Regional News

Developing Young Minds

On May 1, 1969, a western Pennsylvania native with a relatively unknown children’s program testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Communication. Public broadcasting faced having its $20 million budget cut in half, and policymakers were skeptical about the educational benefit of children watching television—until Fred Rogers spoke of his year-old show and television’s potential to …

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Air Quality Regulation: A Primer

Air quality in the United States is governed by a complex regulatory structure that sets pollution limits and authorizes federal, state and local agencies to enforce them. The regulations which agencies enforce vary with the source of pollution, what they emit and the air quality in the region where they are located. Federal President Richard …

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Mobile Source Pollution

Creeping into the Fort Pitt Tunnel, angling for space at the Parkway East’s Grant Street exit, or elbowing into a gap in traffic on the Veterans Bridge, tens of thousands of people drive or ride into and out of Downtown nearly every day. Trailing behind them are the often-invisible exhausts of internal combustion engines. At …

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Air Rules

Bluer skies over southwestern Pennsylvania owe a debt to local, state and federal regulations that have evolved over decades to spur technological advancements and investment in controlling air pollutants from industrial plants to the cars we drive. It wasn’t until the City of Pittsburgh adopted its Smoke Control Ordinance in 1941 that the dense smoke …

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Up in the Air: The Final Chapter

Air polllution’s place in the history of southwestern Pennsylvania is as prominent as the region’s mighty rivers and the steel industry that once crowded their banks. For nearly a century, it was a defining characteristic in the eyes of visitors, who pulled no punches when describing the grim conditions they found. “In truth, Pittsburg [sic] …

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Cokeless Steel?

Power companies aren’t alone in their shift away from coal. Steelmakers, industry groups and the federal government are spending millions looking for a way to make steel without coke, the carbon-rich form of coal used to fuel blast furnaces. Like coal-fired power generation, coke production is a major source of air pollution, and its processing …

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Petrochemical Alley

Shell Chemical Appalachia’s petrochemical complex has begun to rise from a dusty Beaver County brownfield that follows a slow bend in the Ohio River near Monaca. It took hefty tax incentives to secure it. The nation’s largest zinc smelter was razed to make room for it. More than 7 million cubic feet of earth were …

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Energy’s Big Shift

A decade ago, as Consol Energy’s 150th anniversary drew near, top executives began to take stock in where the company stood as a leading producer of coal and where that path would take it. Coal was in what CEO Nicholas DeIuliis called a “supercycle.” It was the workhorse of the national power grid and less …

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Drilling for Answers

Well pads, compressor stations, diesel truck traffic. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves many moving parts, some of which have the potential to vent pollutants into the air southwestern Pennsylvanians breathe. Fracking doesn’t consist of large, stationary pollution sources, like U.S. Steel’s metallurgical coke plant in Clairton, where emissions are monitored daily, the pollutants they contain …

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The Last Coke Works

At the Clairton Public Library in the industrial Monongahela River valley, patrons can check out “Moby Dick,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the adventures of Curious George and any number of Nancy Drew mysteries. They can read issues of Vogue and Popular Science. They can take home the music of Elton John and Rihanna, or the …

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Living Dangerously

Despite the improvement in the region’s air quality in recent years, southwestern Pennsylvania still fails to meet federal health-based standards for various major air pollutants, such as ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide and fine particulates, known as PM2.5. And that regional pollution elevates risks of cancer, respiratory ailments and other serious health problems. Air pollution increases …

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Does Air Quality Matter to Young Workers?

As their due date neared last fall, Ryan Poling and his wife faced a difficult decision. Did they want to raise their daughter in Pittsburgh, the city in which they’ve built a life during the last nine years, or pick up and move across the country, near Poling’s family in California? “It’s really hard to …

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Working Women: Their Numbers Rise but Wages Lag

Deana Keenan’s career unfolds like an inspirational film. As a young woman, she left college to have children. She spent years working low-wage jobs as a single mother until she reached a breaking point when her oldest son was murdered. She picked herself up and sought out job training programs in Pittsburgh, where she found …

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Bridging the Digital Divide

On a Tuesday afternoon in October, a dozen teenagers gathered in a second-floor room at the Carnegie Library in East Liberty. They didn’t come to check out books. They were building a haunted house based on Disney fairy tales. Two 17-year-old sisters, Hope and Honesty LeGrande, cut giant feathered wings for the costume they designed …

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Toxic Chemical Emissions: The Region’s Top 10 Air Polluters

Although the region’s air has improved dramatically from the height of Pittsburgh’s industrial past, southwestern Pennsylvania remains home to factories and power plants that release millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data to track toxic chemicals released into the air, water and …

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Inconspicuous and Dangerous

The heavy smoke is gone. But particulates 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair and gases formed by the reaction of sunlight and fossil fuels exhaust remain as the region’s most widespread, stubborn and dangerous air quality problems. Unlike the smoke that draped large swaths of southwestern Pennsylvania during its industrial heyday, …

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Taming Air Pollution: The Region’s Century-Old Challenge

Southwestern Pennsylvania and air quality have long had a complicated relationship. For the better part of a century, the region had been a place so polluted from the soot of industry and homes heated by coal that street lamps were lit in the afternoon and walking a single block could ruin the collar of a …

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A Question of Learning

As a digital revolution changes classrooms across the region and country, one key question lingers at the end of each school day: Do the new technologies actually enhance students’ learning? The answer is unclear. After decades of research in fields such as cognitive science, the debate is no longer about whether digital technologies have the …

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Rethinking Education

Janice Smith’s fifth-grade reading class at Central Elementary in the Elizabeth Forward School District was supposed to be working on a book report. Huddled around iPads, the students chatted with one another, pointing and swiping at the screens. No one was being shushed, few were sitting square in their seats, and no one was holding …

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Regional Wages Fall

The average weekly wage plummeted in southwestern Pennsylvania during the first quarter of the year driven by sharp reductions in management pay, a weakened energy industry and other factors, regional economy experts say. The average weekly wage fell 5.8 percent across the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area to $1,027 in the first quarter of 2016 …

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Remaking Learning

In retrospect, the gong makes a lot of sense. It was 2009, and a packed crowd huddled in the basement theater of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, watching and laughing as one by one, teachers, technologists, parents, gamers and roboticists took to the stage to give their pitch. They had three minutes each to describe …

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Involuntary Mental Health Commitment

Teenagers and African Americans face the greatest risk of being involuntarily committed to mental health facilities in Allegheny County, a recent study reports. Some 37,750 people were involuntarily committed for mental issues from 2002 through 2013, according to the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) study. An involuntary commitment occurs when someone is found …

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