Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

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.

After 100 years, Elk Population and Tourism Growing

Aug 30, 2013

One hundred years ago you could not even find an elk in Pennsylvania, now 75,000 to 100,000 tourists each year head out to north-central PA to get a look at the majestic animals.

Historically, elk were abundant throughout most of Pennsylvania until the arrival of European settlers, who hunted them until the death of the last native elk in the 1860s or '70s.

Feds Seek Public Input On Plan to Decommission Three Mile Island

Aug 29, 2013

Thirty-five years after the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, plans for the eventual decommissioning of the Three Mile Island plant are still causing a stir.

In a sparsely attended yet contentious public meeting Wednesday night in Hershey, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission discussed plans for the eventual decommissioning of the plant.

About a dozen people turned out to talk about the plans, which call for dismantling the mothballed Unit 2 along with the operational Unit 1 when its license expires in 2034.

How Could OSHA’s New Silica Rules Impact The Natural Gas Industry?

Aug 29, 2013

Federal labor officials are proposing new rules to help prevent an old hazard of the trade: diseases caused by breathing in silica dust. Silicosis has long been a plight of workers in construction and manufacturing, but concerns have shifted in recent years to those who toil in the growing natural gas industry.

Sand is an important ingredient in most fracking fluid recipes. It’s mixed with chemicals and water and blasted deep underground where the tiny grains help keep cracks in the shale rock open for all that natural gas to come through.

State Board Approves Tighter Oil and Gas Regulations

Aug 28, 2013

An arm of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has approved a new package of regulations that, if approved, would govern the surface operations of oil and gas producers in the state. The proposed rules from the Environmental Quality Board were developed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as part of a two year push to refine Act 13.

DEP spokesperson Lisa Kasianowitz said the package includes four main changes:

Consol Energy

Consol Energy plans to build six well pads and three impoundment ponds on land surrounding the Pittsburgh International Airport as it works to tap into the Marcellus shale under the facility. 

Miles of water and gas pipelines and access roads are also part of the plan that is currently up for public review.

Allegheny County Council inked a deal with Consol to drill at the airport pending regulatory approval from several agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration. The deal could be worth as much a $500 million dollars to the county.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority and Consol Energy will unveil the plan to drill for oil and natural gas at Pittsburgh International Airport during a public workshop Tuesday.

Representatives from the airport authority and Consol Energy will answer questions about the plan and its environmental impact.

The workshop is meant to provide residents with more information about the oil and gas development plans, the environmental assessment, the drilling schedule and process.

But airport authority spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said it’s not an open forum.

Giving Voters a Say on Natural Gas Drilling

Aug 22, 2013
Flickr

When it comes to drilling for natural gas in the county’s parks, Allegheny County councilman Matt Drozd thinks the decision should be up to the voters. That’s why he recently introduced a resolution that will require the board of elections to ask voters if they should be consulted before the county approves drilling beneath a county park.

“Let them make a decision too and join in. They’ll learn more and they’ll feel more a part of the process,” Drozd said of his proposal.

Funding for the National Energy Technology Laboratory is set to be cut by 20 percent in the upcoming federal budget, and that has U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania upset. 

The Democrat has sent a letter to House and Senate leaders calling for the restoration of more than $80 million in the NETL budget. 

Casey said the funding is important to not only the region’s economy, but also the future of the nation's energy supply.

Nothing has been decided yet, but Allegheny County Council is considering an offer to develop natural gas found under Deer Lakes Park.

A new group made up of several grass roots organizations is planning to urge the group to say “no.” Members of Protect Our Parks will deliver their message at Tuesday’s County Council meeting.

Daniel Foster / flickr


Despite a declining number of wells, Marcellus Shale gas production in 2013 is up 50% from 2012. According to Nick Nanos, President and CEO of Nanos Research, this can be attributed at least in part to a shift of focus.

“The focus has been on higher quality drills and wells that can yield a greater value,” Nanos explains.

Laurie Barr, via Wikimedia Commons

A group charged with examining the Marcellus Shale industry in a comprehensive, unbiased manner has made several recommendations regarding the development, distribution and research of natural gas.

The Shale Gas Roundtable released its final report, and any further action is up to industry leaders, lawmakers and environmentalists.

Marcellus Shale natural gas production is rising even faster this year than energy experts had predicted, and that's having a national impact on energy.

Bentek, a Colorado company that analyzes energy trends, said 2013 production in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is up about 50 percent compared with last year. Figures for the pipelines that take gas out of the Marcellus show that in the first six months of the year, Pennsylvania produced about 1.5 trillion cubic feet of gas, with projections for a year-end total of about 3.2 trillion cubic feet.

Pennsylvania's bald eagle population could be taken of the state's threatened species list.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners will consider a proposal to de-list the species at a meeting in September and make an official ruling at a later date.

Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau said the recommendation to move the eagle from the threatened to the protected list comes after the species met a list of criteria for five consecutive years. The criteria include:

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