Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

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.

The Ripple Effects: New Solutions for Water Pollution

Nov 26, 2013
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.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

On a Thursday morning in June, Antionette West was lying on a couch in her trailer not far from a row of chemical plants near the Mississippi River in Geismer, Lousiana, when the house began to shake.

She initially thought there had been an explosion at a vinyl chloride plant about a mile away, where there had been an explosion less than a year before. This time though, she saw black smoke coming from another direction.

A new survey by the University of Pittsburgh and PittsburghTODAY found that 65 percent of the region’s citizens view air quality as either a minor problem, or not a problem at all.

This is despite continually low air quality rankings by the American Lung Association.

Doug Heuck, Director of PittsburghTODAY, said many people mistakenly think that because they can’t see the air pollution, it’s not there.

Tim Camerato/90.5 WESA

Coal advocates, union leaders, and tradesmen were joined by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-R-18) in the Allegheny County Courthouse’s courtyard to denounce new standards on carbon emissions for power plants.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  proposed new rules to cut carbon emissions for all future coal-fired power plants.  Regulations on current plants have not been released yet.

Katie Colaneri / StateImpact Pennsylvania

It all started with beans.

Joyce and Steve Libal run a small orchard on their 63-acres in Little Meadows, Susquehanna County where they sell fruit and organic vegetables.

One day in early September, a friend came by to purchase ten pounds of green bush beans.

“In this area, with all the drilling going on, the conversations usually end up talking about the gas industry,” Steve Libal says. “And he just brought up that he had seen, he’s a borough councilman and they received a packet of information about a well pad behind our house.”

Water bills in Allegheny County are on the rise again. The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) released a four-year rate structure Thursday that begins with a 17 percent rate increase next year and then keeps growing. In the past the rates have always been released on a year-to-year basis.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Apollonia Martinez on her front porch in Manchester, TX, a community next to the Houston Ship Channel, said her sons has asthma attacks from air pollution. Photo: Reid R. Frazier - See more at: http://www.alleghenyfront.org/story/houston-air-pollution-preview-pennsylvania#sthash.FcLyKOuq.dpuf

The largest chemical hub in the Americas courses through Houston in a seemingly unending line of plants that produce about a quarter of the country’s petrochemicals.

Jennifer Szweda Jordan / Allegheny Front

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) has received a $5 million loan from the state for sewer improvement projects in the Hill District and the South Side.  

The PWSA and all communities in Allegheny County are under a 2004 Consent Order to reduce sewer overflows on rainy days.

PWSA interim executive director Jim Good said cities that have been built in the last 100 years have a separate sanitary and storm water systems.  But older cities including New York, Boston and Pittsburgh have combined, single pipe systems.

Make Watt Choices for the Winter Months

Oct 23, 2013

As the days get shorter, and the sun sets earlier, we find ourselves using more electricity to light our houses. When lights are on 3 to 4 hours straight each day, electric bills can skyrocket.

A program called Watt Choices sponsored by Duquesne Light is designed to help customers reduce their energy consumption.

“We encourage our customers to take advantage of these energy efficiency programs and conservation strategies, thus reducing their electric bills,” says Dave Defide, manager of customer programs for Duquesne Light. 

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.

Youth Climate Activists Hold Power Shift Summit

Oct 21, 2013
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.

Possible Petrochemical Plant in Beaver County

Oct 17, 2013
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.

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