Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

Allegheny County Air Rules Weakened

Jan 9, 2013

The ever yo-yoing Allegheny County Health Department Board changed toxic air guidelines again on Wednesday.

In a 6-0 vote with two abstentions, the board approved an amendment to shrink the “public exposure boundary,” or the area where public health risk is measured. The change shifts the boundary from the industry’s property line to the nearest habitable structure.  The board had voted in November 7-1 in favor of the tighter rules.

Ben Avon Councilman Michael Bett argued against relaxed regulations.

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh finds low Vitamin D Levels early in pregnancy are associated with lower birth weights.

The study will be in the January edition of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Lead Author Alison Gernand from The Graduate School of Public Health says there has been an increased interest in looking at Vitamin D levels in pregnancy in recent years.

The Allegheny County Board of Health is accepting public comment on two proposed changes to air quality regulations. The changes are pretty minor, the first would get rid of the list of ambient air quality standards.

“That’s because whenever EPA updates these at the federal level, we have to go back and update our regulations. So just to make it easier and make sure that our regulations stay consistent with what’s happening at the federal level,” said Alaina Conner, pollution prevention and outreach coordinator at the county health department.

Pennsylvania’s Second Biggest Wind Farm Now Online

Jan 3, 2013

Right before the New Year, two new Pennsylvania wind farms became operational, including the state’s second largest. The Twin Ridges Wind Farm in southern Somerset County is a 140 megawatt facility, which can create enough electricity to power more than 45,000 homes each year.

“In total we had about 170 megawatts come online in the last week, bringing Pennsylvania’s EverPower portfolio to just over 200 megawatts and pushed us over 500 megawatts nationally,” said EverPower Wind Holdings Spokesman Dan Lagiovane.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a disease being found in smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna, Schuylkill, and Delaware Rivers.  Lesions are being found on the fish and hatchlings are dying off in significant numbers. The problem is that the culprit hasn’t been found.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission wants a portion of the Susquehanna to be placed on an impaired rivers list. But the DEP said if that were to happen, the agency would have to say why it’s impaired which means identifying certain pollutants that need to be reduced.

Pittsburgh Adds 22 Certified Green Buildings In 2012

Dec 27, 2012

More green buildings, new and rehabilitated, continue to pop up in the Pittsburgh region.  Pittsburgh ranked fourth among 15 benchmark cities by adding 22 Certified Green Buildings this year for a total of 109.

Winter Storm 'Euclid' Continues to Nag Travellers

Dec 27, 2012

Wednesday's snowstorm, named 'Euclid', dumped four and a half inches of snow on Pittsburgh Wednesday, and many modes of transportation are still experiencing the delays associated with the weather.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County says it is experiencing some delays on certain bus routes, although most routes are not affected by the snow. PAT warns bus riders to leave extra time in case their buses are experiencing delays.

A study commissioned by the commonwealth found economic benefits associated with Pennsylvania's 'water trails' -- the 21 rivers outfitted by the state with boat launches, access points, and campgrounds.

The data gathered by ICF International show that just four of those water trails generated roughly $750,000 in local economic activity over three months this summer. From July to September, ICF conducted interviews with water trail visitors at the Schuylkill River; the Susquehanna River's north branch; the Juniata River; and the Three Rivers area in Allegheny County.

Count Some Birds

Dec 25, 2012

Whether an expert or a beginner, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is asking for your help.

Game Commission officials are asking wildlife enthusiasts to join tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the United States in the Audubon Society’s 113th annual Christmas Bird Count.

Local counts will occur on one day between December 14 and January 5. Volunteers can pick the most convenient circle or participate in more than one count.  Each circle focuses on one specific geographical area.

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.

http://2cccd5dfe1965e26adf6-26c50ce30a6867b5a67335a93e186605.r53.cf1.rackcdn.com/Storm Wrap.mp3

Hurricane Sandy Relief has a Head Start

Oct 29, 2012

http://2cccd5dfe1965e26adf6-26c50ce30a6867b5a67335a93e186605.r53.cf1.rackcdn.com/Sandy Wrap_Emily Farah_SOC.mp3

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.

Pages