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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pittsburgh City Council candidate Erika Strassburger endorsed by statewide environmental group PennEnvironment

Posted By on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 10:19 AM

  • Photo courtesy of the candidate
  • Erika Strassburger
Before Erika Strassburger worked as chief of staff for former Pittsburgh City Councilor Dan Gilman (D-Squirrel Hill), she worked as an environmental advocate in Pittsburgh and in New Hampshire. She told City Paper back in January that her environmental chops would be valuable on city council, especially considering the ongoing problems at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA). Strassburger is running to replace Gilman’s former 8th City Council District seat in a special election that will take place March 6.

“I spent a decade fighting for clean water, and right now the PWSA has $4 billion in capital needs and a federal mandate to lower lead levels,” said Strassburger in January. “We have to keep water publicly owned, but make sure important changes are implemented. Green infrastructure needs to be a priority first, and I believe there are ways to raise money for that.”

And now one of the state’s biggest environmental-advocacy organizations, PennEnvironoment, has thrown its weight behind Strassburger.

“When it comes to protecting our environment, there’s no one better than Erika,” said PennEnvironment director David Masur in a press release. “For nearly a decade, Erika put her money where her mouth is when it comes to protecting our environment and health — now, and for our kids and future generations.”

Masur notes in the press release Strassburger’s focus on improving Pittsburgh water quality was a key factor in PennEnvironment providing its endorsement. According to samples taken in December 2017, more than 100 sites in Pittsburgh had lead levels in drinking water above the federal standards. The PWSA is looking to replace 2,100 lead service lines this year.

PennEnvironment deputy director Adam Garber said in a press release that he believes Strassburger will fight for clean water, as well as other environmental causes in the city.

“Erika has walked the walk in so many ways, and her priorities are clear. We know she will be an excellent ally and advocate for Pittsburghers who want clean air, clean water, and great open spaces when she is elected to City Council,” said Garber in a press release.

Strassburger, previously registered as a Democrat, is running as an independent against Democrat Sonja Finn, Republican Rennick Remley and Marty Healey, of the newly created Inclusion Party.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Local environmentalist John Stolz throws hat into 12th District race against Rep. Keith Rothfus

Posted By on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 12:33 PM

  • Photo courtesy of campaign
  • John Stolz
Last month, Duquesne University professor and director of Duquesne’s Center for Environmental Research and Education John Stolz officially launched his campaign for Pennsylvania’s 12th U.S. House district; he is the fourth official candidate to challenge incumbent Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley). The other candidates, all Democrats, are Aaron Anthony (from Shaler), Tom Prigg (McCandless) and Elizabeth Tarasi (Sewickley).

Stolz, a Democrat from Shaler, is an expert on the effects of natural-gas drilling, or fracking, in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He says he believes his environmental background is key to representing the district, and believes a focus on green energy can lead to what the 12th District needs most: jobs. (While the 12th-district unemployment rate is on par with the state average of 5.4 percent, in many towns the figure is higher, including Ambridge, at 6.4 percent, and Johnstown, at about 8 percent.)

Continue reading »

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and climate group host "Taco Truck on Every Corner" event in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 4:40 PM

Tacos being handed out  at "Taco Truck on Every Corner" event in Oakland - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Tacos being handed out at "Taco Truck on Every Corner" event in Oakland
Last week, a surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump warned that without Trump's strict immigration policies, the U.S. would experience "a taco truck on every corner." The quote was then widely mocked on social media, with many people saying that an abundance of taco trucks would be a great thing.

And on Sept 8, Pittsburgh added two taco trucks to the corner of Forbes Avenue and Halket Street in Oakland in further defiance. The event was hosted by environmental PAC NextGen Climate PA and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, and was set up to encourage voter registration and inform potential voters on climate-change issues.

"We think of what the future can hold," said NextGen PA spokesperson Aleigha Cavalier. "A future where there is a taco truck on every corner and a future that is conscious of climate change."

The popular Mexican fare was served by Jackie Page Tastes and Vagabond Taco Truck, and dozens of students and construction workers chowed down on the offerings. Passersby were given a free taco if they signed up to commit to vote on climate-change action, and also were encouraged, but not forced, to register to vote. 

Fetterman enjoyed a taco as well and spoke to many in attendance. The Pittsburgh Taco Truck served tacos at his campaign-launch event for U.S. Senate last fall and today he said that tacos are a great unifier. (Ironically, the day before the now-infamous taco-truck quote, the Trump campaign unveiled a new "Make Mexico Great Again Also" campaign hat.)

"I don't know anybody in their right mind who doesn't love tacos. Everybody loves tacos," said Fetterman at the event. "Donald Trump is the best surrogate a Democrat ever had. [The comment] really was a gift for Democrats."

Fetterman, who has been campaigning for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former opponent and U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty, emphasized that outlandish comments like the "taco truck" one show him that the decision this November should be for the Dems.

"There really isn't a choice, if one of the choices is Donald Trump," said Fetterman.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak discusses link between climate change and national security during a visit to Pittsburgh

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 5:09 PM

There is little question that the U.S.’s and the world’s military attention is currently heavily concentrated in the Middle East. But Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak brought up another area where a chilling hypothesis could play out.

The Arctic could become a new potential battleground, according to the retired Navy Admiral and former U.S. Congressman. He says that with the melting of the polar ice caps, the frozen region could become ripe for countries looking to extract its natural resources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, the Arctic could hold about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and natural gas resources.

Joe Sestak speaks at University of Pittsburgh Law School - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Joe Sestak speaks at University of Pittsburgh Law School
“We might want to start patrolling the Arctic,” said Sestak to a crowd of about 25 inside a University of Pittsburgh Law School classroom, “or people are going to decide on their own who owns the natural resources there.”

Sestak says that the number one threat from climate change is famine caused by droughts. But he questions if the country is addressing this potential polar conflict. He says, if elected, he would advocate for the U.S. to join the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an agreement that establishes guidelines and responsibilities of nations; roles in the oceans, including rules about marine natural resources.

The former U.S. Rep also talked about how the rising sea levels associated with climate change could have a negative effect on the Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., the world’s largest naval base. Rising sea levels could render the piers in Norfolk unusable, says Sestak. He adds that by focusing on diplomacy, enhancing economic partnership, and making the military run more efficiently, the U.S. can shrink its military budget.

At the event, Sestak also touted his environmental record by explaining to the audience he has been calling for a moratorium on fracking since he last ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. (To read all the Democratic candidates’ views on fracking, see City Paper’s coverage here.) Sestak believes that fracking should be halted until protections for the environment and public health are established; oversight agencies are properly staffed; and a severance tax of approximately 5 percent is put in place.

He explained to the crowd that taxpayers invested in fracking — for example, a military-developed sonar technology now used by the natural-gas industry —  and that citizens, at the least, are entitled to a 5 percent return on their investment.

Polling for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race has been sparse, but a straw poll (which are incredibly small in scope) taken by Keystone Progress, a progressive organizer, of audience members at last Saturday’s Democratic debate show Sestak in the lead with 42 percent. Braddock mayor John Fetterman polled at 31 percent and former gubernatorial chief of staff for Tom Wolf, Katie McGinty, polled at 27 percent.

A survey released by Harper Polling in January had Sestak in the lead with 33 percent, McGinty in second with 28 percent, Fetterman in third with 11 percent, and the rest undecided. These polls didn’t include Findlay Township small business owner Joe Vodvarka, who has run a quieter campaign up to this point.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announces new rules on methane emissions

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 5:29 PM

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf during a Jan. 19 Facebook town hall meeting on the environment.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf during a Jan. 19 Facebook town hall meeting on the environment.

In an effort to fight climate change, Gov. Tom Wolf announced new rules on methane emissions in the state. The reason: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methane, the main component of natural gas, is the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, and Pennsylvania is the nation's second-largest natural-gas producer. The plan: Wolf laid out multiple measures to curb methane leaks during natural-gas production, processing and transmission. The appeal: Wolf's administration says that companies will benefit by capturing a "salable product," even as the initiative works to reduce climate change.

The announcement came this week during Wolf's Facebook town-hall meeting, where he answered environment- and energy-related questions people posted. 

"Today we're announcing a new way forward that protects our environment," he said on the live video feed. "It reduces climate change and helps businesses by reducing the waste of a valuable product ... [methane] actually has more than 25 times the warming power of carbon dioxide."

The administration's four-point plan is as follows:
  • The state Department of Environmental Protection will change its permitting stipulations for oil and gas, requiring industry to use updated technology and better record-keeping, and to undergo quarterly monitoring at work sites in order to reduce methane leaks. This would apply to all oil and gas exploration, production and processing sites and facilities.

  • The DEP would also require the use of Tier 4 diesel engines at compressor stations and processing facilities. These engines reduce emissions of particulate matter and nitrous oxide by about 90 percent, according to the administration's press release. 

  • To reduce leaks at existing oil and natural-gas facilities, DEP will develop a regulation for existing sources and submit it to the Environmental Quality Board.

  • To reduce emissions along production, gathering, transmission and distribution lines, DEP will establish best-management practices, including leak-detection and repair programs.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Gov. Tom Wolf to hold Facebook town hall meeting on climate change, will make announcement

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 at 2:23 PM

  • www.governor.pa.gov
  • Gov. Tom Wolf
Today, Gov. Wolf will answer questions about climate change, the environment and energy during a live Facebook town-hall meeting.

The governor has invited people to write their questions on his Facebook page, and as of right now, 205 people have done so. Wolf will begin answering "as many as [he] can" via a live video stream at 3:15 p.m. The meeting is planned to last for 45 minutes, according the governor's press office. The majority of the questions are about the oil and gas industry and the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

According to media reports, Wolf is expected to make an announcement today on regulating methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. 

Neil Shader, press secretary for the state's Department of Environmental Protection, would not elaborate on the announcement but told City Paper via phone that additional information would be available tomorrow via a press webinar.

The DEP is now finalizing new regulations for the oil and gas industry. (Read CP's Green Light column this week for more details.)

On the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced new rules on methane emissions.  According to the EPA's website, methane is the "second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities."

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