Environment & Energy

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

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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.

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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.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

When the power goes out, calls to local utility companies come flooding in from people like Joan Petrillo, manager of Martindale’s Natural Market in Springfield near Philadelphia.

Official: Pennsylvania 'Clearly Behind' In Pollution Goals

Aug 8, 2018
Brian Witte / AP

A senior environmental official in Pennsylvania said Tuesday that his state is "clearly behind" in reaching goals of cutting pollution that flows downstream into the Chesapeake Bay by 2025, weeks after heavy rains brought a stunning amount of debris into Maryland.

Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, made the comment at a meeting in Baltimore of officials from six states in the bay watershed. Maryland officials last week had blasted Pennsylvania and other upstream states, accusing them of not doing more to stop pollution flow.

Mel Evans / AP

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are launching a $4.3 million fund to support conservation efforts in the Delaware River watershed.

PA Dept. of Agriculture

Pennsylvania agriculture officials are working to control the spread of the spotted lanternfly.

WHTM-TV reports the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Monday explained the containment plan Monday in Harrisburg. According to officials, $3 million in state funds and $17.5 million in federal funding will go towards education and research. The state will conduct a $1.9 million survey to make sure the insect isn't spreading.

Jakob Lazzaro / 90.5 WESA

It’s a hot July day and 86-year-old John Zavacky is chatting with friends in the South Side Market House’s Senior Center. In the background, an air conditioner hums while drawing the warm outside air into the cavernous main room.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

At the edge of a field in Washington County, a group of archaeology students picked away at a shallow pit on a recent afternoon, searching for fragments of history hundreds of years old.

Study Shows Area The Size Of Delaware Affected By Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Jul 27, 2018
SkyTruth

“As far as we know, this is really the first time that there’s been this yearly dataset for central Appalachia,” said Andrew Pericak, a research analyst at Duke University and lead author of the new study.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

State environmental officials have ordered three companies to plug more than 1,000 abandoned oil and gas wells.

Wells in Pennsylvania are considered abandoned when they have been inactive for more than a year. Left unattended, they can pose safety hazards or leak and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennslvania

Pennsylvania's state forests agency says it isn't finding damage to waterways amid the expansion of natural gas drilling in recent years, although it is reporting a growth of invasive plants where land is being cleared.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Wednesday in a new report that its water chemistry analysis hasn't provided evidence that shale gas development has degraded the quality of waterways in state forests in the core gas forest districts.

However, it says the presence and quantities of invasive plants are on the rise.

Pennsylvania Town Raises Stink Over Factory Hog Farm

Jul 25, 2018
Gerry Broome / AP

When Allen Houck retired last year, he moved back to his grandparents farm, in the hills of Todd Township, Huntingdon County.

Courtesy of DSU

Hurricane season is officially underway, but its peak won’t arrive until mid to late August. The National Weather Service predicts this year’s range of storms will be about average, possibly above average, with 10 to 16 named storms and one to four major hurricanes.

Those predictions use sophisticated computer modeling, but other prognosticators look to the trees in compiling their forecasts.

Courtesy of Allegheny CleanWays

Allegheny County has 1,404 tons of illegally dumped trash, according to a new survey from Allegheny CleanWays and the county board of health.

Curious Or Concerned About An Energy Issue? Ask Us — And See What We’ve Already Answered

Jul 20, 2018

In StateImpact Pennsylvania’s answer map, reporters answer your questions about the energy industry. Here’s how to use the map:

  • Click ‘OK’ below and then click on an icon to go right to that question.
  • Double-click on areas of the map to enlarge it and see more icons.
  • Below the map, you can scroll through the pages to see each question.
  • To ask a question, scroll to the form at the bottom of this page.

 

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