The Allegheny Front

Environment & Energy
8:17 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Locals Seek Control at Fracking Waste Wells

Stallion Oilfield Holdings' Attorney Robert Ryan, Regional Vice President Cameron Simon and Regional Operations Manager Randy Ile, at a well pad in Portage County, Ohio.2
Credit 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.

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Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Inside the Halls of Government, Gas Industry Makes its Pitch

In the Pennsylvania Senate.
Credit 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.”

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Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Moratorium Discussions at DCNR Raise Questions

Pipeline clearing for Marcellus Shale development in Tiadaghton State Forest in 2011.
Credit 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.

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Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Tue September 9, 2014

DCNR Ex-Chief's Calendar Shows Gaps

Fracking operations in Tiadaghton State Forest in 2011.
Credit 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).

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Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Flooding the Zone: Gas Industry Pours Millions into Lobbying PA

The Pennsylvania Capitol building.
Credit 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.

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Environment
7:57 am
Tue September 2, 2014

What's on Your Plate? Climate Change and Diet

Leah Lizarondo is a blogger and food columnist who tries to make plant-based food more palatable to the masses.
Credit 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.

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Environment
3:30 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Climate Change Keeps Allergy Sufferers Sneezing

Asha Patel, an immunology researcher, uses a Burkard Spore Trap to collect pollen on the roof of Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Credit 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.

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Environment & Energy
8:15 am
Tue June 24, 2014

LEDs and Beyond: Seeking a Perfect but Efficient White Light

Graduate student Lauren Powell shines a blue LED through vials of Quantum Dots, manufactured by Pittsburgh-based Crystalplex. Each vial contains trillions of nanoparticles.
Credit 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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:28 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

The Allegheny Front Explores Water Contamination in a New Series

Freshly dumped Marcellus cuttings at landfill in Chemung County.
Credit 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." 

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education and environment
12:48 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Students Learn from Trout in the Classroom, And Outdoors

8th graders scooped the Brook trout they raised from eggs into plastic cups to release them into a local stream.
Credit 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.

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Environment
4:59 pm
Sun April 6, 2014

Climate Change Not So Sweet For Maple Syrup

Third generation syruper Jason Blocher works in the sugar house at Milroy Farms, Salisbury, Pa.
Credit 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.

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Environment & Energy
3:24 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Did Congress Kill Wind Energy Jobs in PA?

Wind farms like this one near Patton, Pa. were aided by the federal wind production tax credit, which expired in December.
Credit 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.

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Environment
9:45 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Snowy Owl Boom: Population of Arctic Birds Soars

Credit 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?

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Environment & Energy
10:32 am
Fri January 17, 2014

PA Chemical Tank Laws Tougher Than West Virginia

Chemical storage tanks on Neville Island, west of Pittsburgh.
Credit 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.

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Environment & Energy
9:20 pm
Sun November 10, 2013

How One Woman Took on Shell to Save Her Louisiana Town

Margie Richard with a photo of her sister Naomi, who died at the age of 43 from a rare bacterial infection. Richard suspected emissions from Shell had something to do with making her sister sick.
Credit 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.

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Environment
9:32 am
Sun September 29, 2013

New Life Comes to the Carrie Blast Furnaces

Trees, and soon art installations, are popping up at the former industrial site.
Credit 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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:55 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Pedaling The GAP Trail By Rickshaw

Travel the Great Allegheny Passage by pedicab
Credit 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.

Solar Energy
4:01 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

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

Duane Miller in front of the solar array he installed to reduce his energy bills.
Credit 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.

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