Environment & Energy

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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Forests
11:04 am
Fri April 5, 2013

With Donations, Pittsburgh Group Hopes to Save Ash Trees from Voracious Beetle

The Emerald Ash Borer is an Asian beetle that arrived in the U.S. in 2002 through Detroit. With no natural predators, it may eventually kill most of the country’s ash trees, including Pennsylvania’s millions of native green and white species.

Philip Gruszka of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy said government agencies, nonprofits and individual donors have given money for pesticide treatments to save 350 ash trees in county parks and 158 in city parks for use in a future breeding program. 

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CMU Energy Research
3:56 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

$30 Million CMU Grant to Allow for Expanded Energy Research

Carnegie Mellon University has received its largest private foundation grant in the school’s history.

A $30 million grant provided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation will go toward a new institute to coordinate the university’s energy activities.

CMU President Jared Cohon said all seven colleges of the university are working on the topic of energy in some form. He said the grant will allow more collaboration between those colleges and their work.

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Marcellus Shale
3:28 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

CMU Symposium Examines Implications of Shale Gas on Regional, US Economy

Panelists Gerald Holder (left), Anthony Cugini, director of NETL, Peter Molinaro, and Russel Crockett, senior vice president commercial for Texas Petrochemical, participate in a symposium at Carnegie Mellon University Thursday that examined the role of shale gas in manufacturing, transportation and the environment.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Department of Energy estimates that gas from shale is expected to account for roughly half of the country’s natural gas supply by 2040. Pennsylvania is playing a major role, thanks to development of Marcellus Shale.

A symposium at Carnegie Mellon University Thursday examined the role of shale gas in manufacturing, transportation and the environment.

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Solar Energy
4:01 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Shale To Solar: Farmers Use Gas Money to Build Solar Arrays

Duane Miller in front of the solar array he installed to reduce his energy bills.
Credit Margaret J. Krauss / The Allegheny Front

Dwayne Bauknight and Duane Miller share a first name. They live 1.9 miles apart on the same road and have almost nothing in common — except for a row of gleaming new solar panels on their farms.

Dwayne Bauknight drives onto his Washington County property in a golf cart. He pulls a U-turn to park between two rows of 15-foot tall solar panels and shows how they work.

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Environment
3:49 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Rebates Available with Switch from Gas to Electric or Battery-Powered Lawn Equipment

Homeowners are beginning to pull mowers and trimmers out of garages and sheds to work on their lawns, and although the gasoline-fueled tools might make the yard look presentable, they could be bad news for human health and the environment.

Lawn mowers, trimmers, chainsaws and leaf blowers, which are powered by gasoline, can create volatile organic compounds according to a public/private air quality group.

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Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Controversial Head of DEP Leaving Agency to Work on Behalf of Energy Industry

DEP Secretary Michael Krancer will leave his post on April 15 to work for his former employer, the Philadelphia law firm, Blank Rome.
Credit Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Krancer, announced recently he will be leaving the agency on April 15 to return to Blank Rome, an influential Philadelphia law firm where he worked during the 1990′s.

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Recycling
2:40 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

Recycling and Disposal Events Planned for Pittsburgh Region

With Earth Day approaching on April 22, the Pennsylvania Resources Council has announced its 2013 collection event schedule for electronics, pharmaceuticals, household chemicals and building materials.

On April 20 there will be a “Hard to Recycle” collection at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills. There will be no charge for turning in e-waste like computers, TVs, cell phones, printer/toner cartridges and CFLs, and a nominal fee for paper shredding, alkaline batteries, fluorescent tubes, specialty lights and small Freon appliances.  

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West Nile Virus
6:48 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

State Spends $2 Million to Control Spread of West Nile Virus

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is awarding $2.2 million in grants to help counties combat the spread of West Nile Virus this year.

Department spokeswoman Amanda Witman said most people infected with the mosquito born disease will never experience symptoms because their immune systems shut the virus down. But for others, she warned, it can be dangerous.

"This virus can develop into West Nile Fever or West Nile Encephalitis - both of which are infections that cause brain inflammation and in the most severe cases, death," Witman said.

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River Health
4:03 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

EPA: Two-Thirds Of PA River Miles in Poor Health for Aquatic Life

More than half of the nation’s river and stream miles are in poor condition for aquatic life. That’s according to the first comprehensive survey of river health by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Data was collected from about 2,000 sites across the country from 2008-09, and then federal, state and university scientists analyzed the information to determine how well the waterways support aquatic life and how major stressors might be affecting them.

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Development
1:14 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

Bill Would Promote 'Camouflaged' Cell Phone Towers in Pittsburgh

Some examples of cell phone towers hidden within other structures.
Credit Pittsburgh City Council District 7

The Pittsburgh Planning Commission is reviewing legislation that would create incentives for communications companies to conceal cell phone towers and antennas within regular urban structures.

A Pittsburgh resident originally proposed the idea to District 7 Councilman Patrick Dowd, who introduced the measure to Council on Tuesday.

District 7 communications manager Nathaniel Hanson said the legislation would encourage companies to hide their new antennas within the most workaday buildings and objects.

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Marcellus Shale
3:52 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

Federal Study: Shale Development Fragmenting Allegheny County Forests

Credit The National Map, U.S. Geological Survey

A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) delineates how the construction of new roads and pipelines for Marcellus Shale natural gas development and other energy industries can mince up local forests, leading to smaller ecosystems and limiting wildlife.

Using aerial imagery, USGS researchers found that developers laid 140 miles of new roads and eight miles of new pipelines for the sake of 647 Marcellus Shale gas wells drilled in Allegheny County from 2004 to 2010.

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