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WESA Daily Briefing: September 15, 2020

Erin Keane Scott
90.5 WESA

News on the coronavirus pandemic, protests, 2020 election and more from around Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and southwestern Pennsylvania. 

Find all of the WESA Daily Briefing posts here

Editor's note: This post will be frequently updated with the latest news.



2:45 p.m. - Pa. closer to joining regional effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants

The Environmental Quality Board approved a draft regulation to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The vote opens the next phase in the long regulatory process.

Regulators plan to hold five public hearings and the proposed rule will be open to public comment for 60 days.

Those comments will likely reflect the fierce debate already playing out over the program, known as RGGI.

Opponents like Republican Senator Gene Yaw dispute that it will have any effect in mitigating climate change, because other places remain unregulated.

“So what are we doing by closing a few plants here? I mean, it makes no sense whatsoever,” Yaw said.

Supporters say Pennsylvania, the fourth-largest emitter in the US, must do its part to curb emissions.

After the comment period, the Department of Environmental Protection will revise the rule before presenting a final version to the oversight board.

If that’s approved, Pennsylvania could join RGGI by 2022.

2:34 p.m. - Lawsuit alleges abuse of inmates with psychiatric disabilities

A new federal lawsuit accuses Allegheny County Jail employees of mistreating inmates with psychiatric disabilities. Five people incarcerated at the jail filed the suit today. They accuse staff of denying mental health treatment to inmates, and of mis-managing their psychiatric medications.

The suit also alleges that corrections officers use stun guns, mace, and restraint chairs to punish people who request treatment. The county declined to comment.

2:00 p.m. - Three Pittsburgh activists charged for actions stemming from protest downtown

Monique Craft, who goes by Nique, Shawn Green, who goes by Lorenzo Rulli and Kenneth McDowell were charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and simple trespassing and theft. In a video posted on social media, Craft and Rulli can be seen walking onto a downtown restaurant patio and confronting patrons. At one point, Craft takes a beer off a table and drinks it. Rulli can be seen yelling at a couple.

The video went viral and President Trump later retweeted it, calling the activists “anarchists” and “thugs.” The protesters say the video didn’t capture the whole incident and that they were being harassed by the patrons.

1:42 p.m. - Wildfire smoke from West Coast creates haze in Pittsburgh

The Western wildfires are having an impact locally, casting a haze over the Pittsburgh region.  Meteorologist Lee Hendricks with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh says the jet stream is dragging smoke from those fires across the plains and into the Great Lakes area.

“At this point it looks like at least through mid-week we don’t see much of a change with that smoke dissipating over the area,” Hendricks said.  “The only impact we have is a maybe minor decrease in temperatures in the order of one or two degrees.”

1:23 p.m. - Yuengling, America's oldest brewer, invades the West Coast

Hey West Coast beer lovers, it's pronounced YING-ling.

D.G. Yuengling and Son, America's oldest operating brewer, is sending some cold ones your way for the first time since it began making beer in 1829.

The brewery, about two hours northwest of Philadelphia, announced a joint venture with Molson Coors on Tuesday to break out beyond its traditional 22-state distribution area in the East.

Raising beers to toast the new partnership with the Pennsylvania brewer, Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley said, “We’re going to make a whole lot of Yuengling fans out West really happy.”

The family-owned brewery known for its cheap German-style lager will remain independent. A six-member board of directors — three from Yuengling and three from Molson Coors Beverage Co. — will oversee Yuengling’s expansion starting in the second half of 2021.

Credit Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Yuengling has two breweries in Pennsylvania and one in Florida. Molson Coors, the nation’s second-largest brewer, has seven primary breweries and six craft breweries.

The partnership gives Molson Coors a popular brand at a time when beer sales have gone flat. Beer sales fell 2% in the U.S. last year, with canned cocktails and hard seltzers gaining popularity, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group.

The companies said they will announce in a few months which western states will get Yuengling first.

Jennifer Yuengling, vice president of operations and a sixth generation brewer, said the companies have talked of partnering for some time, and the time is right.

11:23 a.m. - Allegheny County reports 90 new COVID-19 cases

The Allegheny County Health Department said the new cases were out of 926 tests. There was one death reported. The Health Department said the death of the individual in their 70s was "associated with a long-term care facility."

The median age of the new cases is 27 years old. 

Statewide, there were 1,151 additional positive cases, bringing the total to 146,214.

10:35 a.m. - Mailed ballots can't be discarded over signature, state says

 With concerns rising in Pennsylvania that thousands of mail-in ballots will be discarded in the presidential election over technicalities, state officials told counties that they cannot reject a ballot solely because an election official believes a signature doesn’t match the signature in the voter’s file.

The new guidance from Pennsylvania’s Department of State also prompted the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh to drop a lawsuit in federal court Monday. The groups had sought to ensure that voters have the chance to fix ballots that are either missing signatures or flagged for a perceived signature mismatch.

Read more here.

8:21 a.m. - Lancaster mayor calls for change following shooting death

Lancaster’s mayor is calling on the governor and General Assembly to address systemic problems in policing and mental health services after police shot and killed 27-year-old Ricardo Munoz during a domestic violence complaint over the weekend. 

An officer was called to Munoz’s home on Laurel Street fter they received a domestic violence disturbance complaint.

Body cam footage shows Munoz charging at the officer with a knife before being shot.

Munoz’s sister says her brother has struggled with schizophrenia for years.

Mayor Danene Sorace says the incident  makes clear the need to address a larger issues in mental health and income inequality.

“A third, or more like half, depending on how you measure it, of our city residents live below the poverty line,” Sorace said.

Lancaster is the only police department in the county with a social worker and an additional hire in process.

The officer involved in the incident has been placed on leave — per department policy.

7:02 a.m. - Pennsylvania could have a new guidelines for how to teach science in public schools

If approved, it would be the first set of standards to acknowledge climate change.

Pennsylvania hasn’t changed its science standards since 2002.

Jeff Remington, a science teacher from Lebanon County, says the current standards are great if, “You wanted the population of Pennsylvania to win on Jeopardy, Ok? But we want innovation.”

To get that, Remington and other science teachers say you need less focus on facts and memorization and more on how scientists think and experiment.

The new standards emphasize this. And they show how different scientific disciplines like Chemistry and Biology are not distinct, but interrelated.

The new standards would also be Pennsylvania’s first to mention climate change. And they have to be approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature, some of whose members have questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.

6:54 a.m. -  Steelers hold sign, many Giants kneel for national anthem

The Pittsburgh Steelers held a banner with an anti-racism message and at least 19 New York Giants players knelt during the playing of the national anthem before Monday night's game at MetLife Stadium.

The Steelers remained in their locker room and the Giants stood in an end zone some 25 minutes earlier when the Black anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was played.

During the national anthem, the Steelers stood side by side while a group of players held a white banner with the words “Steelers Against Racism.”

The Giants' defensive players were mostly the ones who knelt during the anthem. Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson was on a knee with a hand across his heart.

Giants co-owner John Mara said last week he preferred for his team to stand for the national anthem but said he would support anyone who felt the need to protest for equality.

The Steelers beat the Giants 26-16.