Environment & Energy

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

Curbside Glass Recycling May Become A Thing Of The Past

12 hours ago

In some western Pennsylvania communities, glass is no longer being collected curbside with cans and paper as part of residential recycling programs. So a statewide environmental group is offering a solution.

Joanne Cassaro / WITF

The nuclear watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert is asking federal regulators to analyze what the group calls a “potentially dangerous and risky condition” with new steam generator tubes at Exelon’s Three Mile Island power plant near Harrisburg.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The partial meltdown of one of Three Mile Island’s nuclear reactors 40 years ago this month left areas of the facility highly radioactive and inaccessible to humans.

Along came a group of young researchers with an idea to send in robots to fix the damage.

Red Whittaker led the team at Carnegie Mellon University, where from time to time he still works on robots for the nuclear industry.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

After U.S. Steel said repairs at Clairton Coke Works are a month ahead of schedule, the Allegheny County Health Department on Tuesday revised an order against the company that required it to significantly curb emissions from its Mon Valley Works facilities.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's attorney general is opening an investigation into a $2.5 billion natural gas liquids pipeline across southern Pennsylvania that's been plagued by spills of drilling fluid and improper construction methods.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said on Twitter on Tuesday that his office is taking the investigation into the Mariner East 2 pipeline on a referral from Delaware County's district attorney.

The pipeline has been operating for just over two months and is owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer.

State Reaches $7M Agreement Over 1,400 Abandoned Oil And Gas Wells

Mar 12, 2019
Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it reached an agreement with an Alabama company over the costs of plugging 1,400 abandoned conventional oil and gas wells in the state.

Chester County Pipeline Builder Now The Target Of Grand Jury Investigation

Mar 6, 2019
Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Energy Transfer, parent company of Sunoco Logistics and builder of the Mariner East natural gas liquids pipelines, is the target of a Chester County grand jury investigation.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

State environmental officials have levied a $1.5 million fine against a natural gas pipeline company for problems at a construction site in Greene County.

U.S. Steel Appeals Order To Lower Its Sulfur Emissions

Mar 2, 2019
Reid Frazier / StateImpact PA

US Steel is appealing an order from the Allegheny County Health Department to curb sulfur dioxide emissions at several of its Pittsburgh-area facilities, after a Christmas Eve fire damaged pollution controls at its Clairton Coke Works.

Since the fire, emissions of sulfur dioxide from US Steel’s facilities in Clairton, Braddock, and West Mifflin have ballooned to five times the amount normally allowed under their county air pollution permits.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Allegheny County Health Department is requiring U.S. Steel to curb sulfur dioxide emissions at several Pittsburgh-area facilities following a December fire that damaged pollution control equipment at its plant in Clairton.

Ash Loggers Race Against Time Before Beetles Get Them All

Feb 28, 2019
Michael Hill / AP

Loggers in snowy forests are cutting down ash like there's no tomorrow, seeking to stay one step ahead of a fast-spreading beetle killing the tree in dozens of states.

Energy Transfer CEO: 'We've Made Mistakes' In Building Mariner East

Feb 27, 2019
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Sunoco’s parent company admitted it made mistakes in building the Mariner East pipelines through Pennsylvania, and told investors that it will do better in future, but its assurances failed to persuade critics that the project will become any safer for the public or more protective of the environment.

UPDATE: PWSA lifted the flush and boil water advisory for the western neighborhoods on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority issued a precautionary boil water advisory for parts of the Duquesne Heights, Elliott, Ridgemont, West End and Mount Washington neighborhoods. The advisory came after PWSA reported a water main break in Duquesne Heights this afternoon. 

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The Allegheny County Health Department has been criticized in community meetings and at a state legislative policy hearing for a lack of communication in the first several days after a Christmas Eve fire at Clairton Coke Works. How can outreach improve, what’s being done to repair the plant, and how can Pittsburghers protect themselves from emissions?

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh researchers are working on potentially cheaper ways to capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants.

So-called “clean coal” technology is expensive, but some experts say it’s crucial to address climate change.


Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and a nearby Department of Energy lab collaborated to model membranes that could be used to filter exhaust gas from power plants.


Woman Who Sued Natural Gas Driller Range Resources Testifies Before Grand Jury

Feb 25, 2019
Mark Schmerling / Protecting Our Waters

Stephanie Hallowich, a Washington County woman who sued Range Resources and two other companies in 2010 over alleged air and water contamination at her Mt. Pleasant, Pa. home, testified before an investigative grand jury in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, said her attorney, Peter Villari.

The Pageant Queen On An Environmental Mission

Feb 22, 2019
Kara Holsopple

There is no one way to be an environmentalist, and no one knows that better than Rachel Rakovan.

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Of the 8 million vehicles registered in Pennsylvania, just 15,000 of them are electric.

Solar Jobs Grow In Pennsylvania, While Declining Nationally

Feb 18, 2019
Emma Lee / WHYY

Jobs in Pennsylvania’s solar industry grew 10 percent last year, while declining three percent nationally, according to a new analysis.

Study: Healthier Diets Lower In Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Feb 14, 2019
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Many people assume a healthy diet is also good for the environment. A recently published study lends some credence to that conventional wisdom.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A pair of environmental groups say they plan to sue U.S. Steel following the December fire at Clairton Coke Works that damaged pollution control equipment.

Audubon Society of Western Pa. / PixController

Pittsburgh's pair of bald eagles now have their first egg of the year.

Ohio River Compact Considers Vote To Eliminate Its Pollution Standards

Feb 13, 2019
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Radio

A multi-state commission charged with ensuring water quality in the Ohio River will consider whether to eliminate its pollution control standards at its meeting on Thursday. 

Amy Sisk / StateImpact Pennsylvania

If power plants that burn fossil fuels could capture their carbon emissions and store them somewhere, it would go a long way toward preventing greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.

That would dramatically lessen the effects of climate change. While many scientists and engineers in Pennsylvania work to develop this cutting-edge technology, it’s slow to roll out and so far exists only outside the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania Permits Halted For Texas-Based Pipeline Company

Feb 8, 2019
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is halting construction permits for natural gas pipelines operated by Texas-based Energy Transfer LP, saying the company isn't fixing problems related to an explosion last year.

Green New Deal. You've Heard The Phrase. Here's What It Means

Feb 8, 2019
J. Scott Applewhite / AP


Green New Deal is hot right now. It’s not a policy, or even a bill–it’s more of an idea.

Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr

As the planet warms, regional wildflowers are in danger of declining.

Amy Sisk / WESA

Steelworkers and residents of the Mon Valley packed the Clairton Municipal Building Thursday afternoon for a lengthy hearing convened by Democratic state lawmakers over recent air quality problems stemming from the December fire at Clairton Coke Works.

Lawmakers Seek Support For Nuclear Bailout Bill

Feb 6, 2019
Joanne Cassaro / WITF

Pennsylvania lawmakers are taking the first steps toward introducing legislation aimed at bailing out Pennsylvania’s nuclear power industry.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Twenty Pennsylvania counties are under a state-imposed Code Orange Air Quality alert, including Allegheny, Beaver, Westmoreland and Washington counties. This is due to higher than normal levels of fine particulate pollution, which are tiny particles that can be inhaled and cause health problems.