Environment & Energy

Environment & Energy news from 90.5 WESA.

Allegheny County Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to drill for natural gas underneath Deer Lakes Park.

The controversial resolution would allow Range Resources, in cooperation with Huntley & Huntley, to perform hydraulic fracturing under the park, provided that no drilling activities actually occur within the park.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said if the resolution passes, the county will receive around $7.7 million up front and an ongoing 18 percent royalty on the value of gas extracted.

Allegheny County Council's Parks Committee has voted 4-1 to have the full council vote next week on a proposal to drill for natural gas under a Pittsburgh-area park.

Wednesday's vote means the 15-member body will vote next Tuesday on a proposal to Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley to drill beneath 1,180-acre Deer Lakes Park from well sites on neighboring private properties.

The proposal includes a $4.7 million bonus for the county, a $3 million donation to a park improvement fund and 18 percent royalties that county officials estimate would generate $3 million.

With No Health Registry, PA Doesn’t Know The Impact Of Fracking On Health

Apr 30, 2014

After more than five years and about 6,000 wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale boom, public-health experts say the need to collect information near fracking operations in Pennsylvania is urgent.

A health registry could show trends of illnesses, collect data and potentially answer the question of whether fracking is safe — a debate currently characterized by emotional arguments with little reliable information.

How will anyone in the state know the possible health impacts of hydraulic fracturing unless information is collected?

A new report shows that Pittsburgh’s air quality has improved – but it still received failing grades.

That’s according to the American Lung Association’s 15th annual “State of the Air” report measuring the amount of pollution throughout the nation.  The study found that 147.6 million Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.

Bluegrass Pipeline Project Comes To A Halt

Apr 29, 2014
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Developers of a multi-state pipeline project, which has stirred controversy over the past year in Kentucky, announced Monday they have suspended all investment in the project indefinitely.

Williams Co., a Tulsa, Okla.-based company, said it has stopped investing in the Bluegrass Pipeline “primarily in response to an insufficient level of firm customer commitments.”

One Etna resident thinks Allegheny County Councilman Nicholas Futules (D-Oakmont) should not be a part of the discussion about fracking under Deer Lakes Park.

Tim Ludwig, a Protect Our Parks member, has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission.

He wants the Commission to force Futules to recuse himself from discussing or voting on the proposed extraction of natural gas underneath the 1,180-acre park.

Update on the Green Building Alliance 2030 Challenge

Apr 23, 2014
Andy / Wikipedia Commons

In 2012, Pittsburgh was one of four cities nationwide to launch the 2030 Challenge. The challenge is a voluntary, private-public initiative with the goal of reducing the environmental impact of buildings, by reducing energy and water use as well as transmission emissions.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says it found “no pollutants that would indicate a potential health concern for local residents or emergency responders” as a result of the Greene County Chevron well fire incident.

It took crews brought in by the company two weeks to cap the fire that broke out Feb. 11 in Dunkard Township. The fire claimed the life of one employee.

DEP spokesman John Poister said the department used temporary air monitoring devices to look at the levels of 57 different toxic air pollutants.

Members of the Allegheny County Council heard testimony for and against a proposal to drill for natural gas under a Pittsburgh-area park.

The council is considering a proposal to allow Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley to drill beneath 1,180-acre Deer Lakes Park from well sites on neighboring properties.

Officials say the plan would mean millions of dollars for the county and a park improvement fund.

Celebrating Earth Day In Pittsburgh

Apr 22, 2014


Virtual Earth Day

A virtual Earth Day party takes place this week. One of the highlights will be a new environmental music video on how consumers can save money and energy. The video even features a cameo from Mayor Peduto. We got details on the video and event from Joylette Portlock, President of Communitopia and creator of the Don't Just Sit There, Do Something About Climate Change web series.

Car charging stations are popping up like spring flowers this Earth Day. 

The Pennsylvania Turnpike officially unveiled its charging stations Monday and Pittsburgh International Airport followed suit Tuesday. 

The chargers on the Turnpike were installed this year at a pair of service plazas; Bowmansville Service Plaza in Lancaster County located eastbound at milepost 290 and King of Prussia in Montgomery County, located westbound at milepost 328. 

It took the cooperation of two government agencies and a private corporation to get the stations installed.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

This Earth Day, volunteers are taking Point State Park back in time to the French & Indian War — or at least they’re taking the shrubbery back.

About 25 volunteers from the Student Conservation Association (SCA), American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) Association and the Penn State Master Gardeners planted native shrubs and flowers at Point State Park Tuesday.

The planting is part of the ongoing renovations at the park and AEO and SCA’s alternative spring break program, which centers around service projects.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) will protest PNC’s financing of mountaintop removal mining.

Outside of PNC headquarters, underneath the 2,380-square-foot Green Wall, EQAT members and activists announced their plan to attend the bank’s annual shareholders’ meeting, which has been moved to Tampa.

Last year, the EQAT disrupted the shareholders’ meeting by asking each PNC board member to publicly state his or her position on mountaintop removal mining. The meeting lasted 20 minutes.

Pau Cooper / Flickr

For the sixth year, the city of Pittsburgh, along with the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission, is giving away free trees for Earth Day.

“We give away approximately 1,000 native seedlings,” said city forester Lisa Ceoffe. “This is a way to get folks in tune with spring, get a tree with their hand, and we have a lot of information going on this whole week as far as Earth Day, Arbor Day and the city celebrates Tree City USA.”

Dane Summerville / Flickr

This past Saturday, Governor Corbett and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) published a draft plan intended to reduce dangerous smog pollution that puts nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians’ health at risk.

However, some feel the expected plan falls short, failing to set meaningful limits on smog-causing pollution from the state’s largest emitters – coal-fired power plants.

Kim Teplitzky, deputy press secretary of the Sierra Club said all of South Western PA has been designated unsafe in terms of air quality by the EPA. She compares the breathing in of smog pollution to a sunburn on your lungs. 

A new way to reduce energy in the workplace developed at Carnegie Mellon University could save companies thousands of dollars.

The Intelligent Dashboard lets employees know how much energy they are using at their desk. Developers say this will encourage workers to take action to save energy by unplugging devices that are not in use.

“We wanted to investigate if there is any good way to show their energy usage and if there is any good way to motivate them to conserve energy at work,” said Ray Yun, PhD students and lead developer.  

Report Details Effects of Gas Drilling

Apr 17, 2014

The effects of natural gas drilling under state forests aren’t being ignored, according to a report from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

The department’s first Shale Gas Monitoring Report, released Wednesday, outlines its efforts through 2012 to monitor the impacts of gas development on water, air, energy, forest health, soils and wildlife.

The fight over placing a nonconventional gas well about a half-mile from five Mars Area School District schools has moved out of the district’s boardroom and into the boardrooms of a pair of local townships.

An advisory committee tasked with helping the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources manage natural gas drilling on state land will meet for the third time.

The Natural Gas Advisory Committee (NGAC) will cover two major issues in its April meeting.

April showers bring May flowers, yet April is one of the worst months for wildfires in Pennsylvania. 

Mid-March through Mid-May is designated as fire prevention season in Pennsylvania. Terry Brady of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) said there were easily more than 100 wildfires in Pennsylvania .

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed what it believes to be a “win-win” situation for the environment and existing power plants.

The DEP has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking for more state flexibility when it comes to carbon dioxide emission standards for existing fossil fuel-fired power plants in competitive energy markets and a change in how pollutants are measured.

The DEP wants to make some changes to the New Source Review (NSR) provisions under the Clean Air Act.

'Unclear' Circumstances on the Ground During Chevron Blaze

Apr 11, 2014
Katie Colaneri / StateImpact PA

It recently came to light that Department of Environmental Protection investigators were blocked by Chevron employees in the days after a natural gas well explosion in Greene County. The explosion, which killed one Chevron employee, set off a fire which blazed for five days in February.  

StateImpact reporter Katie Colaneri recently broke the story and said Chevron would not allow the DEP to park or drive onto access roads toward the well for nearly two days. Colaneri says the rules are pretty straightforward concerning incidents such as the well explosion.

The DEP has authority over companies like Chevron during environmentally dangerous conditions, but Colaneri says the overall situation is still very unclear. 

Chatham University graduate students, Ann Payne and Kristen Reynolds, and their professor have created an entire exhibit about water -- and they hope it has a rippling effect.

“The Drop Project” is an interactive exhibit that shows the relationship among Pittsburgh, its residents and water.

Molly Mehling, sustainability professor and ecologist, said they want to create a networking event.

This winter was a harsh one, with days of bitter cold temperatures that caused many households to turn up the thermostat.

Because of the high demand, many consumers who’d signed up for variable rate pricing plans had a nasty shock when their bills increased dramatically. Now the Public Utility Commission is stepping in to try and ensure customers understand what they are signing up for.

Climate Change Not So Sweet For Maple Syrup

Apr 6, 2014
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

Maple trees could be in trouble in the Northeast U.S. in the coming decades. Federal climate models have predicted the region will lose most of its maples by next century. But producers don't seem worried: maple syrup prices are high, and with technology, the sap is flowing just fine.

Jason Blocher’s livelihood each year largely depends on the weather in February and March. He’s the third generation in his family to run Milroy Maple Farms in Somerset County, on Pennsylvania’s southern border, just a few miles from Maryland.

Gas Drilling Impact Fee Revenue Up 11 Percent This Year

Apr 4, 2014
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Pennsylvania expects to collect $224.5 million in impact fees levied on natural gas drilling companies this year– an 11 percent increase over the amount collected last year.

The state’s 2012 oil and gas law, Act 13, charges drillers for each well. The fee can range from $40,000 to $60,000 per well, depending on the price of natural gas.

This year, drillers paid $50,000 for new horizontal wells– up from $45,000 last year because the price of gas increased. Smaller, vertical wells paid $10,000.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has released annual emissions data for Marcellus Shale natural gas production for 2012. Emissions are tracked each year in an effort to assess air quality in the state.  

“The data shows two decreases and four increases in pollutant categories from natural gas emissions,” said DEP spokeswoman Morgan Wagner. “However, overall, total air contaminate emissions across the state have continued to decline.”

Woodstoves and boilers might have helped keep homes warm over the winter, but they also could have harmed the environment.

That’s why for the second year, the Allegheny County Health Department is collecting old woodstoves and outdoor wood-fired boilers that do not meet the current national emission standards.

An egg has hatched in a bald eagle nest in a Pittsburgh neighborhood.

The nest in the city's Hays neighborhood along the Monongalia river has three eggs and a live video stream of the nest has become popular locally. The female bald eagle previously fought off a raccoon that tried to raid her eggs.

Experts say it's too soon to say whether the new chick is a male or female.

The live-stream camera of the nest is provided by Murrysville-based PixController, which is working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Three Mile Island: Measuring The Impact 35 Years Later

Mar 28, 2014
Flickr user Ted Van Pelt

Friday marks the 35th anniversary of the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history. On March 28, 1979, one of the reactors at the The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Dauphin County partially melted down.

Back then, no one knew exactly what was going to happen. The incident was unprecedented.

Former Governor Dick Thornburgh was at the center of the crisis. He marked the anniversary at an event Thursday at Penn State’s Harrisburg campus in Middletown–not far from the plant.