Environment & Energy

Essential Pittsburgh
6:24 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

United Nations Report Examines "Climate Extremes" Over Past Decade

Sea ice, shown here in Nunavut, in northern Canada, reflects more sunshine than in the past, while and open ocean absorbs more, accelerating melting.
Credit Wikipedia Commons

Extreme weather, greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide and glacial melting; all these buzzwords have increasingly entered the public vernacular in the past 20 years. 

Following a UN report by the World Meteorological Organization, scientists expect that the topic of global warming and climate change will continue to be a hot issue.  The report, “The Global Climate 2001-2010: A Decade of Extremes,” cites that the past decade has seen an abundance of greenhouse gas emissions that has caused increased temperatures on both hemispheres, all oceans and an accompanying rapid decline in arctic sea ice and glaciers. 

Director of Science at the Carnegie Science Center, John Radzilowicz, has been following the topic of global climate change and was not necessarily surprised by the UN report.  He was optimistic, however, that the report was gaining attention and combined a multitude of data pointing to the extremes in weather conditions throughout the world.

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Environment
3:30 am
Fri July 5, 2013

DEP Awards Mine Grants to PA Universities

The state is providing $1.65 million in grants to support mine mapping projects.

The Pennsylvania of Department of Environmental Protection has awarded the Mine Map Grants to seven institutions, including six Pennsylvania universities.

Amanda Witman, spokeswoman for the DEP, said the grant recipients will add mapping information to the already active Mine Map Atlas, an interactive compilation of mine maps across Pennsylvania.

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Environment
3:30 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Population of Bald Eagles in PA Grows

While Pennsylvanians celebrate the Fourth of July this week, they might also want to celebrate the growing population of America’s national symbol — the bald eagle.

According to the Game Commission, there are currently 252 bald eagle nests in the state, 46 more than last year.

“I think it says a lot about the state’s efforts not only to see the number of bald eagles increase as it has, but also to see that population spread out into new areas and follow those watercourses they traditionally inhabited,” said commission spokesman Travis Lau.

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

Researchers: Solar/Wind Power More Beneficial in Eastern U.S.

California has more solar panels soaking up the sun and creating electricity than any other state, but researchers say those panels would be better off in places like cloudy Pittsburgh.

Carnegie Mellon University researchers said the same is true in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia when it comes to wind farms.

Kyle Siler-Evans, co-author of the recently published research paper, said the goal of solar and wind power is to mitigate climate damages and improve health and air quality, but the plants are going out west where they are not needed as much.

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Water Quality
6:13 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Health Department and Alcosan Advise on River Water Quality

When it rains in Pittsburgh, chances are raw sewage will be discharged into its rivers because so many pipes receive not only sewage, but also storm water, and the system can't handle the volume.  

When this happens, the Allegheny County Health Department issues combined sewer overflow (CSO) flag alerts between May 15 and September 30.

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Essential Pittsburgh
8:10 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

The Geopolitics of Energy With James Clad

Global energy changes may be slow moving but they're happening
Credit Indigo / Flickr

The connection between reliable sources of energy, global prosperity and security has profoundly impacted international relations since before the industrial revolution.

According to James Clad, consultant and distinguished research fellow at the National Defense University, "energy is inextricably part of a contemporary society."

As dependent as we are on oil in the United States, it's commonly known that a shift away from petroleum-based energy could dramatically impact our economy and way of life. Clad says petroleum based economies are very mobile and agile, private vehicles let us go from point A to point B without relying on large expensive infrastructure.  Which is why economies like ours find it hard to completely do away the use of hydrocarbons.

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Essential Pittsburgh
8:02 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Public Opinion on Energy Issues

Canada is now the number one supplier of energy to the United States. Canadian researcher Nik Nanos, chairman of Nanos Research Group, says while we've relied on oil from the Middle East in the past, with shale gas and new discoveries of oil in North America, there's a new narrative for energy policy and Western PA is a big part of the picture.

A recent poll from Nanos revealed 3 out of 4 Americans feel there should be a continental energy strategy.

Pittsburgh, he says is part of an energy triangle that includes Houston and Calvary, Canada. As part of the triangle Pittsburgh and the rest of the U.S. must have a good relationship their neighbors to the north, and rethink energy in more broad terms than electric bills and gas prices.

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Water Quality
3:37 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

$23 Million Available for Growing Greener Grants

Pennsylvania’s Act 13 Marcellus Shale impact fees from the state’s 6,000 wells so far amount to $400 million: $204 million for 2011 and $198 million for 2012 (because the price of natural gas declined). 

A fixed amount goes to agencies that oversee the industry, and the rest goes to local entities. 

Counties where drilling takes place get 60 percent of the remainder, while 40 percent goes into the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which is accessible to all.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:50 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Fracking Reporter Tom Wilber Screens Gasland II

Credit http://tomwilber.blogspot.com/

Journalist Tom Wilber has been reporting on hydraulic fracturing since 2008. He’s been our guest in the past to discuss the issue and help us sort fact from fiction when documentaries on the topic come out. He recently attended a screening of Gasland II, in his hometown of Binghamton, New York.

Essential Pittsburgh
8:01 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Gasland Director Previews Part II

Credit www.naturalgas.org

Filmmaker Josh Fox joins us to talk about his HBO documentary "Gasland II," a followup to 2010's "Gasland." Fox says his latest film demonstrates how the stakes have been raised in the controversial method of natural gas and oil extraction in the last three years.

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Environment & Energy
2:57 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

New 'Cool Roofs' Initiative Seeks to Increase Energy Efficiency with Reflective Paint

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announces the launch of the city's Cool Roofs program.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Cool Roofs program has officially launched in Pittsburgh. Through the servePGH initiative, the roofs of 10 city-owned buildings will be coated with reflective paint.

“In the coming months, volunteers will help paint approximately 50,000 square feet of city-owned roofs with a special, eco-friendly white coating,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

The reflective surface will help reduce carbon emissions and decrease energy costs for the buildings, and eventually that energy savings could extend to wider areas.

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Environment
4:08 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Groups Challenge ALCOSAN on Transparency Over Wet Weather Plan

Community members and environmental groups gather in Downtown Pittsburgh to call for more transparency from ALCOSAN as they study incorporating green components in its wet weather plan.
Credit Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

The Clean Rivers Campaign announced Monday it is filing a legal challenge to ALCOSAN’s denial of an open records request.

In May, the group requested any and all documents related to the scope of the work being done on ALCOSAN’s study of green infrastructure. That request was denied by ALCOSAN.

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Environment & Energy
1:56 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Pennsylvania DEP Launches Online Map Atlas of Underground Mines

Of the 1 million homes in Pennsylvania that sit above underground mines, one in 2,000 insured buildings are damaged by mine subsidence, costing an average of $50,000 per structure.

That’s according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which has launched an underground Mine Map Atlas, an online mapping system that allows the public to view underground mines across the state.

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Environment
11:33 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Firewood Quarantine in Effect to Stop Spread of Insects, Disease to Trees

The emerald ash borer beetle is now in 34 Pennsylvania counties.
Credit usda.gov / Creative Commons

Thanks to the presence of disease and tree-killing insects such as the emerald ash borer, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is reminding residents of the firewood quarantine in place.

People are asked to not move firewood more than 50 miles from its origin, and wood products cannot be moved out of Bucks County at all because of thousand cankers disease.

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Environment & Energy
9:37 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Drilling Opponents Pack DCNR Meeting On Loyalsock State Forest

Everyone who spoke at the meeting voiced opposition to a proposal to expand natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest.
Credit Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

After facing months of public pressure over the possibility of expanding natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) held a public meeting on the issue.

Nearly 250 people turned out Monday to Lycoming College in Williamsport. The meeting ran an hour over its scheduled time slot, due to the number of people who wanted to comment.

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Essential Pittsburgh
8:33 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

How Do You Gather Community Consensus on Fracking?

To frack or not to frack on Allegheny College land
Credit Doug Butchy / Flickr

Allegheny College, located 90 minutes north of Pittsburgh, has been nationally recognized for its sustainable initiatives. But could the green campus get a black eye if it leases land for hydraulic fracking? Right now it's the campus is considering whether or not to open portions of the college's land to the option of shale gas drilling.

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Combined Sewer Overflow
8:12 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Ratepayers Seek Information from ALCOSAN

To comply with federal law, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority submitted a plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January to reduce sewage overflows into creeks and rivers at a cost of $2.8 billion. 

At the same time, ALCOSAN requested an 18-month extension to do a study of incorporating "green" infrastructure components proposed at public meetings. Now the people who advocated those changes say they are being shut out of the process.

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Air Quality
11:34 am
Tue May 28, 2013

EPA School Flag Program Monitors Pittsburgh Region’s Air Quality

Credit airnow.gov

The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are partnering on the so-called School Flag Program, which debuted last week at the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park.

“The School Flag Program was developed by the EPA, and it’s an engaging, hands-on way for students to inform their entire school and community about the region’s air quality and then to take necessary steps to minimize their exposure to high levels of air pollution,” said Karrie Kressler, of GASP.

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Weather
2:24 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Local Farmers Protect Their Plants from Late Spring Frost

April showers may bring May flowers, but what are we going to do with this frost?

With temperatures forecast to dip below the record low of 35 degrees, a frost advisory has been issued for Southwestern Pennsylvania starting at 3 a.m.

Local farmers are trying to protect their plants, strawberries in particular, from the chilling temperatures.

Ross Trax from Trax Farm in Bethel Park said it’s still early for strawberries, but the farm is trying to protect the blossoms.

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Environment
1:22 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Allegheny County Health Department Issues Combined Sewer Overflow Alert

The Allegheny County Health Department issued its second combined sewer overflow (CSO) alert of the season Thursday.

The advisories notify swimmers, boaters and other river-goers if the water has been contaminated by raw sewage after heavy rainfall clogs waste treatment facilities. The length of the advisories depends on the time it takes for the sewer systems to return to normal levels.

The CSO alerts do not prohibit recreational river activity, but advise the public to reduce water contact, especially those with weak immune systems or open cuts and sores.

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Environment & Energy
10:15 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Lovers of PA’s Loyalsock Forest Fight to Limit Drilling There

"We have to be the voice of the birds," said Paul Zeph, of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society.
Credit Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY/Newsworks

Deep in the Loyalsock State Forest, where no cell phone signal reaches, the sounds of rushing waterfalls and forest birds are suddenly interrupted by the sound of a helicopter.

Paul Zeph of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society says the noise could be related to gas drilling. Drillers will often drop seismic testing equipment into remote areas that are difficult to reach by roads. And that leads Zeph to cite one of the many worries that naturalists and outdoors lovers have with plans to expand drilling in the Loyalsock.

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Environment
7:21 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Game Commission to Track Newly Hatched Peregrine Falcons in Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania Game Commission Tuesday affixed special tracking bands to the legs of peregrine falcons that have hatched atop a state office building in Harrisburg.

The agency has been monitoring the offspring of falcons nesting on the building ledge since 2000 as part of an effort to help the recovery of a bird that is on the state’s endangered species list.

Game Commission biologist Art McMorris said the falcon population may improve enough to come off that list in the next decade.

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Environment & Energy
10:24 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Poll Shows Support for a Drilling Moratorium in Pennsylvania

A drill rig in Susquehanna County.
Credit StateImpact Pennsylvania

A new poll out Tuesday shows strong support for a moratorium on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, despite showing general support for gas extraction.

The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan, in conjunction with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, surveyed both Pennsylvania and Michigan residents on fracking. The survey shows general support for gas extraction in Pennsylvania. Forty-nine percent of respondents approve, and 40 percent oppose.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:28 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Green Stormwater Solutions from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh

George Hawkins is General Manager of DC Water, the water and sewer authority for Washington DC
Credit DC Water

    

Washington DC and Pittsburgh have a common trait of being build right by the water, with low lying areas and old infrastructure. When it became necessary for DC to improve its water and sewage systems - like Pittsburgh - the nation’s capital opted for a focus on traditional "gray" options. Tunnels and pipes were the main solution for Washington's sewage and storm water problems.

But George Hawkins, General Manager of DC Water has worked to convince the district and the EPA to embrace green infrastructure ideas. By reopening the EPA consent decree, DC is on track to becoming a model of sustainable infrastructure.

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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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