Environment & Energy

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

This Machine Will Change The Way You Think About Plastic

Oct 12, 2016
Perpetual Plastic Project

Plastic pollution is all around us—from grocery bags blowing down the street to the islands of plastic floating in the oceans. But Bart Bleijerveld, an industrial designer from the Netherlands, sees plastic a little differently. He says it’s a really useful—even beautiful—material. We’re just using it the wrong way.

“It is designed to last for a really, really long time, while everybody’s using it as a disposable,” Bleijerveld says.

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

  After wending their way through a convoluted, controversial five-year process, new regulations for Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale drillers are set to take effect Saturday.

Struggling Honeybees Get Some Help From Big Data

Oct 6, 2016
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

 

As prolific pollinators, honeybees are to thank for about one out of every three bites of food you eat. But bees are in big trouble: They’re getting hit hard by pestspesticides, diseases and habitat loss. To help keep tabs on what’s going on with bees, scientists at Grand Valley State University are using new technology to track the health of hives.

Trade Group Seeks To Block New Drilling Rules

Oct 5, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

An oil and gas trade group is seeking to block new Marcellus Shale drilling regulations scheduled to take effect later this week. The rules have been in development since 2011 and have been the subject of significant controversy.

David Smith / AP

In a win for environmentalists and municipalities, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down a number of provisions to the state’s oil and gas law. 

What Pennsylvania Must Do To Hit Its Carbon Reduction Goals By 2030

Oct 2, 2016
Zach Frailey / Uprooted

When the Obama administration announced its Clean Power Plan (CPP) back in 2015, it left it to individual states to figure out exactly how they would achieve the mandated cuts in greenhouse gases.

It’s clear some states will have an easier time than others.

For example, Pennsylvania’s target calls for a 33 percent reduction in carbon dioxide from 2005 levels. But the state may in fact already be halfway to meeting that goal.

The Science Of Making Rain

Oct 1, 2016
Charlie Riedel / AP

  For as long as humans have been around, we’ve been at the mercy of the weather. And as long as that’s been the case, we’ve wanted a way out—a way to control the weather to suit our needs. In the distant past, we used sacrifices and rain dances. Today, we turn to science.

This is where cloud seeding comes in. It’s humanity’s attempt to do what has always seemed impossible: To harness the clouds and make them rain.

Let’s begin in Fargo, North Dakota, at the headquarters of Weather Modification Incorporated, WMI. It’s the largest cloud seeding company in the world.

Fight Feels Familiar For Tribes At North Dakota Pipeline Protest

Sep 30, 2016
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

More than a month after construction began on a controversial stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the front line of the fight is filled with faces from Alaska to Florida.

The indigenous people here on the North Dakota prairie have waged similar fights on their reservations. Take the Sahme family, who set up camp a short walk from the central fire where people converge to hear prayer and song.

“My dad brought a good tent,” says Tiwani Sahme, as he opens the zipper.

New Imaging Technology Is Giving Chesapeake Bay Restoration A Big Boost

Sep 30, 2016
Forsake Fotos / Flickr

 The Chesapeake Bay has a big pollution problem. And multiple nonprofits and state and federal agencies—including many in Pennsylvania—are all working together to clean it up. It’s been a slow process so far. But recently, we got a chance to chat with the Chesapeake Conservancy‘s Jeffrey Allenby about how new high-resolution imaging is helping accelerate that restoration effort.

States Suing Over Climate Change Plan Get Their Day In Court

Sep 29, 2016
Dennis Hendricks / Flickr

  

Climate change barely got a mention in Monday’s presidential debate, but it was a big week in the history of the nation’s climate policy.

On Tuesday, a panel of ten judges on a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. heard arguments on the Clean Power Plan — the cornerstone of President Obama’s effort to curb climate change.

Pittsburghers Join Protests Against Dakota Access Pipeline

Sep 29, 2016
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

Efforts by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to block construction of an oil pipeline through lands that they consider sacred has drawn a broad coalition of supporters ranging from other indigenous tribes to environmental activists.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

 

The ramifications of the Obama administration’s recent decision to temporarily halt construction on the Dakota Access oil pipeline are being felt throughout the country– particularly in Pennsylvania. Industry executives worry about growing public opposition to pipelines, while activists have been encouraged by the success of Native American protesters.

George Pankewytch / Flickr

 

A Nestlé Waters representative stood before angry residents in a northeastern Pennsylvania fire hall earlier this summer and admitted defeat.

He told the Eldred Township zoning board — and more than 100 residents who attended — that the multinational corporation he represents was withdrawing its permit to drill for water underneath the town.

City of Pittsburgh

Municipal officials hope to submit a final “green first” plan for dealing with the region’s stormwater management problem to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by the end of this year.

The plan relies heavily on green infrastructure, which involves planting trees and restoring the natural water cycle.

'Erin Brockovich Chemical' Found In PA Water Systems, Study Says

Sep 27, 2016
Scott Lamar / WITF

  More than 160 public water systems in Pennsylvania contained the carcinogenic chemical chromium 6 during recent tests at levels that were above a health limit recommended by scientists in California, according to a new analysis of data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A panel of judges Tuesday is hearing a case that could change the future of the power industry.

The D.C. Circuit is hearing an appeal of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule that would restrict carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants.

Evan Vucci / AP

 

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump went before a group of shale gas industry professionals gathered in Pittsburgh Thursday and promised that energy industry workers are going to “love Donald Trump,” if elected.

Keith Srakocic / AP

As natural gas and energy industry leaders gather at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this week for the Shale Insight conference, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald remembered years ago when conference organizers didn’t want to come to Pittsburgh because the Steel City was perceived to be a haven for the anti-fracking movement.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

More than 1,300 energy industry representatives are in downtown Pittsburgh this week for the annual Shale Insight Conference that this year is focusing on getting the gas from the well to the user.

Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer told a crowd gathered inside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center that the Pittsburgh region is lacking when it comes to pipelines and other infrastructure needed to get the gas to market.

Bradford County Ramps Up Campaign For Gas Royalties Bill

Sep 16, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

About 700 people attended a meeting in Bradford County Wednesday night where state and local officials urged them to contact legislative leaders in Harrisburg about a bill aimed at ensuring gas companies pay fair royalties.

Pittsburgh Festival Turns Junk Into Art

Sep 15, 2016
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

 

This month, Pittsburgh is hosting its first Re:NEW Festival, an art and performance event that’s all about reusing materials and environmental sustainability.

For example, one of the sculptures commissioned for the festival is fashioned from old street lights. Duquesne Light donated about 30 of them along with some other decommissioned fixtures for sculptors to re-imagine. Eddie Opat helped design the piece and says it’s inspired by pre-Columbian architecture.

Inspectors Saw Corrosion On Pipeline Years Before Explosion

Sep 14, 2016
Reid Frazier / 90.5 WESA

In 2012,  Spectra Energy inspectors saw it: a patch of corrosion that had eaten away at a 30-inch pipeline in Salem Township, Pennsylvania. But company officials said Tuesday that they didn’t replace the pipe because they didn’t expect the “anomaly” they saw to grow so quickly. A subsequent investigation of the stretch of the Texas Eastern pipeline revealed that the corrosion grew five times faster than what the company expected. Spectra officials are still trying to figure out why.

Could Shell's Ethane Cracker Erase Recent Gains In Air Quality?

Sep 13, 2016
Mark Dixon

Officials around the state are optimistic about the impact of Shell’s new ethane cracker on the local economy. It will bring thousands of construction jobs to western Pennsylvania and 600 permanent ones once it’s built along the Ohio River in Beaver County. The plant will produce 1.6 million tons of plastic a year out of the region’s natural gas.

Pro-Drilling County Targets Gas Trade Group

Sep 8, 2016
Ian Sterling / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

When the Marcellus Shale gas boom was taking off, Bradford County welcomed it with open arms. With more than 1,000 active wells, this region in north-central Pennsylvania became one of the most heavily drilled places in the state.

But the enthusiasm turned to anger, and many people now allege they’re being cheated out of royalty money by drilling companies.

So What Exactly Is An Ethane Cracker?

Sep 8, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

  When Shell announced earlier this year it would be building an ethane cracker facility in Beaver County, it no doubt left many people wondering—what the heck is an ethane cracker?

Nic Lehoux / Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

The brand new Frick Environmental Center will open its doors to the public on Saturday.

The new facility, near the Beechwood Boulevard entrance to Frick Park, is the most environmentally friendly municipal building in the world, according to Scott Roller with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. He said it is on track to achieve LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certifications.

Wolf Still Searching For New Environmental Chief

Sep 1, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

More than three months have passed since the controversial resignation of Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, John Quigley, and Governor Tom Wolf is still looking for a permanent replacement.

Natural Gas Emissions In PA Are Up. Here's Why

Aug 31, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Air pollution from the natural gas industry was up in 2014—driven in large part by a growing industry. According to new data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), emissions were up in almost every major category, though some pollutants saw higher increases than others.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

Pennsylvania environmental regulators have green-lighted a proposal to use 3,950 tons of natural gas drilling waste for an experimental road construction project at a Lycoming County hunting club.

Oil Train Traffic Is Down — For Market Reasons

Aug 26, 2016
Frederic J. Brown / Getty via Marketplace

 

 

Oil and its downstream products enable most transportation methods, from the gas in automobile tanks to the rubber in shoes. For oil itself, however, there are only a few methods of movement, and each is controversial. In the U.S., one method that saw a recent boom is now on the decline.

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