Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

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.

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.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority will hold a public workshop Tuesday to answer questions about oil and gas development plans at Pittsburgh International Airport.

The state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will hold hearings next month on a proposed package of regulations that would govern surface operations of oil and gas producers.

National Aviary

As the snow falls on the city, a few of those flakes are finding the bald heads of a pair of birds at the National Aviary that many hope will someday find love on the North Shore. 

The Aviary recently obtained a pair of Andean condors with the hopes of getting the pair to breed. But with the male checking in at 43 years of age and the female 36 years old, these are no spring chicks.

Members of the Neville Island Good Neighbors Working Group are quitting, saying they're frustrated that air pollution caused by a Pittsburgh-area coke plant isn't being fixed fast enough.

“We’re starting to get the feeling that we’re serving as a tool for DET Energy to placate the public rather than addressing the real and compelling regional health concerns,” said group member and Ben Avon Councilman Michael Bett.

Walmart and Farmers Turn Food Waste into Compost

Dec 3, 2013
Hal B. Klein / The Allegheny Front

What to do with too many leftovers? Even grocery stores have that problem.

In fact, a report issued in 2012 by the National Resource Defense Council, finds approximately 40 percent of the food grown and processed in the United States goes uneaten. Now Walmart—fast becoming one of the nation’s biggest grocers—is working with the nonprofit Pennsylvania Resources Council to send truckloads of its unsold produce to nearby farms for composting.

With deer season just days away, hunters are being urged to donate some portion of what they haul in to food banks.

The group Hunters Sharing the Harvest reimburses 92 participating deer butchers around the state for taking donated venison and processing the meat for distribution.

Lorri Diller, co-owner of Diller’s Deer Processing in Cumberland County, said hunters don’t have to donate a whole deer.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has proposed a consent decree with Waste Treatment Corporation following allegations of violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

3 Rivers Wet Weather

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority plans to spend more than $2 billion to build miles of new underground tunnels, and to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant.

Some clean river advocates are pushing for alternatives, like green infrastructure.

The Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant looks at the latest in the debate over ALCOSAN’s plan to renovate the region’s sewer system in an on-going series titled Ripple Effects.

To Clear the Air, Some in Susquehanna County Leave the Fracking Debate Behind

Nov 26, 2013
Katie Colaneri / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Two years ago, Victoria Switzer and her neighbors had stopped speaking.

Switzer was one of the residents of Dimock who claimed natural gas drilling had ruined their water supplies. The small village in Susquehanna County became synonymous with flaming taps and jugs of muddy brown drinking water.

But the media blitz angered her neighbors, the Teels, who said it ignored the economic benefits of drilling.

The reporters, the activists and the industry haven’t gone away, but things have started to change.

Bioswale Helps Millvale with Flooding Problem

Nov 25, 2013
Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

Pennsylvania's climate change forecast is wet. More frequent and increasingly intense storms than in the past are expected. One community which has already faced devastating floods is finding that a particular kind of green infrastructure called a bioswale could be part of the solution.

More than two dozen researchers meet Monday at Duquesne University as part of a symposium on the latest findings regarding Marcellus Shale drilling.

Foundation-funded researchers from universities including Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke and Yale presented their independent research on topics such as air quality, human and animal health, effects on water treatment plants and local government response to shale gas development.

The '10 Commandments' of Drilling

Nov 22, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed in July that drilling in Dimock, Susquehanna County had caused methane to migrate into groundwater in that community.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, there have been 41,000 wells drilled in the state over the past twelve years—oil, traditional gas and Marcellus Shale. 

While Pennsylvania is ranked 17th in national wind energy production, a state environmental advocacy group thinks the commonwealth can do better.

According to a report released today by the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, wind energy is already providing more than 2.2 million megawatt-hours of electricity in Pennsylvania, and the group expects that number to rise 97 percent in the next five years.

A broad coalition of environmental and community groups Monday urged Pittsburgh City Council to pursue green infrastructure solutions to the city’s storm water overflow problem.

In Pittsburgh, Corbett Says Shale Opponents Are 'Economic Development Deniers'

Nov 14, 2013

At a shale gas conference in Pittsburgh Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett defended his policies promoting drilling in the state, and defended his own math, too.

Corbett, who is running for re-election, said drilling under his watch was responsible for a vast economic lift to the state. "More than 200,000 jobs have either been created, made more prosperous or made more secure" by the drilling boom brought on by fracking in Pennsylvania.

“That number of course seems to bother some out there," said Corbett.

PA Lags in Renewable Energy Standards

Nov 12, 2013

Eight percent is not enough according to State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery).   He’s referring to a 2004 state law that requires power-generating utilities in Pennsylvania to have at least eight percent of their output from renewable sources—hydro, solar, wind, and geothermal—by 2021.

“It (eight percent) was not ambitious but it was reasonable in 2004,” says Leach.  “But time, technology and other states have passed us by.”  

How One Woman Took on Shell to Save Her Louisiana Town

Nov 10, 2013
Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

In June 2012, Pennsylvania officials flew to Louisiana to visit a couple of petrochemical plants owned by Shell, a company they were about to give big economic incentives to build a plant in Beaver County, Pa.

But they didn’t visit Margie Richard, who once lived in Norco, but now lives outside New Orleans.

If they had, they would have gotten another story about Shell’s operations here, a story about toxic emissions, industrial accidents, and how a very determined school teacher brought one of the largest companies in the world to the negotiating table.

Climate change activist Bill McKibben has been spending considerable time in Pittsburgh recently, first for the Power Shift 2013 conference in October, and on Monday to receive an award from the Thomas Merton Center.

The Thomas Merton Center bills itself as “Pittsburgh’s peace and social justice center,” and along with McKibben, they are launching a campaign to pressure the City of Pittsburgh and other regional institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

A statewide environmental advocacy group has a new leader.

Cindy Adams Dunn has been named president and CEO of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture). She succeeds George Jugovic, who stepped down from the position to work as the head of law staff.

Dunn had previously been working as deputy secretary with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

A longtime advocate for environmentalism, Dunn said she can recall her enthusiasm 15 years ago when PennFuture formed.

About 500 government officials, non-profit staffers, utility company representatives, and academics will be in Pittsburgh from November 6th-7th to talk about the latest research in urban forestry.

Dan Lambe, the National Arbor Day Foundation’s Vice-president of programs, said the Partners in Community Forestry National Conference will focus on new programs and policies that strengthen community forests.

He said Pittsburgh is a great place to host the event because of the progress local institutions have made in urban forestry.

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