Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

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.

Erika Beras/90.5 WESA

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Poland has the same kinds of natural gas shale formations we have here in Pennsylvania. Many Poles hope hydraulic fracturing technology and the resulting release of natural gas will bring the country energy independence and a financial boom, but also like here in Pennsylvania, a number of Poles have a not-in-my-backyard attitude toward the developments. 

While the natural gas industry continues to grow rapidly in Pennsylvania, the likelihood of negative effects on the landscape is also increasing. A report released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) documented highly detailed patterns of disturbance related to the industry development.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has released a report that makes suggestions on how southwestern Pennsylvania could resolve issues regarding the region's water supplies, like stormwater management and river navigation. At a news conference Thursday morning, a new water-related trade group was announced in order to take on those recommendations.

Parking Spaces...or Parks?

Sep 21, 2012

Don't be surprised Friday if you see some metered parking spots in Pittsburgh that  are occupied not by cars but "public spaces" in an effort to spark thoughts about urban landscape and land use. 

PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh is a one-day event aimed to get Pittsburghers thinking about the benefits of recreational parks and improving the community.  Thor Erickson, a committee member with PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh, said the designs for the spaces range from a simple extension of a business to a full-blown coffee shop, to an actual park.

The Allegheny County Board of Health has postponed a vote on guidelines that would be used by the county to decide whether or not to give a permit to companies that will emit pollution into the air.  The guidelines were drafted by a task force comprised of industry representatives, academia, healthcare officials, community members, and environmental groups.  Several supporters urged the board to pass them at their Wednesday meeting, but at the request of County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, that vote did not happen.

A regional energy company has announced plans to expand its storage capacity for nuclear waste produced from a Beaver County plant.

FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company said it plans to start construction soon on a $30 million dry storage facility. At least six above-ground bunkers will be built of steel and concrete on the grounds of the company's Beaver Valley Power Station starting this fall, with completion slated for 2014.

Oak Wilt Fungus and Emerald Ash Borer Persist

Sep 14, 2012

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Local parks organizations are trying to inform homeowners about the dangers of two of the greatest threats to the region's trees.  A series of informational meetings about controls for oak wilt fungus and the emerald ash borer have been held in Allegheny County.  

Household Chemical Collection At South Park

Sep 13, 2012

Not sure what to do with those half-empty cans of paint and stain or those dusty bottles of automobile fluids in your garage?  The Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC) will host a household chemicals collection event Saturday at South Park.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an average home can easily accumulate 100 pounds of hazardous waste including paints, varnishes, cleaners, pesticides, pool chemicals and car batteries.

Elk Hunting Season Coming Up

Sep 12, 2012

Each year thousands of Pennsylvanians and out-of-staters apply for a Pennsylvania elk hunting license, but only a lucky group of 65 are awarded with one.

The state’s elk population currently resides in Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton and Elk Counties in northwestern Pennsylvania.  In 1913  the Pennsylvania Game Commission reintroduced elk into the state by bringing them in from Yellowstone National Park.

Deer Disease Confirmed In Beaver County

Sep 11, 2012

Two deer have died from a disease not seen in southwestern Pennsylvania since 2007.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission on Monday confirmed epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) to be the cause of death for two deer in Beaver County. EHD is a disease contracted by deer through the bites of very small midges, and causes massive hemorrhaging.

Game Commission spokesperson Jerry Feaser says this disease usually results in death for the deer.

Shale Gas Potential Touted at Energy Conference

Sep 10, 2012

Representatives of businesses, labor unions, and all levels of government gathered at the 2012 Energy and Manufacturing Summit on Pittsburgh's South Side on Monday to praise the job-creating power of the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.

In an effort to boost the profile of local farmers and ranchers, September is being celebrated as local food month in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Throughout the month, activities, contests, restaurant offerings, and more will highlight food that’s grown or raised in the region.

The natural gas boom in Pennsylvania is unlocking energy, but it’s also changing the landscape. A study released by the U.S. Geological Survey documented changes in land usage between 2004 and 2010. Bradford and Washington Counties were chosen for the first report, because they were identified as “exceptionally productive” areas of Marcellus Shale Development. The USGS report finds 642 sites in Bradford County and 949 in Washington County.

Erika Beras/90.5 WESA

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Poland has seen many changes in the last 30 years – democracy has come to the country, Poles have embraced capitalism the nation has forged relationships with multi-national corporations and it has entered the European Union.

At the same time, there has been a growing focus on finding for cleaner forms of energy.

Looking Forward for Poland

Sep 5, 2012

Poland has seen many changes in the last 30 years – democracy has come to the country, Poles have embraced capitalism the nation has forged relationships with multi-national corporations and it has entered the European Union.

At the same time, there has been a growing focus on finding for cleaner forms of energy.

Erika Beras/90.5 WESA

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Poland has the same kind of shale gas deposits found throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. Poland’s government hopes to tap into their deposits to fulfill the country’s future energy needs but, like in the United States, it comes with a great deal of controversy. 

Drought Watch Lifted for Allegheny and 14 Other Counties

Sep 1, 2012

State environmental officials have lifted a drought watch for 15 counties in western Pennsylvania.

A statement released Friday by the Department of Environmental Protection says rainfall over the last six weeks has improved stream flows and soil moisture.

The counties involved are Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset, Venango, Warren and Washington.

Zurawlow and Chevron

Aug 31, 2012
Erika Beras/90.5 WESA

Friday, August 31, 2012

You might miss Zurawlow as you drive the narrow roads that weave through the gentle rolling hills of Southeastern Poland.  A small sign is all that indicates a small town is just up ahead, along a dirt and gravel road.  

NWF Study Finds Climate Change is Ruining Summer

Aug 30, 2012

A new National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report points to heat waves, wildfires, fish deaths, and drought as evidence of climate change in the United States and its devastating ripple effect seen this summer.

Pennsylvania Peregrine Falcon Continues to Make a Come-Back

Aug 24, 2012

It’s been another successful nesting season for the peregrine falcon in Pennsylvania. The pesticide DDT wiped out the falcon population east of the Rocky Mountains in the 1940s and 50s. But the species has been making a slow come-back ever since a repopulation effort began in the 80s. Dr. Arthur McMorris, the peregrine falcon coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission explained that a successful nesting season means the population is growing.

Pittsburgh Trail Recognized by National Geographic

Aug 24, 2012

A local gem is being recognized nationally as being a worldwide go-to for the fall.

The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) was named as one of National Geographic's 10 "Best Fall Trips 2012."  When the trail is completed, the 150-mile path, which hooks up with the C & O Canal Tow Path in Cumberland, Maryland,  will connect bikers, hikers and all non-motorized traffic from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

The panel that oversees water use in the Susquehanna River Basin is taking comments on the latest round of requests from natural gas drillers to pull water from the basin for fracking purposes.

Public hearings at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission aren’t two-way affairs.  So commissioners were silent as one man voiced his concern at the latest meeting that the natural gas industry’s water withdrawals would deplete streams and endanger wildlife.  They might have pointed out a common misperception underlying the man’s testimony.

EPA Awards Grant to Local Communities

Aug 22, 2012

The Turtle Creek, Steel Valley, and Twin River Councils of Governments (COG) in southeastern Allegheny County have been awarded a $600,000 federal grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to assess brownfields and their potential for other uses.

The Green Building Alliance is challenging Pittsburgh property owners to reduce the use of water, energy, and transportation emissions by 50% by 2030.  Green Building Alliance C-E-O Mike Schiller, said the property owners who have committed to the initiative are called "2030 Districts," and others have already been established in Seattle and Cleveland.

Drillers Deal With Rattlers

Aug 21, 2012

Jobs on natural gas drilling sites can have funny names.  There are roustabouts, mud men, doodlebuggers and snake wranglers. That last one, snake wrangler, is exactly what it sounds like.

Drillers are finding more and more timber rattlesnakes as gas operations expand in northeast Pennsylvania. The snakes are what’s called a "candidate species." They aren’t protected, but state regulators think the species may be in danger, so Pennsylvania's Fish and Boat Commission is doing a lot of research aimed at tracking and monitoring them.

Gas Fume Vapor Systems Have Net Negative

Aug 16, 2012

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The federal  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires gas stations surrounding areas historically recognized as having air quality issues to equip gasoline pump nozzles with vapor recovery systems intended to siphon off fumes while pumping gasoline. But now Pennsylvania will no longer require new gas stations to have the vapor capture technology.

For the second year running Pennsylvania made the list—the Natural Resources Defense Council’s ranking of the “Toxic 20.” The report lists the states where the most toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants is released. The report analyzed the emissions of common power plant pollutants, such as mercury, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and ammonia, that were released during 2010, the most recent year data is available. The report is based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency and was first produced last year based on 2009 emissions.

By a 4-3 ruling, a Commonwealth Court panel today tossed out a provision of Act 13 that would have allowed statewide zoning policies for drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation.

"We're very pleased that they upheld our suit that would basically eliminate that portion of Act 13," said Peters Township Manager Michael Silvestri.

Shenango, Inc. has to pay up for air and water quality violations since 2005 at the coke plant on Neville Island, particularly involving their combustion stacks and pushing devices.

A consent agreement reached by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) requires Shenango to pay a $1.75 million penalty for failure to abide by those departments' environmental standards.