Jobless Rate at Record Low in PA, Researchers Say

May 22, 2024 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

(Source: Keystone Research Center)

Although polls show that Pennsylvanians are concerned about the economy, research indicates that the unemployment rate statewide is at a record-low number, and better even than the rate nationally.

In April, the state’s jobless rate stayed at 3.4 percent, an all-time low in Pennsylvania, better than the national rate of 3.9 percent.

Maisum Murtaza, research associate at the Keystone Research Center, said the positive trend has been ongoing for months, with the rate hovering between 3.2 and 3.4 percent over the past year.

He saod the job market is recovering from the COVID pandemic and workers are starting to gain a bit more power in the labor market.

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Air Advocate: Rotten-Egg Smell Has Likely Source

May 09, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: State & Region

Editor’s note: The writer of this story has a conflict of interest. He is a U.S. Steel shareholder.

A local clean-air advocate argued Wednesday there is only one likely source of a rotten-egg smell that has plagued the Mon-Yough area for weeks — and it’s U.S. Steel’s Clairton Plant.

Patrick Campbell, executive director of the Group Against Smog & Pollution, said that a 2023 study by the Allegheny County Health Department concluded that nearly all hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, pollution in the region is the result of operations at Clairton Plant, which makes coke, a blast-furnace fuel, by super-heating coal to remove impurities.

“We know the source of the stench,” he said in a phone interview. “Something is going on at Clairton Coke Works that’s resulting in these emissions.”

Last week, Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey convened a meeting of 40 first-responders, representatives from corporations, and local, county and state officials to discuss the ongoing odor. The smell — which seems to come and go — has resulted in countless calls to local fire departments by residents concerned that they have a natural gas leak.

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Rotten-Egg Odor Vexes Companies, Local Officials

May 07, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: State & Region

* Editor’s Note — This story was corrected after publication. Paragraphs marked with * have been edited.

Conflict of interest notice: The writer of this story is a U.S. Steel shareholder.

U.S. Steel said its Mon Valley facilities, including Irvin Plant, seen here from Glassport, are operating normally. A “rotten egg” or “natural gas” smell reported by residents from West Homestead to Clairton. (Tube City Almanac photo)

A persistent smell of rotten eggs or natural gas in the Mon-Yough area has not been traced to leaks in any natural gas pipelines and local companies and officials are having a difficult time tracking its source.*

Last week, personnel from local fire departments, utility providers, U.S. Steel and a variety of agencies met to discuss the smell, which has plagued communities from West Homestead to Clairton.

There is no immediate danger to the public, according to an email from Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey of West Mifflin, who convened the meeting.

“It’s been going on for a few months at least,” said Nick Paradise, a spokesperson for Peoples Gas, the dominant natural gas supplier in the McKeesport region. “It’s not necessarily every day — it ebbs and flows.”

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Experts: Be On Guard for Invasive Pests

April 30, 2024 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

They may seem pretty at first — but spotted lanternflies could cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to crops and timber in Pennsylvania every year. The invasive pests have arrived in the Mon-Yough area and are widespread. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

Invasive pests cost the United States about $40 billion a year in damages to trees, plants and crops, and according to experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, springtime is the best time for Pennsylvanians to spot invasive species before they can do more damage.

Kathryn Bronsky, national policy manager for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said hungry pests include not only invasive insects but diseases they carry, which people can unknowingly spread.

“Some examples of what to be on the lookout for are Asian longhorn beetle and spongy moths, and other pests that harm trees and natural resources,” she said. “And fruit flies, citrus greening, spotted lanternfly and lots of others that can damage crops and agriculture here in the U.S.”

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Film Looks at Dementia’s Toll on Black Residents

April 19, 2024 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Documentary filmmaker C. Nathaniel Brown, right, with the late Louis Gossett, who talks about his own family’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the new movie, “Remember Me,” which has its Pittsburgh debut on Saturday. (Photo courtesy C. Nathaniel Brown via Facebook)

Alzheimer’s disease is the eighth-leading cause of death in Pennsylvania, but takes an disproportionate toll on Black and African-American patients.

A documentary on the topic debuts Saturday in Pittsburgh. “Remember Me: Dementia in the African American Community” features individuals and families who are dealing with memory loss.

C. Nathaniel Brown, founder and CEO of Expected End Entertainment and a former Pittsburgh resident, said his aunt lives with dementia, which sparked his interest in talking with others to find out more about the disease and how it affects communities of color.

“The first thing I found out was that there are over 100 types of dementia,” said Brown, who began his career as a writer and photographer for the New Pittsburgh Courier. “And the more I learned, the more I realized how much it was impacting the African American community disproportionately. We’re twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or some other progressive type of dementia.”

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Air, Water Groups Rally Ahead of U.S. Steel Merger

April 12, 2024 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

(Photo courtesy Breathe Project via Keystone State News Connection)

People working for environmental justice are rallying today at the downtown Pittsburgh headquarters of U.S. Steel, voicing their concerns to company shareholders about creating a healthier future in the Monongahela Valley region.

Japan's Nippon Steel is buying U.S. Steel for more than $14 billion.

Former Duquesne Mayor Nickole Nesby, an environmental-justice organizer with the group 412Justice, said the asthma rate in the Mon Valley is four to five times higher than the national average. She pointed out they're being left out of important conversations about the sale and are urging better health protections.

“We are actually gathering to demand a seat at the table,” she said. "We — the communities which have been impacted by the pollutants for decades — have not had a seat at the table. Our voice needs to be heard.”

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Roads Closed After Another Record-Setting Storm

April 12, 2024 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: State & Region

Thursday’s storms were another record-setting day for the Pittsburgh area.

The National Weather Service in Moon Twp. said that 2.77 inches of rain measured at Pittsburgh International Airport nearly doubled the previous record for April 11, set in 1933.

It also was the 25th-wettest day on record in Pittsburgh, NWS forecasters said. Records go back to 1871.

So far, April’s rainfall has been 6.11 inches above normal and the month is now the third-wettest April on record, the weather services said Friday. By month’s end, April 2024 will probably be the wettest April in Pittsburgh, ever.

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More Flooding as Rain Swamps Region Again

April 11, 2024 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: State & Region

BREAKING: This is a developing story and will be updated as necessary.

Another week, another flood: Just days after Western Pennsylvania cleaned up from record-setting rains that sent local rivers and streams over their banks, rainstorms again drenched the region on Thursday.

A flash-flood warning for the entire area is in effect until 2:30 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Moon Twp. McKeesport, Clairton, Liberty and the neighboring communities are all in the path of the current line of storms.

Route 48 (Long Run Road) was closed Thursday night in both directions between Cool Springs Road and Lou Washowich Way (Marshall Drive Extension) due to flooding, White Oak emergency management announced.

Forecasters and emergency personnel on Thursday night warned motorists to stay off of local roads unless absolutely necessary, adding that most flood deaths occur when drivers are trapped in stalled cars due to high water.

Emergency crews throughout southern Allegheny County were responding to literally dozens of calls for assistance on Thursday night after 2 to 3 inches of rain fell throughout the day, the NWS said.

Another 1 to 1.5 inches of rain are possible overnight, forecasters said.

Local streams are rising, including Thompson Run at Turtle Creek, which was at 4 feet and climbing on Thursday night. Normal flow is 1 foot.

Some of the worst flash-flooding was reported in Washington County and south and west of Pittsburgh, with emergency rescues reported in communities such as Oakdale, North Fayette Twp. and South Park Twp., and roads closed in Jefferson Hills, Brentwood, Baldwin and surrounding municipalities.

All lanes of the Parkway West (Interstate 376) were closed at the junction of Business Route 376 at approximately 7 p.m. due to flooding, emergency officials said.

But low-lying roads in the Mon-Yough area were again hard-hit, with emergency personnel reporting just after 8 p.m. that cars were stuck on Route 837 under the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge.

Munhall and Forward Twp. also were reporting localized flooding.


AARP, VITA Have Last-Minute Tax Help Available

April 09, 2024 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: State & Region

Spalding County, Ga., resident Dan Garvin was receiving free tax preparation help from University of Georgia students and Spalding County Extension Agent Cindee Sweeda in this file photo. (File photo by Sharon Dowdy/University of Georgia via Twitter. Licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0 Deed)

With less than a week to go before the deadline for most federal and state income tax and municipal wage tax forms, Pennsylvania residents who need assistance in filing their returns can use the free services of the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program. You don’t have to be an AARP member or a senior citizen to get help.

Francis Tremel, Pennsylvania state coordinator for the program, said that while Tax-Aide volunteers assist people of all ages, their main focus is on serving individuals with low to moderate incomes.

“Last year, over 1.5 million Tax-Aide participants nationwide saved more than $1.1 million in refunds and credits. I work also at the Indiana office,” Tremel said. “And we will do 1,200 returns this year, which is a very significant number for individuals that really need the assistance.”

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Flooding Hits Area After Record Rainfalls

April 03, 2024 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: State & Region

This is a developing story and will be updated as necessary.

Water topped the end of Ninth Avenue near Kane Regional Center on Wednesday afternoon. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Roads remain closed throughout the Mon-Yough area after record rainfalls dropped up to 4 inches of rain on parts of Western Pennsylvania.

The Youghiogheny River is overflowing its banks in Elizabeth Twp. and water was lapping at the edge of the parking lot at McKees Point Marina.

City officials reported that the West Fifth Avenue end of the Mansfield Bridge was closed Wednesday morning due to flooding, while in White Oak, Route 48 was closed between Cool Springs Road and Lincoln Way; and Lincoln Way was closed between Route 48 and Coulterville Road.

White Oak police reported that Lincoln Way had reopened at noon Wednesday, but that part of Route 48 remained closed while crews removed debris from the road.

The stretch of River Road between lower 10th Ward and Port Vue was closed Wednesday afternoon due to flooding and a landslide, the McKeesport Fire Department reported.

The state Department of Transportation reported that Route 837 was closed between the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge and Dravosburg due to flooding. A section of Route 837 in West Mifflin also was closed, borough police said.

A strong storm system that arrived in California last weekend — causing parts of that state’s fabled Highway 1 to fall down a cliff into the Pacific Ocean — made its way across the United States on Tuesday, triggering blizzards and floods in the western part of the country, tornadoes in Indiana, and heavy thunderstorms in Ohio and West Virginia.

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