on the North Side of Pittsburgh. In 2013, The Allegheny Front interviewed him about his proclivity for the pawpaw, a fruit that's native to Pennsylvania and many other regions of the United States. The Allegheny Front recently listed the story as one of their favorites of 2013, and it's one of mine too.

AF Reporter Hal B. Klein says:

DEP Wants High Court to Reconsider Act 13 Ruling

Jan 3, 2014

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission have asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider a recent decision striking down key components of  Act 13 which regulates natural gas drilling.

Turning Acid Mine Drainage Pollution Into Pottery

Dec 31, 2013
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / The Allegheny Front

The brilliant rust orange iron oxide that’s pulled out of waterways polluted with acid mine drainage is finding its way into the hands of artists and craftsmen.  The dried and powdered material is being used to color T-shirts, wood stain, concrete, and even the “burnt sienna” shade of Crayola crayons. Now a nonprofit is helping turn creek contaminants into pottery glaze.

Margaret Dunn jokes that she's too old and tired for arguing.  

If the needles are falling and you're getting ready to take down the Christmas tree, city and county officials are hoping you'll recycle it and not just leave it at your curbside.

The city of Pittsburgh's Recycling Division and Allegheny County's Department of Parks are again offering  tree recycling programs this holiday season. The trees will be mulched and the county will use the mulch in its nine regional parks.

Televisions, computers and smartphones are popular gifts during the holidays, but what should you do with your old electronics?

The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wants to remind Pennsylvanians they must recycle unwanted electronics.

According to the DEP, electronics that are thrown away usually end up in landfills and create an environmental hazard.

State Awards Grant to Assess Atom Smasher Site

Dec 24, 2013

The site of the world’s first industrial atom smasher will be environmentally assessed and remediated for future development.

An $88,000 grant given to Forest Hills Borough from the state will help pay for the study of the Westinghouse Atom Smasher, the light bulb-shaped building situated near Chalfant Borough.

State Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said there is a lot of work to be done before remediation can take place.

Which stream in Pennsylvania will succeed the Monongahela as River of the Year? 

Voting for the annual River of the Year competition closes Dec. 27.

For 30 years, Pennsylvanians have been able to vote for their favorite waterways in the commonwealth.

This year the five nominees are the Schuylkill, Kiskiminetas-Conemaugh, Ohio, Brodhead Creek Watershed and the West Branch of the Susquehanna.

Amy Camp, Pennsylvania Environmental Council Land and Water Trails specialist, said they look at the waterway’s conservation successes and needs over the years.

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

The land agent first came knocking on Vivian and Dean House’s door in July. They sat on the patio of the retired couple’s 85-acre farm in this Central Kentucky town and chatted.

The guy was friendly, the kind of guy Dean could talk to about fishing.

He put the couple at ease and told them his company was interested in running a pipeline through their land. They were later offered more than $165,000 to sign easements.

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