Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

An expected 20,000 volunteers will hit the streets and parks throughout the Pittsburgh region this weekend for a semi-annual litter clean-up in conjunction with Earth Day on Sunday.

Boris Weinstein, founder of Citizens Against Litter, which helps organize the clean-up effort in Washington, Allegheny, Westmoreland, Butler, and Beaver counties, said 250 communities and groups have already signed on to help out.

Of those 250, 84 are city neighborhoods and 57 are Allegheny County boroughs and townships.

Seed and Story Library Comes to Lawrenceville

Apr 18, 2012

Starting in May, southwestern Pennsylvanians can "borrow" local seeds from the Lawrenceville branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, with the hope that gardeners will then return harvested seeds in the fall for use the following spring.

Mary Monaghan, Assistant Director of Neighborhood Libraries, says returning newly harvested seed is completely voluntary. There will be no late fees, and librarians will not come to your garden to confiscate seeds.

EPA Moves to Curb Gas Well Air Pollution

Apr 18, 2012

The Obama administration has ordered natural gas developers to address the air pollution that's created when a gas well is hydraulically fractured.

The rule only applies to wells drilled into deep shale gas formations, like the Marcellus Shale beneath Pennsylvania.

National Aviary's Steps for Safe Bird Migration

Apr 16, 2012

Every spring, birds migrate thousands of miles to cooler climates, and there are simple steps that humans can take to make their journey as safe as possible.

Robert Mulvihill, Conservation Outreach Manager at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, says there are more than 100 kinds of birds migrating through western Pennsylvania at night during this time of year.

New Evidence Shows Being Active Outdoors Benefits Veterans

Apr 14, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Sierra Club’s mission for its Military Families and Veterans Initiative is, “to ensure those who defended our country and their families get to enjoy the land they served.” Heading up that mission is Stacy Bare, an Iraq war veteran, based in Washington D.C.

Bare said being outdoors helped him deal with the stresses of being a veteran and move forward with his own life after returning home.

Shale Industry Brings Jobs For Veterans

Apr 14, 2012

Molly Born, a writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has been reporting on the challenges returning veterans face when trying to find jobs, and she's found that the Marcellus shale gas industry has provided one of the bright spots for servicemen in a lagging economy.

"There have been a lot of companies in this industry who have pledged to help veterans and they've been saying it very loudly," she said.

New Evidence Shows Being Active Outdoors Benefits Veterans

Apr 14, 2012

The Sierra Club's mission for its Military Families and Veterans Initiative is, "to ensure those who defended our country and their families get to enjoy the land they served." Heading up that mission is Stacy Bare, an Iraq war veteran, based in Washington D.C.

Bare said being outdoors helped him deal with the stresses of being a veteran and move forward with his own life after returning home.

Lawmaker Wants Moratorium on Deep Injection Wells in Pennsylvania

Apr 13, 2012

Now that deep injection wells have been linked to a dramatic increase in earthquakes in Ohio, Colorado, and Oklahoma, a Pennsylvania lawmaker wants a freeze on such wells in the commonwealth. The state has five operating deep injection wells, but many more are proposed.

Active duty Navy Sailor Ed Klonowski is an outdoorsy guy. He grew up in the country in a family that hunted and fished and watched birds. So when he was deployed to Iraq, those were the kinds of things he missed.

Pennsylvania is one of the best prepared states when it comes to readiness for water-related threats of climate change, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that ranks all 50 states on their level of preparedness.

Water-related climate change impacts include threats to water supply and quality, more frequent and severe storms, floods, and drought events.

Scrubbers Coming to Indiana County

Apr 3, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved the installation of $725 million in pollution controls at a General Electric coal-fired power plant in Indiana County.

The controls will be installed by Edison Mission Energy, which operates the plant.

The Homer City Generating Station is Pennsylvania's second largest and produces enough energy to power two million homes. The pollution controls are commonly referred to as "scrubbers."

The widely-used herbicide Roundup has been discovered to induce physiological changes in animals, particularly amphibians according to Rick Relyea, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and head of Pitt's Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology.

It has been found that "sublethal" and environmentally relevant concentrations of Roundup, the world's most popular weed killer, caused two species of amphibians to alter their morphology. According to Relyea, this is the first study to show that a pesticide can induce morphological changes in a vertebrate animal.

For the 14th year in a row, Pennsylvania's forests have been certified and the state acknowledged for doing a commendable job to ensure their conservation.

SmartWood, a third-party forest-management certification branch of the Rainforest Alliance, honored Pennsylvania for its sound management of 2.2 million acres of forests, including responsible management of drilling activities and protection of sensitive species.

Bayer Pesticide Under Fire for Bee Colony Epidemic

Mar 30, 2012

Two surveys conducted in the United Kingdom and France indicate that a class of pesticides created by Bayer CropScience could be the cause of the dwindling honey bee population seen over the past several years by commercial beekeepers.

The class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, has been in use since the 1990s according to David Fischer, Director of Environmental Toxicology and Risk Assessment for Bayer CropScience. He says that Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has been a documented phenomenon since the 1800s.

Earth Hour Returns

Mar 29, 2012

The lights will go off at many major buildings in Pittsburgh for an hour tomorrow night. Saturday from 8:30-9:30 PM, Pittsburgh will officially participate in Earth Hour, a global event aimed at making a statement about climate change and energy use by doing something simple: turning off lights for one hour.

Stormwater Bill Rolls Through Pennsylvania Senate

Mar 27, 2012

The Pennsylvania state Senate last Monday unanimously passed legislation which allows local municipalities to create stormwater authorities.

Senate Bill 1261 comes in response to flooding that has occurred across Pennsylvania over the past year, including a flash flood on a Pittsburgh street in August that killed four people.

The sponsor Senator Ted Erickson (R-Delaware) said after all the flooding, something needed to be done.

The Allegheny Health Department has issued a draft permit for the first Marcellus Shale compressor station in the county, and already more than a hundred people have expressed concern over what that could mean for air quality.

The planned gas compressor would be located on Kissick Lane, near the Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Frazer Township. A public hearing on the plan is slated for Tuesday evening, and several environmental groups are teaming up to voice their concern.

Impending Deep Frost Just Part of the Season

Mar 26, 2012

With predicted temperatures to hit lows in the mid-20's overnight into Tuesday morning, gardeners and orchard owners have some reason to be concerned.

But Susan Feather, a commercial educator for the Allegheny Extension of Penn State said there is a little bit of an overreaction to the drop in temperatures.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be hosting online information sessions about the implementation of Act 13, also known as House Bill 1950, which was signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett in February.

DEP Says Blast Not Likely To Have Caused Breach Of Flooded Mine

Mar 23, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) does not believe that blasting Wednesday at the Marquise Number 4 mine in Somerset County caused water to burst from a nearby flooded abandoned mine. According to the DEP, the water was not acidic but carried sediment through a street in Shade Township and flooded Dixie Run, a tributary of Stonycreek River.

"The [seismic] monitor 150 feet from the blast would gather anything unusual if the charge was too big or set off some sort of a seismic action," DEP spokesman John Poister said.

DEP Updates Drilling Waste Regulations

Mar 23, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has revised its guidelines for the processing and use of liquid waste from oil and gas sites. The Residual Waste Beneficial Use general permit, an across the board regulation, encourages recycling liquid waste to freshwater standards after it has been used. Liquid waste includes flowback water, drilling muds, and storm water.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said it is easier to transport and use wastewater once it has been processed into freshwater.

Mountain Climbers Clean Up Mt. Washington

Mar 22, 2012

For the 20th year, climbers will rappel the Mount Washington hillside Saturday in Pittsburgh. "No big deal" you might say, but they will be cleaning up trash along the way.

The annual event was started by two men who worked in city departments who saw a need to remove litter from the hillside along Grandview Avenue on Mount Washington. So, the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh use their climbing skills to get the trash that otherwise probably couldn't be touched.

State Holds Nutrient Credit Auction

Mar 19, 2012

Wastewater treatment plants operating in the Susquehanna and Potomac watersheds have the chance to buy nutrient credits at auction Wednesday.

Nutrient credits allow "regulated entities," typically wastewater treatment plants, to stay within the legal limits of nitrogen and phosphorus discharges. One nitrogen credit is equal to a pound of nitrogen taken out of a watershed.

The auction will be hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST).

Flash Flood Season Approaches

Mar 16, 2012

April showers bring — flash floods. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency advises the Commonwealth's residents to plan ahead to prevent damage and danger for the spring season.

PEMA Chief Deputy Director, Robert Full, says 18 people died last year because of historical amounts of rainfall that turns into flash floods.

"It's just so critical that our residents take seriously, just for a few moments, how important it is to be prepared," Full said.

Commission Approves Water Withdrawals from Susquehanna for Fracking

Mar 15, 2012

There were shouts from protesters, but no arrests at a public meeting of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission Thursday. The panel met to vote on permits from energy companies looking to withdraw water from the Susquehanna River for hydraulic fracturing. About 25 demonstrators opposed to fracking and natural gas drilling accused the SRBC of rubberstamping approval for 42 projects.

Susan Obleski, spokeswoman for the commission, said each project is examined on a case-by-case basis.

Governor Tom Corbett is optimistic about the announcement that Shell Oil Co. has chosen a site near Pittsburgh for a major, multi-billion-dollar petrochemical refinery. He said building such a facility could provide a huge economic boost to the region.

"We need to keep in mind that this announcement doesn't mean this is completed," said Corbett. "There are many steps that have to be taken between now and the time the first shovel goes into the ground. This is the first step."

Westmoreland County Okays Impact Fee

Mar 9, 2012

Westmoreland County Commissioners have agreed to divide the revenue from impact fees on 191 Marcellus Shale gas wells among all municipalities in the county.

Pennsylvania legislators passed a bill in February overhauling the state's natural gas drilling laws.

Under the impact fee law, elected officials in counties that have shale gas wells have until mid-April to enact a fee or choose not to collect. If the county officials refuse the fee, municipalities have 60 days to override the decision.

PA Senate Passes Bill To Repeal Summer Gas

Mar 8, 2012

Motorists in the Pittsburgh area won't have to fill up their tanks with a summer blend of gas if the state House follows the Senate's lead.

The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Elder Vogel, Jr. (R-Beaver, Lawrence Counties) that eliminates a regulation that requires service stations to sell gasoline with a low vapor pressure between May 1 and September 15 in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties. Switching to the "summer gas" is intended to reduce emissions and curb air pollution.

Pittsburgh International Airport has received a $2 million grant from the state Capital Budget/Transportation Assistance Program for upgrades and safety enhancements.

Airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said the money will be used for a water treatment plant that will capture the chemicals used to keep runways from becoming icy during the winter.

"The stormwater treatment plant is for rescuing de-icing runoff that might end up going into the streams," Jenny said. "It would be helping the McLaren Run and the Enlow Run waters near the airport."

Connoquenessing Water OK

Feb 23, 2012

At least 10 households in western Pennsylvania fear their drinking water has been ruined by natural gas drilling, but state officials say tests don't show that.

Residents say Rex Energy Corp. has sent letters notifying them it will no longer deliver drinking water to the households after Feb. 29.

Rex Energy says in a statement that testing found no notable differences in pre and post-drilling water chemistry in Connoquenessing Township, about 35 miles north of Pittsburgh.

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