Allegheny Front

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

Your Environment Update For Feb. 24, 2016

Feb 25, 2016
Katie Steiger-Meister / UFWS

An Industrial Chemical Finds its Way into Great Lakes Trout

An industrial chemical is showing up in low levels in trout from the Great Lakes. It’s called perfluoro-1-butane sulfonamide (FBSA) and can be traced back to detergents and waterproofing products first used in 2003.

No, Pittsburgh, Your Recycling Isn't Going To The Landfill

Feb 18, 2016
Lou Blouin / Allegheny Front

Pittsburgh’s Jana Thompson takes her recycling pretty seriously. She’s even been known to pry the unrecyclable spouts off otherwise recyclable dishwashing detergent bottles. And check out her recycling bin, and those clear plastic salad tubs are stacked as neatly as a set of Russian dolls.

Social Price Tag For Pollution Is Steep, But Dropping

Feb 17, 2016
Matt Niemi / Flickr

Consumers often hear about the economic costs of environmental regulations on the energy industry, but there’s a flip side to that issue — the social price residents collectively pay for burning fossil fuels to produce electricity.

But is there a way to place a dollar amount on the hidden costs of pollution? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University think so.

Matt Hintsa / flickr

 

The coal industry is breathing easier after a surprise decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the court voted to halt implementation of President Obama’s plan to address climate change until legal challenges to the regulations are resolved.

The Clean Power Plan would require states to lower carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production. Coal-producing West Virginia is one of 29 states and state agencies challenging Obama’s plan.

In A Noisy World, Our Brains Still Need The Sounds Of Nature

Feb 9, 2016
Kerry Klein / Allegheny Front

Kurt Fristrup is standing in the middle of a prairie and he’s the loudest thing for miles. He and I are huddled near an empty cattle pen in Pawnee National Grassland in northern Colorado. Before he pulled out his tools, the silence here was palpable. The breeze carried no sound except the rustle of a million stalks of yellow grass. A family of pronghorn, kind of like furry antelope, padded over to us to investigate.

Lead-Tainted Water Has A Long History In The U.S.

Jan 28, 2016
Carlos Osorio / AP Photo

The municipal water crisis in Flint, Mich., has brought new attention to the dangers of lead in drinking water.

When the city starting using the Flint River as its source for municipal water in 2014, the water was so corrosive, it caused lead to leach out of pipes and fixtures. 

Your Environment Update For Dec. 30, 2015

Jan 6, 2016
Lou Blouin / Allegheny Front

Foolproof Ways to Fight Littering

Littering continues to be a big environmental problem in cities. And one Pittsburgher from the city’s North Side neighborhood is taking the problem personally. Meda Rago regularly picks up trash to keep her street clean, and she really isn’t kidding when she says she’s found some pretty weird things chucked into the alley behind her house.

“About two years ago, we came down the alley and saw an entire roast turkey lying in the street,” Rago says.

Pittsburgh Business Times

Signaling an end to another piece of Pittsburgh’s steel industry past, DTE Energy Services announced last week that it will be closing the Shenango coke plant on Neville Island, putting 173 workers out of a job just before Christmas. The announcement came as a shock to union leaders, who were in the midst of negotiating for a new contract when it was made.

State Budget Stalemate Continues

Dec 21, 2015
David Amsler / Flickr

Amid hopes that the long overdue state budget would be completed this past weekend a tentative agreement has fallen apart. Capitol reporter Mary Wilson joins us with the latest on the state budget stalemate. 

  More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.      

A Coal Plant Cleans Up In Indiana County

Dec 17, 2015
Keith Srakocic / AP

  Around the country, dozens of coal-fired power plants are racing to install pollution controls to comply with new mercury rules from the Environmental Protection Agency. But how do they keep 100,000 tons of coal-fired pollution out of the air? Install thousands of air filters.

Todd Kollross is managing the $750-million project at the Homer City Generating Station in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Inside the new unit, he shows off what look like hundreds of holes in the floor. Each is lined with a filter bag. They’re basically super-sized Shop Vac filters.

Lawmakers Renew Federal Incentives For Wind And Solar

Dec 17, 2015
Duke Energy

Congress has been negotiating an end-of-year budget deal that includes tax credits for the wind and solar industries. Democrats negotiated a five-year renewal of clean energy subsidies in exchange for lifting a 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports sought by Republicans.

The wind credits expired last year, and the tax credit for solar was scheduled to be phased out at the end of next year.

Why Some Big Businesses Are Backing The Clean Power Plan

Dec 1, 2015
Mike Mozart / Flickr

Big businesses often oppose increased government regulations. But the Clean Power Plan—the Obama administration's attempt to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants—is drawing backers in the big box business world.

“This is really not a political issue; it’s a strategic issue, it’s a business issue,” says Mark Buckley, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for Staples. “It’s really rooted in practical economics for us.”

'Mighty' Etna: The Greening of a Blue-Collar River Town

Nov 27, 2015
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

Some days, it might be easier if Mary Ellen Ramage simply left her right arm constantly in the air in a waving position. As the perpetually cheery borough manager of the small river town of Etna, Pennsylvania, the stream of greetings and hugs simply comes too quickly to allow time for a break. Often, the shouts of “Hey, Mary Ellen!” fly past from passing pickup trucks before she can identify the voices. But being able to patch together who they are from the back of a vehicle is one of the perks of “literally knowing everyone in town.”

What Parts Of Your Thanksgiving Meal Are Genetically Modified?

Nov 26, 2015
Dan Tentler / Flickr

Watching what we eat during the holiday season usually refers to how much we’re consuming. But if you’re a person who’s concerned with food issues, you might have a trickier time spotting genetically engineered foods. The U.S. is not among the 60 countries that require the labeling of GMOs. So to give you a little help on what part of your Thanksgiving plate might be genetically engineered, the Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant decided to look into the issue. Here’s a breakdown of some traditional holiday foods to pay special attention to.

On the holiday plate

Lessons Learned From Raising A 43-Pound Monster Turkey

Nov 26, 2015
Jessica Reeder / Allegheny Front

When it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey, size matters.  A 2o-pounder from the supermarket freezer is usually enough to secure some bragging rights for the cook. But for hobby farmer, Ken Chiacchia, a bird that size would hardly raise an eyebrow. He regularly raises heavyweights that get twice that size. But for him, what’s worth bragging about isn’t how big they get—it’s how they’re raised:

I sing you the song of “Turkmenistan”—a 43-pound monster of a Tom turkey we raised on our little farm.

What Is The Carbon Footprint Of A Typical Thanksgiving?

Nov 25, 2015
Jack Amick / Flickr

Mike Berners-Lee may not be an expert on the American Thanksgiving. A native of the UK, he’s never actually had the pleasure of experiencing one. But as one of the world’s leading researchers on the carbon footprint of—well—everything (he even wrote a book subtitled “The Carbon Footprint of Everything”), he’s plenty familiar with the impacts of the foods that star in the traditional Thanksgiving Day spread.

How To Talk Politics At Thanksgiving Without Causing A Family Feud

Nov 25, 2015
Didriks / Flickr

Talking politics with family and friends at the holidays is supposed to be a big no-no. But sometimes you can’t help yourself. So if you’re going to walk down that dangerous road, we at least wanted to provide a few pointers. This week, Kara Holsopple chatted with psychologist Mary Beth Mannarino about how you can take on issues like climate change at Thanksgiving—but avoid a family feud. Here are some highlights from the interview: 

On how to deal with hot button issues like climate change at family gatherings

Ball 'Hawking' On The Allegheny River

Oct 7, 2015
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

Ball "hawks"—the obsessed, not-afraid-to-run-you-or-your-mother-over fans that shag and collect baseballs from Major League ballparks—are a special breed. But Pittsburgh's Pete Schell is a unique gamer within that subculture. Typically, the competitive ball shagging is done inside the park during pre-game batting practice. But Pete Schell has found his own version of the hawks' life outside PNC Park on the banks of the Allegheny River.

A Rosh Hashanah By The River

Sep 17, 2015
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

A sign at the 18th Street boat launch near Pittsburgh’s Birmingham Bridge explicitly states “DO NOT FEED THE DUCKS AND GEESE.” And technically speaking, the 70 or so people gathered here tossing bread into the Monongahela River, triggering a feeding frenzy in the water, aren’t doing that.

The bread they’re throwing is just a symbol: a spiritual stand-in for the sins and baggage from the past year. And if the bread/sins can make it past the gauntlet of water fowl, the water, according to scripture, will carry them away.

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.

Wolf Proposes Natural Gas Extraction Tax

Feb 13, 2015
Gerry Dincher / Flickr

Governor Wolf has proposed a 5 percent natural gas extraction tax that would be based on both the value and volume of gas extraction from natural gas wells.

For its part, the natural gas industry has fought hard against such a tax in Pennsylvania, saying it will discourage continued investment.

But is this myth or fact?

“The argument from the drilling industry is that the state already has high corporate income tax and the industry is ... paying its fair share in other ways beside a severance tax," says Reid Frazier, a reporter for the Allegheny Front. 

He goes on to say that environmental groups have been a bit silent about this proposal. 

“Some of the environmental groups are waiting to see more details, to see specifics. There are certain environmental clean up initiatives they would like to see. State programs to clean up run off from agriculture, abandon mine clean up. That’s a five billion dollar problem in Pennsylvania that is essentially not funded. They would like to see more funds go to that.”

'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.

Pages