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Congressman Mike Doyle announces he’s not seeking re-election

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Matt Nemeth
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90.5 WESA

On today’s program: WESA government and accountability editor Chris Potter adds context to Congressman Mike Doyle’s announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2022; a researcher with the Ohio Valley River Institute tells us why orphaned wells, which are abandoned oil and gas wells, are creating unchecked methane emissions; and Pittsburgh poet and educator Jan Beatty shares the types of loss she felt as an adopted child  in her new memoir, “American Bastard.”

Congressman Mike Doyle will retire at the end of his term, progressive candidates throwing their hat in the ring
(0:00 - 7:00)

Democrat Mike Doyle, the longest serving current member of the U.S. House from Pennsylvania, announced Monday he will retire at the end of his term, which is next year.

Jerry Dickinson, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, declared his intention to run for Doyle’s seat again. In the last election cycle, Doyle beat Dickinson with a strong lead.

“[Dickinson’s] first run for Congress, he had a big, … first quarter report in his 2020 run, and then the money kind of fell off,” says WESA’s government and accountability editor Chris Potter. “That has happened a little bit here as well, but he’s still managed to raise in the six digit range each of the past couple quarters that he’s run.”

On the heels of Doyle’s announcement, State Rep. Summer Lee told WESA she would also be running for the 18th district seat.

“Ms. Lee has been, basically, kind of the standard bearer for an entire progressive movement, the very movement that helped topple Bill Peduto in the May primary, so a lot of people are very excited about her entrance into the race today.”

Potter says Lee’s announcement was planned, regardless of Doyle’s own news of retiring next fall.

So far, no Republicans have thrown their hat into the ring, but Potter says that could change.

Pennsylvania’s population of orphaned wells are a growing problem
(7:10 - 17:09)

There are more than 81,000 orphan wells across the country, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Defense Fund and McGill University.

Pennsylvania has 8,840 of these orphan wells, which are oil and gas wells left unsealed or unplugged without any known owner. Many date back to the first oil boom in the late 1850s, when companies extracted oil from the Ohio River Basin.

“In the wake of that, they left behind possibly hundreds of thousands of wells that were never properly plugged or reclaimed during that period, and we really don't have a good understanding of all those wells,” says Ted Boettner, a senior researcher at Ohio River Valley Institute, where he studies orphan wells.

Boettner says there could be up to a million orphaned wells remaining in the U.S., and many companies who owned them are long gone, so the blame for maintaining them falls on the government.

“Unplugged or improperly plugged orphaned or abandoned gas wells, they can cause extensive environmental damage,” says Boettner. “They can also impose health and safety risks, that’s because they’re leaching pollutants into the air and water.”

Boettner says it can cost up to $150,000 to plug and reclaim a well, although the average cost is $33,000 according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. Some states do allocate money to address the issue, but the cost falters in view of the problem.

“I think the best thing to do is to create some type of program where you’re putting a small tax on oil and gas production into a fund to take care of all of this,” says Boettner.

Jan Beatty’s new memoir touches on the loss she felt as an adopted child
(17:17 - 22:30)

Pittsburgh poet and educator Jan Beatty has a new memoir about her experience as an adoptive child. The book, “American Bastard,” explores the dark side of adoption. 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll began their conversation by asking Beatty about the myths surrounding adoption in the United States.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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