Environment

For Smart, Social Crows, Pennsylvania Is A Warm Winter Oasis

21 hours ago
Tim Spouge / Flickr

 

The large flocks of crows in our region now are primarily migrants from more northerly locations that are here to spend the winter. The number of roosting crows tends to build up steadily through November and December. These large winter roosts were historically in rural areas. But over time, as crows adapted to people, they moved their winter roosts into urban areas. Here they benefit from the warmth of the city. They are attracted to well-lit areas, which may enhance their ability to detect approaching predators. Their roosts can number in the hundreds of thousands of birds.

Group Of Doctors Says It's Time To Hit 'Pause' On Fracking

Nov 23, 2016
Alex Brandon / AP

In 2013, Walter Tsou, a Philadelphia doctor, began to worry about the impact drilling has on the health of people near natural gas wells. He authored a resolution for the Pennsylvania Medical Society—which represents about a quarter of the state’s doctors—calling for a moratorium on new hydraulic fracturing operations. It didn’t go over very well.

It's Not Just Lake Erie. The Ohio River Has A Major Algae Problem, Too.

Nov 18, 2016
Jeff Reutter/ Ohio Sea Grant / Flickr

Ethan Wells has lived along the Ohio River for almost all of his 32 years. One day last August near his home in Sistersville, an hour south of Wheeling, West Virginia, he noticed blue-green algae growing along the riverbank. And each time he looked, there was more of it.

“I grew up on a farm around ponds and on the river so I knew what it was,” Wells says. “It started to cover the river—like a neon slime across the top. And it was kind of eerie in a way to have the river alive like that.”

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

 

Shell Chemicals has purchased land in Beaver County's Potter Township near the site where the company has proposed the construction of an ethane cracker plant.

The Beaver County Times reports Shell paid $6.5 million for its latest acquisition of 13.7 acres along state Route 18.

A portion of the land once housed the industrial insulation company VersiTech. The purchase of that land was the last big domino to fall in Shell's plan for the proposed plant.

Shell now owns nearly every parcel on the southern side of Rt. 18 between Interstate 376 and Raccoon Creek.

Police used pepper spray and what they called nonlethal ammunition to remove Dakota Access Pipeline protesters from federal land Wednesday. Demonstrators say they were trying to occupy land just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where construction of the controversial pipeline is scheduled.

Ohio River Communities Are Still Coping With Teflon's Toxic Legacy

Nov 3, 2016
Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Fore more than half a century, the chemical company DuPont provided jobs for thousands of people along the Ohio River. One chemical they produced is PFOA, commonly known as C8. It was a remarkably useful compound—used in “Teflon” non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics and even some food wrappers.

A Bold New Vision For Restoring America's Most Polluted River

Oct 20, 2016
Shannon Tompkins / Flickr

In many ways, the Ohio River is an unsung resource for the region it serves. The Ohio’s near-thousand-mile course flows through Pennsylvania and five other states before emptying into the Mississippi. It’s a source of drinking water for more than 5 million people. But its long legacy as a “working river” has also made it the most polluted in the country. Today, many cities and towns along the Ohio are rethinking their relationship to the river—and seeing how a large-scale restoration effort could be critical to the region’s future. But just how do we get there?

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

A newly-formed citizens’ coalition is pushing to change the way eminent domain is applied in Pennsylvania.

VIDEO: Exploring The Collapse Of Coal

Oct 14, 2016
Allegheny Front

Less than a decade ago, the coal industry was at its peak. Today, American coal is in crisis. Production is down. Bankruptcies have swept across the industry. But how exactly did things get so bad, so fast? What will now happen to America’s coal towns? And who will be left to clean up hundreds of old coal mines? The Allegheny Front teamed up with the public media initiative Inside Energy to explore what the collapse of coal looks like for communities across the country.

WATCH: The Collapse Of Coal

The Billionaire Who's Fighting To Stop Runaway Climate Change

Oct 13, 2016
Fortune Live Media / Flickr

  

When the history of the climate change era is written, Tom Steyer will likely get more than a footnote. He might even get a whole chapter. But in many ways, being one of today’s most powerful advocates in the fight against climate change is an unlikely fate for a guy who—not long ago—was a big-time hedge fund manager. Since stepping down in 2013 from his own multi-billion dollar investment firm, he’s been busy re-purposing his wealth. His new project: NextGen Climate, a political organization that is—among other things—spending millions of dollars to help candidates who back urgent action on climate issues.

This Machine Will Change The Way You Think About Plastic

Oct 12, 2016
Perpetual Plastic Project

Plastic pollution is all around us—from grocery bags blowing down the street to the islands of plastic floating in the oceans. But Bart Bleijerveld, an industrial designer from the Netherlands, sees plastic a little differently. He says it’s a really useful—even beautiful—material. We’re just using it the wrong way.

“It is designed to last for a really, really long time, while everybody’s using it as a disposable,” Bleijerveld says.

Struggling Honeybees Get Some Help From Big Data

Oct 6, 2016
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

 

As prolific pollinators, honeybees are to thank for about one out of every three bites of food you eat. But bees are in big trouble: They’re getting hit hard by pestspesticides, diseases and habitat loss. To help keep tabs on what’s going on with bees, scientists at Grand Valley State University are using new technology to track the health of hives.

Trade Group Seeks To Block New Drilling Rules

Oct 5, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

An oil and gas trade group is seeking to block new Marcellus Shale drilling regulations scheduled to take effect later this week. The rules have been in development since 2011 and have been the subject of significant controversy.

David Smith / AP

In a win for environmentalists and municipalities, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down a number of provisions to the state’s oil and gas law. 

The Science Of Making Rain

Oct 1, 2016
Charlie Riedel / AP

  For as long as humans have been around, we’ve been at the mercy of the weather. And as long as that’s been the case, we’ve wanted a way out—a way to control the weather to suit our needs. In the distant past, we used sacrifices and rain dances. Today, we turn to science.

This is where cloud seeding comes in. It’s humanity’s attempt to do what has always seemed impossible: To harness the clouds and make them rain.

Let’s begin in Fargo, North Dakota, at the headquarters of Weather Modification Incorporated, WMI. It’s the largest cloud seeding company in the world.

States Suing Over Climate Change Plan Get Their Day In Court

Sep 29, 2016
Dennis Hendricks / Flickr

  

Climate change barely got a mention in Monday’s presidential debate, but it was a big week in the history of the nation’s climate policy.

On Tuesday, a panel of ten judges on a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. heard arguments on the Clean Power Plan — the cornerstone of President Obama’s effort to curb climate change.

A panel of judges Tuesday is hearing a case that could change the future of the power industry.

The D.C. Circuit is hearing an appeal of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule that would restrict carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants.

Bradford County Ramps Up Campaign For Gas Royalties Bill

Sep 16, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

About 700 people attended a meeting in Bradford County Wednesday night where state and local officials urged them to contact legislative leaders in Harrisburg about a bill aimed at ensuring gas companies pay fair royalties.

Pro-Drilling County Targets Gas Trade Group

Sep 8, 2016
Ian Sterling / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

When the Marcellus Shale gas boom was taking off, Bradford County welcomed it with open arms. With more than 1,000 active wells, this region in north-central Pennsylvania became one of the most heavily drilled places in the state.

But the enthusiasm turned to anger, and many people now allege they’re being cheated out of royalty money by drilling companies.

So What Exactly Is An Ethane Cracker?

Sep 8, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

  When Shell announced earlier this year it would be building an ethane cracker facility in Beaver County, it no doubt left many people wondering—what the heck is an ethane cracker?

Is It Just Me, Or Are There A Lot Of Dragonflies This Summer?

Sep 7, 2016
Vicki DeLoach / Flickr

To help us tell stories about how weather and climate change are affecting our region, The Allegheny Front has partnered with iSeeChange—an online climate and weather journal where people can post observations or questions about what’s going on around them.

This summer, I had my own question: Why am I seeing so many dragonflies in Pittsburgh? In fact, recently when I was in the middle of the city, sitting in traffic, two were mating on my car windshield. I don’t remember seeing anything like it before.

A chaotic and tense scene unfolded just after Air Force One touched down in Hangzhou, China, where U.S. and global leaders are gathered to discuss the world economy, promote growth and curb carbon emissions.

Obama's customary exit from the plane came not from the usual door high on the fuselage, but instead from a lower portal. It seems there were no higher stairs available to roll up to the usual door.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

Pennsylvania environmental regulators have green-lighted a proposal to use 3,950 tons of natural gas drilling waste for an experimental road construction project at a Lycoming County hunting club.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: This story was updated at 9:40 a.m. to reflect the DEP's response. 

A couple dozen children and parents gathered in Irvine Park in downtown Beaver Tuesday morning, to play with a giant parachute, toss beach balls, play tag and hula hoop.

New Research Puts The Spotlight On The Humble, Understudied Moth

Aug 11, 2016
Anita Gould / Flickr

 

Chatham University ecology professor Ryan Utz says a new moon—when the night sky is at its darkest—is a great time to observe moths in the summertime. And it doesn’t take any special technology to get a look at the diversity the moth world has to offer either.

Utz and his students recently set up a four-by-eight-foot white board at the edge of a field and then simply lit it on a dark night to attract some of the 1,500 species of moths that might pay a visit.

Buried below the ice sheet that covers most of Greenland, there's an abandoned U.S. Army base. Camp Century had trucks, tunnels, even a nuclear reactor. Advertised as a research station, it was also a test site for deploying nuclear missiles.

Aftershocks Of The Gas Boom Ripple Through New York's Wine Country

Aug 4, 2016
Julie Grant / Allegheny Front

 

  Driving around Seneca Lake, evidence of industry is everywhere.

The wine industry, that is.

Why Pipeline Safety Is One Of Pennsylvania’s Next Big Energy Challenges

Jul 22, 2016
Keith Srakocic / AP

On  the morning of April 29, a natural gas transmission line exploded in a field in Salem Township in western Pennsylvania. 

New Study Links Asthma With Fracking

Jul 21, 2016
National Institutes of Health / Flickr

 

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have published a study linking unconventional gas development with asthma attacks.

“We found that patients living closer to more—or bigger—unconventional natural gas wells had higher risk for an asthma attack,” says Sara Rasmussen, the study’s lead author.

New Photography Exhibit Explores Impacts Of The Fracking Boom

Jun 16, 2016
Lynn Johnson

 

The story of the fracking boom in Pennsylvania and nearby states runs as an almost continuous narrative in the region’s press. But covering the blow-by-blow of new drilling sites, protests, lawsuits and regulations is just one way to look at how fracking has changed the region.

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