Environment & Energy

We explore issues of energy and the environment, along with our partners from Allegheny Front and StateImpact Pennsylvania.

UGI Energy Services has announced plans to build a new $60 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Meshoppen, Wyoming County. It will help meet peak demand for gas during cold days, and service emerging markets for LNG, like truck fleets, drill rigs, and industrial sites.

The plant will take locally produced natural gas– in its gaseous form– and cool it down to -260 degrees Fahrenheit, converting it into a liquid that can be stored and used as a transportation fuel.

Flickr user Chesapeake Bay Program

‘Tis the season for landscaping, gardening and yard work, and the Allegheny County Conservation District is hoping homeowners will include storm water management in their plans for improving their outdoor spaces.

To make that task easier, the ACCD and a consortium of other organizations have put together the first ever Southwestern Pennsylvania Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater, available online and at conservation district offices.

Courtesy Nature Climate Change

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is slated to finalize its Clean Power Plan this summer, spelling out new carbon emissions standards for America’s 2,400 fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

According to a new paper published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, Pennsylvanians are among those who stand to benefit most from the health impacts of lower carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

“We find that there are health benefits in all of the 48 states that are modeled, but the states with the greatest benefits are Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas,” said co-author Dallas Burtraw, senior fellow at Resources for the Future, a DC-based research institute focusing on the environment and economics.

Eight Facts To Know About The Shale Gas Industry’s Air Pollution

May 4, 2015
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently released data on air emissions from the shale gas industry in 2013.

PublicSource looked into the data and built a series of interactive charts so you can more easily explore the information.

The United States Geological Survey / via the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Not much has improved five weeks after the Department of Environmental Protection declared a drought watch for 27 Pennsylvania counties.

Amanda Witman, DEP spokeswomen, said all of the original counties remain on a drought watch.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

The original Frick Environmental Center was lost in a five-alarm fire 13 years ago, but on Friday, workers placed the final beam on top of the new education facility that is being called “one of the greenest buildings on Earth.”

The $10.5 million center is expected to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the highest possible designation, as well as a Living Building Challenge title, which requires the use of non-toxic building materials and measures water and energy consumption after construction is completed.

Courtesy Photo/ Pennsylvania Resources Center

More than 1,500 Allegheny County residents are expected to drive to North Park next Saturday, not bearing bicycles or picnic baskets, but instead — hazardous waste.

The Pennsylvania Resources Council is beginning its 13th year of household chemical collections with a drive-through waste drop off in North Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 2.

People are encouraged to bring any leftover paint, bleach, furniture polish, gasoline, glue, cleaners, car waxes, and even fingernail polish they have in their homes or garages to the park, where trained disposal crews will haul the chemicals away for treatment and disposal.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is recognizing Air Quality Awareness Week by encouraging Pennsylvanians to take action to improve the state’s air quality.

State entities across the country and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have also been taking part in the awareness week, which ends May 1.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Although its air quality is improving, Pittsburgh still ranks among the most polluted U.S. cities.

That’s according to the latest State of the Air report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association (ALA). According to the study, Pittsburgh improved in all measures, including particle and ozone pollution levels, but still fell below national air quality standards.

First Energy’s Unit 1 nuclear reactor in Shippingport was shut down Saturday for routine maintenance.

Unit 2 will remain online during this time. Every 18-24 months nuclear reactors must be turned off for upkeep.

Making Gas Bills in PA More Informative

Apr 27, 2015

Many Pennsylvanians don’t know that they can choose who supplies the natural gas that comes into their homes, and many that have chosen a gas supplier have very little understanding of that relationship, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. 

Now the PUC has taken a step toward addressing the later.

The commission has approved a tentative order to require gas bills to set aside space for information about the company that is supplying the gas.

It's springtime in Pittsburgh, and throughout the city, Callery pear trees are sprouting beautiful, white blossoms.

But that's just the problem. Simply put, these trees stink.

"This whole place smells like dead fish," says Sheila Titus. "I mean everywhere. Everywhere you see one of these trees with the white on them."

Titus has lived in her home in the now-hip neighborhood of Lawrenceville for 49 years. Two decades ago, her grandson and his 7th grade class planted a row of Callery pears across the street from her house.

Tree Pittsburgh Plants 100 New Trees for Arbor Day

Apr 24, 2015
Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Started in the 1870s, Arbor Day is the nation’s oldest environmental holiday, and it’s now celebrated around the world. In Pittsburgh, groups of volunteers gathered at West Penn Park in Polish Hill Friday to plant new trees in honor of Arbor Day.

Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr

Pennsylvania is the 14th most eco-friendly state in the U.S., according to WalletHub.

Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub’s spokesperson, said the financial social network looked at 14 different metrics falling into the categories of either “Environmental Quality Rank” or “Eco-Friendly Behaviors Rank.”

Officials Warn of High Risk for Wildfires in PA

Apr 16, 2015

When you think about wildfires or brush fires, you might think about hot July and August days, but May is actually the most dangerous time for uncontrolled fires in Pennsylvania.

“We don’t have a good green canopy yet, we don’t have grasses in our fields and we don’t have green brush, so just a day or two of sun and wind… can really create problems,” said Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The Department of Environmental Protection is moving forward with a plan to clean up the Kuhn’s landfill in Darlington Township, Beaver County.

The landfill was used to dump municipal and industrial waste from 1964 until 1980 when the DEP shut it down on legal grounds. After that the DEP placed a ground cap over the site to keep various hazardous material contained. Since then other more potentially dangerous threats have kept the attention and funding of the DEP — until now.

In an effort to bring down energy usage and cost, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) is planning to upgrade the lighting at five of its parking garages: one at the Pittsburgh Technology Center and four at Southside Works.

The URA and Green Building alliance will allocate $1 million for an upgrade to LED lights. That's after an engineering study showed it would be beneficial.

In Coal Country, What's Next for Miners?

Apr 10, 2015
Catherine Moore / For the Allegheny Front

At a fire hall in Logan County, West Virginia, dozens of coal miners and their families are mulling around a room. State officials called this meeting to help them figure out what to do next after the coal mine they worked in closed. Dell Maynard is one of these miners. His primary emotion right now is shock.

PublicSource

Whether you’re new to the Pittsburgh region or have lived here your whole life, you probably want to know what’s in the air you’re breathing and where it’s coming from.

This map from PublicSource identifies the facilities that federal standards say are the “major sources” of industrial air pollution in Allegheny County and the amount of pollutants they are allowed to release.

Courtesy of Michelle Johnsen via StateImpact PA

Local governments all over the country are trying stop the surge in oil and gas development by embracing a novel legal tactic–community-based rights ordinances. It’s a strategy that carries risks.

Flickr user Mike Myers

While University of Pittsburgh students criticize a lack of campus wide initiatives during the institution’s “Year of Sustainability,” the Katz Graduate School of Business is gearing up to host a water conservation panel on Tuesday.

The University of Pittsburgh last year launched the “Year of Sustainability,” which features speakers, programs and initiatives to make the campus more energy efficient. Many of the efforts have been student-led, but as the year comes to a close a group of students say Pitt’s administration didn’t do enough.

“We’re just disappointed, in the area of sustainability there weren’t really many administrative sustainability proposals or initiative for projects, all the things done on campus were student-led,” said Andrew Woomer, Pitt student and organizer with Free the Planet.

Pipelines: The New Battleground Over Fracking

Apr 6, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Forget the battles over the Keystone XL. Pipeline wars are now raging in Pennsylvania, where production is high and pipeline capacity is low.

In the West, Coal's Boom Resonates Across the Land

Apr 3, 2015
U.S. Geological Survey

Driving south of Gillette, Wyoming, through an arid and austere landscape once home to herds of bison, you pass coal mine after coal mine, for 70 uninterrupted miles, carving deep troughs into the prairie.

Jaime Dillen-Seibel / Flickr

Groups of local activists concerned about climate change took to New York City’s streets last September for the Climate Action March, and now they’re launching Pittsburgh350.org, an affiliate of the national 350.org.

Warwick Powell, a member of the steering committee, said the group will work to raise awareness about the increase of carbon in the atmosphere.

With many people hoping for an end to the chilly weather, one group of Pennsylvanians is eager for the cold snaps to continue.

Pennsylvanian maple camps usually produce more than 100,000 gallons of maple syrup each year, with 146,000 gallons bottled in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Submitted

Beatrice Dias has asthma, and her three-year-old has had his own respiratory issues, so she installed a personal air monitoring device known as a Speck to see if the air in her home was contributing to their health problems.

“It was as simple as turning on the hood vent above the stove and realizing, ‘wait, the air quality is getting worse, what am I doing wrong? This was supposed to be good for it,’” she said. “But then I followed the trajectory of the air and realized the hood vent was just venting the air up as opposed out of the house.”

Revelations like this is why the Community Robotics Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab began selling Speck Monday.  The air quality monitor detects fine particulates in a room by using a fan to create a vacuum that sucks the matter into the sensor.

In Kentucky, A Prairie Made By Coal

Mar 27, 2015
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Patrick Angel pulls his pickup truck off a small road in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, and points to a long ridge covered with dried, brown grass.

“If you didn’t know where you were, you'd think you were standing in a prairie land in South Dakota or Wyoming, because it’s all grass,” says Angel, a forester with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

Litterbugs beware: There might be someone watching you.

A Pennsylvania environmental group has launched a new initiative to provide municipalities with the equipment to catch people illegally dumping trash on camera.

  Despite Wednesday’s rain and a harsh winter the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental (DEP) has placed 27 counties on a drought watch for low levels of groundwater.

“Fortunately we have had a significant amount of snowmelt. That does help, but specifically we’re dealing with low groundwater levels, and groundwater takes a little bit more time to recharge then say surface water would,” said DEP spokeswoman Amanda Witman.

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