Environment & Energy

Environment
3:49 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Rebates Available with Switch from Gas to Electric or Battery-Powered Lawn Equipment

Homeowners are beginning to pull mowers and trimmers out of garages and sheds to work on their lawns, and although the gasoline-fueled tools might make the yard look presentable, they could be bad news for human health and the environment.

Lawn mowers, trimmers, chainsaws and leaf blowers, which are powered by gasoline, can create volatile organic compounds according to a public/private air quality group.

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Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Controversial Head of DEP Leaving Agency to Work on Behalf of Energy Industry

DEP Secretary Michael Krancer will leave his post on April 15 to work for his former employer, the Philadelphia law firm, Blank Rome.
Credit Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Krancer, announced recently he will be leaving the agency on April 15 to return to Blank Rome, an influential Philadelphia law firm where he worked during the 1990′s.

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Recycling
2:40 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

Recycling and Disposal Events Planned for Pittsburgh Region

With Earth Day approaching on April 22, the Pennsylvania Resources Council has announced its 2013 collection event schedule for electronics, pharmaceuticals, household chemicals and building materials.

On April 20 there will be a “Hard to Recycle” collection at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills. There will be no charge for turning in e-waste like computers, TVs, cell phones, printer/toner cartridges and CFLs, and a nominal fee for paper shredding, alkaline batteries, fluorescent tubes, specialty lights and small Freon appliances.  

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West Nile Virus
6:48 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

State Spends $2 Million to Control Spread of West Nile Virus

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is awarding $2.2 million in grants to help counties combat the spread of West Nile Virus this year.

Department spokeswoman Amanda Witman said most people infected with the mosquito born disease will never experience symptoms because their immune systems shut the virus down. But for others, she warned, it can be dangerous.

"This virus can develop into West Nile Fever or West Nile Encephalitis - both of which are infections that cause brain inflammation and in the most severe cases, death," Witman said.

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River Health
4:03 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

EPA: Two-Thirds Of PA River Miles in Poor Health for Aquatic Life

More than half of the nation’s river and stream miles are in poor condition for aquatic life. That’s according to the first comprehensive survey of river health by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Data was collected from about 2,000 sites across the country from 2008-09, and then federal, state and university scientists analyzed the information to determine how well the waterways support aquatic life and how major stressors might be affecting them.

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Development
1:14 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

Bill Would Promote 'Camouflaged' Cell Phone Towers in Pittsburgh

Some examples of cell phone towers hidden within other structures.
Credit Pittsburgh City Council District 7

The Pittsburgh Planning Commission is reviewing legislation that would create incentives for communications companies to conceal cell phone towers and antennas within regular urban structures.

A Pittsburgh resident originally proposed the idea to District 7 Councilman Patrick Dowd, who introduced the measure to Council on Tuesday.

District 7 communications manager Nathaniel Hanson said the legislation would encourage companies to hide their new antennas within the most workaday buildings and objects.

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Marcellus Shale
3:52 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

Federal Study: Shale Development Fragmenting Allegheny County Forests

Credit The National Map, U.S. Geological Survey

A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) delineates how the construction of new roads and pipelines for Marcellus Shale natural gas development and other energy industries can mince up local forests, leading to smaller ecosystems and limiting wildlife.

Using aerial imagery, USGS researchers found that developers laid 140 miles of new roads and eight miles of new pipelines for the sake of 647 Marcellus Shale gas wells drilled in Allegheny County from 2004 to 2010.

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Hunting
12:29 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

Slight Uptick to PA Deer Harvest Last Hunting Season

Hunters killed roughly 343,110 deer in Pennsylvania during the 2012-2013 season, according to the state's Game Commission, a yearly increase of about 2 percent.

That includes roughly 133,860 antlered deer and 209,250 antlerless deer, both increases over the previous season.

Joe Neville, director of information and education for the Game Commission, said the numbers are on track with his agency's annual goal of harvesting about one-third of the state's population of roughly one million deer.

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Spring Flood Insurance
3:30 am
Sun March 24, 2013

With Spring Flooding Looming, Are You Insured?

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department is encouraging people to buy their flood insurance policies early this year.

Melissa Fox, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, said the buildup of snow and ice in the winter can lead to early spring floods.

With more than 50,000 miles of rivers, streams, and creeks, Pennsylvania reported $1,425,000 in damages in 2012.

Fox said homeowners are required to carry flood insurance if they live in a designated flood plain, Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area.

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Agriculture
2:32 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Group Pushes for Sustainable Agriculture in Southwest Pennsylvania

The PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center recently released a report on the economical and environmental benefits of sustainably produced, local agriculture. The organization also offered a blueprint of policies they hope state legislators will adopt and introduce in Pennsylvania.

The report, "Healthy Farms, Healthy Environment: State and Local Policies to Improve Pennsylvania’s Food System and Protect our Land and Water," highlighted programs, such as Vermont’s Farm to Plate Initiative, which pushed for developing sustainable agriculture methods.

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Fracking
1:40 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Drilling Companies Agree to Settle Fracking Contamination Case for $750,000

Stephanie Hallowich with her children. The Hallowich's sued after they say drilling activity made their children sick. The drilling companies say there is no medical evidence to link the illness to gas drilling.
Credit Mark Schmerling / Courtesy of Protecting Our Waters

Range Resources, MarkWest Energy and Williams Gas agreed to settle a high profile contamination case in Washington County for $750,000, according to recently unsealed court records.  

An order to unseal the records was entered Wednesday in Washington County Court of Common Pleas by President Judge Debbie O’Dell-Seneca. Judge O’Dell-Seneca reversed an earlier decision to permanently keep the more than 900 pages of court records secret. In the order she stated that the drilling company’s claims of privacy rights had no merit.

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Marcellus Shale
5:01 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

New Organization Will Independently Certify Shale Companies for Pollution Standards

A new Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization has been created to independently certify companies that develop shale natural gas based on their adherence to 15 pollution control standards.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development was created with funding and input from southwestern Pennsylvania foundations, gas companies and environmental groups.

"Unusual bedfellows in this day and age, to be sure," said Robert Vagt, president of the Heinz Endowments.

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Marcellus Shale
1:52 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Settlement over Health Impact of Drilling Unsealed

A Washington County  judge says the public has the right to see a sealed settlement between gas drilling companies and a family that claimed the drilling operations damaged their health.

Judge Debbie O'Dell-Seneca ruled Wednesday that openness in the court system is more important than the interests of the companies.

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Duquesne Light
2:07 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Duquesne Light Customers Could Be Getting Their Rates Reduced

An audit by the Pennsylvania Public Utility  Commission (PUC) includes 10 recommendations that could save Duquesne Light close to $2.4 million annually--some of which could be passed along to customers.

PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said says the biggest potential cost reductions involves a shift in employee hours.

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Environment
3:13 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Raises Funds to Protect State’s Beauty

Volunteers from Phillips Elementary in Pittsburgh work in the WPC garden at Carson St and Sarah St on the South Side.
Credit Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) has protected 230,000 acres of state land in its 71-year history. With the announcement of its first comprehensive fundraising campaign, the WPC seeks to safeguard even more of the state’s beauty. The WPC seeks to raise $40 million.

Though WPC may be best known for its management of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a National Historic Landmark, they seek to conserve water, land and life in diverse environments throughout the region, said Tom Saunders, WPC President and CEO.

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Pine Creek Regulation
1:36 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

New Limits Could Make Pine Creek Safe for Fun

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is setting limits on pollution into Pine Creek—hoping to make fishing and recreation safe in the watershed.

Pine Creek flows through 14 municipalities in the North Hills of Allegheny County before joining the Allegheny River in Etna.

Jon Capacasa, Director of Water Protection Division in the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region, said they are establishing a TMDL, or a Total Maximum Daily Load for Pine Creek,

A TMDL identifies the leading sources of pollution and assigns responsibility in reducing it to each major source. 

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Environment & Energy
10:39 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Old Diesel Equipment Still Spewing Soot Into Pittsburgh's Air

Morry Feldman takes a cocktail of medications each day that allow him to live and work in a region with poor air quality.
Credit Emily DeMarco/PublicSource

Morry Feldman downs two horse pills with breakfast. Then, he uses four different sprays. Two puffs into the mouth.  Two into the nose. Repeat at dinner.

Feldman, 59, has severe asthma and allergies. And Pittsburgh is among the worst places he could live or work because of the region’s poor air quality.

“If I miss a dose, I start to get sick,” said Feldman, a senior account executive at WQED Multimedia.

Feldman is one of nearly 97,000 adults in Allegheny County with asthma.

The county received F’s in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2012 study.

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Weather
9:14 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Saturn Drops 6 Inches of Snow on Pittsburgh Region

The wet snow associated with winter storm Saturn made for great snowmen.
Credit Russ Lyod / 90.5 WESA

By mid morning Wednesday, the snow had moved out of the Pittsburgh region and most of the city’s streets were treated.  Pittsburgh Public Works crews used 62 trucks overnight and into the morning to clear the blanket of heavy wet snow.   

Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski reminded city residents to be careful when they start to clean their cars, sidewalks and drive ways and asks that home owners not just to drop the snow anywhere.

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3 Rivers Quest
3:42 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Water Quality Monitors Wanted

3 Rivers Quest monitors water quality in rivers, tributaries and headwater streams that drain more than 25,000 square miles in five states.  Local watershed groups may apply for grants up to $7000 to help collect samples.  The four geographical regions and those partnering with West Virginia University in the project are the Monongahela (West Virginia Water Research Institute), Upper Ohio (Wheeling Jesuit University), Southern Allegheny (Duquesne University) and Northern Allegheny (Iron Furnace Chapter of Trout Unlimited).

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Acid Mine Drainage
3:16 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Should Gas Companies Be Able to Use Acid Mine Drainage for Fracking?

Credit Rana Xavier/Flickr

Acid mine drainage is the most widespread water pollution problem in Pennsylvania. When water wells up inside abandoned coalmines, it leaches the iron compound ‘pyrite’ from the rock to form an acidic, sulfuric brine — called “yellowboy” for its color. As the pressure builds in the empty, underground mines, it often begins to seep out, the risk of a blowout increases, and, at times, the yellowboy could end up flowing into the nearest stream and killing wildlife.

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Environment & Energy
3:08 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Gov. Corbett's Spending Plan Ties DCNR, DEP Budgets to Gas Drilling Revenues

Democratic State Senators have a few problems with Governor Tom Corbett's proposed budgets for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

First of all, State Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) said DCNR's budget is too dependent on royalties garnered from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in state forest land. While $53 million of the DCNR budget comes from the state's General Fund, roughly $77 million comes from royalty fees on gas extraction.

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Environment & Energy
11:00 am
Tue March 5, 2013

Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Wild PA Deer, Game Commission Unsure of Response

The state Game Commission is still working to determine how it will respond to an apparent outbreak of chronic wasting disease among Pennsylvania’s wild deer population.

The brain illness, fatal to deer but not harmful to humans, has been detected in the wild in Pennsylvania. It’s the first time the disease has been found in the commonwealth’s wild deer population in 15 years of testing.

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Zoo
3:12 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Thermostat Challenge Marks International Polar Bear Day

One of two polar bears at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Credit Deanna Garcia/90.5 WESA News

Wednesday February 27th is International Polar Bear Day, a day aimed at raising awareness to the continuing threat to polar bear habitat and encourage action to reduce individual carbon footprints.

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Environment & Energy
10:24 am
Mon February 25, 2013

It's a Sweet Year for Maple Syrup

Last year was the worst year ever for sugar content, but this year's maple syrup is back to normal, according to Everett Sechler, owner of the Sechler Sugar Shack in Somerset County.  "We've already made a third of what we made last year.  We're hoping that we do not have an early spring because if it turns to spring, that will speed up the buds in the trees, and the sugar season will be over.  The 10-day forecast looks like it's going to remain cold except for two days, and the trees should perhaps pour the sap out those two days."

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Environment & Energy
3:20 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

DEP’s “Falcon Cam” is Back!

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is streaming a webcast of the peregrine falcon nest on its Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg.
Credit PA Dept of Environmental Protection

For those of you missing the Wisconsin recall cam, the webcam that gave thousands of people an inside look into the life of bureaucrats, the Pennsylvania DEP’s “falcon cam” might just catch your attention with nesting falcons.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today launched its annual 24-hour a day webcast of the peregrine falcon nest on its Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg.

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