Environment

Environment & Energy
5:30 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Climate Activists March from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh

Climate marchers rallied outside Allegheny Unitarian Church on the North Side after spending the last seven months walking from Los Angeles. Their final destination is Washington, D.C.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A group of 50 climate activists made their way into Pittsburgh from Los Angeles Tuesday — on foot.

The Great March for Climate Action” is the brainchild of former Iowa State Representative Ed Fallon.

He said the idea came to him last February, after a discussion with environmental activist Bill McKibben about how best to address the what he calls the “climate crisis.”

“It’s not an issue; it’s a crisis,” Fallon said.

Read more
Environment
9:54 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Bill Would Eliminate Buffer Requirement For Pennsylvania’s Cleanest Streams

Loyalsock Creek in Sullivan County.
Credit Scott Lamar / WITF

Yet another battle of the economy versus the environment is taking place in Harrisburg. This time, conservationists say Pennsylvania’s cleanest streams are at stake.

A bill (HB1565) working its way through the state legislature would eliminate a requirement for 150-foot buffer zones between new developments and specially protected watersheds.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:22 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Drawing Connections Between WWI and Climate Change

Credit Imperial War Museum / Wikipedia

While there is little doubt in the scientific community that the globe is getting warmer, many countries balk over climate regulations given the perceived cost of such action.

David Titley, the director of Penn State's Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, believes there is connection between the climate battles of today and World War I, the world’s greatest danger a century ago.

Read more
Environment & Energy
3:01 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Thousands Rally in Downtown Pittsburgh as EPA Hearings Get Underway

Tony Esposito opposes the proposed EPA rules and President Obama. He will testify before the EPA Friday.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

As two days of hearings on the proposed EPA rules to cut carbon emissions, protesters and supporters gathered for rallies and marches outside of the Federal Building. Before the hearings got underway Thursday, downtown streets were relatively quiet. One small group had set up a stand on the corner of Liberty Avenue and Tenth Street speaking out against the proposed rules and calling for the impeachment of President Obama.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:24 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

What Role Will Coal Play in Pennsylvania's Future?

Credit Joseph A / flickr

Coal has long played an important role in the history of western Pennsylvania. It was coal that was excavated in the areas surrounding Pittsburgh, and then shipped to the city where it was used to power the steel mills.

It made for an effective system of production, but the smog that blanketed the city could turn days into nights.

Following World War II, civic leaders sought to clean up Pittsburgh, and reducing smog was particularly important. That struggle continues today- coal is still a major player in local energy, but the government is still looking to further curtail its pollution.

The EPA announced it’s Clean Power Plan in June, and hearings are being held this week in several U.S. cities. One of those cities is Pittsburgh- the biggest city in Appalachia, the heart of coal country. Environmentalists strongly support the reforms, but plenty of citizens in the region worry about a loss of jobs and an increase in energy prices.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:37 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Increasing Noise and Less Silence Could Be Causing Unconscious Stress

The Wonder Boys of "I Wonder PGH," Ellis Robinson and Daniel Tkacik.
Credit Marcus Charleston / WESA

From annoying ringtones to everyday noise pollution, it seems like our world is getting noisier. The Wonder Boys, Ellis Robinson and Daniel Tkacik of “I Wonder PGH,” went in search of an answer. Their findings are revealed in a thrilling installment of the Mysteries of Pittsburgh. They wondered, was it this hard to find silent spaces 50 or even 100 years ago?

Robinson and Tkacik spoke with author George Prochnik, who answered this question with the research he has done for his latest book, The Pursuit of Silence.

“It can be difficult to make the argument that things are noisier in the sense that everywhere there are higher volumes today than there were in the past. At the same time, there’s not necessarily more noise everywhere, there’s less silence.”

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:35 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

TV Dumping, A Growing Problem Throughout the Region

How often have you seen old tube TVs dumped on the side of the road this summer? Find out how they can be properly discarded.
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

In 2010 a statewide ban was passed as part of the Covered Device Recycling Act. It called for electronic waste, or E-Waste to be taken to approved recycling drop-off sites. However, discarded televisions have been showing up curbside throughout the city.

Justin Stockdale, western regional director of the PA Resources Council said the problem tends to be caused by a lack of knowledge of the proper methods of getting rid of old televisions. The largest problem is figuring out which facilities take them, a task even Stockdale admits can be difficult.

“Many of these processors, even Goodwill industries, in fact, was collecting TVs up until about the middle of last year and realized, again, they were confronted with the same problem: they don’t generate enough revenue as part of this OEM sponsored program, to cover the cost of management. And so they step away from it, and now we’re left with Best Buy stores, Construction Junction,  our PRC operated events, and that’s about it for western Pennsylvania.”

If a resident does leave a television to be picked up by collectors, Stockdale says the city will often place a sticker on the discarded television. These stickers do not issue fines for residents, but Stockdale says some provide information in the form of a website link, to where residents can take their old televisions to be recycled.

Read more
Community
5:28 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Who Needs Mowers? Tree Pittsburgh Uses Goats To Clear Dense Hillside

Kaye Burnet 90.5 WESA

In the hilly regions of western Pennsylvania, lawn care can be a nuisance. Sometimes, dragging lawn mowers and weed whackers up and down hillsides seems like more trouble than it’s worth. That’s why environmental non-profit Tree Pittsburgh found a creative solution to clearing undergrowth on tricky terrain—goats.

Tree Pittsburgh hired consultant Brian Knox from Eco-Goats and rented more than 30 goats from local farm Goodness Grows to clear dense plant growth from a hillside near West Penn Park in Polish Hill.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
7:12 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Colony Collapse & the Buzz on Beekeeping in Pittsburgh

Honeybees, may become easier to keep in urban areas thanks to local support and national attention.
Credit Justin Leonard / Flickr

Two years ago we took a look at the world of urban farming in Pittsburgh, with a focus on beekeeping in particular. As in many cities, those who want to build apiaries in Pittsburgh have had to jump through various bureaucratic hoops and deal with the myths and fears surrounding honeybees.

President Obama recently stressed the importance of preserving our honeybee populations for the sake of food security. And the White House has even announced plans to form a task force to investigate honeybee colony collapse.

With renewed attention on the decline of pollinators, Steve Repasky, President of Burgh Bees and David Tarpy, Professor and Extension Apiculturist in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University are working to preserve the honeybees in Pittsburgh and the rest of the country.

Repasky said the local laws for beekeeping have not changed within the last two years, and the rules for keeping bees are pretty strict. But he thinks there has been a good push for positive change in Pittsburgh, and hopes to get a change in the urban agriculture ordinance.

Read more
Business
3:30 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Green Workplace Challenge Winners Announced

The results are in for the 2013-2014 Green Workplace Challenge, and seven local organizations have been honored for their environmentally friendly facility improvements.

FedEX Ground, DMI Companies, Pashek Associates, Allegheny County, the University of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, and Conservation Consultants Inc. received the highest scores in their various categories of competition.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:37 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

When it Comes to High-Tech Roofing...Plastic Bottles are Key

Strips of plastic soda bottles are being used to create thatching for roofs in developing countries.
Credit Reuse Everything Institute / Facebook

Reuse Everything Institute, a local non-profit, has created an innovative means of reusing wasted plastic bottles. The non-profit has developed a business solution that could help people in developing countries out of poverty.

Institute founders, David Saiia and Vananh Le hope to use plastic bottles to create high-tech thatch-style roofing. Le says the affordability for consumers is the main focus of REII.

“The roof is high in quality, and we want to make it affordable to the consumer. It requires much less energy than recycling in that we are automating our process. The machine that David created was hand cranked, now we are automating it so that we make it more cost effective for people, generally, pretty much to run mom and pop businesses. So, we actually don’t melt the plastic like recycling, we just cut it into continuous strips of ribbon and convert them into other products.”

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:40 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Update on the Green Building Alliance 2030 Challenge

Pittsburgh 2030 is focusing on reducing energy and water use in buildings throughout the city.
Credit Andy / Wikipedia Commons

In 2012, Pittsburgh was one of four cities nationwide to launch the 2030 Challenge. The challenge is a voluntary, private-public initiative with the goal of reducing the environmental impact of buildings, by reducing energy and water use as well as transmission emissions.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
2:29 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Finding the Value of Agriculture in Communities of Color

LaTasha Mayes is Founder and Executive Director of New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Today marks the beginning of the 6th annual Kinks, Locks & Twists: Environmental and Reproductive Justice conference.

New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice coordinates the event and facilitates conversations on health, wellness, and the environment as they pertain to communities of color.

LaTasha Mayes, Founder and Executive Director of New Voices Pittsburgh discussed the evolution of the conference and its connection to the community over the years.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:49 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Chronicling Climate Change, The Allegheny Front Begins A Year Long Series

Credit Credit Mary Birdsong / Presque Isle Audubon

Next week, the Allegheny Front radio program on 90.5 WESA begins Climate Chronicles, a year-long series about the impacts of climate change on our region.

Senior Reporter Julie Grant starts the series with a look at the biggest movement of snowy owls in 50 years, and what it might say about climate change.

She said she started looking at the big white birds, popularized by a character in Harry Potter called Hedwig, because of some unusual sightings.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
2:35 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

With the Great Lakes Frozen, A Rare Flock of Seagulls Roosts in Pittsburgh

A rare sight: Gulls take flight against a backdrop of downtown Pittsburgh.
Heather McClain 90.5 WESA

Thousands of birds, commonly called seagulls, have made a rare migration south to roost at Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

Bob Mulvihill, an ornithologist at the National Aviary said the gulls ("seagull" is actually a colloquial term, he explained), normally roost at the Great Lakes this time of year, but the extreme cold from the polar vortex has frozen the surfaces.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
2:42 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Looking for a New Year's Resolution? How About Social Change

Credit creepyed / flickr

Resolution season was never a big deal in my house growing up. When someone in my family attempted a resolution, it was always health related. And the endeavor was usually abandoned by Valentine's Day, only to be rekindled at Lent, then ditched again.

The goals that actually stuck were the ones inspired by lessons learned randomly throughout the year, usually with an emphasis on social good. For example, after returning from environmental summer camp one year, I convinced my family to always snip the plastic rings that hold 6-packs of soda. The uncut rings are extremely harmful to aquatic life.

In the process of exploring 2014 resolution ideas, I came across an inspiring list for teens and parents from The Road Less Traveled - ideas I could have used in the 1990s and great ones for today.

Read more
Science
3:30 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

State Awards Grant to Assess Atom Smasher Site

The site of the world’s first industrial atom smasher will be environmentally assessed and remediated for future development.

An $88,000 grant given to Forest Hills Borough from the state will help pay for the study of the Westinghouse Atom Smasher, the light bulb-shaped building situated near Chalfant Borough.

State Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said there is a lot of work to be done before remediation can take place.

Read more
Environment & Energy
2:13 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Chemical Plants Bring Dangers and Jobs for Workers and Community

Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, LA uses natural gas to produce ethylene and propylene, building blocks of plastic. An explosion there in June killed two workers and injured more than 100.
Credit Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

On a Thursday morning in June, Antionette West was lying on a couch in her trailer not far from a row of chemical plants near the Mississippi River in Geismer, Lousiana, when the house began to shake.

She initially thought there had been an explosion at a vinyl chloride plant about a mile away, where there had been an explosion less than a year before. This time though, she saw black smoke coming from another direction.

Read more
Environment & Energy
12:05 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Survey Says: Most Pittsburghers Favor Environment over Economy

A new survey by the University of Pittsburgh and PittsburghTODAY found that 65 percent of the region’s citizens view air quality as either a minor problem, or not a problem at all.

This is despite continually low air quality rankings by the American Lung Association.

Doug Heuck, Director of PittsburghTODAY, said many people mistakenly think that because they can’t see the air pollution, it’s not there.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:11 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

How to Address Climate Change In Light of New Reports

More conclusive findings from the IPCC, what can be done at this point?
Credit Brian Chan / Flickr

According to a more report conclusive from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and internationally renowned climatologist, Dr. Raymond Bradley, global temperatures have risen rapidly in the last 100 years, especially in the last 50 years. Experiments have also proven that greenhouse gases do create more heat in the atmosphere.

In addition to raising temperatures, greenhouse gases change precipitation patterns, meaning some areas that usually have heavy rainfall experience dry spells, and other areas get extremely heavy rainfall. Bradley says these effects will continue to occur more often if greenhouse gases continue to fill the atmosphere.

Read more
Environment & Energy
1:58 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Environmentalists Call for Tougher Regulation of PA Power Plants

Environmentalists are criticizing Pennsylvania power plants for their carbon emissions and are calling for more stringent regulations.

PennEnvironment’s report shows that, nationwide, the commonwealth has the third highest amount of power plant-borne pollution.

It comes in anticipation of federally proposed emissions regulations on new plants this year and existing plants next year.

Read more
Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Future: Read The Missing Report

A pair of legally-mandated reports outlining how climate change will affect Pennsylvania are currently a year overdue.

The state’s Climate Change Act required the publication of both reports in 2009, followed by an update every three years.

Both documents were due last year, but they’re still under review, and the state Department of Environmental Protection won’t say when they will be released.

Read more
Environment & Energy
10:34 am
Thu August 29, 2013

How Could OSHA’s New Silica Rules Impact The Natural Gas Industry?

Federal labor officials are proposing new rules to help prevent an old hazard of the trade: diseases caused by breathing in silica dust. Silicosis has long been a plight of workers in construction and manufacturing, but concerns have shifted in recent years to those who toil in the growing natural gas industry.

Sand is an important ingredient in most fracking fluid recipes. It’s mixed with chemicals and water and blasted deep underground where the tiny grains help keep cracks in the shale rock open for all that natural gas to come through.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:03 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

Pittsburgh 2030 District Challenge

A year in, Pittsburgh 2030 District Challenge is gaining momentum.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA News

It’s been a year since the beginning of Pittsburgh’s 2030 District Challenge. The private-public initiative aims to cut energy, water and transportation consumption of downtown buildings in half by the year 2030.

According to Sean Luther, Director of the Green Building Alliance, a number of the big name buildings have signed on to the program’s pledge. Some of the most notable buildings include the US Steel Building and one of the oldest buildings downtown, the Allegheny Courthouse. In total, the buildings involved in the challenge account for more than 50% of downtown’s square footage.

Read more
Environment
3:30 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Bill Would Change Endangered Species Determination Process

Two state agencies are warning proposed legislation would strip their authority to determine which species are labeled endangered in Pennsylvania.

The measure would require the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission, now independent agencies, to instead run their decisions through certain legislative committees and a state regulatory review agency.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:55 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Sustainable Jobs For Pennsylvania in the 21st Century

From Blue Collar to Green Collar Jobs: What's Pennsylvania's industry future?
David Bennett Flickr

Before exploring the issue of creating green jobs in the 21st century economy, Essential Pittsburgh took the time to air some answers to environmental questions from listeners.

In response to a question on why the energy conversation won't embrace the possibility of more drastic advances in alternative energy such as nuclear fusion, James Clad, a consultant and distinguished research fellow at the National Defense University acknowledged that the energy conversation had been turned into a one note discussion on fossil fuels. 

"The energy world is defined by oil and gas and everything else is just an add on." said Clad

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
6:24 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

United Nations Report Examines "Climate Extremes" Over Past Decade

Sea ice, shown here in Nunavut, in northern Canada, reflects more sunshine than in the past, while and open ocean absorbs more, accelerating melting.
Credit Wikipedia Commons

Extreme weather, greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide and glacial melting; all these buzzwords have increasingly entered the public vernacular in the past 20 years. 

Following a UN report by the World Meteorological Organization, scientists expect that the topic of global warming and climate change will continue to be a hot issue.  The report, “The Global Climate 2001-2010: A Decade of Extremes,” cites that the past decade has seen an abundance of greenhouse gas emissions that has caused increased temperatures on both hemispheres, all oceans and an accompanying rapid decline in arctic sea ice and glaciers. 

Director of Science at the Carnegie Science Center, John Radzilowicz, has been following the topic of global climate change and was not necessarily surprised by the UN report.  He was optimistic, however, that the report was gaining attention and combined a multitude of data pointing to the extremes in weather conditions throughout the world.

Read more
Environment & Energy
3:30 am
Mon July 1, 2013

Researchers: Solar/Wind Power More Beneficial in Eastern U.S.

California has more solar panels soaking up the sun and creating electricity than any other state, but researchers say those panels would be better off in places like cloudy Pittsburgh.

Carnegie Mellon University researchers said the same is true in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia when it comes to wind farms.

Kyle Siler-Evans, co-author of the recently published research paper, said the goal of solar and wind power is to mitigate climate damages and improve health and air quality, but the plants are going out west where they are not needed as much.

Read more
Ticks
3:48 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

2013 Likely Won't Be a Heavy Tick Year, But Caution Still Advised

Ticks are about as well-loved as invasive dental surgery, so it’s likely a relief to many that 2013 is forecast to be an average or below average tick year, according to the Carey Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Despite that prediction, it’s still important to be wary of ticks, said Ed Rajotte, a professor of entomology at Penn State.

Read more
Earth Day
3:30 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Pittsburghers Celebrate Earth Day and Pledge Continued Action

Across the world, people are celebrating Earth Day in a variety of ways today, from trash clean ups to tree plantings.

Pittsburgh didn’t wait for the actual day, as Earth Day events started last week and will continue in the coming weeks and days.

On Friday ALCOSAN workers gathered at several spots in Allegheny County to pick up litter.

“All the litter we pick up has the tendency to blow into the rivers,” said ALCOSAN spokeswoman Nancy Barylak, “so that litter you see on the side of the road could easily end up in the rivers.”

Read more

Pages