Environment & Energy

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

PHOTOS: At 100 Years Old, National Parks Need $12 Billion In TLC

Aug 25, 2016
William J. Smith / AP

 

The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial this week. On August 26, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act putting 35 parks and monuments nationwide —including Yellowstone and Yosemite — under the new federal agency.

National Parks Service

That National Parks Service is 100 years old today.

The government agency was created on Aug. 25, 1916, but a slew of celebratory events have taken place all over the country since January.

Ben Peoples / Flickr

 

Park ranger Doug Bosley stands at the crest of a quiet, green hillside, looking down a stretch of railroad track that appears to have gotten lost and wandered into the woods. 

WESA/Nicole Fallert

At least 10,000 bees squirmed next to one another fulfilling their duties as housekeepers, nurses and foragers.

The brood surrounded their queen bee in an enclosure, hanging vertically in the SEED classroom at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden in Oakland.

“This is a four-frame, observational hive, it’s a small nucleus colony,” said Christina Neumann of Apoidea Apiary. She’s the beekeeper of the hive, which was unveiled at Phipps this week.

Flickr/TheNoxid

Pennsylvania will be at least 5 degrees warmer by 2050 than it was in 2000, according to Penn State University’s 2015 Climate Impacts Assessment Report. To combat a shifting environment, Gov. Tom Wolf has approved an update to the Climate Change Action Plan.

As part of the state’s Climate Change Act of 2008, the action plan is reviewed every three years in an effort to increase energy efficiency in all industries by 2030.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

New data show that almost all types of contaminant air emissions created by the Marcellus shale industry were up in 2014. 

The data come from a report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The 2014 numbers are the most recent available data and are self-reported by the Marcellus shale industry. 

UBC Learning Commons / Flickr

State government will soon offer groups promising environmental education up to $50,000 in grant money, a significant jump from the former maximum of $3,000.

Beginning in 2017, funding from the Department of Environmental Protection will be available to help generate groups more ambitious programming on watershed management, brownfield remediation and other topics at the state and regional levels, DEP spokeswoman Susan Rickens said.

To qualify for the max amount, organizations need to generate at least $10,000 in matching funds, she said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: This story was updated at 9:40 a.m. to reflect the DEP's response. 

A couple dozen children and parents gathered in Irvine Park in downtown Beaver Tuesday morning, to play with a giant parachute, toss beach balls, play tag and hula hoop.

New Environmental Secretary Hopes To Resurrect Drilling Rules

Aug 4, 2016
WITF

The new head of the Department of Environmental Protection says he hopes his staff can work quickly to resurrect regulations for the conventional oil and gas industry that got tossed out during the annual state budget negotiations in Harrisburg.

Aftershocks Of The Gas Boom Ripple Through New York's Wine Country

Aug 4, 2016
Julie Grant / Allegheny Front

 

  Driving around Seneca Lake, evidence of industry is everywhere.

The wine industry, that is.

King William County Government

 

The newly chosen executive director of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has withdrawn his position after questions surfaced over his termination from a previous job.

"The PWSA Board has accepted the withdrawal of Dr. K. Charles Griffin to become its next executive director," officials said in a statement. "The Board is presently evaluating options for next steps in the search for a candidate to fill the position on a permanent basis."

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

  The Pittsburgh Department of City Planning will hold its third and final public meeting on its new Bike Plan on Monday. The new Bike plan replaces the 1999 version and will set the agenda for Pittsburgh’s biking infrastructure, events and education initiatives.

Bike Pittsburgh Advocacy Director Eric Boerer attended one of two previous meetings, which he said included maps where residents could mark areas that they'd like to see become safer and more accessible for cyclists.

Boerer said these simple displays are useful in identifying priorities.

Why Pipeline Safety Is One Of Pennsylvania’s Next Big Energy Challenges

Jul 22, 2016
Keith Srakocic / AP

On  the morning of April 29, a natural gas transmission line exploded in a field in Salem Township in western Pennsylvania. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

There are thousands of abandoned coal mines dotting the landscape of Pennsylvania, and many of them leak water tainted with toxic metals like iron and manganese, which seeps into streams and groundwater.

 

It’s been a long, expensive process for the state to clean up the acid mine drainage. But state environmental officials now say an alternative method of remediation -- constructed wetlands -- could remove iron and manganese from mine drainage at a much lower cost.

New Study Links Asthma With Fracking

Jul 21, 2016
National Institutes of Health / Flickr

 

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have published a study linking unconventional gas development with asthma attacks.

“We found that patients living closer to more—or bigger—unconventional natural gas wells had higher risk for an asthma attack,” says Sara Rasmussen, the study’s lead author.

Senate Approves Bill Weakening Drilling Regulations

Jul 14, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate voted Monday to approve an amendment that would undo parts of the state’s pending oil and gas regulations.

David Sibley / Facebook

Ornithologist David Sibley is a celebrity when it comes to all things birds. He’s written several books documenting his findings throughout the U.S. including the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior and The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. Mr. Sibley is coming to the Steel City as part of the Pittsburgh Arts and Lecture summer series and joins us to talk about his career writing about birds.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration announced Thursday it has finalized the acquisition of 660 acres of woodland to create a park in the southern Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hays.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority bought the “Hays Woods” property from Pittsburgh Development Group II for $5 million, a figure city leaders said is well below market value.

In a statement, Peduto called the sale of the property a "tremendous gift."

"It will preserve hundreds of acres of untouched urban forest for generations," Peduto said.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

At the south end of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium parking lot is a small access road with a sign reading “Do Not Enter.” Beyond that is a big gravel parking lot, mostly used for overflow parking during large zoo events and as a staging area and storage space for the Department of Public Works.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials said Friday they’re working out the kinks causing inaccurate water bills for roughly 30,000 residents. 

Residents said they’ve received inaccurate or late bills for months.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are making tiny strides -- no, really -- that could revolutionize the solar industry.

Paul Leu runs a lab at the university where students work with tiny particles called nanotubes.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The National Forest Service wants to know how many and what kinds of trees line Pittsburgh streets and hillsides.

Though forest service officials have spent nearly 90 years collecting data on tree populations throughout the country’s rural forests, it only started collecting urban tree data in 2014.

New Chemical Plant Promises Jobs, But Could Turn Back The Clock On Air Quality

Jun 23, 2016
Reid R. Frazier / Allegheny Front

On a road overlooking the Ohio River, Michael McDonald gazes out over swarms of backhoes, bulldozers and piledrivers. He points to a large patch of bare ground. “That’s where the actual cracker units will be,” he says.

Alan Levine / Flickr

 

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined two health systems for illegally dumping medical waste in a landfill.

The state agency says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has been hit with $451,000 in fines and Allegheny Health Network has been fined $86,900. Officials say the state found 12 of UPMC's hospitals illegally dumped large quantities of needles, bloody dressings and body fluids into a Monroeville landfill.

New Photography Exhibit Explores Impacts Of The Fracking Boom

Jun 16, 2016
Lynn Johnson

 

The story of the fracking boom in Pennsylvania and nearby states runs as an almost continuous narrative in the region’s press. But covering the blow-by-blow of new drilling sites, protests, lawsuits and regulations is just one way to look at how fracking has changed the region.

Ray Bodden / Flickr

Hundreds of environmental advocates are slated to gather in Harrisburg on Tuesday to lobby state lawmakers to reject bills they say would undermine the commonwealth’s clean energy and conservation programs.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Gardeners swarmed the Allegheny County Courthouse garden on Wednesday where Pennsylvania State University master gardeners handed out free plants and answered questions during Bee Wise, an annual informational event.

"We are trying to make the community more aware of native plants and pollinators," said Penn State master gardener Susan Mortensen. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

After a real estate company's bid to redevelop a 1-square-mile swath of forest in the southern Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hays fell through in the early 2000s, the landowner has now decided to sell Hays Woods at a vastly discounted rate to the city for use as a public park.

Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority voted Thursday to pay $5 million to Pittsburgh Development Group II for the “whole bundle of sticks,” URA board chair Kevin Acklin said – including land ownership and mineral rights on a property once slated for strip mining and a racetrack and casino complex.

Rennett Stowe / Flickr

 

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump says the U.S. needs to take back its jobs from China, Japan and Mexico—although he hasn’t offered a plan on how to do that.

Meanwhile, labor unions and environmental groups are pushing a more specific path for creating American jobs: Fix the nation’s infrastructure. And not just highways. They’re talking about things like the electric grid, water systems and natural gas pipelines.

Tianming Chen / Flickr

Sixteen student conservationists will work as rangers in city parks this summer if Pittsburgh City Council votes to accept a $700,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation today.

Pittsburgh Parks Director Jim Griffin said members of the Student Conservation Association have volunteered at city parks for years, but now they could get paid for their work.

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