Environment & Energy

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

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.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

 

Surrounded by state health officials and fellow lawmakers, Senator Vincent Hughes said, "The only thing good that came out of the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., is a renewed, intense effort from states around the country to attempt to address what's going on with lead in their respective communities."

Babar760 / Bigstock.com

  When David Rosner was a kid, he'd go into his grandfather's garage and mix up cans of paint. 

"I can still remember just sticking a stick in to mix it up and hitting halfway down a solid mass of hard stuff," said Rosner. "That was lead." 

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

An interfaith group of religious organizations held a rally at the state Capitol Monday, calling on Governor Tom Wolf to halt natural gas development. About 50 people attended the event and asked the governor for what they called a “moral-torium” on unconventional gas development and related infrastructure, such as pipelines.

“We are calling on our legislators to listen to science and protect public health,” says Rev. Dr. Leah Schade of the United in Christ Lutheran Church in Lewisburg. “This is one area where science and religion are actually in agreement.”

Alan Kotok / Flickr

 

The Pennsylvania Game Commission may ban drones over 1.5 million acres of state game lands after reports of the unmanned craft near an eagle's nest and others interfering with migrating waterfowl.

LNP reports the commission may give preliminary approval to the ban at its next quarterly meeting April 4-5.

The game commission says there have been at least a half dozen reports of drones flying near migrating geese at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and one of a drone flying near an eagle cam that monitors a nest near Hanover, York County.

U.S. Proposes New Safety Rules For Natural Gas Pipelines

Mar 21, 2016
West Virginia State Police / AP

Following a series of explosions and accidents the federal government announced Thursday it would expand safety rules for natural gas pipelines.

John Poister / Department of Environmental Protection

The Department of Environmental Protection will spend $13.4 million to remove an abandoned coal pile that has overshadowed a Cambria County city since the 1960s.

Oil Trains Carry Bigger Risks For People Of Color

Mar 13, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

A rash of oil train derailments, spills and explosions in recent years has put a spotlight on the silent risks of transporting fossil fuels. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians live within the likely evacuation zone of a potential oil train accident. But according to a new study from the group PennEnvironment, people of color and low-income communities are shouldering a larger share of the risk.

What Are Sanders And Clinton’s Positions On Fracking?

Mar 10, 2016
Carlos Osorio / AP

 

At a recent CNN debate in Flint, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred on a range of environmental issues, including a hot-button issue for many in her party’s base: fracking. While Sanders’ response was brief and unequivocal—“No, I do not support fracking”—Clinton’s required a bit more explanation.

Clinton gave a list of conditions that would have to be met in order for her to support hydraulic fracturing—including full disclosure of chemicals used, pollution controls and local approval for any projects.

Nicholas Tonelli / Flickr

The environmental rights amendment to Pennsylvania’s constitution was passed by the state’s voters in 1971, by a margin of four to one.

Better Than A Sell-By Date, Your Phone Could Soon Tell You How Fresh Your Food Is

Mar 3, 2016
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

Pittsburgh’s Lauren Wallace is willing to go the extra mile to make sure she’s getting the freshest milk possible at the grocery store. She regularly inspects the sell-by dates on the cartons and even digs to the back of the cooler to get the best ones. And when the milk in her fridge hangs around beyond the expiration date, she doesn’t even give the milk a chance to make a case that it’s still viable.

“I automatically dump it,” Wallace said. “I wouldn’t even taste it.”

Wallace isn’t alone.

Police: Ex-Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon Dies In Crash

Mar 2, 2016
AP

Aubrey McClendon, a natural gas industry titan, was killed when police say he drove his sport utility vehicle "straight into a wall" in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, a day after he was indicted on a charge of conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.

Irina Zhorov / Keystone Crossroads

In Vogt True Value Hardware on Pittsburgh's South Side, the stock of plumbing pipes includes copper and plastic. The owner of the neighborhood store, Shawn Vogt, shook his head no when asked if he carries any lead lines. 

“It’s no longer legal,” he said. “That’s like an old fashioned thing.”

The store hasn’t carried any lead pipes in decades, he said. 

Why Is Pennsylvania’s Water Expensive?

Feb 27, 2016
nekidtroll / flickr

A recent ranking of the nation's 500 largest water systems found the highest rates charged by private companies in Pennsylvania.

Aging infrastructure and an investor-friendly regulatory climate contribute to costs, experts say.

This caught our attention because multiple commonwealth cities are considering privatizing water treatment and delivery, or have done it recently.

Why do cities consider privatizing? To finance system improvement, generate cash for a relatively unrelated obligation, or both.

 

Findings

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

The gas industry’s downturn means Pennsylvania is getting a lot less royalty money from drilling on public forest land. But the state continues to have problems getting paid properly from the activity that’s still happening.

Your Environment Update For Feb. 24, 2016

Feb 25, 2016
Katie Steiger-Meister / UFWS

An Industrial Chemical Finds its Way into Great Lakes Trout

An industrial chemical is showing up in low levels in trout from the Great Lakes. It’s called perfluoro-1-butane sulfonamide (FBSA) and can be traced back to detergents and waterproofing products first used in 2003.

Joe Ulrich / WITF

 

No, Pittsburgh, Your Recycling Isn't Going To The Landfill

Feb 18, 2016
Lou Blouin / Allegheny Front

Pittsburgh’s Jana Thompson takes her recycling pretty seriously. She’s even been known to pry the unrecyclable spouts off otherwise recyclable dishwashing detergent bottles. And check out her recycling bin, and those clear plastic salad tubs are stacked as neatly as a set of Russian dolls.

Social Price Tag For Pollution Is Steep, But Dropping

Feb 17, 2016
Matt Niemi / Flickr

Consumers often hear about the economic costs of environmental regulations on the energy industry, but there’s a flip side to that issue — the social price residents collectively pay for burning fossil fuels to produce electricity.

But is there a way to place a dollar amount on the hidden costs of pollution? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University think so.

What Scalia's Death Means For Obama's Clean Power Plan

Feb 16, 2016
Ron Edmonds / AP

The sudden and unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gives environmentalists hope that Obama’s landmark effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has a fighting chance in the courts.

“It changes my opinion dramatically,” said Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law at UCLA.

Matt Hintsa / flickr

 

The coal industry is breathing easier after a surprise decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the court voted to halt implementation of President Obama’s plan to address climate change until legal challenges to the regulations are resolved.

The Clean Power Plan would require states to lower carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production. Coal-producing West Virginia is one of 29 states and state agencies challenging Obama’s plan.

In A Noisy World, Our Brains Still Need The Sounds Of Nature

Feb 9, 2016
Kerry Klein / Allegheny Front

Kurt Fristrup is standing in the middle of a prairie and he’s the loudest thing for miles. He and I are huddled near an empty cattle pen in Pawnee National Grassland in northern Colorado. Before he pulled out his tools, the silence here was palpable. The breeze carried no sound except the rustle of a million stalks of yellow grass. A family of pronghorn, kind of like furry antelope, padded over to us to investigate.

Around 1,200 fish were killed in the Susquehanna River Saturday after a power plant malfunction caused water temperature to drop 13 degrees.

A glitch at a power unit at Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in York Haven, Pennsylvania, caused cold water to funnel through a discharge channel into the river. The water temperature in the river dropped from about 45 degrees to 32 degrees in one hour.

Diane Curtis / Provided by Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

The site of a nun retreat in Fayette County will now be protected by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. 

The Sisters of Charity recently signed an easement agreement with the conservancy, ensuring the land they have used as a retreat site for decades is preserved and doesn't become over-developed.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Sediment and pollution still plague the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which supplies water for agricultural purposes in several states, including Pennsylvania.

Eddie Welker / Flickr

 

Over the weekend, Pittsburgh was hit by the fringe of a blizzard that left more than two feet of snow in parts of the East Coast.

Public works crews and residents diligently spread rock salt on roads and sidewalks —an effective de-icing measure. But the traditional sodium chloride salt can potentially harm or kill trees.

Trees in one part of Downtown, though, might be out of danger.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Seven people were arrested for disorderly conduct after they disrupted the final meeting of Governor Tom Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force in Harrisburg Wednesday.

The protesters shouted as they were escorted out of the meeting by Capitol Police:

Ray Bodden / Flickr

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday he hopes newly released standards will help lower ethane emissions in the state.

The greenhouse gas can leak or be released into the atmosphere during natural gas production, transportation and processing. 

Your Environment Update For Dec. 30, 2015

Jan 6, 2016
Lou Blouin / Allegheny Front

Foolproof Ways to Fight Littering

Littering continues to be a big environmental problem in cities. And one Pittsburgher from the city’s North Side neighborhood is taking the problem personally. Meda Rago regularly picks up trash to keep her street clean, and she really isn’t kidding when she says she’s found some pretty weird things chucked into the alley behind her house.

“About two years ago, we came down the alley and saw an entire roast turkey lying in the street,” Rago says.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

State environmental regulators are finalizing updates of new oil and gas regulations, which include more stringent rules around permitting, waste handling, water restoration, and identifying old wells.

The new rules from the state Department of Environmental Protection come at a time when Pennsylvania is already nearly a decade into the Marcellus shale boom.

“The process is what it is,” DEP Secretary John Quigley said of the multi-year effort. “It has taken as long as it’s taken. What we have to do now is move forward. It is essential that we finish this job.”

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