Environment & Energy

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

This summer, the Department of Conservation and National Resources (DCNR) and Gander Mountain are partnering to provide first-time campers with essential gear and a reduced $20 reservation fee for a two-night stay at participating Pennsylvania state parks.

Mike Krancer And The EPA: It’s Complicated

May 17, 2012

Over the last few years, the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has taken an increased inter­est in reg­u­lat­ing and mon­i­tor­ing hydraulic frac­tur­ing. And when the EPA steps into an area that the Pennsylvania Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion is already over­see­ing, Sec­re­tary Michael Krancer appears to take it per­son­ally.

The Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) has been walking from Philadelphia to PNC headquarters in Pittsburgh since April 30th to protest the bank's financing of mountaintop removal coal mining, a type of mining that violates the Clean Water Act and has led to increased rates of birth defects and cancers for thousands of families across Appalachia, according to Zachary Hershman, EQAT campaign director.

Post Natural History, Now

May 5, 2012

You've probably heard the saying, "Don't mess with Mother Nature." But all around us, scientists, corporations, and even farmers are doing just that: breeding corn to resist pests and herbicides, inserting genes into salmon and spawning generations of lab specimens.

An arty crowd gathered in a suite of dark rooms got the first peek at a curiosity shop of exhibits. The black paint was barely dry on the cases, lit to reveal live sea monkeys swimming around a beaker and a stuffed white lab rat making a last stand on its hind legs — and then there were the domestic cat testicles.

Residents in the 400 block of Jucunda Street in the Knoxville neighborhood of the city of Pittsburgh gathered today in an open lot on their street to join Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in announcing an expansion of the Love Your Block campaign.

The campaign, begun last year, gives small grants to blocks throughout the city which have proposed ideas to spruce up the appearance of their streets.

With last week's rains in northeastern Pennsylvania, the record low water levels in the Susquehanna River Basin have recovered and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has lifted its order to 10 natural gas drilling companies to halt withdrawals.

Record low water levels in the Susquehanna River Basin have forced a halt to water removal by natural gas drilling companies.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses a mixture of water and chemicals shot deep into the ground with massive force to fracture rock shale and release the natural gas contained inside. According to a report from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), the drought conditions of this spring have temporarily suspended 17 different water withdrawals, impacting 10 drilling companies in Bradford, Luzerne, Lycoming, Susquehanna and Tioga Counties.

Air Pollution Better But Still Bad

Apr 27, 2012

The American Lung Association's State of the Air Report shows the Pittsburgh metro area is the sixth most polluted in the country for fine particle pollution and twentieth for ozone pollution.

Fine particles are inhaled deeply into the lungs and can increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and asthma. Ozone irritates the lungs and is especially harmful to the young, the elderly, and outdoor exercisers.

Getting the Fingerprint of Pollution

Apr 20, 2012

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the Electric Power Institute have developed a method of "fingerprinting" air pollution. The developers collected samples of air emissions from several coal-powered power plant stacks in the nation and discovered a way to detect a unique signature, or fingerprint, in nitrogen oxide (NOx) compounds emitted from the stacks.

The institute is a nonprofit that is funded by the electric power industry.

An expected 20,000 volunteers will hit the streets and parks throughout the Pittsburgh region this weekend for a semi-annual litter clean-up in conjunction with Earth Day on Sunday.

Boris Weinstein, founder of Citizens Against Litter, which helps organize the clean-up effort in Washington, Allegheny, Westmoreland, Butler, and Beaver counties, said 250 communities and groups have already signed on to help out.

Of those 250, 84 are city neighborhoods and 57 are Allegheny County boroughs and townships.

Seed and Story Library Comes to Lawrenceville

Apr 18, 2012

Starting in May, southwestern Pennsylvanians can "borrow" local seeds from the Lawrenceville branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, with the hope that gardeners will then return harvested seeds in the fall for use the following spring.

Mary Monaghan, Assistant Director of Neighborhood Libraries, says returning newly harvested seed is completely voluntary. There will be no late fees, and librarians will not come to your garden to confiscate seeds.

EPA Moves to Curb Gas Well Air Pollution

Apr 18, 2012

The Obama administration has ordered natural gas developers to address the air pollution that's created when a gas well is hydraulically fractured.

The rule only applies to wells drilled into deep shale gas formations, like the Marcellus Shale beneath Pennsylvania.

National Aviary's Steps for Safe Bird Migration

Apr 16, 2012

Every spring, birds migrate thousands of miles to cooler climates, and there are simple steps that humans can take to make their journey as safe as possible.

Robert Mulvihill, Conservation Outreach Manager at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, says there are more than 100 kinds of birds migrating through western Pennsylvania at night during this time of year.

New Evidence Shows Being Active Outdoors Benefits Veterans

Apr 14, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Sierra Club’s mission for its Military Families and Veterans Initiative is, “to ensure those who defended our country and their families get to enjoy the land they served.” Heading up that mission is Stacy Bare, an Iraq war veteran, based in Washington D.C.

Bare said being outdoors helped him deal with the stresses of being a veteran and move forward with his own life after returning home.

Shale Industry Brings Jobs For Veterans

Apr 14, 2012

Molly Born, a writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has been reporting on the challenges returning veterans face when trying to find jobs, and she's found that the Marcellus shale gas industry has provided one of the bright spots for servicemen in a lagging economy.

"There have been a lot of companies in this industry who have pledged to help veterans and they've been saying it very loudly," she said.

New Evidence Shows Being Active Outdoors Benefits Veterans

Apr 14, 2012

The Sierra Club's mission for its Military Families and Veterans Initiative is, "to ensure those who defended our country and their families get to enjoy the land they served." Heading up that mission is Stacy Bare, an Iraq war veteran, based in Washington D.C.

Bare said being outdoors helped him deal with the stresses of being a veteran and move forward with his own life after returning home.

Lawmaker Wants Moratorium on Deep Injection Wells in Pennsylvania

Apr 13, 2012

Now that deep injection wells have been linked to a dramatic increase in earthquakes in Ohio, Colorado, and Oklahoma, a Pennsylvania lawmaker wants a freeze on such wells in the commonwealth. The state has five operating deep injection wells, but many more are proposed.

Active duty Navy Sailor Ed Klonowski is an outdoorsy guy. He grew up in the country in a family that hunted and fished and watched birds. So when he was deployed to Iraq, those were the kinds of things he missed.

Pennsylvania is one of the best prepared states when it comes to readiness for water-related threats of climate change, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that ranks all 50 states on their level of preparedness.

Water-related climate change impacts include threats to water supply and quality, more frequent and severe storms, floods, and drought events.

Scrubbers Coming to Indiana County

Apr 3, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved the installation of $725 million in pollution controls at a General Electric coal-fired power plant in Indiana County.

The controls will be installed by Edison Mission Energy, which operates the plant.

The Homer City Generating Station is Pennsylvania's second largest and produces enough energy to power two million homes. The pollution controls are commonly referred to as "scrubbers."

The widely-used herbicide Roundup has been discovered to induce physiological changes in animals, particularly amphibians according to Rick Relyea, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and head of Pitt's Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology.

It has been found that "sublethal" and environmentally relevant concentrations of Roundup, the world's most popular weed killer, caused two species of amphibians to alter their morphology. According to Relyea, this is the first study to show that a pesticide can induce morphological changes in a vertebrate animal.

For the 14th year in a row, Pennsylvania's forests have been certified and the state acknowledged for doing a commendable job to ensure their conservation.

SmartWood, a third-party forest-management certification branch of the Rainforest Alliance, honored Pennsylvania for its sound management of 2.2 million acres of forests, including responsible management of drilling activities and protection of sensitive species.

Bayer Pesticide Under Fire for Bee Colony Epidemic

Mar 30, 2012

Two surveys conducted in the United Kingdom and France indicate that a class of pesticides created by Bayer CropScience could be the cause of the dwindling honey bee population seen over the past several years by commercial beekeepers.

The class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, has been in use since the 1990s according to David Fischer, Director of Environmental Toxicology and Risk Assessment for Bayer CropScience. He says that Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has been a documented phenomenon since the 1800s.

Earth Hour Returns

Mar 29, 2012

The lights will go off at many major buildings in Pittsburgh for an hour tomorrow night. Saturday from 8:30-9:30 PM, Pittsburgh will officially participate in Earth Hour, a global event aimed at making a statement about climate change and energy use by doing something simple: turning off lights for one hour.

Stormwater Bill Rolls Through Pennsylvania Senate

Mar 27, 2012

The Pennsylvania state Senate last Monday unanimously passed legislation which allows local municipalities to create stormwater authorities.

Senate Bill 1261 comes in response to flooding that has occurred across Pennsylvania over the past year, including a flash flood on a Pittsburgh street in August that killed four people.

The sponsor Senator Ted Erickson (R-Delaware) said after all the flooding, something needed to be done.

The Allegheny Health Department has issued a draft permit for the first Marcellus Shale compressor station in the county, and already more than a hundred people have expressed concern over what that could mean for air quality.

The planned gas compressor would be located on Kissick Lane, near the Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Frazer Township. A public hearing on the plan is slated for Tuesday evening, and several environmental groups are teaming up to voice their concern.

Impending Deep Frost Just Part of the Season

Mar 26, 2012

With predicted temperatures to hit lows in the mid-20's overnight into Tuesday morning, gardeners and orchard owners have some reason to be concerned.

But Susan Feather, a commercial educator for the Allegheny Extension of Penn State said there is a little bit of an overreaction to the drop in temperatures.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be hosting online information sessions about the implementation of Act 13, also known as House Bill 1950, which was signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett in February.

DEP Says Blast Not Likely To Have Caused Breach Of Flooded Mine

Mar 23, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) does not believe that blasting Wednesday at the Marquise Number 4 mine in Somerset County caused water to burst from a nearby flooded abandoned mine. According to the DEP, the water was not acidic but carried sediment through a street in Shade Township and flooded Dixie Run, a tributary of Stonycreek River.

"The [seismic] monitor 150 feet from the blast would gather anything unusual if the charge was too big or set off some sort of a seismic action," DEP spokesman John Poister said.

DEP Updates Drilling Waste Regulations

Mar 23, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has revised its guidelines for the processing and use of liquid waste from oil and gas sites. The Residual Waste Beneficial Use general permit, an across the board regulation, encourages recycling liquid waste to freshwater standards after it has been used. Liquid waste includes flowback water, drilling muds, and storm water.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said it is easier to transport and use wastewater once it has been processed into freshwater.