What The Infrastructure Bill Could Mean For PA Amtrak Expansion

Amtrak train at Bryn Mawr, Pa. traveling westbound towards Pittsburgh
Wikimedia Commons photo by Tam0031

By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper

President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on Nov. 15, which would funnel federal funds to a bevy of infrastructure projects across the country. Pennsylvania is due to get money for roads, bridges, public transit, broadband, and more. For Pittsburgh, it could mean funding busway extensions, new highway interchanges, and sewage and stormwater improvements.

But another big winner in the bill is Amtrak. The national train provider is set to receive $66 billion in funding that will go to fleet acquisition, state grants, rail projects, and improvements across the Amtrak system, says Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn in an interview with NBC News.

What that means for Pennsylvania is likely to be worked out over time, as agreements have to be reached with private rail companies and likely additional state funding should be allocated.

However, Amtrak has already provided a plan for expansion in case the infrastructure bill was passed. And Amtrak officials have said the funding allocated should be enough to move forward with these plans.

And Pennsylvania is a clear winner in that Amtrak proposal. The Keystone State could see 15 new train round trips under Amtrak’s 2035 Vision Plan, and that includes three new routes serving cities in Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as additional trips to and from Pittsburgh.

The 15 additional train round trips in Pennsylvania as proposed by Amtrak are:


1 new round trip between Pittsburgh and New York City, which includes an extension to Cleveland
1 new round trip between Cleveland and Buffalo, that would travel through Erie
3 new round trips between Scranton and NYC
3 new round trips between Reading and Philadelphia
2 new round trips between Allentown and NYC
5 new round trips between Harrisburg and NYC on the Keystone Service

For Pittsburgh, this would add intercity service to Cleveland that leaves and arrives at a reasonable hour. Currently, rail travel between the two Rust Belt cities is done between midnight and 5 a.m.

Adding another round trip between Pittsburgh and New York City could also provide options for commuters in Westmoreland or Cambria counties to travel by rail into Pittsburgh. Currently, the Pennsylvanian train arrives in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. and leaves towards Harrisburg at 7:30 a.m.

But Eastern Pennsylvania is the real winner in the Amtrak proposal. Three new lines have been proposed that would expand train service into Scranton, Allentown, and Reading.

Final alignments are not complete, but the proposal says the Scranton line will connect the Northeastern Pennsylvania city, which is the birthplace of President Biden, to New York City. The route includes stops in Tobyhanna, Mt. Pocono, and East Stroudsburg before entering New Jersey.

The proposed Allentown line would connect the Lehigh Valley city, now the third largest in the state, to New York City, and includes stops in Bethlehem and Easton before entering New Jersey.

A line from Reading is proposed to connect to Philadelphia (with eventual passage to New York City) and proposed stops include Pottstown, Phoenixville, King of Prussia, and Norristown.

Erie will see additional roundtrip traveling from Cleveland to Buffalo. This route doesn’t have any additional stops in Pennsylvania but does add stops in Ashtabula, Ohio, and Westfield, N.Y.

The proposal, which still has many details to work out, has garnered support from Pennsylvania politicians State Reps. Joe Ciresi (DMontgomery) and Manuel Guzman (DBerks). who represent areas that would get additional train service under the proposal. They praised the plan after the infrastructure bill passed the U.S. House on Nov. 10.

Gov. Tom Wolf met and spoke with Amtrak officials on Sept. 10 and he said the proposed expansion will “improve equity, accessibility, and reliability in transportation” for the commonwealth. He also called on the state government to match the federal response.

“We need statelevel transportation solutions to match this federal leadership so we can build and sustain this vision,” said Wolf in a September press release. “I am pleased to support this plan which would expand services to many more Pennsylvanians, strengthen local businesses, the regional economy, and the commonwealth as a whole.”

GOP State Lawmakers File Lawsuit to Have Mail-in Voting Tossed Out

By J D Prose

Beaver County Times

Sept 3, 2021 – Lawmakers argued in the suit filed late Tuesday in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court that Act 77, under which no-excuse mail-in voting was allowed, violates the state and U.S. constitutions and should have been pursued through a state constitutional amendment, even though 11 of them voted for the legislation in 2019.

The GOP legislators on the lawsuit are: 

  • Timothy Bonner, Mercer County, who was not in office when Act 77 passed. 
  • Mike Jones, York County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • David Zimmerman, Lancaster County, who voted against Act 77. 
  • Barry Jozwiak, Berks County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Kathy Rapp, Warren County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • David Maloney, Berks, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Barbara Gleim, Cumberland County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Bob Brooks, Westmoreland County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Aaron Bernstine, Lawrence County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Timothy Twardzik, Schuylkill County, who was not in office when Act 77 passed. 
  • Dawn Keefer, York County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Dan Moul, Adams County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Frank Ryan, Lebanon County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Bud Cook, Washington County, who voted for Act 77. 

“Last year, over 2.5 million Pennsylvanians embraced mail-in voting and other safe secure and modern forms of voting which Act 77 allowed for the first time in the commonwealth,” said Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. 

“The fact that members of the General Assembly who voted for Act 77 and were chosen for office in elections in which it was in effect are now suing to overturn it is hypocritical and a betrayal of voters,” Kensinger said. “We should continue to modernize our election system and make it more convenient for voters to make their voices heard. Instead these members are seeking to silence voters as they perpetuate false claims of a stolen election.”

However, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a likely Democratic candidate for governor in 2022, said Thursday on Twitter: “This lawsuit is not only the height of hypocrisy, but it also has real consequences and damages public trust in our elections.” 

After initially supporting mail-in voting, Republicans have followed former President Donald Trump’s calls against the practice and launched several legal attacks on the process, although none of them have been successful.  

Trump began baselessly warning about mail-in voting fraud last year before the November election when it became clear that Democrats were flocking to mailed ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

More:Wolf, Democrats say Pa. already had election audits — and Biden won

More:A bill overhauling Pa.’s election law could soon pass the House. What’s the fight over?

GOP election probe 

As Trump’s evidence-free claims continue, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly called into question the results of the presidential election, but not the races that they won. 

On Thursday, the state Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee announced that it has created a webpage for Pennsylvania voters to submit sworn testimony about their voting experiences and any irregularities they have witnessed.  

The effort is part of what committee Chairman Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson County, called an election integrity investigation. Testimony can be submitted at https://intergovernmental.pasenategop.com/electioninvestigation/.

Dush recently replaced state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin County, as committee chairman after Mastriano was removed amid bickering with Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman over the committee’s efforts to subpoena records from York, Tioga and Philadelphia counties.

Mastriano has been at the forefront of the movement questioning the 2020 election results and was part of a Republican group that visited Arizona to review the GOP-led election audit there.  

Dush also said that the committee will hold public hearings and request documents from counties and the Pennsylvania Department of State “to conduct a comprehensive election investigation – including potentially using the committee’s subpoena powers,” according to a statement. 

Governor Wolf Talks Revitalization During Aug 11 Visit to Aliquippa

Gov. Tom Wolf, right, stands beside Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker on Wednesday in Aliquippa. Wolf visited the city to discuss ways Aliquippa will use the $11 million in state grants it has received since 2015.
Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker with Gov Wolf

ALIQUIPPA — Gov. Tom Wolf visited Aliquippa Wednesday morning to take a closer look at what a several-million-dollar investment into the city will look like.

The city was awarded several state grants since 2015 reaching a little over $11 million. Each grant targets innovation and revitalization in the old mill town, which has struggled economically since the demise of the steel industry.

Talking Tykes:Aliquippa: Some of the greatest started here, but it wants to be more than a football town

“If you think about the history of Aliquippa, 51% of the population lived and worked in that mill,” Mayor Dwan Walker said Wednesday. “So why not us? Why not Aliquippa come back as a phoenix rising from the ashes, why not a renaissance in Aliquippa?”

Walker explained what the city has done, and plans to do in the future, with the grant money. 

Some of those projects include reconfiguration of the Route 51 interchange, manufacturing, updated housing and commercial buildings, updated zoning ordinances, pedestrian and vehicle safety measures, and other developments spearheaded by local committees, residents and officials, including the Aliquippa school board, city council and water authority, the city Economic Development Corporation, and others.

Wolf visited the East End Development Site in Aliquippa to see how state investments have helped the city to remove blighted properties and prepare the land near a Route 51 interchange for future business development and prepare to capitalize on the petrochemicals plant that Shell Chemicals is constructing a few miles from the city. 

Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker, right, answers questions from the press on Wednesday during a visit from Gov. Tom Wolf, left, to discuss ways the city will use the $11 million in state grants it has received since 2015.

More than $7.7 million of the $11 million will support the East End Development Site.

Some of the investments made in Aliquippa to date include:

  • Grant and low-interest loan financing to perform environmental site assessments and remediation work at former industrial sites through the Industrial Sites Reuse Program.
  • Funding through the Blight Remediation Program to assist with blight remediation.
  • $7 million to reconfigure the Route 51 interchange adjacent to the East End Development site through the TIIF program.
  • $72,500 in Act 47 funding to support Aliquippa in its redevelopment efforts.
  • $365,000 in Keystone Communities funding to demolish commercial buildings at the East End Development site.
  • $500,000 to make pedestrian and vehicular safety improvements to the main corridor on Fifth Avenue through the Multi-Modal Transportation Program
  • $140,233 to complete site preparation and clearance on the Bricks site project.
  • $25,000 through the Municipal Assistance Program to update land-use regulations including the zoning ordinance.
  • More than $2.4 million in Neighborhood Partnership Funding via a donation from BNY Mellon to fund the redevelopment of Aliquippa.

Visiting Aliquippa reminded Wolf of his own town of York. Before getting into politics, the governor said he was involved in revitalizing that community.

“I got into politics because I was concerned about my own community, York,” Wolf said. “And I saw in Dwan the kind of leadership that every community really needs.

“It takes both state and local leadership to make projects like Aliquippa’s effective,” he said.

“There is an inside game and an outside game, and state is the outside game, and we need to do what we can do to help, but it really is a wonderful thing when you have leadership and the energy that you’re showing, Dwan, because Aliquippa early deserves to be back to where it was, and even better,” Wolf said. “And you’re doing that, and I’m proud to be a partner with you.”

Some during Wednesday’s briefing asked if gentrification could result from these revitalization efforts.

Wolf said having local people spearhead these projects will help keep the integrity of the community.

“Who’s in charge of this development? That’s going to make a really big difference,” he said. “They’re not just at the table, they are the table.”

Walker said as a life-long resident of Aliquippa, he and others committed to these projects will make sure gentrification doesn’t happen.

“Gentrification is not something we speak of,” he said. “Everybody in this city will have an equal opportunity to speak on anything that comes. We’re looking for partners, we’re not looking for bullies.

“So if you want to sit down and talk about how the future is going to be, we’re here to listen. But if you’re going to come in and take advantage of us, we’ve already had that happen,” Walker added. “I don’t know why our residents think gentrification is going to happen — it’s not.” 

He called the projects and initiatives in the city “a renaissance of Aliquippa,” built on partnership and collaboration, and hope and possibility.”

“The state programs have helped usher in a renaissance in the city of Aliquippa,” Walker said.

Gov. Tom Wolf stands with local leaders during his visit to Aliquippa on Wednesday. Leaders spoke with the governor about ways the city will use the $11 million in state grants it has received since 2015.

Stop Catastrophic Climate Change in Congress

By Randy Shannon

August 1, 2021

The US Congress is an important battleground in the campaign to slow, stop, and reverse global warming induced catastrophic climate change. The dumping of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is overwhelming planet Earth.

The financial weight of the coal, oil, and gas industries and their Wall Street owners floods Capitol Hill with their thousands of lobbyists. They write legislation then lobby and threaten Congress to pass dozens of laws that transfer public funds to their industry. These funds are transferred in numerous ways – tax credits, depletion allowances, interest rebates, research funds, loan guarantees, amortization, foreign tax credits, oil spill deductions, income tax exemptions, credits for coal washing.

The carbon polluting industry’s control of Congress guarantees that taxpayers, and actually all citizens, directly subsidize global warming. And we are increasingly victimized by the effects of catastrophic climate change – increased hurricanes, floods, fires; rising ocean levels; melting arctic ice with consequent growing release of methane hydrates that accelerate global warming.

On July 28 Rep. Michael Doyle PA-18 introduced HR4758, co-sponsored by Rep. Conor Lamb PA-17, Mike Kelly PA-16, and Bill Huizenga MI-2. This bill “amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend and modify the section 45 credit for refined coal from steel industry fuel, and for other purposes.” This bill has not been printed yet, so the details are not yet available. (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr4758)

Continue reading Stop Catastrophic Climate Change in Congress

Forget Pennsyltucky! Welcome to PArizona!

IF WE LET MASTRIANO GET HIS WAY

Mastriano at Jan 6 Attack on Congress

By Tony Norman

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Opinion Columnist

July 16, 2021 – Somewhere in the multiverse of possibilities, there probably exists a place where state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) isn’t the Lex Luthor of Pennsylvania politics. Alas, that place isn’t here.

In this universe, Mr. Mastriano, who is expected to run for governor next year, is second to none in a party that has made fealty to Donald Trump and his cult of eternal grievance over a “stolen” election part of its brand.

Unlike most of his rivals who will also be vying for Mr. Trump’s blessings going into the primary next year, Mr. Mastriano isn’t just another dim bulb cursed with more ambition than imagination. That’s not to say he towers over his fellow Republicans intellectually, but he does possess a Trumpian canniness and disregard for reality that most don’t.

As Mr. Trump’s biggest hype man in this state, Mr. Mastriano has proven that by echoing and amplifying the ex-president’s Big Lie, he displays the shamelessness that all but guarantees he’ll be the gubernatorial choice for a party that signed away its conscience a long time ago. The Associated PressAnother county raises objection to Sen. Doug Mastriano’s Pennsylvania election audit

To be an elected Republican official in Pennsylvania these days requires a declaration that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Mr. Trump and that massive election fraud took place in this state on Nov. 3, most likely in the form of mail-in ballots.

Though Republicans maintained their majority in the Legislature despite Biden winning the state, many of those who won reelection or took office for the first time are willing to cast doubt on the integrity of their own victories to bolster the wounded ego of ‘Dear Leader’ who, at a minimum, always demands a mindless parroting of the Big Lie that the entire election was illegitimate.

Mr. Mastriano’s history of enabling the former president’s paranoia and fear-mongering is particularly notorious for its indifference to reality ranging from criticism of the state’s COVID-19 mask and lockdown mandates at the height of the pandemic to the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

On Nov. 27, Mr. Mastriano was one of the architects of a resolution that would permit the Legislature to appoint a new slate of delegates to the Electoral College that would be pledged to support Mr. Trump instead of President-elect Joe Biden. (Continued)

Continue reading Forget Pennsyltucky! Welcome to PArizona!

EVEN CONOR LAMB IS DONE WITH THE FILIBUSTER

The moderate Democrat says the Capitol riot changed his mind. Who’s next?

BY MARY HARRISJUNE 10, 20211:12 PM

SLATE.COM

Lamb stands with his head bowed and hands clasped in front of him. One uniformed officer stands in front of him and one behind him.
Rep. Conor Lamb pays his respects to Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 3. Demetrius Freeman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Some people call Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb a conservative. He prefers to think of himself as a compromiser, a moderate in a polarized political world. Because he was first elected as a Democrat in a district that also elected Donald Trump, he’s often seen as a bellwether, an object lesson in reaching the voters Democrats have lost ground with over the last few years. So it surprised me that Lamb recently got on Twitter to voice his support for blowing up the filibuster. After watching the bipartisan push for a Jan. 6 commission fail spectacularly, Lamb says he felt like he had no choice—“the filibuster has to go.” On Thursday’s episode of What Next, I spoke to Lamb about why he’s taking this stand now, and what compromise means when there are fewer and fewer people to compromise with. This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Mary Harris: Right now the project of democracy is being politicized. Reforms that will increase the democratic project are seen as progressive or left-wing. But you’re trying to separate that out from your stances on issues like the environment or the economy. Are your constituents separating them out too? When you talk to them about the democratic values that you clearly hold, do they see those as apolitical values?

Conor Lamb: I think it’s still a little early in this process. I’ve noticed Washington, D.C., always moves a lot faster in conversation than people back here in my district, and so I am now every day on high alert for what’s happening to our democracy and what’s happening in these different states, and I’m not sure that the average person in my district is yet, particularly because you’re in Pennsylvania. We more or less are at a stalemate because we have a Democratic governor who’s not going to allow the legislature to do all these crazy things they’re doing elsewhere.

Even though the legislature is Republican-controlled.

Yes. And they have tried. We just had a bunch of state legislators travel to Arizona to watch the phony recount. But I can say with a lot of confidence, having got to know my constituents over the last three years, that they would expect me to continue working for achievements and compromises on issues like infrastructure, even as we debate the fundamental issues of our democracy. And that actually makes sense to me

In infrastructure, just to give you a quick example, there’s a lock on the Ohio River that makes it possible for barges to carry construction equipment and coal and all the things that they move on the river. It’s so old that it’s literally at a 50 percent chance of cracking in half and falling into the river in the next two years. And if that happened, not only the whole river would be shut down, but construction sites along the river would be shut down. People would lose their job. Traffic on the roads would increase. I mean, that’s a real scenario. If that happened, I don’t think anyone in my district is going to look at me and go, “Well, yeah, Conor, that’s not your fault because you were fighting with the Republicans about democracy.” I mean, there’s some basic stuff that we really have to try to get done for our people no matter what.

So you’re trying to make the case to your constituents that we need to be able to get these things passed because otherwise your stuff is going to break, and then it’s too late for us to fix it.ADVERTISEMENT

I would actually reverse it. I think that’s the case my constituents make to me on a pretty regular basis. And I agree with them. I think that we have to be able to do multiple things at once. But I’ll also say that my view on the filibuster, on the commitment to democracy that we have to have and the intensity with which we have to have that debate—that has evolved in three years. So I’m learning on the job and I’m trying to achieve this balance right now of working with the Republicans. And when I say the Republicans, really I’m mostly working with Republicans who did not vote to overturn the election. Many of the ones I’m working with voted to impeach Trump the second time.

Can you tell me about that evolution? You’ve said, “I practice bipartisanship because it’s supposed to get results.” But I think a lot of people would say it hasn’t been getting results for a while.

I always challenge people to make sure we know what we’re talking about when we say we’re not getting results, because we actually have, even in the depth of the Trump era, we’ve gotten bipartisan results on important topics. The same week that we did impeachment in the House the first time, we did the USMCA [United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement], probably the most important trade agreement in the United States in the last almost 30 years, by a massive bipartisan vote. And there have been other examples like that. So it still does happen, even though people correctly perceive that we’re in much more partisan times.

“If we can’t agree to have a peaceful transition of power, the rest of it doesn’t really matter.”— Rep. Conor Lamb

But I think the last three years have taught me that the Republicans have really made this whole attack on the ease of voting, and more generally an attack on telling the truth and meaning what you say and basing your statements on facts and true observations about the world—they’ve really made it a core pillar of their party because they have tied themselves so tightly to Trump. I don’t think every Republican walking around thinks that way, but they have all made the decision basically that he’s the head of their party, and so now all that really matters is what he wants or what pleases him. And Jan. 6 really revealed just how dangerous and sinister of a development that that is. …CONTINUED

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Criminal Justice Reforms, Progressive Victories, and Other Takeaways From a Historic 2021 Pittsburgh Primary Election

Peduto, left, defeated by Gainey.

By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper

History was made on May 18, 2021. Ed Gainey secured the Democratic nomination for Pittsburgh mayor, almost certain to become the city’s firstever Black mayor. He ran on progressive policies, and to the left of incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto on policing. He focused his campaign on racial and economic inequalities, promising to do more to address these glaring issues in the Steel City.

While this moment is truly historic for Pittsburgh — a city and region that are overwhelmingly white, and have many documented instances of racism against Black people — there are also several other impressive electoral wins that deserve recognition.

Criminal justice reforms

Pittsburgh voters overwhelmingly passed a ban on no-knock warrants for Pittsburgh Police officers. “Yes” on the ban secured more than 81% of the vote. This initiative was inspired by Breonna Taylor, who was shot five times and killed by police officers after police entered her apartment on a noknock warrant.

Allegheny County voters also approved a ballot initiative that would limit the use of solitary confinement at the Allegheny County Jail. A “yes” on that question received 69% of the vote.

Additionally, out of nine open seats for Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, voters selected five candidates who were endorsed by a coalition of criminaljustice reform groups. Common Pleas Judges are responsible for overseeing trials for criminal, civil, and family cases and delivering sentencing.

The coalition said back in March that electing these candidates would help move reforms like reducing the use of cash bail, increasing diversionary programs and alternatives to carceral punishment, and other mechanisms to combat mass incarceration and racial and other demographic disparities in the system.

There were also victories at the Magisterial District Judge level. The Magisterial District Judge court is directly below Common Pleas and is responsible for assigning bail conditions, deciding eviction cases, and is a defendant’s first introduction to the state’s criminal judicial system. In Lawrenceville, candidate Xander Orenstein narrowly defeated incumbent Anthony Ceoffe on a platform of being more compassionate in eviction cases and limiting cash bail. Orenstein, if they were to win the general election, would become the state’s first nonbinary magistrate judge.

Jehosha Wright also won his race for Magisterial District Judge in the North Side, after receiving the backing of some criminal justice reformminded politicians.

Progressive victories over incumbents

On top of celebrating Gainey’s victory, which many progressive advocates are boosting, there were a series of other wins in smaller races that portend more momentum for progressives in Pittsburgh.

In Mount Oliver, JoAnna Taylor ousted Mount Oliver Mayor Frank Bernardini, a conservative Democratic incumbent who was seen last year with Democratic Mount Oliver council member Nick Viglione, who was sporting a MAGA hat at a Allegheny County Democratic Committee meeting. State Rep. Jessica Benham (DSouth Side) also congratulated Lisa Pietrusza for winning a spot on Mount Oliver Council, and Jamie Piotrowski for winning her election for Pittsburgh Public Schools board member.

“I am so thrilled about the progressive movement we are building in South Pittsburgh JoAnna, Jamie, & Lisa represent the hard organizing work we are doing in areas that don’t get much progressive political attention,” tweeted Benham on May 19.

Continue reading Criminal Justice Reforms, Progressive Victories, and Other Takeaways From a Historic 2021 Pittsburgh Primary Election

Working-Class Culture: Bocce, Bands, Car Cruises Gets Rolling Again at Aliquippa’s Sheffield Lanes

By Scott Tady
Beaver County Times

May 11, 2021 – ALIQUIPPA – Bocce balls and bands soon get rolling again at Sheffield Lanes.

The Aliquippa fun spot, long popular for its bowling lanes and its Ricky Dee’s Pizza, knows people are looking for outside entertainment, too.

Hence the return of two regulationsize bocce courts that debuted successfully in 2019, but didn’t see much action last year due to the pandemic.

“We’ll be available all summer for people to play bocce from Thursdays to Sundays starting May 20,” Zach D’Agostino, of the familyowned Sheffield Lanes, said.

Customers can try their hand at the traditional Italian balltossing sport played on a natural surface below a veranda where guests can lounge and sip a drink, puff a cigar, or on some nights catch a live band.

The veranda and bocce courts were hopping in this 2019 photo from Sheffield Lanes. The Aliquippa restaurant has reopened the bocce courts and will bring back bands in June.
“We are launching music on the veranda in June,” owner Rick D’Agostino said. “I was being a little cautious when I scheduled bands, so I only booked one per week on alternating Fridays and Saturdays, but I am thinking of filling in a couple more dates here and there.”

Currently booked:

•June 4 and July 10: The Living Street, an acoustic folkrock duo focused on harmonies and songwriting.

•June 12 and July 16: Joe Munroe, Beaver County Musicians’ Hall of Famer, keyboardist for Ghost Hounds and human encyclopedia of music.

•June 18 and July 24: Bobby Thompson, the acclaimed rock & blues guitaristvocalist.

•June 26 and July 30: The High Level Band jam band that gets people dancing.

•July 2: Jordan McLaughlin, solo vocalist and acoustic guitarist heard on WLERFM (97.7 The Rock Station.)

Continue reading Working-Class Culture: Bocce, Bands, Car Cruises Gets Rolling Again at Aliquippa’s Sheffield Lanes

U.S. Steel Cancels $1 Billion Upgrades to Local Facilities; Plans to Close High Emissions Batteries at Clairton Coke Works

Clairton Coke Works

By Kimberly Rooney
Pittsburgh City Paper

April 30, 2021 – U.S. Steel Corporation is cancelling its $1 billion upgrades to its Mon Valley Works facilities, which includes Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, and the Clairton Coke Works in Clairton. While the cancellation will likely result in some job losses in the region, it will also reduce the levels of harmful air pollution in the Mon Valley and beyond.

The upgrades, which were announced May 2019, would have included a casting and rolling facility and a cogeneration plant. After several delays due to COVID in 2020 that increased the upgrade costs to a promised $1.5 billion, U.S. Steel pushed the start date of those upgrades to the fourth quarter of 2022. But today, the company announced it would be scrapping those plans entirely.

In addition to cancelling these updates, U.S. Steel plans to permanently idle batteries one through three at Clairton Coke Works by the first quarter of 2023. Batteries one through three are the oldest at the Coke Works and can allow twotothree times more emissions than the rest of the facility, according to environmental groups.

According to the EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment, toxic air pollution contributes to high risk of cancer, and Clairton Coke Works is responsible for many of the airborne carcinogens in the region. Asthma rates among children in Clairton are three times higher than in the rest of the county.

“For too long, U.S. Steel has run roughshod over our environmental protections and churned out dangerous levels of harmful air pollution,” says PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center clean air advocate Zachary Barber. “Closing these batteries is a necessary and longoverdue step toward reducing that damage and cleaning our region’s air.”

Clairton Coke Works received a $1 million fine from the Allegheny County Health Department in 2019, as well as another $383,450 fine in March 2021. A study from the University of Pittsburgh also confirmed this week that the fire at the Coke Works in December 2018, which destroyed pollution controls, increased asthma exacerbations for residents in the surrounding area.

U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt cites the goal for the company to become carbon neutral by 2050 as a motivation for canceling the plan upgrades. As part of that goal, U.S. Steel will shift toward electric arc furnaces, such as Big River Steel, of which U.S. Steel bought a minority share in 2019, in Arkansas.

There are currently about 130 fulltime workers at the three Clairton Coke Works batteries that will be idled. U.S. Steel plans to avoid layoffs by reducing the workforce through retirements and reassignments. According to Pittsburgh Works Together, a cooperative venture mostly comprised of fossilfuel companies and the labor unions that represent their workers, the closures will result in the loss of hundreds of potential construction jobs for the region.

“I am deeply disappointed that the company has broken its promise to the Mon Valley and its own workers by scrapping a plan that would have made the Mon Valley Works the first project of its kind, provided cleaner air for our community and good jobs that would have helped this area prosper for decades,” says state Rep. Austin Davis (DMckeesport), whose district includes the Clairton Coke Works. “I believe that we can create familysustaining jobs and a clean environment.”

From March 30 to April 7, the Mon Valley was one of the top10 worst places for air quality in America. Advocates such as Barber have long criticized Clairton Coke Works’ dangerous emissions, and PennEnvironment had previously called for the batteries to be taken offline when air quality was poor.

“While we are pleased by this development, we still must remain vigilant — especially in light of U.S. Steel’s decadeslong history of legal violations and broken promises,” Barber says. “Local leaders must keep working to ratchet down industrial pollution to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe every day of the year.”

And it’s possible these upgrade cancellations will have longterm effects on U.S. Steel’s future in the Mon Valley and the Pittsburgh region. As University of Pittsburgh economist Chris Briem notes on Twitter, the status of the Clairton Coke Works and the Edgar Thompson Works is bleak without any upgrades to those legacy facilities.

Aliquippa Secures Funding To Replace Lead Service Lines

Aliquippa workers repairing old water lines

By Chrissy Suttles
Beaver County Times

The Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa will receive more than $2 million in state grant funding to replace the city’s lead service lines.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday announced $117 million had been released for 25 drinking water, wastewater and nonpoint source projects statewide through Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure Investment Authority.

The only Beaver County project to receive funding was Aliquippa, which will replace 184 existing lead water service lines with copper lines – eliminating the threat of corroded lines seeping lead into the water supply.

Following months of customer complaints, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection ordered the authority to improve its testing for drinking water contaminants.

New testing last summer revealed elevated levels of lead in a handful of homes with old lead pipes. Those pipes were immediately replaced, but at least one homeowner reported elevated lead levels months after the replacement.

“People should not have to worry over the safety of their tap water,” said state Rep. Rob Matzie, D16, Ambridge. After testing last year showed elevated lead levels in a small number of samples, there was reason for concern. Securing this funding is going to eliminate that risk.”

Aliquippa’s water authority broke ground on a new $15 million water filtration plant earlier this year near its existing, decadesold facility. For years, hundreds of residents have protested the brown drinking water regularly streaming from their faucets alongside ongoing rate hikes.

The Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa’s former administrative building was partly demolished Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $15 million water filtration plant, expected to be completed within the next three years.
Many of the system’s lines are old castiron pipes first laid in the early 1900s when J&L Steel Corp. was building the town. They break often, resulting in “muddy” water.

“This historic investment in Pennsylvania’s clean water and healthy communities serves as a fitting celebration of Earth Week, when our country celebrates advances in environmental protection and committed stewardship of our lands and waters,” Wolf said.

Chrissy Suttles covers business, energy and environment for the Beaver County Times and the USAToday Network. Contact her at csuttles@timesonline.com and follow her on Twitter @ChrissySuttles.


Aliquippa water workers repairing old lines, some of which is lead and need replacing
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