The Punchlist 4-9-21

The Punchlist is back! Each week at the end of the week, we’ll share some of our favorite sustainability, climate, local, and whatever else – related stories.

This week’s edition features more exciting local and national news about the environment!

Premature Celebration: Months after the region was celebrating meeting federal air quality standards for the first time, the county is experiencing spikes in dirty air. A monitor near the U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works recorded a reading of 153 on the Air Quality Index (AQI), which correlates to the red “unhealthy” zone. This reading earned the location the title of worst air quality in the country. Many believe the cause of these spikes in dirty air to be the old batteries at Clairton.

First PA Green Hydrogen: Fuel cell company Plug Power plans to build Pennsylvania’s first green hydrogen plant in Lancaster County along the Susquehanna River. Green hydrogen is made by splitting water molecules using renewable electricity. Green hydrogen is thought to be beneficial for industries like shipping and aviation that have hard-to-cut emissions. They’re partnering with Brookfield Renewable Partners, operator of the Holtwood Dam, to use power from the hydroelectric facility and water from the river to produce 15 metric tons of liquid hydrogen per day, enough to power 1,500 heavy duty trucks.

Waste Dump Clean Up: After nearly a decade of lawsuits filed by PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club, PPG Industries Inc. has agreed to clean up a factory waste dump that is leaking toxic metals into the Allegheny River. The polluted runoff and groundwater are so alkaline that some of it has a pH on par with bleach and ammonia. PPG was first ordered to clean up the waste in 1971, but failed to do so. In a 2019 settlement, PPG agreed to pay a $1.2 million fine and treat the leaking water. Recently, PPG has promised stronger treatment standards and to financially guarantee the treatment system.

Flooding Reduction: Flooding has been a massive problem for the city’s Four Mile Run area for years. When it rains, stormwater funnels into the Run where two major sewer lines meet. If the system can’t handle the amount of stormwater, untreated sewage overflows into people’s homes. Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority plans to use $36.1 million to manage and collect the stormwater in an attempt to reduce the severity and frequency of flooding.

Climate Focused Infrastructure Plan: The climate provisions in Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan could ease the transition to clean energy in Pennsylvania. The plan includes money for projects which would reduce greenhouse gases in transportation, electricity and housing as well as fund clean energy research and development. In addition, $16 billion will go towards plugging old oil and gas wells and cleaning up abandoned mines around the country.

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