Environment & Energy

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

Archives Service Center / University of Pittsburgh

 

Officials want to find out if making Negley Run back into an open stream will help reduce sewage overflow when it rains.

Area water management utilities, along with local, state and federal governments continue to work on infrastructure upgrades that will drastically reduce the amount of raw sewage that overflows into area rivers during wet weather. 

That’s why the Army Corps of Engineers announced in December it would contribute $1 million to help fund a study on Negley Run.

Dan McKay / Flickr

 

Among those New Year’s goals of eating healthier, volunteering more or sticking to a new hobby, the Pennsylvania Resources Council also wants resolution makers to add one more thing: recycling.

Composting and recycling bottles, cans, paper and any potentially hazardous material are easy ways to get involved, said Justin Stockdale, the council's regional director.

Higher Temperatures Take Toll On Local Farms

Dec 27, 2015
John Creasy / Garfield Community Farm

Mild winter weather may mean fewer layers and lower heating bills, but it's also messing with some farmers’ crops. At Garfield Community Farm in Pittsburgh’s East End, director John Creasy said the temperatures mean plants that should be dormant until spring are confused, including garlic, which Creasy said they planted in late October and early November.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

  That snow shovel idling in the garage might see less use this winter.

Forecasts show the upcoming winter will be warmer than average — about six-tenths to one-quarter of a degree warmer every day — with slightly higher odds for light precipitation, according to Matthew Rosencrans, head of forecast operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. 

Kim Paynter / WHYY/Newsworks.org

 

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D) plans to investigate how local governments are spending the millions of dollars they’ve received from gas drilling impact fees.

A Coal Plant Cleans Up In Indiana County

Dec 17, 2015
Keith Srakocic / AP

  Around the country, dozens of coal-fired power plants are racing to install pollution controls to comply with new mercury rules from the Environmental Protection Agency. But how do they keep 100,000 tons of coal-fired pollution out of the air? Install thousands of air filters.

Todd Kollross is managing the $750-million project at the Homer City Generating Station in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Inside the new unit, he shows off what look like hundreds of holes in the floor. Each is lined with a filter bag. They’re basically super-sized Shop Vac filters.

Lawmakers Renew Federal Incentives For Wind And Solar

Dec 17, 2015
Duke Energy

Congress has been negotiating an end-of-year budget deal that includes tax credits for the wind and solar industries. Democrats negotiated a five-year renewal of clean energy subsidies in exchange for lifting a 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports sought by Republicans.

The wind credits expired last year, and the tax credit for solar was scheduled to be phased out at the end of next year.

Ashley Hahn / PlanPhilly

How will climate change affect the Delaware watershed and the region's water supply? That's the "elephant in the atmosphere," as the Academy of Natural Sciences' Roland Wall put it, and part of the focus of a multimillion-dollar research initiative launching this week.

Researchers know that changes in temperature and precipitation will impact the Delaware River and the areas that surround it, but Wall, director of the academy's environmental initiatives, said much less is known about the best approaches to prepare for this and protect the water supply in general.

robposse / Flickr

Smallmouth bass still haven't recovered from a precipitous population drop in the Susquehanna River  10 years ago, according to a report released Monday by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Tony / Flickr

Fifty employers from around the region were recognized for their efforts to become more environmentally friendly over the last year.

Ex-Coal CEO Blankenship Convicted Of Misdemeanor Conspiracy

Dec 3, 2015
Tyler Evert / AP

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was convicted Thursday of a misdemeanor count connected to a deadly coal mine explosion and acquitted of more serious charges.

A federal jury in West Virginia convicted Blankenship of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards. The misdemeanor charge carries up to one year in prison. Jurors did not find Blankenship guilty of a more serious conspiracy charge included in the same count that could have netted five years in prison. He was also acquitted of making false statements and securities fraud.

Why Some Big Businesses Are Backing The Clean Power Plan

Dec 1, 2015
Mike Mozart / Flickr

Big businesses often oppose increased government regulations. But the Clean Power Plan—the Obama administration's attempt to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants—is drawing backers in the big box business world.

“This is really not a political issue; it’s a strategic issue, it’s a business issue,” says Mark Buckley, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for Staples. “It’s really rooted in practical economics for us.”

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

  An estimated 750,000 hunters are expected to head into the woods Monday for the first day of antlered deer hunting season with firearms, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the administration is looking for advice from some of them.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order formally establishing the Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation. 

Phil Pavely / Trib Total Media

More than a century ago, the fight between George Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, and Thomas Edison in West Orange New Jersey, over whose power system was better, ended with Westinghouse and alternating current as a clear winner. But research at the University of Pittsburgh has rekindled that fight.

'Mighty' Etna: The Greening of a Blue-Collar River Town

Nov 27, 2015
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

Some days, it might be easier if Mary Ellen Ramage simply left her right arm constantly in the air in a waving position. As the perpetually cheery borough manager of the small river town of Etna, Pennsylvania, the stream of greetings and hugs simply comes too quickly to allow time for a break. Often, the shouts of “Hey, Mary Ellen!” fly past from passing pickup trucks before she can identify the voices. But being able to patch together who they are from the back of a vehicle is one of the perks of “literally knowing everyone in town.”

What Parts Of Your Thanksgiving Meal Are Genetically Modified?

Nov 26, 2015
Dan Tentler / Flickr

Watching what we eat during the holiday season usually refers to how much we’re consuming. But if you’re a person who’s concerned with food issues, you might have a trickier time spotting genetically engineered foods. The U.S. is not among the 60 countries that require the labeling of GMOs. So to give you a little help on what part of your Thanksgiving plate might be genetically engineered, the Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant decided to look into the issue. Here’s a breakdown of some traditional holiday foods to pay special attention to.

On the holiday plate

Lessons Learned From Raising A 43-Pound Monster Turkey

Nov 26, 2015
Jessica Reeder / Allegheny Front

When it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey, size matters.  A 2o-pounder from the supermarket freezer is usually enough to secure some bragging rights for the cook. But for hobby farmer, Ken Chiacchia, a bird that size would hardly raise an eyebrow. He regularly raises heavyweights that get twice that size. But for him, what’s worth bragging about isn’t how big they get—it’s how they’re raised:

I sing you the song of “Turkmenistan”—a 43-pound monster of a Tom turkey we raised on our little farm.

What Is The Carbon Footprint Of A Typical Thanksgiving?

Nov 25, 2015
Jack Amick / Flickr

Mike Berners-Lee may not be an expert on the American Thanksgiving. A native of the UK, he’s never actually had the pleasure of experiencing one. But as one of the world’s leading researchers on the carbon footprint of—well—everything (he even wrote a book subtitled “The Carbon Footprint of Everything”), he’s plenty familiar with the impacts of the foods that star in the traditional Thanksgiving Day spread.

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Drives Boost In Nation’s Proven Gas Reserves

Nov 24, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

Nationwide, the amount of gas that producers can afford to get out of the ground, broke records in 2014, topping 388 trillion cubic feet, according to a new report from the Energy Information Administration. 

Allegheny County / Twitter

 

A large, smoky chemical warehouse fire near Pittsburgh forced residents from about 70 nearby homes and injured multiple people.

Emergency crews on Tuesday moved people living near Weatherford Engineered Chemicals in Leetsdale to a high school gymnasium as a precaution.

The evacuation order has since been lifted, according to county officials. 

Flickr

Arborists from around the nation will convene in Pittsburgh for the Tree Care Industry Expo, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center from November 12th through the 14th.

Peter Gerstenberger, Tree Care Industry Association safety advisor, said the expo is usually held in a city east of the Mississippi River, because that is where the majority of the nation’s tree cover is, but the expo includes information valuable to arborists all over the nation.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

If you want an update on air quality, look no further than your smartphone.

CREATE Lab, a program of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, and Airviz, a CMU lab spinoff, have developed a smartphone app called SpeckSensor that gives users real-time access to Air Quality Index (AQI) numbers based on their location.

Environmental Protection Agency

  Residents driving past the Clack Health Complex in Lawrenceville might notice green, orange and red flags flying over the building -- a visual guide for those concerned about local air quality.  

The Allegheny County Health Department has adopted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program of flying pennants to signify air quality levels. The color-coded banners went up last week.

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Pittsburgh film fans are invited to attend a festival this week that aims to reflect the natural beauty it's drawn from.

Mary Kate Ranii, program and outreach coordinator for the Pennsylvania Resources Council, said the 2015 Wild & Scenic Film Festival should inspire locals to protect the environment.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

McCandless residents will be tasked Monday with deciding whether to level three large retail buildings at the far, northern end of McKnight Road to revert the 27-acre slab of asphalt and concrete back into a wetland preserve.

Climate State / Flickr

Residents and hobbyists are invited to see some 20 homes and businesses harnessing solar power in the area as part of Saturday's 5th Annual Pittsburgh Solar Tour.

“People can go to places within their neighborhood or maybe take a little bit of a trip farther out to see the solar installations that are throughout the region,” said Lauren Fraley, director of communications at Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, or PennFuture, the event’s organizer.

Keith Srakocic / Associated Press

The governors of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia announced they’d signed a three-year cooperation agreement to try to maximize the economic impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas development following the Tri-State Shale Summit in West Virginia earlier this week.

Economic groups in the three states are praising the deal.

Alan Levine / Flickr

Creatives and craftsmen are invited to the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse's RECLAIM! free materials event in Point Breeze from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For $5, guests are free to take as much material as they are able to transport.

“People are doing home improvement projects and just need maybe a pound more of tile to finish their backsplash, or artists looking for raw materials, or just people who kind of want to see what’s going on,” Materials Coordinator Barbara Moore said.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA News

In an urban forest, trees don’t just provide aesthetics, they prevent river overflow and filter pollution.

Since the early 2000’s, tens of millions of North American ash trees have been killed from a non-native insect, the emerald ash borer, that arrived via shipping pallets in Michigan. The eastern Asia beetle has killed thousands of Pennsylvania trees and nearly 50 in Pittsburgh’s Riverview Park.  

Pennsylvania Environmental Council

As the industries along urban waterfronts have faded, big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have come up with robust master plans — and significant funding — to connect people with their rivers.

But what can smaller municipalities with fewer resources do to revitalize their waterfronts?

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