Environment & Energy

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

Can This Bird Survive Climate Change? The Answer Could Be In Its DNA

Mar 15, 2018
Mary Corporan Dunn / Flickr

new study in the journal Science finds there are genetic differences in yellow warblers that live in different parts of the U.S. and Canada, and some of those populations seem to be more genetically vulnerable to climate change than others.

Rachael Bay is the lead author of the study, at the University of California-Davis and the Bird Genoscape Project.

Climate State / Flickr

Solar energy advocates want to dramatically increase the amount of electricity generated from solar panels in the state.

At Greene County Coal Mine, Dwindling Production Means 370 Lost Jobs

Mar 8, 2018
Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Austin Turner was headed back home to West Virginia on a recent afternoon from his job at the 4 West Mine in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania. It was going to be one of his last shifts there, as the mine would be shutting down soon.

Chester County Planning Commission / flickr

About 100,000 gallons of manure have spilled into two streams in Pennsylvania, killing fish in the area but not posing a threat to the water quality.

Scott Heppell / AP

The Trump administration has been in office for a little over a year, and it’s done a lot to change the federal government’s stance on environmental issues from announcing the US’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, to opening up thousands of miles of U.S. coastline to offshore drilling. So what’s the impact of all these changes?

Fatal Gas Leak At Pittsburgh-Area Power Plant Draws OSHA Fines

Mar 7, 2018
Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Department of Labor has fined a power plant operator and an engineering company for a toxic gas exposure that left two contractors dead last August in Beaver County.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

When natural gas companies approached Charlie Clark and Jim Barrett about the minerals under their farms, the northern Pennsylvania landowners in neighboring counties both decided to let them drill.

Visitors From Asia Flock To Snow Geese Spectacle In Pennsylvania

Mar 5, 2018
Elaine Thompson / AP

It's 6:30 a.m. at Willow Point, a peninsula in the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and though it's foggy and not yet light, about 75 people are already clustered together listening to an estimated 135,000 snow geese psyching themselves into a take-off.

Hunched over expensive cameras mounted on tripods and holding up cell phones to capture the roar, it's hard not to notice that more than half the onlookers are Asian-Americans or visitors from China.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Ryan Zinke, President Trump’s Interior Secretary, came to Western Pennsylvania to tout the federal government’s abandoned mine cleanup program. It was an appropriate setting.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

I stumbled across a Washington Post story this morning that describes how Russia’s Internet Research Agency tried to manipulate the debate over energy-related issues in the United States via social media.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

As Pennsylvania’s gas boom helps propel the United States away from coal-fired power, one energy researcher says the impact on climate change will be a wash.

Have You Seen This Bad Bug?

Mar 1, 2018
Lawrence Barringer / Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

In the summer of 2014, a Pennsylvania game commission officer named Frank Strathmeyer spotted a bug he’d never seen before in Berks County. It was about an inch long, with dark spots and red hind wings. He called it in to the state.


“And lo and behold it became our first discovery of spotted lanternfly in the northern hemisphere,” says Strathmeyer. “Not just in Pennsylvania, but in all of North America.”

Environmental Group: Methane Pollution Higher Than PA Thinks

Feb 23, 2018
Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

An environmental group says that Pennsylvania’s gas drilling industry is releasing much more methane into the atmosphere than the state is reporting.

Do Regulations Kill Jobs? Or Save Lives?

Feb 22, 2018
David Goldman / AP


Rolling back regulations is fundamental to the philosophy of the Trump administration. Last year the president signed an executive order that for every new regulation, two had to go. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Attorneys General from 11 states, including Pennsylvania, have won a federal court case against the U.S. Department of Energy. 

DEP Extends Comment Period For Shell's Ethane Pipeline

Feb 16, 2018
Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will extend the public comment period for Shell’s 97-mile Falcon pipeline, which will carry ethane to the company’s $6 billion petrochemical plant in Western Pennsylvania.

The DEP will also hold public hearings in each of the three counties the pipeline route traverses: Washington, Allegheny, and Beaver counties. Instead of the comment period closing on Feb. 20, it will be extended to April 17, the DEP said in a news release.

Corgi HomePlan / Flickr

As Pennsylvania moves into the latter part of winter, 13,500 households that started the season without a safe source of heat still don’t have one.

Data released Wednesday by Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission shows there are fewer homes without a utility heating service this winter compared to last year. But when money’s tight, many families still turn to heating sources that pose fire risks.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

New insight into a series of fracking-related earthquakes in Eastern Ohio shows that deeper drilling is tied to stronger seismic activity. 

Pittsburgh Suburbs Decide As Fracking Comes Near: Welcome It, Or Resist?

Feb 13, 2018
Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Michael Thomas didn’t think the Marcellus shale industry, with its multi-acre well pads and large drilling operations, would come to the Pittsburgh suburb of Plum.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania regulators are fining Sunoco more than $12 million for problems with a massive natural gas pipeline project, but letting work resume under a consent agreement.

The Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday that Sunoco Pipeline has made changes since work on the $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 pipeline was halted Jan. 3.

The 350-mile project has been plagued by spills and leaks of drilling fluid and improper construction methods.

How Pipelines Are Changing The Dynamics Of PA Forests

Feb 8, 2018
Courtesy of Lillie Langolis

Some migratory birds need the deep, dark cover of Pennsylvania’s forests to breed. But natural gas development has cut into their habitat. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Jayne Miller, the Former head of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, is joining the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy this week.

Miller will become only the second President and CEO in the history of the Pittsburgh nonprofit. She will succeed conservancy founder Meg Cheever, who will retire in March. Miller headed The Minneapolis Park System for seven years. For five of those years, it was ranked the No. 1 park system in the nation.

Neville Green

On a winter day on Neville Island, Dorothy Antonelli sits at the dining room table of her home, flipping through printed pictures. 

FracTracker Alliance

Gov. Tom Wolf drew support from both environmentalists and energy insiders when he promised to ease the state's permit application backlog and better enforce regulations by hiring 35 more Department of Environmental Protection inspectors.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Rebounding prices for natural gas and a growth in new wells exploring Pennsylvania's vast Marcellus Shale reservoir are fueling a recovery in fee revenue for state programs and county and municipal governments.

The Independent Fiscal Office projected Wednesday that impact fee collections for 2017 will be just above $219 million, $46 million more than 2016's low point of $173 million.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A solar panel that arrives in the United States from overseas now comes with a higher price tag.

President Donald Trump last week imposed a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels. The move comes at the request of U.S. solar manufacturers, who seek a level playing field amid competition from places like China, where the government subsidizes solar manufacturing.

Great Lakes Islanders Band Together To Get Through The Winter

Feb 1, 2018
Lisa Brohl

There are about 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes. Most are uninhabited. But for those who live year-round on about 30 of them, it can be an isolating experience. 

A proposed coal mine is moving forward in southwestern Pennsylvania after its operator reached a settlement with an environmental group.

The Mountain Watershed Association raised concerns that LCT Energy’s Rustic Ridge mining operation could contaminate the Indian Creek Watershed. The parties reached a settlement this week after the watershed group had appealed the mine’s permits to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.

Ron Schwane / AP

FirstEnergy Corp.'s nuclear plant near Toledo is likely headed for closure and the outlook is just as bleak for its two other plants near Cleveland and Beaver Valley, Pennsylvania, a company executive said Thursday.

Industry Gets A Pass On Accidental Bird Deaths

Jan 25, 2018
Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Labratory

This year, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act turns 100. It protects more than 1,000 species of birds from a host of threats, including disruption of nesting sites and illegal trade.