Environment & Energy

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

Keith Srakocic / AP

An umbrella group for 140 Presbyterian churches is calling for a halt to construction of a planned $6 billion petrochemical, or ethane cracker, plant in western Pennsylvania.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

While the United States burned less coal in 2017 than it had in three decades, an uptick in global demand for Appalachia’s metallurgical coal -- used in the steel making process -- helped boost production this past year, according to a new analysis by an economic research firm.

Ginette Walker Vinski / Sustainable Pittsburgh

For eight years, Sustainable Pittsburgh has encouraged hundreds of local businesses to adopt environmentally friendly practices as part of its annual Green Workplace Challenge. 

Dake Kang / AP

Coal companies in the United States boosted production of the fuel in 2017 to reverse a two-year decline.

Who Will Pay For Trump's Plan To Bail Out Coal?

Jan 4, 2018
John Raby / AP

We  all remember the financial and auto bailouts during the Great Recession. They arguably saved significant parts of the economy from even further destruction. The Trump administration says the federal government now needs to step in to prop up the coal and nuclear industries.

Pennsylvania Shuts Down Construction On Sunoco Gas Pipeline

Jan 3, 2018
Matt Slocum / AP

Pennsylvania environmental officials ordered Sunoco on Wednesday to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline across the southern part of the state, citing a series of spills and leaks of drilling fluid and other "egregious and willful violations" of state law that have plagued the $2.5 billion project.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Activity in Pennsylvania’s gas fields slowed in recent years amid low prices, but operators ramped up drilling in 2017, and they’re expecting to drill even more in the new year.

Tim Lambert / WITF

CNX Gas Co. has agreed to pay two fines to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for drilling violations that took place in 2015 and 2016 in Greene County.

The penalties, totaling $433,500, stem from incidents at four well sites that affected waterways and vegetation, according to the DEP.

The company failed to properly control and dispose of flowback and drilling fluids, and it did not take adequate steps to prevent erosion and sedimentation, among other violations, the department said in a news release.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The priorities set by a new presidential administration dominated energy news in 2017. President Donald Trump and his cabinet set an agenda to “unleash” America’s energy potential, removing the barriers they perceive to be holding back domestic energy production -- often to the dismay of the environmental community.

US Steel Agrees To Allow Fracking At Edgar Thompson Works Steel Mill

Dec 27, 2017

Pennsylvania’s oldest working steel mill could soon have a new type of industrial activity on-site: fracking.

US Steel has signed a lease with New Mexico-based Merrion Oil and Gas, to develop a Marcellus shale gas well on the grounds of the Edgar Thomson works, originally built in 1875 by Andrew Carnegie.

The well site will be on the eastern edge of the property, in North Versailles Township, according to a drilling permit application Merrion submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Glitter Spreads More Than Holiday Cheer

Dec 22, 2017
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

Recently at Little House, Big Art, a crafting studio in Pittsburgh’s Spring Hill neighborhood, 8-year-old Imogen Nowak looks for just the right beads. She’s making a necklace, and while she’s not using any glitter today, it’s a favorite. “I add glitter to things that I’m making or things that I love,” she says. “It adds a little sparkle to life.”

In Their Quest For World Domination, Invasive Plants Can Adapt To New Climates

Dec 22, 2017
USDA Forest Service

Invasive  species tend to do well in new places, and they can push out native species. There’s an assumption that they do better in the same kind of environment as the country they came from.

Turns Out Birds Like To Eat Local, Too

Dec 21, 2017
Mark Duncan / AP

Native plants are better for birds than non-native plants.

That’s the main finding of a study on chickadees and the caterpillars they eat.

 

Desiree Narango is the lead author. She’s a research fellow at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and a PhD candidate at the University of Delaware.

“From the chickadee’s perspective, it’s as if a non-native plant isn’t even there at all because they almost never forage in them,” she says.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The world’s largest steelmaker has agreed to pay nearly $2 million because of air pollution violations at a Westmoreland County coke plant.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

A 40-foot tall wind turbine has been unveiled in the Lower Hill District to help power the former Connelley Trade School. The building now houses a collection of sustainability-focused organizations, including the Energy Innovation Center and the Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation.

Beer_Powered / Flickr

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman has listed expansion of the city’s recycling program among his priorities for 2018. (Update: Mayor Bill Peduto announced Tuesday that Gilman would leave his city council post in January to take over as Peduto's chief of staff.)

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The company behind a new coal mine in Somerset County intends to open another in the area, and some residents worry the new operation could hurt their water quality.

The Keyser underground mine would produce metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel. Wilson Creek Energy, a subsidiary of Corsa Coal Corp., is seeking permits from the Department of Environmental Protection to begin operations.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

As lawmakers hash out differences between the tax bills in front of Congress, they must decide whether to keep a proposed tax break for oil and gas investors -- and just how big the reduction should be.

Trump Administration Coal Plan Could Have Big Impact On Pennsylvania

Dec 8, 2017
Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Trump administration’s plan to prop up money-losing coal and nuclear plants could have a big impact on how Pennsylvanians get their electricity. Federal regulators will now decide what to do with it.

PA, States Sue EPA For Missing Ozone Deadline

Dec 7, 2017
Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of more than a dozen states suing the EPA for failing to enforce on an important air pollution regulation.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Environmental officials in Pennsylvania have long focused on cleaning up the most hazardous old mines, but they plan to start addressing other abandoned mining sites that pose fewer public health dangers.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Seven people arrested at a midstate protest of a $3 billion pipeline being built to carry natural gas from northeastern Pennsylvania to Southern states intend to fight their charges at trial.

LNP newspaper reports the protesters entered not guilty pleas to charges of defiant criminal trespass on Monday.

Nati Harnik / AP Photo

Of the roughly 2,000 native plant species in Pennsylvania, 347 are currently considered rare, threatened or endangered. After two decades of research, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources wants to change the statuses of 51 plants.

Commission Seeks Fracking Ban In Watershed Supplying NYC

Dec 1, 2017
Julio Cortez / AP

A commission that oversees water quality for the watershed that supplies Philadelphia and half of New York City with drinking water took another step Thursday toward permanently banning natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, despite industry opposition.

'I Can't Just Step Away From My Grant': Scientists Grapple With EPA Head's Call To End Funding

Nov 30, 2017
Tim Evanson / Flickr

In October, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, ordered scientists who receive EPA grants to either end those grants or resign from EPA scientific advisory boards. But what about industry-backed scientists? He said they can stay.

Buoyed By Trump, Some Miners Are Sticking With Coal

Nov 30, 2017
Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

At a gymnasium in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, Trenton Phillips is looking for a job as a coal miner.

Phillips already works at a company that fixes belt lines at coal mines. 

Susan Walsh / AP

Democrats and some Republicans from the Philadelphia region are worried that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is trying to gut his agency from within.

The EPA has worked overtime to undo many Obama-era environmental regulations, while also scrubbing its website of any mention of “climate change.”

That’s triggered several red flags for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who said he and other Democrats warned the GOP not to tap Pruitt to lead the agency.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

A set of ambitious goals to reduce Pittsburgh's environmental impact goes before the public this Wednesday.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennslvania

House lawmakers have begun moving a natural severance tax through their chamber.

It’s major priority for Democrats, who have been trying unsuccessfully to pass one for a decade.

But it’s slow going—the bill is saddled with well over 300 amendments.

Along with Democrats, the tax is championed by a coalition of moderate, largely southeastern Republicans.

GOP Representative Kate Harper, of Montgomery County, is one of the most vocal advocates.

Author Uses Pittsburgh As Model For Sustainable Future

Nov 16, 2017
Jon Dawson

Pittsburgh is leading the way to a more sustainable future. That’s the argument Patricia DeMarco makes in her new book, "Pathways to Our Sustainable Future: A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh." DeMarco uses the city’s grassroots environmental successes and commitment to sustainable building and energy use to get at themes of transformation. This week, Kara Holsopple spoke with her about the book and why she chose Pittsburgh as the backdrop.

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