Environment

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Six Pittsburgh students are spending their summer learning about the plants and animals in Frick Park and how to protect them with erosion control and managing invasive species. 

Students working in the Young Naturalist program don’t typically have access to nature. 

90.5 WESA’s Sarah Schneider spoke with Taiji Nelson, a naturalist educator with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, about teaching kids to be park stewards. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Kamil Kaczor / Flickr

Officials announced Tuesday that PWSA is back in compliance with federal standards for lead levels in drinking water. The next day, City Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow the authority to replace the private side of residential lead service lines when it replaces the public side.

Natural Gas Industry Wastewater Pollution May Linger For Years

Jul 21, 2017
Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A new study finds the treated wastewater from Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry may pollute rivers, lakes, streams and creeks for longer than previously thought.

Richard Shiro / AP

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress say they’re not so sure about the science of climate change, even though the vast majority of scientists agree: we’re warming the planet and if we don’t stop, it’ll have big consequences for us.

How Cities Are Planning To Survive Climate Change

Jul 13, 2017
Magnus Larsson / Flickr

Cities all over the world are receiving funding to become more resilient. That means preparing them to handle long-term stresses, like income inequality, and short-term shocks, like a flood. In 2014, Pittsburgh became one of those cities. It’s now part of the 100 Cities program, a Rockefeller Foundation initiative designed to help promote resiliency.

Study: Some Highly Fluorinated Chemicals Are Harder To Filter From Water

Jun 29, 2017
Rajikiran Ghanta / Flickr

Researchers have found some kinds of chemicals are harder to filter from water.

These compounds belong to a family called highly fluorinated chemicals. They’re used to make carpets, clothes and cookware stain and water repellant.

They’ve also been used in firefighting foam at military bases and airports. Those chemicals from firefighting foam have contaminated drinking water around the country, including drinking water wells near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda.

EarthJustice

When  President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cut funding for environmental justice work at the EPA, Mustafa Ali took a stand. 

Irina Zhorov / Keystone Crossroads

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously agreed Tuesday to create a bipartisan group tasked with investigating lead exposure in the state.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

President Donald Trump may not think the Paris Climate Accord is beneficial for the U.S., but Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says the city is still committed to it.

EPA Won't Declare Lake Erie's Waters In Ohio Impaired

May 25, 2017
Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency won't declare Ohio's western end of Lake Erie impaired by toxic algae, siding with state regulators who say they are making progress in tackling the problem.

Fractracker Alliance / StateImpact PA

Pennsylvania’s shale gas drillers continued to break records for production in 2016, tapping about 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Although the increase in production was not as high as in previous years, it still represents an upward trend, while the number of new well permits are declining, according to data published this week by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Pennsylvania still ranks second behind Texas in total volume of natural gas production.

'Aquahacking' Aims To Improve Water Quality In Lake Erie

May 16, 2017
via Allegheny Front

When we hear about hacking, it’s usually not a “good news” story. “Aquahacking” is an exception.

To improve water quality in Lake Erie, teams of engineers, software developers and students worked for months on a hacking competition. Erie Hack is billed as the intersection of the environment and the regional economy.  The Cleveland Water Alliance offered up cash and support, and the ideas started flowing. The final nine teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Just ahead of Earth Day, two dozen Pittsburgh nonprofit CEOs are calling on residents to lobby against a rollback of environmental laws at the federal level.

President Donald Trump has proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent, as well as eliminating the clean power plan.

One Way To Respond To A Warming Planet? Get Smaller

Apr 13, 2017
Kai Schreiber / Flickr

Though the earth is experiencing its first bout of human-induced climate change, the planet has faced massive global warming events in the past. For instance, 56 million years ago, the earth was 46 degrees hotter on average than it is right now. And in response, mammals literally shrank. Imagine an early horse ancestor the size of a cat.

Is A Petrochemical Boom Heading For Pennsylvania?

Mar 23, 2017
GoogleEarth

Shell is expected to begin constructing its $6-billion petrochemical plant in Beaver County later this year. But a new, state-commissioned report says that may be only the beginning for Pennsylvania’s petrochemical industry.

Federal Cuts At EPA Will Trickle Down To Pennsylvania

Mar 9, 2017
Tom Whitten / Flickr

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to drastically reduce the size and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency. A memo by the White House Office of Management and Budget indicates that’s still the plan. The memo outlines a proposed 25 percent cut to EPA’s $8-billion budget, including reductions in state grants for clean air and water programs.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Opponents of the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline have raised tens of thousands of dollars for a new encampment in Lancaster County, but most of the money is from one source–  British cosmetics firm, Lush.

Auslandsoesterreicherflickraccountinhaber / Flickr

Ticks don’t always wait until the spring to become active. A warm snap in western Pennsylvania could mean more breeding among the insects, and more cases of Lyme disease.

Pennsylvania has had the highest rate of Lyme disease in the nation for years – and that number is going up. More than 12,000 cases were reported last year -- one-third the total cases of Lyme disease across the country.  

Environmentalists Oppose Permits For Pennsylvania Pipeline

Feb 15, 2017
Matt Slocum / AP

Environmental advocacy groups are trying to halt construction of a $2.5 billion natural gas liquids pipeline across southern Pennsylvania while they appeal newly issued permits that they say would unleash massive and irreparable damage to the state's environment and residents.

In filings Monday night, three groups said the state Department of Environmental Protection had approved incomplete and legally flawed permit applications for Sunoco Logistics' Mariner East 2 pipeline hours earlier "in response to heavy and sustained political pressure."

NBC

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin. They’ll go behind the headlines taking an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Handling The Rising Tide Of Climate Change In Our Region

Jan 12, 2017
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In a farewell address this week, President Obama reiterated his administration’s commitment to acting on climate change—and his thoughts on the gravity of issue.

“Without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change. They’ll be busy dealing with its effects,” he said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / NCTC Archives Museum

Rachel Carson would recognize the conflict between environmental regulation and corporate interests as it is manifesting in President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pittsburgh Air Is Still Bad, But It Is Getting Better

Dec 27, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Air quality in western Pennsylvania improved in 2016, according to three regional monitors tracked by the Allegheny County Health Department.

“It was a good year in ozone,” said Jayme Graham, the department's air quality manager.

Could The Former Shenango Coke Works Site Become A Solar Farm?

Dec 17, 2016
Google Earth

Last year, when Leah Andrascik heard the Shenango Coke Works was closing, she thought it was a joke. Then, when she realized the news sent in an email by a fellow activist was true, she was relieved.

Andrascik lives just across the Ohio River from Neville Island, just north of Pittsburgh, where the coke plant was a constant source of concern for many residents. “When it was still in operation, there was a lot of dark smoke that would come out of the battery,” Andrascik says.

Oil And Gas Development Could Pose A Risk To Struggling PA Bats

Dec 15, 2016
US Fish and Wildlife Service

 

A coalition of nine oil and gas companies is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a 50-year permit that would allow the killing or disturbing of five bat species in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The permit, which is covered under the Endangered Species Act, is called an incidental take permit because the impacts are incidental to carrying out a legal activity, like constructing pipelines.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority is paying for what will be the third round of environmental testing of the former Civic Arena site.

What To Expect From PennFuture In The Trump Era

Dec 8, 2016
Lou Blouin / Allegheny Front

For the past few weeks, we’ve been tracking how the environmental movement is responding to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the U.S. presidential election. This week, we talked with Larry Schweiger, head of PennFuture, one of Pennsylvania’s leading environmental advocacy organizations. And he says he’s approaching the incoming Trump administration with a mix of apprehension and optimism.

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

Dec 6, 2016
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.”

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