Environment & Energy

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

Kara Holsopple / 90.5 WESA

 

For six months in 2015, Google Street View mapping cars drove 320 miles through Pittsburgh neighborhoods. They weren’t mapping streets, but instead searched for methane leaks.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

 

Shell Chemicals has purchased land in Beaver County's Potter Township near the site where the company has proposed the construction of an ethane cracker plant.

The Beaver County Times reports Shell paid $6.5 million for its latest acquisition of 13.7 acres along state Route 18.

A portion of the land once housed the industrial insulation company VersiTech. The purchase of that land was the last big domino to fall in Shell's plan for the proposed plant.

Shell now owns nearly every parcel on the southern side of Rt. 18 between Interstate 376 and Raccoon Creek.

Why You Can Ditch That Non-Stick Skillet For Cast Iron

Nov 8, 2016
Mark Bonica / Flickr

Skillets and pans with non-stick coatings, like Teflon, have had a prime place in American kitchens for decades—and for good reason. They make it a cinch to flip pancakes and slide omelettes onto our plates. But some consumers have worries about the safety of the chemicals used to make non-stick coatings.

Why Reimagining The Ohio River Could Be Critical To The Region's Future

Nov 4, 2016
Jeremy stump / Flickr

Standing in downtown Pittsburgh, you can see where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the headwaters of the Ohio River. 

Ohio River Communities Are Still Coping With Teflon's Toxic Legacy

Nov 3, 2016
Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Fore more than half a century, the chemical company DuPont provided jobs for thousands of people along the Ohio River. One chemical they produced is PFOA, commonly known as C8. It was a remarkably useful compound—used in “Teflon” non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics and even some food wrappers.

Why Some Birds May Be Planning An Extended Stay This Fall

Oct 27, 2016
Thomas James Caldwell / Flickr

 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says 2016’s trend of record-breaking temperatures has continued into the fall. And that unseasonably warm weather may be changing the timing for birds heading out of our region for their fall migrations.

A Bold New Vision For Restoring America's Most Polluted River

Oct 20, 2016
Shannon Tompkins / Flickr

In many ways, the Ohio River is an unsung resource for the region it serves. The Ohio’s near-thousand-mile course flows through Pennsylvania and five other states before emptying into the Mississippi. It’s a source of drinking water for more than 5 million people. But its long legacy as a “working river” has also made it the most polluted in the country. Today, many cities and towns along the Ohio are rethinking their relationship to the river—and seeing how a large-scale restoration effort could be critical to the region’s future. But just how do we get there?

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

A newly-formed citizens’ coalition is pushing to change the way eminent domain is applied in Pennsylvania.

Peak Colors Are Coming To Southwestern PA This Week

Oct 19, 2016
Allegheny Front

The Allegheny Front has partnered with the online climate and weather almanac iSeeChange to help collect observations from people all across the country about what’s going on outside. And people have been noticing some strange things about the leaves on the trees where they live. Observers in Wisconsin and Michigan noticed leaves turning brown during the summer. And in Kansas, someone reported elm trees changing color in September.

VIDEO: Exploring The Collapse Of Coal

Oct 14, 2016
Allegheny Front

Less than a decade ago, the coal industry was at its peak. Today, American coal is in crisis. Production is down. Bankruptcies have swept across the industry. But how exactly did things get so bad, so fast? What will now happen to America’s coal towns? And who will be left to clean up hundreds of old coal mines? The Allegheny Front teamed up with the public media initiative Inside Energy to explore what the collapse of coal looks like for communities across the country.

WATCH: The Collapse Of Coal

The Billionaire Who's Fighting To Stop Runaway Climate Change

Oct 13, 2016
Fortune Live Media / Flickr

  

When the history of the climate change era is written, Tom Steyer will likely get more than a footnote. He might even get a whole chapter. But in many ways, being one of today’s most powerful advocates in the fight against climate change is an unlikely fate for a guy who—not long ago—was a big-time hedge fund manager. Since stepping down in 2013 from his own multi-billion dollar investment firm, he’s been busy re-purposing his wealth. His new project: NextGen Climate, a political organization that is—among other things—spending millions of dollars to help candidates who back urgent action on climate issues.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Downtown Pittsburgh’s newest structure is perhaps one of its most unique. The Aquaponics Project unveiled its portable unit Wednesday next to the Gateway T station.

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.

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