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Ohio Valley Environmental Tour a ‘Real Eye-opener’

Shippingport, due to close, but some irrationally want to keep pouring money into it.

Why the Green New Deal Matter to Us

By Rick Shrum
Observer-Reporter / Southwest PA

June 1, 2019 – Ned Ketyer, a Peters Township pediatrician, appreciated the five-hour excursion along the Ohio River.

“This tour has been a real eye-opener,” he said Friday afternoon. “Look out the window and what you see should be beautiful, should be pristine.

“You see areas that aren’t green. You see a lot of damaged roads and probably a lot of damaged lives for people brave enough to live there.”

Ketyer, a leader with the environmental support group Climate Reality Project and a board member of the Southwest Environmental Health Project, was lamenting what he regarded as casualties from heavy industry that still has a significant presence in the Ohio Valley. He was among a group of 30 who coursed through this part of the tri-state on a bus, glimpsing and stopping at industrial sites along a 100-mile stretch.

And the sites were many.

The tour was organized by the Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the Climate Realty Project; FracTracker Alliance; Breathe Project; and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Tour attendees discussed and listened to concerns related to natural gas processing, pipelines, emissions, pollution and – of course – cracker plants.

Many of their contentions, to be sure, conflict with statements by industry officials, such as fracking is usually done safely and greenhouse gas emissions have been cut dramatically. One natural gas producer recently established a goal of zero emissions.

Coalition members and supporters stated their case Friday.

The event began in Robinson Township, advanced to Beaver County, then navigated Ohio and West Virginia roadways that hugged the river south to Proctor, W.Va.

Twenty minutes into the tour, shortly after the bus crossed into Beaver County on Interstate 376, Karen Gdula picked up the microphone and talked about “my nightmare that became reality.”

She pointed to a barren hillside to the east where, last Sept. 10, the Revolution Pipeline burst following a landslide, sending flames aloft a short distance from the home where she grew up and which she now owns. One house and several garages and vehicles were destroyed.

“As a child, I had a nightmare that the woods behind my house were on fire,” Gdula said. “Then we had this fire in September. The flames were probably 300 feet high. It was very intense.”

Early in the journey, organizers passed along a jar containing polyethylene pellets, “the building block for plastics,” one said. These so-called “nurdles” are a vital product for the much-celebrated Pennsylvania Shell cracker plant that is under construction in Potter Township, Beaver County.

This type of facility processes ethane, a component of natural gas that is prevalent in the nearby Marcellus Shale, and processes – or “cracks” – it into ethylene.

Continue reading Ohio Valley Environmental Tour a ‘Real Eye-opener’

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New Brighton was ‘Hub of the Underground Railroad’

At least nine sites in New Brighton — homes, flour mill and church — were safe houses to help runaway slaves escape from Southern states where slavery was legal to free states in the North, and ultimately to Canada.

By Marsha Keefer
Beaver County Times

June 9, 2019 – NEW BRIGHTON — New Brighton’s strategic location on the Beaver River and compassion of prominent abolitionists made the borough a natural harbor for fugitive slaves seeking asylum prior to the Civil War.

“It was the hub of the Underground Railroad,” said Odette Lambert, a member and former president of New Brighton Historical Society, who’s spent close to a quarter century researching the town’s clandestine freedom trail.

The organized system depended upon a network of people and safe houses to help runaway slaves escape from Southern states where slavery was legal to free states in the North, and ultimately to Canada.

It’s estimated as many as 100,000 slaves may have fled the South between and 1810 and 1850, according to u-s-history.com.

At least nine sites in New Brighton — homes, flour mill and church — were part of the effort.

What’s fascinating, Odette said, is that “very few safe houses are still in existence in the country” — many of them in disrepair and ultimately demolished — “and our little town of New Brighton is one of the few that still has that many homes in existence.” Continue reading New Brighton was ‘Hub of the Underground Railroad’

Investigation: Cracker Plant Will bring Jobs, Pollution

Some medical experts said breathing will be much harder once plant is up and running

By Paul Van Osdol
WTAE Investigative Reporter

May 9. 2019 – MONACA, Pa. — The massive ethane cracker plant in Beaver County is bringing thousands of jobs to Western Pennsylvania.

But Action News Investigates has learned it may also bring thousands of tons of air pollutants to a region that already has some of the nation’s dirtiest air.

At the cracker plant site, dozens of cranes soar into the sky as thousands of construction workers assemble the petrochemical facility that will convert natural gas liquids into plastics.

The project has breathed new life into what was an industrial wasteland.

But some medical experts who are also environmental advocates said breathing will be much harder once the plant is up and running.

“To me it’s about breathing. It’s about health,” said Dr. Ned Ketyer, a retired pediatrician affiliated with Pitt’s Climate and Global Change Center.

He said the plant’s toxic fumes will affect health as far south as Pittsburgh.

“Allegheny County is already dealing with higher risks of cancer because of air pollution and I believe this is going to make things much worse,” Ketyer said.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are a major industrial pollutant. Environmental Protection Agency records show the industrial plant with the largest VOC emissions in Western Pennsylvania is the Clairton Coke Works, with 291 tons of VOCs in 2014, the most recent year available.

But the cracker plant’s state permit says it is allowed up to 522 tons of VOCs per year.

Ammonia is another air toxin.

“That can have immediate effects on the brain and the liver,” Ketyer said.

EPA records show the Coke Works and U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock combined emitted 139 tons of ammonia in 2014.

But the cracker plant’s permit allows for even more — 152 tons. Continue reading Investigation: Cracker Plant Will bring Jobs, Pollution

On the Rise: Solar Farms Begin Cropping Up in Western Pa

Solar farm in Smith Twp, near Burgettstown.

By Megan Tomasic
TribLive

May 5, 2019 – Down a gravel road close to what constitutes downtown Slovan in rural Washington County, roughly 3,500 solar panels stand in a field of green grass, their blue-hued faces tilted toward the sun.

The development, one of the largest solar farms in Western Pennsylvania, spans 4.5 acres and can power about 750 homes. It’s just a small part of a national trend infiltrating the Pennsylvania landscape.

A similar project is slated to occupy 12 acres of Hempfield, Westmoreland County. Almost 11,000 solar panels will be visible from Hunker-Waltz Mill Road, near Westinghouse Electric Co.

But the state still has a long way to go, with only three major solar farm projects powering roughly 575 homes and one business — Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Snyder’s-­Lance in Hanover and Elizabethtown Solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, a solar energy advocacy group.

Westmoreland and Allegheny counties have no big solar projects, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The report does not include individual panels on the rooftops of residential homes, said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, press secretary for the PUC.

While there are few solar farm developments in the immediate area, Pennsylvania has a growing number of solar jobs.

Between 2017 and 2018, the number of jobs increased by 10%, accounting for almost 4,220 workers, according to Avery Palmer, communications director at The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting solar and solar technology.

“Most of the jobs will be at companies that install solar on rooftops or commercial businesses,” Palmer said. “With that said, large utility-­scale farms are a major job creator in other states, and developing these projects could help create even more solar jobs in Pennsylvania.” Continue reading On the Rise: Solar Farms Begin Cropping Up in Western Pa

Industry Officials, Protesters Confront Appalachia’s Future as a Possible Petrochemical Hub

Protestors outside the Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference in Morgantown, West Virginia on April 9, 2019. (Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

By Oliver Morrison

PublicSource.org

April 10, 2019 – Attendees at an industry conference in West Virginia on Tuesday cheered projections for increased petrochemical production in the next 40 years, while protesters outside held up withered single-use plastic bags to show the environmental harm of petroleum products.

Both groups, however, shared a common view that the economic hype and resulting environmental impact predicted for the region may not pan out. It’s how they feel about the prospect that diverges.

The Ohio River Valley region is projected to be on the brink of a petrochemical boom adding to its already booming natural gas industry: Production of ethane, which is used to make plastics, is expected to quadruple by 2025, according to a presentation by Brian Anderson, the director of the National Energy Technology Center at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Several top industry executives and analysts at the Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference in Morgantown spoke about the rare opportunity to create 100,000 jobs, an industry estimate, and bring billions of dollars in economic growth to the region, which includes Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

“This is the chance of a lifetime to create a generational change for the region,” said Michael Graney, executive director of the West Virginia Development Office.

But the mood at the conference was not always celebratory. Several speakers focused on the urgent need to continue to sell the Appalachian region’s potential to the rest of the world. Continue reading Industry Officials, Protesters Confront Appalachia’s Future as a Possible Petrochemical Hub

GM’s Lordstown Chevy Cruze Plant Closes Amidst Protests

Employees of the General Motors Lordstown Complex were the largest group of workers from a single Ohio employer were displaced by mass layoffs 

It may re-open in the summer. For 1,600 workers, that’s not much comfort at all.

By David Grossman
Mechanics Illustrated

Mar 7, 2019 – General Motors’ Lordstown Assembly plant was in continual operation since 1966 through yesterday, March 6, 2019. The idling of the plant affected 1,600 workers and is the largest of the U.S-based GM four plants that will close this year.

Originally dedicated to iconic cars like the Chevy Impala and Pontiac Firebird, since 2011 the plant built electric Chevy Cruzes. Through the years, the planet built over 16 million cars. However, amidst a restructuring the company decided to discontinue the model in America.

In a press statement, GM said that the Cruze “was a good product and was built with tremendous pride by the Lordstown employees. We know this is an emotional day for our Lordstown team.” Continue reading GM’s Lordstown Chevy Cruze Plant Closes Amidst Protests

Erie, PA: Close To 2,000 Manufacturing Workers Just Went On Strike

After a merger with GE Transportation, the new employer “wants to turn this into an Amazon warehouse,” the union says. ..Bernie Sanders backs strikers

By Dave Jamieson
Huffington Post

Feb 26, 2019 – Nearly 1,700 workers at a GE Transportation plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, went on strike Tuesday, marking the first large-scale work stoppage in the U.S. manufacturing sector in three years.

Union members with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) say the factory’s incoming owner, Pennsylvania-based Wabtec Corp., is trying to impose mandatory overtime, a lower pay scale for new employees, and the use of temporary workers in the facility.

Wabtec just closed an $11 billion deal to merge with GE’s transportation division, which includes the Erie plant where locals have built locomotives for decades.

Workers authorized the union to wage a strike after they failed to secure an interim agreement with Wabtec extending the terms of their contract with GE. As the new employer at the plant, Wabtec is obligated to recognize the union but has the freedom to negotiate its own new contract.

Union members felt they needed to go on strike in order to protect the middle-class wages and high working standards inside the facility, where pay averages around $35 an hour, said Jonathan Kissam, a union spokesman. He added that many workers already volunteer for overtime work but don’t want it to be mandatory, fearing it could ruin weekends with their families.

He also said introducing lower pay for new hires would create a two-tier system inside the plant, causing rifts between different generations of employees.

“This is a multi-generational plant. Some of them, their grandparents worked there,” Kissam said. “So they’re unwilling to sell out their own children.” Continue reading Erie, PA: Close To 2,000 Manufacturing Workers Just Went On Strike