Environment

PA Environmental Chief Is Out After Email Controversy

May 26, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

 

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley resigned on Friday following a controversial email he sent to environmental groups. The email contained expletives and other impassioned language, and chastised environmental groups for not doing enough to support several of the department’s recent environmental initiatives.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

In 1910, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., then one of the nation’s foremost landscape architects, outlined a plan for Pittsburgh. It detailed his thoughts on how city leaders should handle development around Pittsburgh’s major roadways and rail corridors.

After 17 Years, Cicadas Are Ready To Bust Out In Pennsylvania

May 19, 2016
griecheo / Instagram

 

They’re almost here. Actually, the insects are already here.

What Your Kids Are Learning About Climate Change

May 18, 2016
NL Monteiro / Flickr

So how—and what—are kids learning about climate change? Well, a survey published in the journal Science earlier this year revealed that students might not be taking home all that much from school. In fact, most science teachers spend just an hour or two on the subject every year.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

You need office space and classrooms for children with room for a few experiments -- just enough to put your hands in the earth and squiggle around. But you can't use any toxic construction materials. And once it's built, it has to both recycle its own water and produce more energy and than it consumes.

That was the challenge mastered last year by Phipps Conservatory when its Center for Sustainable Landscapes became Pittsburgh's first structure to meet the strict environmental requirements of the Living Building Challenge.

Group Tackles Environmental Hazards At Pennsylvania Schools

May 11, 2016
Ted S. Warren / AP

When you send your kids off to school in the morning, you expect they’ll be safe. But the group Healthy Schools Pennsylvania says that environmental hazards in and around schools are often being overlooked.

Officials Investigating Pipeline Explosion In Western Pennsylvania

May 6, 2016
Kerry Jobe / AP

  Last Friday, a natural gas pipeline exploded in Westmoreland County, just east of Pittsburgh. One man was hospitalized after his house went up in flames, while other nearby homes were damaged and residents were evacuated.

This week, armed security guards blocked off the site of the explosion, as federal pipeline investigators worked with the owner of the pipeline and state officials to determine the cause of the blast.

The underground pipeline, which is owned by Spectra Energy, carries natural gas from the Gulf Coast to the northeastern U.S. It was built in 1981.

Democratic Senate Candidates Spar Over Fracking

Apr 7, 2016
Matt Slocum / AP

 

The Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate is heating up, and sparks are flying on a topic that’s always hot in Pennsylvania—fracking.

At a debate this week, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and former congressman and Navy Vice Admiral Joe Sestak both tried to brand their opponent, Katie McGinty, as a friend of fracking.

They targeted McGinty’s record as former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Governor Ed Rendell. She left the department in 2008, just as the fracking boom was getting started.

John Poister / Department of Environmental Protection

The Department of Environmental Protection will spend $13.4 million to remove an abandoned coal pile that has overshadowed a Cambria County city since the 1960s.

Oil Trains Carry Bigger Risks For People Of Color

Mar 13, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

A rash of oil train derailments, spills and explosions in recent years has put a spotlight on the silent risks of transporting fossil fuels. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians live within the likely evacuation zone of a potential oil train accident. But according to a new study from the group PennEnvironment, people of color and low-income communities are shouldering a larger share of the risk.

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As environmental news has garnered more attention in recent years, Point Park University will now have the opportunity to obtain environmental journalism degrees. 

The new degree, available to undergraduate and graduate students, will be offered in the fall of 2016.

Students will be able to focus on print or broadcast and will pair journalism classes with classes in environmental sciences, like ecology and biology, according to School of Communications Chair Thom Baggerman.

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.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Seven people were arrested for disorderly conduct after they disrupted the final meeting of Governor Tom Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force in Harrisburg Wednesday.

The protesters shouted as they were escorted out of the meeting by Capitol Police:

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.

Paris Climate Talks From A Pennsylvania Perspective

Dec 2, 2015

A number of world leaders are in Paris this week to address the issue of climate change. Some are calling this the planet’s last best hope to reduce the impact climate change is having on the environment. We’ll get reaction to the climate talks from a commonwealth perspective with Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of Penn Future.  We’ll also hear from Mark Dixon, filmmaker and environmental activist currently in Paris at COP21.

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

Allegheny County / Twitter

 

A large, smoky chemical warehouse fire near Pittsburgh forced residents from about 70 nearby homes and injured multiple people.

Emergency crews on Tuesday moved people living near Weatherford Engineered Chemicals in Leetsdale to a high school gymnasium as a precaution.

The evacuation order has since been lifted, according to county officials. 

Kylie Stackis / Tree Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's fall foliage is expected to produce the peak, prismatic experience this weekend.

To celebrate, Tree Pittsburgh will host "Ginkgo Fest" from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Maple Grove Shelter in Highland Park honoring the city’s colorful Ginkgo Biloba trees. 

“Ginkgos have this very distinctive fan-shaped leaf, and in the fall they have a brilliant gold color, so they’re a very beautiful fall tree,” said Kylie Stackis, program assistant with Tree Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh-area apartment complexes typically “fall through regulatory cracks” when it comes to recycling programs, according to Mary Kate Ranii, program and outreach coordinator for the Pennsylvania Resources Council.

Because of their ineffectiveness, the PRC began a recycling program in January of this year that aims to provide education and resources to influence residents in local apartment complexes to better their recycling habits.

Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr

Pennsylvania is the 14th most eco-friendly state in the U.S., according to WalletHub.

Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub’s spokesperson, said the financial social network looked at 14 different metrics falling into the categories of either “Environmental Quality Rank” or “Eco-Friendly Behaviors Rank.”

National Digital Library of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikipedia

In 2012 a symposium was held in Pittsburgh, at Chatham University and the National Aviary, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s ground breaking book "Silent Spring."

Out of that symposium came the idea to develop a documentary about the late environmentalist-author’s life and humanitarian efforts, in a film called "The Power of One Voice." 

Producer/director Mark Dixon and Patricia DeMarco, former executive director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University teamed up with the Steeltown Entertainment Project, Carson's biographer Linda Lear and Carson's adopted son Roger Christie. 

Pittsburgh's Improving Water Quality

Jan 7, 2015
Joseph / Flickr

Although not as apparent today, Pittsburgh was once one of the top industrial cities in America- and one of the dirtiest.

Often described as “hell with the lid off,” Pittsburgh of old was a city of dark noons where workers had to change their white shirts during the day. Since the Steel City’s mid-century renaissance, the air quality has improved significantly.

Improving the water quality of the famed three rivers- which were often used as garbage disposal by past residents- has been a longer process.

But encouraging news came out of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently, when they announced that the Monongahela River had been removed from the department’s list of Rivers with Impaired Drinking Water.

The department’s Deputy Secretary of Water Management Kelly Heffner said that though this was a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of work to be done in Western Pennsylvania.

Ohio Earthquakes Linked to Hydraulic Fracturing

Jan 6, 2015
Nicholas Tonelli / Flickr

Researchers at Miami University in Ohio have concluded fracking was most likely the cause of earthquakes that have taken place in the state.

Last March, 77 earthquakes occurred in Poland, Ohio, a town near the PA-OH state line. Reporter Julie Grant of the Allegheny Front joins us to discuss this recent report.

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