Environment & Energy

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

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration announced Thursday it has finalized the acquisition of 660 acres of woodland to create a park in the southern Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hays.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority bought the “Hays Woods” property from Pittsburgh Development Group II for $5 million, a figure city leaders said is well below market value.

In a statement, Peduto called the sale of the property a "tremendous gift."

"It will preserve hundreds of acres of untouched urban forest for generations," Peduto said.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

At the south end of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium parking lot is a small access road with a sign reading “Do Not Enter.” Beyond that is a big gravel parking lot, mostly used for overflow parking during large zoo events and as a staging area and storage space for the Department of Public Works.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials said Friday they’re working out the kinks causing inaccurate water bills for roughly 30,000 residents. 

Residents said they’ve received inaccurate or late bills for months.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are making tiny strides -- no, really -- that could revolutionize the solar industry.

Paul Leu runs a lab at the university where students work with tiny particles called nanotubes.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The National Forest Service wants to know how many and what kinds of trees line Pittsburgh streets and hillsides.

Though forest service officials have spent nearly 90 years collecting data on tree populations throughout the country’s rural forests, it only started collecting urban tree data in 2014.

New Chemical Plant Promises Jobs, But Could Turn Back The Clock On Air Quality

Jun 23, 2016
Reid R. Frazier / Allegheny Front

On a road overlooking the Ohio River, Michael McDonald gazes out over swarms of backhoes, bulldozers and piledrivers. He points to a large patch of bare ground. “That’s where the actual cracker units will be,” he says.

Alan Levine / Flickr

 

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined two health systems for illegally dumping medical waste in a landfill.

The state agency says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has been hit with $451,000 in fines and Allegheny Health Network has been fined $86,900. Officials say the state found 12 of UPMC's hospitals illegally dumped large quantities of needles, bloody dressings and body fluids into a Monroeville landfill.

New Photography Exhibit Explores Impacts Of The Fracking Boom

Jun 16, 2016
Lynn Johnson

 

The story of the fracking boom in Pennsylvania and nearby states runs as an almost continuous narrative in the region’s press. But covering the blow-by-blow of new drilling sites, protests, lawsuits and regulations is just one way to look at how fracking has changed the region.

Ray Bodden / Flickr

Hundreds of environmental advocates are slated to gather in Harrisburg on Tuesday to lobby state lawmakers to reject bills they say would undermine the commonwealth’s clean energy and conservation programs.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Gardeners swarmed the Allegheny County Courthouse garden on Wednesday where Pennsylvania State University master gardeners handed out free plants and answered questions during Bee Wise, an annual informational event.

"We are trying to make the community more aware of native plants and pollinators," said Penn State master gardener Susan Mortensen. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

After a real estate company's bid to redevelop a 1-square-mile swath of forest in the southern Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hays fell through in the early 2000s, the landowner has now decided to sell Hays Woods at a vastly discounted rate to the city for use as a public park.

Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority voted Thursday to pay $5 million to Pittsburgh Development Group II for the “whole bundle of sticks,” URA board chair Kevin Acklin said – including land ownership and mineral rights on a property once slated for strip mining and a racetrack and casino complex.

Rennett Stowe / Flickr

 

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump says the U.S. needs to take back its jobs from China, Japan and Mexico—although he hasn’t offered a plan on how to do that.

Meanwhile, labor unions and environmental groups are pushing a more specific path for creating American jobs: Fix the nation’s infrastructure. And not just highways. They’re talking about things like the electric grid, water systems and natural gas pipelines.

Tianming Chen / Flickr

Sixteen student conservationists will work as rangers in city parks this summer if Pittsburgh City Council votes to accept a $700,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation today.

Pittsburgh Parks Director Jim Griffin said members of the Student Conservation Association have volunteered at city parks for years, but now they could get paid for their work.

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.

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