Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

Shale Gas Industry Group Gets New Leader

Oct 22, 2013

The Marcellus Shale Coalition is going to the past for its new president.  

The shale gas industry group on Tuesday named David Spigelmyer as its new president, replacing Kathryn Klaber, who announced in July that she was stepping down after four years on the job. After a two-month search the coalition decided on Spigelmyer, a founder and a past chairman of the group.

Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

More than 1,000 protesters marched from the North Side to downtown Monday for the 2013 Power Shift summit.

Power Shift is an online community for youth climate activists who are calling for a “green economy” and a stop to mountaintop removal mining.

The protesters called for PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop mining, which involves exposing and taking out upper seams of coal, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) returned to PNC branches Monday to again protest the bank’s investments in mountaintop removal mining.

Last April EQAT protested at a PNC shareholder meeting in Pittsburgh to the point that the company’s chairman and CEO had to shut down the gathering.

Mountaintop mining involves removing mountaintops to expose coal, excavating the upper and lower layers of coal with remains placed in piles, and then re-grading and re-vegetating the site.

The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) thinks the best way to celebrate Pittsburgh’s air is by “gasping” for it after a 5K.

GASP will be hosting its first-ever Clean Air Dash and Festival Saturday.

The Air Dash - a certified 5K - will take runners through the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in South Side Riverfront Park.

Rachel Filippini, Executive Director of GASP, said the goal is to celebrate Pittsburgh’s progress towards reducing air pollution and re-energize people to continue working towards cleaner air.

Steel workers and green industry representatives met today to discuss the future of sustainable resources in the United States.

The panel discussed ways of getting a younger generation of energy leaders and producers, as well as the federal government, more committed to developing a clean economy.

Some believe dependable Production Tax Credits (PTC) could be the answer.

Companies that produce wind, geothermal and other types of renewable energy are eligible for a PTC, which provides a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour benefit for the first ten years of operation.

Shale Gas Fuels Gulf's Chemical Industry

Oct 18, 2013
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Standing beneath a tangle of pipes, ductwork, and grated catwalks at BASF’s massive ethylene unit in this small refining city on the Gulf Coast, Andy Miller pointed to a large metal box a few feet above his head.

Inside, a fire burning at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit produced an industrial-scale whine.

“If you look up into this little peephole, you’ll be able to see some of the firing,” Miller said.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Deliberations are underway in Beaver County as officials discuss opening a petrochemical plant in the region. After a visit to the gulf coast and other shale-rich regions in the south, Allegheny Front reporter Reid Frazier returns to Pittsburgh to disclose his findings about ethane, crude oil and natural gas. In Beaver County, the debate hovers between job creation and environmental concerns.

Chatham University will host a ribbon cutting for its brand new zero-emissions Eden Hall campus in the North Hills on Thursday.

“It’ll be a living-learning laboratory for sustainability, but it will also be a branch campus for the university in the North Hills, where we teach our full array of academic subjects,” said university President Esther Barazzone.

The campus will be fully self-sustaining, treating its own wastewater and producing energy through a variety of methods, with the greatest portion of the energy coming from solar panels on the roof of every building.

Goodwill unveiled its latest job training “classroom” Thursday, but it doesn’t have desks.

It has plants.

That’s because it’s a greenhouse — Goodwill’s “Good-to-Grow” Greenhouse — and it will be a part of the organization’s job training program.

David Tobiczyk, vice president of marketing and development for Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania (SWPA), said the greenhouse is a “one of a kind thing” for the organization.

Pennsylvania oil and gas industry representatives gathered in Pittsburgh Wednesday to lament, rather than celebrate, the recent anniversary of the proposal of a very controversial project.

“Sept. 19 marked the fifth anniversary of the initial application that was submitted to the State Department for the Keystone XL pipeline project,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania. “This certainly is not an anniversary of celebration; it is an anniversary of delay.”

Brian Chan / Flickr

According to a more report conclusive from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and internationally renowned climatologist, Dr. Raymond Bradley, global temperatures have risen rapidly in the last 100 years, especially in the last 50 years. Experiments have also proven that greenhouse gases do create more heat in the atmosphere.

In addition to raising temperatures, greenhouse gases change precipitation patterns, meaning some areas that usually have heavy rainfall experience dry spells, and other areas get extremely heavy rainfall. Bradley says these effects will continue to occur more often if greenhouse gases continue to fill the atmosphere.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival Comes to Pittsburgh

Oct 2, 2013

A film festival that explores the beauty of nature but also potential negative impacts from oil and gas drilling has its Pittsburgh premiere this month.

The Allegheny Defense Project will host the Wild and Scenic Film Festival to provide a forum to discuss the growing climate crisis Americans face and inspire action.

According to Matt Peters, the events and outreach coordinator at the Allegheny Defense Project, the goal of the festival is to highlight nature both locally in Pittsburgh as well as around the world and raise awareness about potential threats to it.

Survey Tallying Illegal Trash Sites in PA Completed

Sep 30, 2013

There are quite a few spots in the commonwealth that aren’t exactly beautiful, according to a study recently completed by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. 

The Illegal Dump Survey Program, which began in 2005 seeking to provide a snapshot of wayword trash around the state, identified 6,487 illegal dump sites containing an estimated 18,516 tons of trash across Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

Experts are saying healthy amounts of rain and fair temperatures throughout Pennsylvania this year should bring a dazzling display of fall foliage.

Leaves in the southwestern region of the commonwealth are expected to reach their fullest color between mid- and late-October.

Doug Langford, a forester with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said people living in a more urban environment should take a trip to the countryside if they want to have a true fall experience.

New Life Comes to the Carrie Blast Furnaces

Sep 29, 2013
Lauren Knapp / The Allegheny Front

The site of the Carrie Blast Furnaces is immense. Set alongside the Monongahela River, the two steel furnaces, tower at nearly 100 feet—totally eclipsing the site’s two football-field sized warehouses. Since its closing nearly 35 years ago, much of the machinery was stripped and sold for scrap, leaving a rusty skeleton. But it’s also become a welcoming habitat for wildlife.

You can find Ron Baraff, the Carrie Furnaces resident expert, on site most days, leading tours and leading the charge for its reinvention.

National parks across the country are asking people to move off the couch and get some dirt underneath their fingernails on Saturday in celebration of National Public Lands Day.

The holiday, now in its 20th year, is the largest volunteer initiative for national parks. In 2012, nearly 175,000 people volunteered at 2,206 sites in every state and several U.S. territories.

Since its inception, workers have cleared about 500 tons of trash from trails and planted an estimated 100,000 trees and shrubs.

Much attention has been given to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent announcement of tough restrictions on emissions from new coal- and gas-fired power plants, but Republican Congressman Keith Rothfus (PA-12) has his sights set on another, earlier EPA rule.

On Thursday, Rothfus introduced new legislation that would exempt certain types of coal-fired power plants from EPA standards passed last December.

An organization is passing a baton along the Ohio River using human-powered transportation to bring attention to the potential dangers the shale gas industry poses to water supplies.

The Great Ohio River Relay kicked off Sept. 14 at the Mr. Rogers Memorial Statue where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers merge to form the Ohio. It will travel the entire 981 miles of the Ohio River to Cairo, Ill. where it feeds into the Mississippi.

PA Resources Council / Flickr

How do you get rid of those dusty rusty paint cans, expired medications, old thermometers, batteries, cleaners, and other household chemicals? The PA Resources Council has accumulated 3.5 million pounds of waste and over the last 10 years. They're ready to hold their 69th collection of household chemicals.

Donna Mazza-PA Resource Council / Flickr

This January saw the implementation of a ban on curbside pickups of electronic waste such as television sets, computer monitors and laptops.

The statewide ban, passed in 2010 as part of the Covered Device Recycling Act, called for all E-Waste to be taken to approved recycling drop-off sites.The process was meant to be simple, but recent difficulties have proven that not to be the case.

Ferlo Calls for Fracking Moratorium in PA

Sep 18, 2013

When lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week they will be faced with a new proposal to put a moratorium on new permits for hydraulic fracturing. 

State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) announced that he is introducing legislation during a news conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1100 would also create a commission to analyze the agricultural, economic, environmental and social effects of Marcellus Shale drilling.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has issued the first-ever scorecard that ranks cities exclusively on their energy efficiency efforts. Pittsburgh came in at number 25 on a list of 34 cities with a score of 34.25 out of a possible 100.

Boston was number one with a score of 76.75.

Diesel is generally the fuel used to power everything from vehicles going to and from natural gas well sites to equipment used at the sites.

EQT Corporation and Green Field Energy have announced the completion of multiple fracturing stages using pumps powered by natural gas supplied from a Marcellus Shale gas well.

“Most of the engines used for hydraulic fracturing are diesel, so if you have turbine pumps that can use the natural gas on-site as the fuel source, it’s cleaner burning and reduces up to 85 percent of fuel costs,” said EQT spokeswoman Linda Robertson.

Emerald View Park has a new trail.

Unveiled Sunday by The Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC), the trail connects Sycamore Street to Bigbee Field where it joins other trails leading to Grandview Park.

Ilyssa Manspeizer, director of park development and conservation with the MWCDC, said the trails add another dimension to the city.

Horses are an American symbol that epitomizes the rugged west, freedom and strength.

But the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is looking for people to adopt 40 wild horses and burros to protect them from the dangers of overpopulation.

The wild horses and burros come from Herd Management Areas out west where the vegetation and water supply could become scarce in the presence of too many animals.

Martha Malik, public affairs specialist for the Northeastern States Field Office, said the wild horses don’t have natural predators so the herd sizes double every four years.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) wants more consumers to choose their natural gas supplier.

The PUC voted unanimously to launch an investigation into the state’s retail natural gas market.

Pamela Witmer, PUC commissioner, said they want to assess whether effective competition exists within the market and search for places where improvements can be made.

She noted that Pennsylvania now has a “tremendous” resource of Shale Gas leading to an influx in the market.

Environmentalists are criticizing Pennsylvania power plants for their carbon emissions and are calling for more stringent regulations.

PennEnvironment’s report shows that, nationwide, the commonwealth has the third highest amount of power plant-borne pollution.

It comes in anticipation of federally proposed emissions regulations on new plants this year and existing plants next year.

Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Future: Read The Missing Report

Sep 10, 2013

A pair of legally-mandated reports outlining how climate change will affect Pennsylvania are currently a year overdue.

The state’s Climate Change Act required the publication of both reports in 2009, followed by an update every three years.

Both documents were due last year, but they’re still under review, and the state Department of Environmental Protection won’t say when they will be released.

Pittsburgh Innovations in Energy

Sep 6, 2013
Ari Moore / Flickr

When it comes to Pittsburgh’s growing energy landscape, innovation does not usually come to mind right away. But the region has been at the forefront of important energy innovations at the private, federal, and university level for more than 100 years.

Two events in the coming weeks aim to bring these worlds together, the Enterprise Forum Pittsburgh and the 3rd annual Energy and Innovation Conference.

Breathe Project Honors Clean Air Champions

Sep 4, 2013

The Breathe Project, a program of the Heinz Endowments, honored three local champions of clean air and sustainability on Tuesday during a ceremony at the Hill House Association.

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