Environment & Energy

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

As Coal Fades, What Will Happen To Thousands Of Miners?

Jun 2, 2016
Ryan Loew / Allegheny Front

It’s hard to say the coal industry is in anything but a state of free fall.

Keith Carver / Flickr

Bees can be pesky, but they're vital to the ecosystem. Take bees out of the equation, and many of the foods on the dinner table disappear.

In an effort to protect them, experts plan to talk about the threats to bees and pollinators at Bee Wise: Plant Natives on June 8, hosted by the Allegheny County Master Gardeners and Penn State Allegheny Extension.

PA Environmental Chief Is Out After Email Controversy

May 26, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

 

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley resigned on Friday following a controversial email he sent to environmental groups. The email contained expletives and other impassioned language, and chastised environmental groups for not doing enough to support several of the department’s recent environmental initiatives.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

In 1910, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., then one of the nation’s foremost landscape architects, outlined a plan for Pittsburgh. It detailed his thoughts on how city leaders should handle development around Pittsburgh’s major roadways and rail corridors.

After 17 Years, Cicadas Are Ready To Bust Out In Pennsylvania

May 19, 2016
griecheo / Instagram

 

They’re almost here. Actually, the insects are already here.

What Your Kids Are Learning About Climate Change

May 18, 2016
NL Monteiro / Flickr

So how—and what—are kids learning about climate change? Well, a survey published in the journal Science earlier this year revealed that students might not be taking home all that much from school. In fact, most science teachers spend just an hour or two on the subject every year.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

You need office space and classrooms for children with room for a few experiments -- just enough to put your hands in the earth and squiggle around. But you can't use any toxic construction materials. And once it's built, it has to both recycle its own water and produce more energy and than it consumes.

That was the challenge mastered last year by Phipps Conservatory when its Center for Sustainable Landscapes became Pittsburgh's first structure to meet the strict environmental requirements of the Living Building Challenge.

State Revives Energy Efficiency Loans For Homeowners

May 17, 2016
Susan Philliips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has revived a program that helps homeowners secure low interest loans to make energy efficiency improvements. 

EPA Finalizes New Methane Standards For Oil And Gas Industry

May 13, 2016
Joe Ulrich / WITF

 

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the first-ever federal standardsThursday aimed at curbing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. It’s part of the Obama administration’s broader plan to combat climate change.

Spectra Energy Official: ‘I’m Sorry’ For Pipeline Blast

May 12, 2016
Reid Fraizer / Allegheny Front

 

More than 200 residents packed a Western Pa. church Wednesday night to hear from the company that owns a pipeline that exploded last month. The crowd, at times edgy, posed questions about the explosion and pipeline safety to four Spectra Energy officials over a period of two hours.

The officials called the blast ‘unacceptable’ and apologized for the explosion, which badly burned one man and destroyed his home.

Group Tackles Environmental Hazards At Pennsylvania Schools

May 11, 2016
Ted S. Warren / AP

When you send your kids off to school in the morning, you expect they’ll be safe. But the group Healthy Schools Pennsylvania says that environmental hazards in and around schools are often being overlooked.

Flickr user Macroscopic Solutions

Pennsylvania has 58 separate species of non-native forest pests threatening trees and plant life, according to a new study out Tuesday in the journal Ecological Applications.

“That’s second only to New York state in terms of the number of pests,” said lead author Gary Lovett, senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in upstate New York.

Officials Investigating Pipeline Explosion In Western Pennsylvania

May 6, 2016
Kerry Jobe / AP

  Last Friday, a natural gas pipeline exploded in Westmoreland County, just east of Pittsburgh. One man was hospitalized after his house went up in flames, while other nearby homes were damaged and residents were evacuated.

This week, armed security guards blocked off the site of the explosion, as federal pipeline investigators worked with the owner of the pipeline and state officials to determine the cause of the blast.

The underground pipeline, which is owned by Spectra Energy, carries natural gas from the Gulf Coast to the northeastern U.S. It was built in 1981.

Flickr user joseph a

It’s no secret that the air quality in Pittsburgh isn’t great. Last month, the American Lung Association ranked southwestern Pennsylvania as having the eighth highest level of year-round pollutants and the fourteenth highest level of short-term particle pollution in the nation.

Alcosan

The Nine Mile Run Watershed Association is poised to begin construction on a green infrastructure project to reduce combined sewer overflow at Oakwood and Batavia streets in Homewood. 

City Council will vote Wednesday on a bill that would let construction begin.

The watershed association wants to build 10 rain gardens, 40 "tree pits" and other green infrastructure that would soak up sewage overflow and prevent it from entering an underground tributary of Nine Mile Run.  

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Volunteers from Tree Pittsburgh handed out 1,000 saplings to Pittsburgh-area residents for Arbor Day on Friday afternoon.

Patty Proneker, a secretary from Kennedy Township, said she and her friend picked up a pair of pawpaw trees to plant in her side yard.

“I’ve never heard about it, so I’m really interested in this," Proneker said. "(The volunteer) said that it’s like a tropical fruit, so it’s like an avocado – and I just heard that they’re very good for you – and a mango. And my mom loves mangoes, so it’s going to work perfect.”

Scott Deutsch / Twitter

 

The state Department of Environmental Protection says a man who was burned after a natural gas explosion at a Pennsylvania pipeline complex was in a home that caught fire nearby.

Flames shot into the sky Friday morning when officials say an explosion traced to a 36-inch natural gas pipeline occurred at a facility owned by Texas Eastern Transmission.

Company officials shut off the pipeline, but not before the fire burned an area nearby in Salem Township.

Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

Building owners in downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland are ahead of sustainability goals set as part of the Pittsburgh 2030 District initiative.

Scot Hacker / Flickr

As the spring season brings its annual rash of wildfires to Pennsylvania, Allegheny County officials are warning residents and businesses that large piles of mulch are liable to catch on fire on their own.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA News

Tree Pittsburgh has a lot to celebrate. Friday marks Earth Day, Arbor Day is just around the corner and this year, the nonprofit turns 10 years old. 

Executive Director Danielle Crumrine said, with the help of partners and thousands of volunteers, she's hoping to plant 10,000 trees this year marking a decade of service. That’s five times more than the organization generally plants each year.

“On Earth Day, when everyone’s thinking about trees and the environment, it’s a good time to remind folks that trees need people to care for them,” Crumrine said.

AIRNow.gov

Pittsburgh’s air quality has a ways to go before it's considered healthy, according to the American Lung Association’s latest State of the Air report.

“We report based on how many unhealthy air days they receive for ozone and daily particle pollution,” said Paul Billings, national senior vice president of advocacy. "We also look at the EPA’s reports for year-round particle pollution as well."

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pockets of bright pink will begin dotting river fronts and other open spaces in Pittsburgh over the next few weeks.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will plant 400 Eastern redbud trees this spring, with another 800 to be planted by fall 2017.

The small tree with vibrant fuchsia flowers is native to the region and blooms early in the spring. Jeffrey Bergman, director of urban forestry programs at the conservancy, said those are two of the main reasons redbuds were chosen for this planting.

PA Attorney General Candidates Weigh In On Fracking

Apr 18, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

Democratic candidate for attorney general Josh Shapiro is taking a hard line on gas drillers in a TV ad that began airing more than a week ago.

Marufish / Flickr

SolarCity, the largest solar energy provider in the nation, announced Monday it's extending service into the western Pennsylvania region.

Keith Srakocic / AP

President Barack Obama’s major climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, is currently in legal limbo as federal courts decide its fate.  

Democratic Senate Candidates Spar Over Fracking

Apr 7, 2016
Matt Slocum / AP

 

The Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate is heating up, and sparks are flying on a topic that’s always hot in Pennsylvania—fracking.

At a debate this week, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and former congressman and Navy Vice Admiral Joe Sestak both tried to brand their opponent, Katie McGinty, as a friend of fracking.

They targeted McGinty’s record as former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Governor Ed Rendell. She left the department in 2008, just as the fracking boom was getting started.

Tim Lambert / WITF

Pennsylvania is facing a $2.9 million deficit in the fund that supports its oversight of oil and gas wells in the next fiscal year, according to a projection from Governor Tom Wolf’s budget office.

When The Fracking Boom Goes Bust

Mar 30, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

    

At Jerry Lee’s Emporium in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, there was a sign on the front door, handwritten in marker: “Store closing for good.”

Jerry Lee Edwards opened the store in 2014. He came from southern West Virginia to sell clothes to workers in Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry. 

Carolyn Kaster / AP

  For Pennsylvania lawmakers, the problem of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan has served as a rallying cry, a teachable moment and, now, a political cudgel.

This month, House and Senate members were determined not to waste Michigan’s crisis, invoking it to propel their own efforts to minimize lead exposure from old house paint and water pipes. But as some touted legislation, one House Republican criticized the governor’s office for not springing into action in the same way.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

People who started as strangers have become friends, spending every weekend on a portion of the Great Allegheny Passage trail, gazing upward.

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