The Allegheny Front

The Allegheny Front is a radio program covering environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania.

Farmers Play New Role To Solve Rural Hunger

Aug 20, 2015
Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

In a parking lot, a line of people carrying laundry baskets and empty shopping bags curls around a brick church building in rural Somerset County, southeast of Pittsburgh. This is farm country. But a lot of people here don’t have access to fresh produce.

People haven’t driven here to go to church. Today, the parking lot is doubling as a drop-off site for a food bank. Joetta Shumaker has placed her laundry basket on a shopping cart, and weaves her way through rows of folding tables.

The Buzz Is Building Over 'Other' Bees

Aug 6, 2015
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

If you want to hang out with a bunch of bees, you'd better be prepared for a little pain.

Mario Padilla, a honeybee researcher at Penn State University, can usually tell when his hives are getting agitated. But he’s already been stung three times today. And he’s about to get it again.

In Gettysburg, An Extreme Makeover: Battlefield Edition

Jul 1, 2015
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

Even more than 150 years after the battle, there's still plenty at Gettysburg that kind of makes you feel like you're stepping back in time. Some things, like the stone walls that are an essential part of any Civil War landscape—those are actually the real deal. Other things are a little more kitschy, like visitors doing battlefield tours in horse-drawn carriages.

Two Men. One Coal-Ash Dump. No Answers.

Jun 26, 2015
Reid R. Frazier

George “Sonny” Markish stood in his yard with a TV reporter in April 2013 and pointed to a towering hill next to his house in LaBelle, Fayette County.

The camera zoomed in on Markish, with slicked-back gray hair, swiping his hand across a window sill coated in a dusty substance.

In Coal Country, What's Next for Miners?

Apr 10, 2015
Catherine Moore / For the Allegheny Front

At a fire hall in Logan County, West Virginia, dozens of coal miners and their families are mulling around a room. State officials called this meeting to help them figure out what to do next after the coal mine they worked in closed. Dell Maynard is one of these miners. His primary emotion right now is shock.

In the West, Coal's Boom Resonates Across the Land

Apr 3, 2015
U.S. Geological Survey

Driving south of Gillette, Wyoming, through an arid and austere landscape once home to herds of bison, you pass coal mine after coal mine, for 70 uninterrupted miles, carving deep troughs into the prairie.

In Kentucky, A Prairie Made By Coal

Mar 27, 2015
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Patrick Angel pulls his pickup truck off a small road in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, and points to a long ridge covered with dried, brown grass.

“If you didn’t know where you were, you'd think you were standing in a prairie land in South Dakota or Wyoming, because it’s all grass,” says Angel, a forester with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

Mushing: A Winter Sport for People and Pups

Mar 5, 2015
Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

It's a snowy Saturday in Laurel Mountain State Park in Westmoreland County. Matt Philips and Sarah White are unloading precious cargo—their dogs—from the backseat of a black hatchback.

They’ve driven 50 miles from Pittsburgh to get in a couple of hours of practice. This is only their second winter mushing with their dogs.

Philips fell into mushing by accident.

Listen to the full story at the website of our partner The Allegheny Front.

As Fracking Nears Schools, Parents Push Back

Feb 17, 2015
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Last week, Joanne Wagner got what —for her—is good news.

The drilling company Range Resources withdrew its application to drill near her childrens’ school in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The company already developed one well nearby. The latest plan would have added three more.

“Our school ultimately would be completely surrounded by wells,” if the plan had gone ahead, Wagner says.

'Cans for Pets' Boosts Recycling, Helps Shelters

Jan 12, 2015
Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

Recycling just one aluminum can save enough energy to run a television for three hours. But some segments of the population—like pet owners—apparently haven’t heard that message. Aluminum pet food cans are one of the least recycled household items.

Margaret Corrado is an exception to that rule. At a pet store south of Pittsburgh, she dumps about 40 little empty cat food cans from a plastic grocery bag into a blue recycling bin.

Locals Seek Control at Fracking Waste Wells

Sep 26, 2014
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

As natural gas production continues to spread across the country, some citizens are trying to fend off drilling rigs and waste sites in their backyards. While gas companies say they already face tough state regulations, that oversight doesn’t always ease residents’ fears.

As Ohio quickly becomes a go-to destination for the nation's fracking waste, some people worry about earthquakes and water contamination, and argue the state has taken away their authority to decide whether oil and gas waste should be allowed.

Inside the Halls of Government, Gas Industry Makes its Pitch

Sep 11, 2014
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Greg Vitali has been a state representative for more than 20 years. He saw the rise of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania mainly through the lens of the state Capitol. About five or six years ago, he says, lobbyists for the industry began showing up. And they’ve never left.

“Drillers have this constant presence in Harrisburg  You go to any committee meeting, related to drilling, you see representatives from American Petroleum Institute, you see lobbyists from Range Resources,” Vitali says. “They’re just always here.”

Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

In February, Governor Tom Corbett announced his intention to balance the state budget, in part, using millions of dollars in projected revenues from new oil-and-gas drilling leases in state parks and forests. It was the first public acknowledgment of Corbett’s plans to lift a 2010 moratorium on leasing.

But records uncovered in an investigation by 90.5 WESA and the Allegheny Front suggest the issue may have been under active discussion much earlier.

Martha Rial / Special to 90.5 WESA / The Allegheny Front

As the agency that oversees 2.5-million acres of public land in Pennsylvania formed policy on drilling in state forests, the agency's head met frequently with oil and gas lobbyists in the capitol, including stops at upscale restaurants.

That's according to the calendar of Richard Allan, former Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Flooding the Zone: Gas Industry Pours Millions into Lobbying PA

Sep 8, 2014
Wally Gobetz / via Flickr Creative Commons

Barry Kauffman sees similarities between the oil and gas business and the business of ‘government relations’--lobbying.

In fracking, gas companies inject water, sand and chemicals underground to extract gas. In politics, Kaufmann says, you use campaign contributions and lobbying money, “inject it under high pressure under the legislature, to extract public policy, from which you profit. The two processes are actually very much parallel,” says Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, a non-partisan, non-profit government watchdog group.

What's on Your Plate? Climate Change and Diet

Sep 2, 2014
Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

Len Frenkel only has a minute to talk because he's rushing between presentations at the University of Pittsburgh’s Johnstown campus. The North American Vegetarian Society has their annual gathering here. Frenkel’s traveled from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

He’s not just a vegetarian, he's vegan. That means he doesn’t eat meat or butter or anything made from animals. He started for animal welfare and health reasons. But now, climate change weighs heavily on Frenkel’s mind.

Climate Change Keeps Allergy Sufferers Sneezing

Aug 6, 2014
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

If even hearing the word “ragweed” makes your eyes water, you might be one the nearly 45 million Americans with seasonal allergies. And allergists say the number of people with sensitivities to ragweed and other plants is growing. Our series on the local impacts of climate change continues, with a look at how higher temperatures are fueling the rise in allergies and asthma.

LEDs and Beyond: Seeking a Perfect but Efficient White Light

Jun 24, 2014
Ashley Murray / The Allegheny Front

Frank Jones, a lighting distributor for Tri-State Supply, has become something of an expert on light emitting diodes, better known as LEDs.  He says that's because each of his customers wants something different.

"I have one individual customer that has an administration building.  The hallway wants one color.  The conference room, they want nice, warm 2700K, and then Gary the accountant wants nice, white bright 5000," Jones says.

The Allegheny Front Explores Water Contamination in a New Series

Jun 20, 2014
Matt Richmond / The Allegheny Front

This weekend the environmental radio program The Allegheny Front begins a series on water contamination caused by fracking in the Marcellus Shale region. Reporter Reid Frazier said the series will address a suite of issues that have come up with fracking and water. The first topic, airing Saturday morning focuses on the issue of radiation. 

“When the waste comes into the landfill, the waste does go through a radiation detector, a scintillating detector. These levels are certainly higher than you want at your local landfill." 

Students Learn from Trout in the Classroom, And Outdoors

May 23, 2014
Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

A 55-gallon fish tank sits to the side of Frank Todd’s 8th grade classroom at Moon Area Middle School, west of Pittsburgh. The water inside is so cold you can’t even see into the tank because of the water collecting on the outside.

Todd’s using the condensation to teach about how gases and liquids behave.  It’s 52 degrees in the tank because that’s the temperature needed to sustain Brook trout. The tank is home to about 100 brook trout fingerlings—juvenile fish about the length of a finger.

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.

Did Congress Kill Wind Energy Jobs in PA?

Mar 21, 2014
Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Bradley Molinick started work at Gamesa’s wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Ebensburg, Pa. in 2006, before the plant was even finished.

“I was offered a job right out of the interview. I started January 30, 2006.”

Almost eight years to the day that he started, he was called into a conference room for a 7 a.m. meeting. It was supposed to be a teleconference with top managers from the company. But last minute came word. Those managers had come to town for the meeting.

Snowy Owl Boom: Population of Arctic Birds Soars

Mar 7, 2014
Audubon Society of Massachusetts

It’s been a big year for snowy owls. People have reported seeing thousands of the magnificent Arctic birds, from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C., all the way to the island of Bermuda.

Researchers say there are more owls this season than anyone has seen in 50 years. They call a population boom like this an irruption. The question for many people has been, why is it happening?

PA Chemical Tank Laws Tougher Than West Virginia

Jan 17, 2014
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

The chemical leak at Freedom Industries that left 300,000 people without water in West Virginia brings up questions in other states, like Pennsylvania, about the possibility of other water contamination catastrophes. There have been spills into Pennsylvania waterways before, and regulators say those incidents have led to more strict laws here. Regulators say a spill is less likely here than in West Virginia, but clean water advocates aren't so sure.

How One Woman Took on Shell to Save Her Louisiana Town

Nov 10, 2013
Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

In June 2012, Pennsylvania officials flew to Louisiana to visit a couple of petrochemical plants owned by Shell, a company they were about to give big economic incentives to build a plant in Beaver County, Pa.

But they didn’t visit Margie Richard, who once lived in Norco, but now lives outside New Orleans.

If they had, they would have gotten another story about Shell’s operations here, a story about toxic emissions, industrial accidents, and how a very determined school teacher brought one of the largest companies in the world to the negotiating table.

New Life Comes to the Carrie Blast Furnaces

Sep 29, 2013
Lauren Knapp / The Allegheny Front

The site of the Carrie Blast Furnaces is immense. Set alongside the Monongahela River, the two steel furnaces, tower at nearly 100 feet—totally eclipsing the site’s two football-field sized warehouses. Since its closing nearly 35 years ago, much of the machinery was stripped and sold for scrap, leaving a rusty skeleton. But it’s also become a welcoming habitat for wildlife.

You can find Ron Baraff, the Carrie Furnaces resident expert, on site most days, leading tours and leading the charge for its reinvention.

Pedaling The GAP Trail By Rickshaw

Jun 6, 2013
Green Gears Pedicabs

The Great Allegheny Passage runs 150 miles between Pittsburgh and Cumberland Maryland. This year the Allegheny Trail Alliance celebrates its near completion.

Jennifer Szweda Jordan, host of the Allegheny Front takes a short trip, by rickshaw, in the Pittsburgh section of the trail with Green Gears Pedicabs.

Shale To Solar: Farmers Use Gas Money to Build Solar Arrays

Apr 1, 2013
Margaret J. Krauss / The Allegheny Front

Dwayne Bauknight and Duane Miller share a first name. They live 1.9 miles apart on the same road and have almost nothing in common — except for a row of gleaming new solar panels on their farms.

Dwayne Bauknight drives onto his Washington County property in a golf cart. He pulls a U-turn to park between two rows of 15-foot tall solar panels and shows how they work.