Environment & Energy

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

Shale Gas Conference Kicks Off With Pipelines

Sep 21, 2016
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.

Jeff Brady / NPR

 

State and local officials attended a ceremony Wednesday morning to celebrate the groundbreaking for a 20-inch pipeline that will deliver Marcellus Shale gas to a new power plant in central 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.

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