Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

Voting For PA River Of The Year Has Begun

Dec 25, 2012

Six waterways across the state, including two in the Pittsburgh region, have been nominated for the 2013 Pennsylvania River of the Year.

The public is invited again to vote online for one of the nominated rivers: Kiskiminetas and Monongahela Rivers in the southwest; Juniata River and Swatara Creek in south central Pennsylvania; Lackawanna River in the northeast; and Schuylkill River in the southeast.

Southwestern PA Coal Waste Dump to Close

Dec 17, 2012

A federal judge has signed off on a deal for FirstEnergy Corp. to close a coal slurry dump along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border in about four years. The Little Blue Run dump in Beaver County collects slurry pumped from the Bruce Mansfield coal-fired power plant, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Once closed, the dump will stay in place, but no additional waste will be added.

Water Testing Begins on Ohio and Allegheny Rivers

Dec 4, 2012
Joseph / Flickr

After three years of testing the Monongahela for pollution the West Virginia Water Research Institute is now turning its attention to the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers.

Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, the institute’s director, said the institute began testing the Monongahela in 2009 after high concentrations of “total dissolved solids” (TDS) began to appear. TDS include sulfide, chloride, and other chemicals that affect drinking water standards.

A judge won't rule until next year on the fate of a proposed tires-to-energy plant in western Pennsylvania.

Thomas Renwand of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board this week extended deadlines for submitting evidence about the proposed plant until January 18, and motions in the case until February 1.

Crawford Renewable Energy plans to build the $350 million plant in the Keystone Regional Industrial Park outside Meadville. It would burn about 900 tons of chopped-up waste tires daily to produce enough electricity for about 75,000 homes.

Environmental advocacy groups are pushing Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators to support the extension of two tax credits that aid the wind power industry.  The renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) and the offshore wind investment tax credit (ITC) which both support the construction of new wind farms, are due to end come January.

Daniel Lagiovane, Project Communications Manager for Everpower, a Pittsburgh area wind power company, said if the tax credits expire, the wind industry will be “severely hampered."

Sandy Damage in PA hits $16 Million

Nov 28, 2012

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency says the state's damage from superstorm Sandy in Pennsylvania tops $16 million.

PEMA spokeswoman Ruth Miller said Wednesday that the agency's staff continues to compile damage cost estimates that are still being reported.

The Pennsylvania figure is dwarfed by the billions of dollars in damage being reported in New Jersey and New York, but is in line with several other states that sustained damage.

With the number of natural gas wells growing in Pennsylvania, the likelihood of negative effects on the landscape is also increasing. A report released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was able to document highly detailed patterns of disturbance related to the industry.

Hunters Looking To Help Hungry Families

Nov 27, 2012

750 thousand hunters are expected to take to the woods across Pennsylvania during the two-week deer hunting season that began Monday, and hunters are being urged to donate deer meat to the “Hunters Sharing the Harvest’’ program, which distributes venison to Pennsylvania food banks, soup kitchens and pantries.

“Hunger affects more than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians in all corners of our state,” said PA Agriculture Department spokesperson Samantha Krepps, “By donating venison, hunters can help keep food on their neighbor’s tables this winter.”

There’s little debate left among scientists that climate change is real and that the Earth is experiencing some of its effects already. To what extent, and to what extent further changes can be affected is up for debate. The head of the National Wildlife Federation will deliver a talk Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh, “Living in a New Climate Paradigm.”

7,600 Pittsburgh Area Kids At Risk For Lead Poisoning

Nov 25, 2012

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is urging families to have children younger than six years old tested for lead poisoning.

Nearly half a million children nationwide have elevated blood lead levels that may significantly damage their health, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health Department spokesman Dave Zazac says that the ACHD each year encourages these blood tests.

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden: Almost a Reality

Nov 21, 2012

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden has been in the works for more than 20 years without much result. Finally there's something to see with the promise of much more to come. Doug Oster, contributor to The Allegheny Front and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, takes us on a tour of the site with Botanic Garden president Greg Nace. See photos and listen to the story at our partner Allegheny Front's website.



The decade-old Wind Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) is set to expire at the end of the year if no Congressional action is taken. In Pittsburgh Monday, elected officials, energy executives, and labor leaders urged extension of the PTC, which provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents for every 1,000 watts of wind energy produced.

“If Congress allows the tax credit to expire this year, more than 4,000 good, family sustaining, middle-class Pennsylvania jobs will be lost and 37,000 jobs nationally,” said Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA-14).

Greening the East Busway

Nov 16, 2012

Nearly 300 trees will line the Martin Luther King Jr. Busway in Homewood to add greenery and reduce noise for the residents who live between North Braddock Avenue and North Homewood Avenue.

The project is a collaboration among the city of Pittsburgh, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Tree Pittsburgh, and Operation Better Block (OBB). 

Some 30 protesters gathered at a small farm in New Castle Monday to protest a nearby unconventional gas well. Maggie and Dale Henry operate the organic farm, and fear fracking could put their operation out of business. Anti-fracking advocates are concerned about the numerous abandoned wells in the area.

Too Many Tote Bags? Donate Them

Nov 12, 2012

If you are one of the many people who receives a tote bag every time you volunteer and find yourself with a house full of totes, it might be time to start donating some

Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh are teaming up with The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project to collect totes, gym bags, and backpacks to be distributed to local food pantries.

The new guidelines have been years in the making, and their approval delayed time and time again. On Wednesday the Allegheny County Board of Health finally voted to adopt them.

“Probably the most important piece of it is that it updates the guidelines that have been used in the past. When the current guidelines, the one they’re using now, were written the space shuttle program was brand new, Ben Roethlisberger was just out of kindergarten,” said Tom Hoffman, western PA Director for Clean Water Action and member of the task force that drafted the new regulations.

Red Cross: Volunteers Needed

Oct 30, 2012

The American Red Cross in western Pennsylvania is looking for volunteers to help take care of those in need locally and on the east coast due to Hurricane Sandy.

The national organization has provided about 3,200 people with shelter and mobilized more than 1,300 disaster relief workers as a result of the super storm.

In 2002, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) began showcasing and supporting the city's biotechnology tool, medical tool, therapeutics, diagnostics, and healthcare IT businesses. After a decade of solid growth the Greenhouse is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this week.

In ten years, the PLSG has worked with 384 companies. It has invested approximately $18.1 million in 73 portfolio companies, eight of which have exited for roughly $278 million. Additionally, about 500 jobs throughout the region, both directly and indirectly, have been created.

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Hurricane Sandy Relief has a Head Start

Oct 29, 2012

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A Pittsburgh-based charity is starting Hurricane Sandy relief efforts early.  Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF) is partnering with Gleaning For the World (GFTW) and sending four truckloads of supplies to areas in Sandy’s path.

$1.6 Million in Grants to Trim Diesel Emissions

Oct 25, 2012

The Breathe Project and Allegheny County Health Department are providing $1.6 million to small companies to make their diesel construction vehicles more environmentally friendly.  This is the second round of grants to the Small Construction Contractors Retrofit Program which is operated by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association.

Caren Glotfelty is the senior director of The Heinz Endowments’ Environment Program, which is a Breathe Project coalition sponsor.  She says retrofits can be costly.

A group of seventeen environmental groups has taken its fight for more openness in the nation’s oil and gas fields to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In a filing led by the Environmental Integrity Project, the EPA is being asked to include gas extraction and processing in its Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements.

Air Quality Action Day in Late October?

Oct 25, 2012

Pittsburghers unfortunately are used to Air Quality Action Days during the warm summer months—but in late October? The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) forecast a code orange Air Quality Action Day for fine particulate matter for today in the Liberty-Clairton area of Allegheny County.

State Loan to Make Schenley Park "Great Jewel"

Oct 24, 2012

Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park is getting a little renovation that will move stormwater through the park in a more natural way.

State Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) announced the approval of a $617,540 low-interest state loan for a stormwater runoff control project in the park.

Frankel, a member of the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy Board, said the project will be completely green.

New PA Water Policy Concerns Environmentalists

Oct 23, 2012

14 Environmental groups concerned over a new policy in Pennsylvania that they say could negativly impact public health have filed suit calling on the Corbett administartion to rescind the policy.

The recent policy change puts Department of Environmental Protection Administrators in charge of reporting water contamination complaints, which environmentalists say will lead to delays in warning the public of water pollution from oil and gas development.

Specifically, DEP administrators will handle complaints related to oil and gas drilling within the state.

Deer Must Be Processed Within Management Area

Oct 18, 2012

In reaction to the state’s first confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a deer, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is putting tight controls on hunters within parts of Adams and York Counties [PDF map].

CWD was found in a deer that spent its entire life in captivity, but game officials are taking steps to monitor the wild population in the area while doing everything it can to make sure the deadly disease does not spread.

Perilous Pathways: The Danger Of Drilling Near Abandoned Wells

Oct 17, 2012

There are an estimated 200,000 aban­doned oil and gas wells in Penn­syl­va­nia but officials only know where the exact boundaries of about four percent of them.  The infor­ma­tion gap is a prob­lem, because aban­doned wells are dangerous, especially when drillers start to sink new wells into the countryside.

Years before a plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, efforts were underway to clean up Lambert’s Run. Part of that stream runs through the Flight 93 Memorial site, which is a reclaimed strip mine.

“The area had been both strip mined and deep mined and when the plane crashed in September 2001, the current mining owners and state Department of Environmental Protection  (DEP) were working to clean up some of the mine drainage that was there,” said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of National Parks Service Western PA.

PHOTOS: Pittsburgh Zoo Continues Push to "Go Green"

Oct 10, 2012

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium houses more than 4,000 animals and hosts thousands of visitors each year. A lot of resources are needed to keep the animals fed and comfortable in their habitats, and to keep the grounds looking good – that takes a lot of energy and creates a lot of waste.

Zoo officials are trying to maintain the facility in the most environmentally-friendly way possible – a trend that’s spreading among zoos across the U.S.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ask Poles how they feel about fracking for natural gas and responses are mixed. They hope for big money and free flowing gas. They recognize legal, environmental and societal concerns, but ask them why fracking for homegrown gas is important and the answer is the same: energy independence.

Poles from all walks of life say if they can get to the natural gas that geologists and energy companies say is trapped deep underground, Poland would be free from reliance on its neighbors to the east — Russians.