Environment & Energy

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

Greg Sousa / AP

A committee of Pennsylvania Game Commission staff has recommended a statewide ban on feeding white-tailed deer. 

The agency biologists say that banning artificial feeding stations would help slow the spread of wildlife diseases. They're asking residents to voluntarily stop feeding deer.

Pennsylvania Wants To Know What You’re Throwing Away

Aug 20, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania is going dumpster diving as part of two multi-year, statewide studies of the commonwealth's trash and recycling systems.

Research Shows Thousands Could Be Saved With Better Air Quality Standards

Aug 19, 2019
Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

New research from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh shows thousands of lives could be saved each year if air quality standards were tightened.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Environmental activists are asking the Allegheny County Health Department to step up air quality monitoring and enforcement. Advocacy group PennEnvironment released a sweeping report Thursday looking at several decades of enforcement actions. 

Pennsylvania Among States Suing Trump Administration Over New Coal Rules

Aug 13, 2019
Dake Kang / AP

A coalition of 22 Democratic-led states has sued the Trump administration over its decision to ease restrictions on coal-fired power plants.

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency eliminated the agency's Clean Power Plan and replaced it with a new rule that gives states more leeway in deciding upgrades for coal-fired power plants.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, says the new rule violates the federal Clean Air Act because it does not meaningfully replace power plants' greenhouse gas emissions.

Dangerous Philadelphia Refinery Chemical Still Poses Threat To Community

Aug 8, 2019
Emma Lee / WHYY

The dangerous task of disposing of a toxic chemical at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery could put workers and the surrounding community at risk, according to city officials.

Hydrofluoric acid is integral to the creation of high-octane gasoline. It’s used at about 48 alkylation units in the United States — and was used at the South Philadelphia refinery, where an explosion in June destroyed the unit and led to the closure and bankruptcy of the plant.

Neutralization Of Hydrofluoric Acid To Begin At Philly Refinery

Aug 7, 2019
Emma Lee / WHYY

Workers at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia began neutralizing tens of thousands of barrels of a highly toxic chemical this week. The refinery is shutting down after an explosion and fire destroyed part of the plant. The company has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Keith Srakocic / AP

On today’s program: State Republicans are gearing up for the fall session; Sen. Pat Toomey's background check proposal reemerged after recent shootings; PA school districts explain how they're using state security grants; Pitt’s Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences is trying to find green infrastructure solutions; and a few television stations in Pittsburgh are changing frequencies.

Rachel Gobep / 90.5 WESA

A former Pittsburgh-area country club that closed six years ago is reverting back to nature, and a local nonprofit wants to protect the space for the community to enjoy. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

A gas company is taking the blame for an explosion near Pittsburgh that reduced a home to a pile of rubble and injured five people.

Columbia Gas says they failed to install a key piece of equipment in the home while workers nearby upgraded a gas main.

Mike Huwar, the company's president, says workers didn't realize the home was connected to the section of gas main that was being worked on, and a pressure regulator was never added to the home.

He says when the new system was engaged the elevated pressure led to a leak and caused Wednesday's blast.

Scott Lamar / WITF

Environmental advocates and an energy company said Wednesday they reached an agreement to clean up and stop pollution from a coal ash waste site on the Susquehanna River in southcentral Pennsylvania.

The settlement requires Talen Energy Corp. to pay a $1 million civil penalty to the state and remediate contamination at the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station facility in York Haven.

The company also must track and fix seepage from coal ash storage.

Keith Srakocic / AP

An explosion believed to have been caused by a gas leak reduced a western Pennsylvania home to a pile of rubble and injured five people, authorities said.

Into The Bog: Scientists Are Trying To Learn More About Unique Peatland Ecosystems

Jul 31, 2019
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

When I meet up with a group of scientists in the parking lot of Laurel Summit State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania, there are clues about where we’re headed. 


A Salt Lake City-based company is in talks to purchase and dismantle Three Mile Island's long-mothballed Unit 2 reactor -- the site of the nation's worst nuclear accident in 1979.

Cities, Attorneys General Call For New Leader Of Power Grid Operator To Focus On Clean Energy

Jul 26, 2019
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

After Andy Ott, CEO of PJM Interconnection, stepped down last month, the power grid operator has received appeals from around the country to ensure its next leader prioritizes clean energy.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

On today’s program: The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership wants to study how downtown streets could be used in the future; a look back at Karen Hacker’s time at the Allegheny County Health Department; kids and adults with autism have a new place to relax at Pittsburgh International Airport; a fungus bugging cicadas has psychedelic properties; and how a federal proposal to change SNAP could affect Pennsylvanians.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Scientists and regulators appeared before Pennsylvania state lawmakers Wednesday to discuss the environmental impacts of the fire that ripped through Philadelphia Energy Solutions last month, and they almost universally made the same recommendation.

Kathleen J. Davis / WESA

The city of Pittsburgh is piloting a new glass recycling drop-off program, in an effort to reduce contamination in single stream recycling.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A drop-off site for hard-to-recycle electronics and hazardous waste opens Wednesday in the Strip District. The city of Pittsburgh initiative will be located at 3001 Railroad Street near the 31st Street Bridge.

Court Issues Split Decision On Natural Gas Drilling Rules

Jul 23, 2019
Keith Srakocic / AP

A state court on Monday upheld portions of Pennsylvania regulations that address Marcellus shale natural gas drilling, although the judges also sided with some of the arguments made by an industry group.

Davey Tree Company

Prolonged periods of rain and over-saturation of tree roots can cause root rot, which can impact a tree’s ability to consume water and nutrients. 

Deadly Heat Waves In Store For Pennsylvania Unless Climate Action Is Taken, Report Says

Jul 22, 2019
Brynn Anderson / AP

Pennsylvania faces unprecedented, deadly heat waves in the coming decades unless aggressive action is taken to combat climate change, according to a new report published Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

State Officials Ask For Public's Help Combatting Spotted Lanternfly

Jul 19, 2019
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state officials are asking for the public’s help in controlling the spotted lanternfly — an invasive insect that is both a nuisance and a threat to crops.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday for a tour of an area in Harrisburg infested with spotted lanternflies, to highlight how the state is dealing with it.

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

At a campaign rally in Erie last fall, President Donald Trump diverged from his usual talking points and brought up a seemingly dull issue: sand.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

It’s going to be really hot in Pittsburgh this weekend. Beginning Friday temperatures will rise, making it feel like upwards of 100 degrees, and state officials are warning of an increased risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke

Coal-Fired Power Plant Putting Too-Hot Water Into River, Groups Say

Jul 17, 2019
Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Sierra Club is threatening to sue the owners of a coal-fired power plant near Pittsburgh for releasing water that is too hot into the Allegheny River.

The group sent a Clean Water Act 60-day “Notice of Intent” to sue letter to the plant’s owners. It warned of legal action if the plant doesn’t meet requirements under its pollution discharge permits.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy released a multi-year plan Monday to spend more than $50 million on maintaining, rehabilitating and operating Pittsburgh's 165 parks. However, the plan is contingent on the November passage of a ballot initiative to create a Parks Trust Fund.

Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

A significant algal bloom is expected to develop in western Lake Erie later this month, though it's unlikely to impact the eastern part of the lake, which borders Pennsylvania.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's governor says his administration doesn't plan to spend any state money to help restart a massive Philadelphia refinery shut down since explosions and a blaze damaged it last month.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday that his administration is analyzing whether the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex can be restarted.

The administration says barriers to getting it back in operation include the fire damage, safety and contamination concerns and competition from more modern refineries.

So Long Clean Power Plan. It Was Nice Knowing You.

Jul 11, 2019
Andy Kubis / The Allegheny Front

It feels like a million years ago, but once upon a time the Obama administration created a sweeping rule to curb carbon emissions from the power sector. That would have dealt a big blow to coal-fired power plants around the country.