Environment & Energy

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

Gene J. Puskar / AP

U.S. Steel has announced it aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030. The plan relies in large part on upgrades at two large facilities near Pittsburgh.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, is attempting to quantify what climate change will cost Pennsylvania.


The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed relaxing two Obama-era regulations on waste products from coal-fired power plants, a move environmental groups say would prolong the risk of toxic spills or drinking water contamination.

How Much Plastic Waste Is Ending Up In Rivers? This Researcher Wants To Know

Nov 5, 2019
Julie Grant / Allegheny Front

As Shell Chemical is building a new plastics production plant in western Pennsylvania, there’s been outrage worldwide over environmental problems caused by increasing plastic pollution. Pictures of impacted wildlife like those of turtles with plastic straws in their nostrils have led to political action around plastic in the oceans.

Screengrab via U.S. Geological Survey map

Federal officials say a small earthquake in eastern Pennsylvania didn't cause any damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the 1.6 magnitude quake occurred around 10:50 p.m. Sunday near Wyomissing Hills in Berks County.

Several residents reported hearing a loud boom and said the quake shook bookshelves and caused their doors to briefly rattle.

Officials say earthquakes with a magnitude between 1.0 and 3.0 aren't typically felt by residents.

National Science Foundation

Pennsylvania’s ecosystem has already been permanently altered due to climate change, but it’s not too late to act before these changes become unmanageable, experts say. 

Coal Giant Murray Energy Seeks Bankruptcy Protection

Oct 29, 2019
Jae C. Hong / AP

A major U.S. coal mining company, whose former CEO became a big supporter of President Donald Trump in his effort to save coal jobs, is seeking bankruptcy protection.

Report: ExxonMobil Scouting Property For 2nd Cracker Plant In Beaver County

Oct 17, 2019
Picture of ethane "cracker"

ExxonMobil is reportedly looking for land to build a large chemical plant in Beaver County. 

Katie Meyer / WITF

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf got some unexpected visitors Wednesday—or at least, the hallway outside his office did.

Emma Lee / WHYY

An outdated piece of pipe that had corroded so much its sides were the width of half a credit card led to the catastrophic explosion and fire at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in June, according to a new report out Wednesday by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

Matt Rourke / AP

Federal investigators said Wednesday that an aging, failed elbow pipe appears to be the initial cause of a June 21 fire and subsequent explosions that injured five people and destroyed part of the processing unit at the largest oil refinery on the East Coast.


A long-delayed proposal to create a public registry of oil and gas leases in Allegheny County still faces hurdles after county councilors met to discuss it Tuesday. The bill would require landholders to report where they lease property for fracking and oil drilling.

How Philadelphia Built A Neighborhood On Toxic Soil

Oct 15, 2019
Kimberly Painter / WHYY

Earl Wilson fought for two decades to hear the rumble of excavators and bulldozers in his Eastwick backyard.

USFWS Midwest Region / Flickr

Forty percent of Pennsylvania's birds are directly threatened by climate change, a new report from the Audubon Society finds. The sweeping paper estimates two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction due to a warming planet.

This Erie Biology Professor Led A Campaign Against A Coke Plant In His Community

Oct 3, 2019
Ed Mahon / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Some of the wildflowers in the overgrown field reach Mike Campbell’s head.

He walked through them one recent day, pointing out where to watch for railroad tracks, as he got closer to Erie Coke.

It’s an industrial plant on the shore of one of the Great Lakes where workers turn coal into a key ingredient for steel manufacturing. The operation has a long history of environmental violations, and it survived a shut-down attempt by state regulators almost a decade ago.

It’s now being targeted again — in part thanks to Campbell and a group he helped start.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

At the top of a hillside on his 200-acre cattle farm in Greene County, southwestern Pennsylvania, George Watson peered over a well pad on his property.

Andrew Harnik / AP

On today's program: Mayor Peduto returns from the world stage on climate action; robotics and AI are helping power a local agriculture company; Pittsburgh restaurants are helping restore the Chesapeake Bay; the state Supreme Court declines to abolish capital punishment in PA; and a reporter hopes to find tangible solutions to child poverty in the region. 

Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

Jessica Lewis says shucking an oyster is like picking a lock.

Courtesy of Riverlife

On today's program: Riverlife's new CEO says development is critical to riverfront protection; how federal refugee caps are affecting Pennsylvania's immigrants; why Jewish New Year celebrations are being celebrated at a Christian sanctuary; Sen. Bob Casey says Dems can't put progressive ideas ahead of actually winning the election; and the nation's first openly transgender swimmer on what it took to compete in the NCAA.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have been found in six Pennsylvania counties, along with one human case.

Reed Saxon / AP

The Trump administration’s new plan to repeal an Obama-era clean water regulation has been met with deeply mixed reactions in Pennsylvania, and across the country.

17 States Sue Feds Over Endangered Species Act Rules

Sep 25, 2019
National Parks Service / AP

Seventeen states sued the Trump administration Wednesday to block rules weakening the Endangered Species Act, saying the changes would make it tougher to protect wildlife even in the midst of a global extinction crisis.

Philadelphia Refinery Site Declared Under Control 3 Months After Fire, Explosion

Sep 25, 2019
Emma Lee / WHYY

The site of a refinery explosion and fire that rocked South Philadelphia last June and led to the refinery’s shutdown is now under control.

Grant Eldridge / Audubon Photography Awards

On today's program: New prison parole policies could follow in the wake of recent homicides; a deadly mosquito-born virus has moved into Pennsylvania; Open Doors Pittsburgh returns with new spaces and insider tours; and what locals can do to support disappearing migratory bird populations.

Joe Ulrich / WITF

With the Three Mile Island nuclear plant officially closed and off the power grid, nuclear advocates are turning their attention to Pennsylvania’s four other plants.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Students and adults filled the street in front of Pittsburgh’s City-County Building downtown on Friday as part of the global Climate Strike. Speakers included 18-year-old Leandra Mira of Upper St. Clair, who organized Pittsburgh’s protest and called on lawmakers to take action in fighting climate change.

Courtesy of Tree Pittsburgh

On today's program: Tree Pittsburgh looks to a giveaway to help the city's tree canopy; a philosopher tries to understand climate science deniers and change their minds; NPR's David Greene peeps the upcoming hockey season; how Pittsburgh isn’t preparing for potential climate migration; and a new immersive theatre project explores how AI affects modern life and whether humans have a say. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, or ALCOSAN, revealed its plans to reduce sewage overflows by 7 billion gallons by 2036. The announcement Thursday began with something unusual: a round of applause for the sewage treatment plant.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant's Shutdown Is Imminent

Sep 19, 2019
Bradley C. Bower / AP

The shutdown of Three Mile Island, site of the United States' worst commercial nuclear power accident, is imminent. 

The Philosophy Of Climate Denial

Sep 19, 2019
Natacha Pisarenko / AP

How do you change the minds of climate deniers and people who doubt the scientific process in general? We ask a philosopher of science for some answers.

Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and a Lecturer in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. He has written books about defending science and fighting back against “alternative facts.”