Environment & Energy

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

Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

Building owners in downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland are ahead of sustainability goals set as part of the Pittsburgh 2030 District initiative.

Scot Hacker / Flickr

As the spring season brings its annual rash of wildfires to Pennsylvania, Allegheny County officials are warning residents and businesses that large piles of mulch are liable to catch on fire on their own.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA News

Tree Pittsburgh has a lot to celebrate. Friday marks Earth Day, Arbor Day is just around the corner and this year, the nonprofit turns 10 years old. 

Executive Director Danielle Crumrine said, with the help of partners and thousands of volunteers, she's hoping to plant 10,000 trees this year marking a decade of service. That’s five times more than the organization generally plants each year.

“On Earth Day, when everyone’s thinking about trees and the environment, it’s a good time to remind folks that trees need people to care for them,” Crumrine said.

AIRNow.gov

Pittsburgh’s air quality has a ways to go before it's considered healthy, according to the American Lung Association’s latest State of the Air report.

“We report based on how many unhealthy air days they receive for ozone and daily particle pollution,” said Paul Billings, national senior vice president of advocacy. "We also look at the EPA’s reports for year-round particle pollution as well."

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pockets of bright pink will begin dotting river fronts and other open spaces in Pittsburgh over the next few weeks.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will plant 400 Eastern redbud trees this spring, with another 800 to be planted by fall 2017.

The small tree with vibrant fuchsia flowers is native to the region and blooms early in the spring. Jeffrey Bergman, director of urban forestry programs at the conservancy, said those are two of the main reasons redbuds were chosen for this planting.

PA Attorney General Candidates Weigh In On Fracking

Apr 18, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

Democratic candidate for attorney general Josh Shapiro is taking a hard line on gas drillers in a TV ad that began airing more than a week ago.

Marufish / Flickr

SolarCity, the largest solar energy provider in the nation, announced Monday it's extending service into the western Pennsylvania region.

Keith Srakocic / AP

President Barack Obama’s major climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, is currently in legal limbo as federal courts decide its fate.  

Democratic Senate Candidates Spar Over Fracking

Apr 7, 2016
Matt Slocum / AP

 

The Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate is heating up, and sparks are flying on a topic that’s always hot in Pennsylvania—fracking.

At a debate this week, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and former congressman and Navy Vice Admiral Joe Sestak both tried to brand their opponent, Katie McGinty, as a friend of fracking.

They targeted McGinty’s record as former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Governor Ed Rendell. She left the department in 2008, just as the fracking boom was getting started.

Tim Lambert / WITF

Pennsylvania is facing a $2.9 million deficit in the fund that supports its oversight of oil and gas wells in the next fiscal year, according to a projection from Governor Tom Wolf’s budget office.

When The Fracking Boom Goes Bust

Mar 30, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

    

At Jerry Lee’s Emporium in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, there was a sign on the front door, handwritten in marker: “Store closing for good.”

Jerry Lee Edwards opened the store in 2014. He came from southern West Virginia to sell clothes to workers in Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry. 

Carolyn Kaster / AP

  For Pennsylvania lawmakers, the problem of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan has served as a rallying cry, a teachable moment and, now, a political cudgel.

This month, House and Senate members were determined not to waste Michigan’s crisis, invoking it to propel their own efforts to minimize lead exposure from old house paint and water pipes. But as some touted legislation, one House Republican criticized the governor’s office for not springing into action in the same way.

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.

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