Environment & Energy

We explore issues of energy and the environment, along with our partners from Allegheny Front and StateImpact Pennsylvania.

Airports At Water's Edge Battle Rising Sea Levels

15 hours ago

From the ramp tower 120 feet above the runway, it's clear Philadelphia International Airport is surrounded by water. There is wetland, a network of creeks and, just a couple hundred yards away, the tidal Delaware River leading out to the bay. As with many airports, the original idea was to build on a large tract of land convenient to a city but far enough away from homes and tall buildings. Often, that meant coastal wetlands and landfill.

Now, such airports are threatened.

Amy Sisk / WESA

Pittsburgh’s tallest skyscraper has cut way down on its water and electricity usage over the past decade as it undergoes energy efficiency upgrades.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The state Department of Environmental Protection is moving forward with plans to regulate harmful air pollution from Pennsylvania’s thousands of oil and gas sites.

Mel Evans / AP

A finance professor says Pennsylvania's two large public pension systems are paying significantly higher private equity fees than they report and are denying access to documents that would reveal a true figure.

Chimney Swifts Put On A Show Before Fall Migration

Sep 20, 2018
Steve Schroeder / Flickr

Recently a group of swift fans gathered outside of a Pittsburgh restaurant in anticipation.

Keith Srakocic / AP

The skies above Pittsburgh are getting darker, and it’s not because of stormy weather. Look up around dusk this fall and you may see flocks of black birds, preparing for their annual trip south through Pittsburgh.

National Pipeline Mapping System / U.S. Department of Transportation

Maps of the majority of natural gas pipelines in Pennsylvania are not readily available to the public. That includes the pipeline that exploded last week in Beaver County, demolishing one home and forcing dozens of people to evacuate.

More Than Half Of PA Gas Wells Used ‘Secret’ Chemicals For Fracking, Drilling: Report

Sep 14, 2018
Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Energy companies in Pennsylvania declined to identify potentially harmful chemicals used for drilling and fracking for natural gas in more than half the wells developed between 2013 and 2017, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The report from the Partnership for Policy Integrity, a Massachusetts nonprofit that does research and advocacy on energy policy, says companies withheld information about at least one chemical in 55 percent of wells drilled between 2013 and 2017.

Why Is The Mariner East Pipeline So Controversial?

Sep 13, 2018
Jon Hurdle / StateImpact Pennsylvania

This week, a pipeline exploded in Beaver County destroying one home and forcing two dozen people to evacuate. 

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Federal officials say two small earthquakes have occurred in eastern Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a 1.9 magnitude quake occurred around 3:50 a.m. Wednesday near Shillington. A 1.7 magnitude quake was then recorded around 5:45 a.m. Wednesday in Mohnton.

No damage or injuries were reported in either quake.

Officials say earthquakes with a magnitude between 1.0 and 3.0 aren't typically felt by residents.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania court is upholding a $1.1 million fine against natural gas exploration giant EQT Corp., saying there is substantial evidence that it recklessly violated environmental laws when a wastewater holding pond polluted streams and groundwater in 2012.

Monday's Commonwealth Court decision faulted EQT's construction of the pit at a Tioga County well site and its investigation into and response to the contamination, citing evidence the company "dragged its feet."

FirstEnergy

Energy Transfer Partners has shut down part of the Revolution Pipeline as officials investigate why a section of it exploded in a Beaver County residential neighborhood on Monday.

Bringing The Forest Back After Shale Gas

Sep 11, 2018
Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

In a clearing deep in Tiadaghton State Forest, Kelly Sitch stops to look at a clump of wild bergamot, a native plant whose light purple flowers resemble pom-poms.

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Residents living downstream from a western Pennsylvania dam are being urged to evacuate following severe weather.

The Westmoreland County emergency management agency issued the warning Monday for residents downstream of Lower Ridge Dam in Derry Township.

Derry borough's municipal authority posted a warning telling people to "evacuate the area within the McGee Run stream valley" and said the warning "mainly affects those residents adjacent to McGee run.

Those needing shelter were advised to go to the Derry high school or St. Joseph's church.

Googlemaps

Authorities say a gas explosion in western Pennsylvania has spurred evacuations, but no injuries have been reported.

Beaver County officials told news outlets a gas line caused the blast, which was reported shortly before 5 a.m. Monday in Center. A home, two garages and several vehicles were destroyed by fires caused by the blast, but crews were able to move several horses to safety.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom and an orange glow filling the sky.

Alex Brandon / AP

The Department of Environmental Protection has released its 2017 Oil and Gas Annual Report, which revealed 2,231 oil and gas well drilling permits were issued last year; it's the first increase in activity since 2014.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Protesters gathered outside the Department of Environmental Protection's Pittsburgh office Thursday to urge the agency to deny permits to Shell Pipeline Co. to build an ethane pipeline. The 97-mile Falcon Pipeline would bring ethane to a petrochemical plant in Potter Township, Beaver County.

Warnings Over Pollution Met With A Shrug In Coal Country

Sep 4, 2018
Ellen Knickmeyer / AP

It's coal people like miner Steve Knotts, 62, who make West Virginia Trump Country.

So it was no surprise that President Donald Trump picked the state to announce his plan rolling back Obama-era pollution controls on coal-fired power plants.

Trump left one thing out of his remarks, though: Northern West Virginia coal country will be ground zero for increased deaths and illnesses from the rollback on regulation of harmful emission from the nation's coal power plants.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Labor Day weekend marks the end of the summer driving season, and soon, gasoline prices are expected to drop after spending most of the summer above $3 per gallon.

“Across the country, we switch over to winter blend gasoline, demand drops off, and you start seeing some relief at the pump,” said Jim Garrity, a spokesperson for AAA East-Central, which serves Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and Kentucky.

Joshua Mayer / Flickr

A citizen science project is collecting data about Allegheny County's native pollinators.

Project Bee Watch's seven volunteers are on the hook to spend 15 minutes a week at the Audobon Greenway in Sewickley. They survey the park's native bees, and pass that data on to Matthew Opdyke, a professor of environmental studies at Point Park University.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

US Steel says it will replace equipment, hire more staff, improve training and increase monitoring at its Clairton Coke Works plant.

Trump Power: Industry Analysts Say New Rule Will Not Fuel Coal Comeback

Aug 28, 2018
Kara Lofton / WVPB

When President Trump wants to talk coal, he comes to West Virginia. So it was not surprising that the president visited Charleston just hours after his administration unveiled a long-awaited overhaul of the Obama administration's signature climate change regulation, the Clean Power Plan.

“We’re cancelling Obama’s illegal, anti-coal-destroying regulations. The so-called Clean Power Plan,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

The Best Conservation Program You've Never Heard Of

Aug 23, 2018
National Parks Service / NPS.gov

Parks, trails and even public swimming pools all over the country are funded by a federal program that many Americans have never even heard about, and it’s about to expire. 

Pennsylvania Millennials Are Buzzing About Beekeeping

Aug 20, 2018
Danny Johnston / AP

Every few days, Sam Torres heads to Glen Foerd in Northeast Philadelphia to check his beehives. He gets there about 8 a.m. because bees get up with the sun, and goes through the hives carefully to make sure his "girls" — beehives are a bona fide matriarchy at 85 to 90 percent female — are doing just fine. Smoker in hand, Torres looks at how many cells the bees have capped with wax, meaning that they've filled them with honey, and observes the larvae that will eventually grow into worker bees that clean and forage for the hive.

Your Takeout Meal Might Be Harming The Great Lakes

Aug 16, 2018
Mafalada 2001 / Flickr

There’s a scene in the 1967 film The Graduate where a well-meaning friend of the family pulls Dustin Hoffman’s character aside at his graduation party, and gives him this advice:

Fly Fishing Is Big In Central PA. Can We Keep It That Way?

Aug 15, 2018
Julie Grant

For people searching for the best fly-fishing spots to catch wild trout in the U.S., central Pennsylvania still makes top 10 lists, despite pollution from agriculture and development. The Allegheny Front went to meet some of the people who are working to keep these premier streams clean.

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It’s just before sunset, and 27-year-old Matt Kowalchuk is standing in the river, near the bank of Penns Creek in central Pennsylvania, not far from State College. He’s a fly-fishing guide, and chooses a leggy-looking lure from his box. It’s meant to catch wild trout.

Bill Bradley / Wikimedia Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced rule changes allowing the manufacture of new products containing asbestos after they undergo EPA review.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

By including more pipelines in Pennsylvania’s one-call law and creating a more robust enforcement system, state officials hope to cut down on incidents where residents or excavators accidentally hit pipelines and cables when digging underground.

Those incidents happen 6,000 times per year in Pennsylvania. Before they dig, residents and contractors are required to dial 8-1-1 and ask for utility companies with lines or cables in their area to come out and mark the locations.

Soil Health Movement Thrives In Pennsylvania Agriculture

Aug 13, 2018

It takes at least 100 years for one inch of topsoil to form. In Pennsylvania, farmers are becoming increasingly interested in managing soil to produce healthier, more sustainable crops.

How You Recycle Plastic Is About To Change

Aug 10, 2018
Courtesy of Waste Managment

The global market for recycling has changed dramatically over the last year. And it’s already trickling down to what happens curbside.

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