Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

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.

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.

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