Environment & Energy

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

DEP Fines Landfill Near Pittsburgh For Problems Tied To Fracking Waste

Feb 19, 2020
Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined a Westmoreland County landfill that had been passing pollution from oil and gas drilling waste into a local sewage treatment plant. 

On a recent soggy Wednesday evening, dozens of West Virginians packed a conference room inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center to discuss the need for a “just transition” for coal-impacted communities.

As the nation grapples with climate change, the need for a fair transition for workers and communities that depend upon coal jobs and revenue has also gained traction.

Catalina Jaramillo / WHYY

The commonwealth plans to step up litter prevention efforts, following a novel study.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Some Pennsylvania environmental groups are dissatisfied with an agreement that the Allegheny County Health Department and U.S. Steel finalized earlier this week. The settlement addresses emissions violations at the manufacturing giant's Clairton Coke Works.

Mark Dixon

The Allegheny County Health Department has reached a final settlement agreement and order with U.S. Steel over air pollution violations at the Clairton Coke Works, part of the larger Mon Valley Works system. The settlement was issued in June of 2019 to address ongoing emissions problems at the plant.

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

A local medical relief nonprofit has taken a step to use renewable energy in its operations. Global Links, based in Green Tree, recently installed more than 100 solar panels on its roof.

Gov. Wolf's Budget Proposes Boosting Staff At Several Of PA's Environmental Departments

Feb 5, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed money for additional staffing at the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and he renewed his support for a package of pipeline reforms, in his annual budget released Tuesday.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Since his second term began last year, there’s been a theme for Tom Wolf’s tenure as Pennsylvania’s governor: climate change. 

Rachel Gobep / 90.5 WESA

Outdoorsy Pennsylvanians can soon keep their fishing license in a pocket rather than having to attach it to an outer garment.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania state senators held a hearing Wednesday to discuss the possibility of joining a regional proposal to limit the transportation sector's greenhouse gas emissions. 

Trump Administration Rescinds Protections For Streams And Wetlands

Jan 24, 2020

The Trump administration announced it’s finalizing a rollback of a major Obama Era rule that clarified which waterways can be regulated by the Clean Water Act.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled to uphold a legal principle that allows drillers to drain oil and natural gas from outside their property lines.

The court overturned a 2018 decision by the lower Superior Court on Wednesday that said the “rule of capture" does not cover hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a method of extracting natural gas from underground rock.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact PA

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection is forecasting Thursday to be a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day for the Liberty-Clairton area. A higher than normal level of fine particulate matter is expected.

"Young children, the elderly, those with respiratory problems will be especially vulnerable," said DEP spokesperson Beth Rementer.

Study: Replacing Coal Plants With Natural Gas Cut Pollution, Saved Lives

Jan 21, 2020

A new study found closing hundreds of coal fired power plants and replacing them with natural gas plants saved thousands of lives around the country.

Jonathan Elderfield / AP

Some state legislators are expressing concerns about funding gaps for Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Allegheny County Health Department officials have again issued fines against U.S. Steel for air pollution and permit violations that occurred at U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works last year.

Redlining’s Ongoing Harm: Intensifying Impact Of Climate Change, New Study Says

Jan 17, 2020
Emma Lee / WHYY

The legacy of the discriminatory federal housing policy known as redlining continues to deprive some urban neighborhoods of investment. Now, a new study maps how that former policy exacerbates the impacts of climate change.

Study Finds Spotted Lanternfly Costing Pennsylvania $50M Annually

Jan 17, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

The spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest from Asia that is wreaking havoc on valuable trees and vines, is costing the Pennsylvania economy about $50 million and eliminating nearly 500 jobs each year, according to a Penn State study released Thursday.

Pennsylvania Orders Gas Well Plugged In Fight Over Methane

Jan 14, 2020
Andrew Rush / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration on Monday told Range Resources that it must fix a Marcellus Shale natural gas well “once and for all” that it maintains has leaked methane since 2011 and contaminated groundwater and streams in north-central Pennsylvania.

Wolf's Department of Environmental Protection in 2015 issued — and then later rescinded — $8.9 million in fines over the well to its Fort Worth, Texas-based owner, which contends that the Lycoming County well is not the source of the methane contamination.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Lower prices for natural gas last year will mean a 21% drop in drilling fee revenue for Pennsylvania's state programs and county and municipal governments even as production grew from exploration in the vast Marcellus Shale reservoir, according to new state estimates.

Jacqueline Larma / AP

Pennsylvania may soon join a regional program meant to limit greenhouse gas emissions and increase investments in green transportation.

State Levels Record $30M Fine Against Pipeline Company Responsible For Beaver County Blast

Jan 3, 2020
Reid Frazier / StateImpact PA

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced an agreement Friday that includes a record fine against the company responsible for a 2018 natural gas pipeline explosion in Beaver County. 

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

The Allegheny County Health Department has announced a new effort to fight weather-related air pollution events. The move follows six consecutive December days of small particle pollution exceedances downwind of U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works, which were linked to temperature inversions in the Mon Valley.

Natural Gas Production Headed For A Slow-Down In 2020

Dec 30, 2019
Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The region’s Marcellus and Utica shale gas producers had a banner year in 2019.  Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia together accounted for one-third of the nation’s natural gas production. But a likely slow-down is ahead in 2020.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

All babies born at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland from now until the end of January will have five trees planted in their honor. The effort is through the nonprofit Plant Five for Life, which has a lofty long-term goal of planting trees for every baby born in Allegheny County.

RiverWise Brings Sustainability To Beaver County

Dec 19, 2019

Beaver County is going through some big changes. Shell is building a multibillion-dollar ethane cracker which will use ethane from the region’s natural gas to produce the building blocks of plastic. The plant will bring an anticipated 600 jobs to the region, but also air and water pollution.

John Minchillo / AP

A coke plant in northwestern Pennsylvania turned away employees who showed up for work Thursday morning, signaling the apparent shutdown of an operation that had faced mounting regulatory pressure over its environmental record.

Scotland Is Turning Pennsylvania Shale Gas Into Plastic. But What Happens To It Next?

Dec 18, 2019
Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

It’s a windy day on the Firth of Forth, a wide river estuary in central Scotland, and Jasper Hamlet is jabbing at the sand on Ferrycraigs Beach with a stick. He peels back layers of sand, dried seaweed, and sticks, and finds what he’s looking for: plastic pellets called “nurdles.” 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Giant Eagle's plastic blue bags are a common sight in Pittsburgh, often curbside on recycling day, used to pick up dog poop or sometimes cast aside on the street. Not for long — Giant Eagle told WESA that the company is stepping away from these bags and other plastics, in a large move to be announced Tuesday afternoon.

Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

A new study by Carnegie Mellon University finds that in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia region, the economic boost from shale gas drilling has been less than the cost of premature deaths caused by pollution from the industry.