SEJ's 27th Annual Conference Agenda — Thursday



Day Tours
Receptions and Exhibits

Exhibitors and Advertisers

Agenda Coverage Lodging/ Travel Advertisers/ Exhibitors Environmental News About Pittsburgh




Thursday, October 5, 2017


5:30 - 9:30 a.m. and Noon - 6:00 p.m.
Location: 2nd floor at the far end of the Ballroom foyer

Pick up your badge and conference materials here. If you didn't sign up for the Thursday tours, Friday evening party at Carrie Furnaces or Sunday breakfast at Phipps Conservatory, there might still be room. Check with registration and sign up there.


SEJ Information Table

2:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Location: 2nd floor, Ballroom foyer

Sign up here for Saturday mini-tours and beat dinners. Read up on Board candidates, find information about SEJ Award winners, membership and services.


Tours in the Field

Advance registration is required for all Thursday tours. Attendance on each tour is strictly limited, so registering early is important. Departure times vary (see below). For those looking for some exercise, tours 1, 2 and 6 are your best options. Other tours involve moderate exercise. Tours 4 and 5 are best suited for those with limited mobility.

Buses will stage and depart from just outside the Benedum Room on the first floor of the Wyndham Grand Hotel Downtown. Watch for directional signs and pointers to get you there. A cash-and-carry breakfast kiosk will be available in the Benedum Room.

Some tours might be able to take standby passengers. To go standby, report to registration 20 minutes before the scheduled tour departure time and have your tour fee available. Standby passengers will be admitted on a first-come first-served basis after those already on a wait list.

Buses will return to the Wyndham Grand around 5:00 p.m. for a night of wining and dining by hosts of independent receptions. You'll find hors d'oeuvres, drinks, press kits, chats with environmental experts, good cheer and great networking.


1. The Allegheny National Forest: Where Timber, Oil, Gas and Wild Rivers Meet

(6:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Hearts Content National Scenic Area. Click to enlarge photo. © James Wilmoth

Pennsylvania’s only national forest is also one of the nation’s most industrial and threatened. It was established in 1923 on 513,000 acres of mostly clear-cut land, and grew, along with its black cherry, oak, maple and beech, into one of the few national forests that makes money on its timber sales. The mineral rights under more than 90 percent of the forest are privately owned (the legal term is “split estate”) and oil and gas drilling sites are almost as plentiful as the white-tailed deer. Wilderness designated acreage is among the lowest in any of the nation’s forests, and its trees are beset by a host of invasive bugs and blights. Despite all that, the forest is bounded by two federal Wild & Scenic rivers, has a section of the North Country National Scenic Trail and more old-growth acreage than anyplace in the state. We’ll hike about a mile through an old-growth section called Hearts Content and discuss the forest’s many issues. Total drive time – 6 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Christopher Rolinson, Associate Professor of Photojournalism and Director of Environmental Journalism, Point Park University
Christine Woodside, Writer, Editor and Author

Sean Brady, Executive Director, Hollow Oak Land Trust
Rob Fallon, District Ranger, Allegheny National Forest
Joan Maloof, Scientist; Executive Director, Old-Growth Forest Network; Professor Emeritus, Salisbury University; and Author, "Nature's Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests"
Michelle Spicer, Graduate Student, Carson Laboratory, Department of Biological Sciences, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh


2. Lake Erie: Water, Walking, Wind and Wine

(6:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Bug-on-a-stick (Buxbaumia aphylla), a rare moss found at the North Kingsville Sand Barrens. Click to enlarge. © Gary Meszaros

What happens on the land impacts the water, even drinking water resources as vast as Lake Erie. We’ll explore those impacts on a tour of the eastern Ohio Lake Erie coastline, stopping first at the historic Lake Erie harbor of Ashtabula, Ohio, where a $75 million project to remove toxic PCBs from the river is nearing completion. Next we’ll head to the lakeside 1919 Ashtabula Pavilion for an early lunch and a discussion with Ohio Sea Grant about Lake Erie’s toxic algae and fisheries challenges. Then it’s off to the North Kingsville Sand Barrens for a short hike with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where we’ll spot fall migratory birds and learn about land and lake conservation efforts. Finally, we’ll stop at a winery near Conneaut for a discussion of a unique freshwater wind turbine project in Lake Erie, and sample bread, cheese and wine at this 50-year-old sustainable vineyard (please bring $5 cash for wine tasting). Total drive time – 4 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Kathi Kowalski, Freelance Journalist
Karen Schaefer, Freelance Journalist and Independent Radio Producer

Jim Bissell, Curator of Botany and Director of Natural Areas, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Arnulf Esterer, Winemaker and Owner, Markko Vineyard
Fred Leitert, Vice Chairman, Board of Directors, Ashtabula Port Authority
Frank Lichtkoppler, former Extension Specialist and Professor, Sea Grant College Program, The Ohio State University; and Member, Ashtabula River Remedial Action Plan Council
Beth Nagusky, Director of Sustainable Development, Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation
Lorry Wagner, President, Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation
Christopher Winslow, Director, Ohio Sea Grant College Program and Stone Laboratory, The Ohio State University


3. Laurel Highlands: One Beautiful Mountain Landscape, Two Very Different Environmental Stories

Flight 93 National Memorial. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

(6:45 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Out of the tragedies of 9/11, a fallow coalfield in western Pennsylvania became the site of the Flight 93 National Memorial. The built structures of the memorial echo aspects of the natural surroundings, while native trees and wildflowers and a renewal of wildlife at the site create a space for remembrance and healing. We’ll explore themes of reclamation and restoration, as legacy acid mine drainage is still being treated on the grounds. A county away, we’ll visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1937 masterpiece, Fallingwater, for another perspective on the integration of the built environment and nature. Total drive time – 4 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Julie Grant, Reporter/Editor, The Allegheny Front
Kara Holsopple, Host, The Allegheny Front

Beverly Braverman, Executive Director, Mountain Watershed Association
Stephen Clark, Superintendent, National Parks of Western Pennsylvania, National Parks Service
Malcolm Crittenden, Watershed Manager, Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Scott Eggerud, Forester, Appalachian Region, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, U.S. Department of the Interior
Mike Kuzemchak, Laurel Highlands Program Director, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Charles Rosenblum, Journalist, Critic of the Built Environment and Visual Arts, Scholar and Adjunct Faculty, Carnegie Mellon University


4. “Cracker” Plants and Fracking and All That Gas

(7:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Of all 50 states in the U.S., Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas behind Texas. On this tour, we’ll visit drilled wells from the historic past, a fracking site of the present and one of the biggest shale gas industrial sites of the future — a 340-acre polyethylene “cracker” plant. We’ll also meet with local elected officials and residents living in the communities where these operations occur. From Pittsburgh, our bus travels north through the Ohio River Valley to Beaver County, Butler County and beyond. During the trip we’ll view the documentary “Triple Divide [Redacted],” which highlights the impacts of fracking on people and places across Pennsylvania. Total drive time – 5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Bobby Magill, Freelance Journalist
Melissa Troutman, Executive Director, Public Herald

Robert Howarth, David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
Anthony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum Professorship in Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University
Robert Schmetzer, President, South Heights Borough Council
John Stolz, Director, Center for Environmental Research and Education; and Professor, Environmental Microbiology, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, Duquesne University
Sharon Wilson, Certified Optical Gas Imaging Thermographer and Gulf Regional Organizer, Earthworks


5. From Steeltown to Green City

(7:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Located in the East Liberty neighborhood near Shadyside, Bakery Square is an open-air shopping and office development and home to Google. This mixed-use, LEED-certified lifestyle center offers a new urban aesthetic that integrates historic architecture with new construction. Photo: © Adam Isovitsch. Courtesy of Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau

Part of Pittsburgh’s evolution from a city choked by smog and coal dust to one of the nation’s most livable places has been the embrace of green buildings. From non-profit nature centers to for-profit bank buildings, Pittsburgh is lighting the urban sustainability pathway with LEED-certified structures that help clean the air, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and brighten the skyline. But the city and The University of Pittsburgh are also working to make sure that green buildings don’t just go to those with the most “green” to pay. On this tour, local experts will take you through some of the highlights, visiting innovative projects in a low-income neighborhood as well as a city park, Pitt’s campus and the blooming (and green) Phipps Conservatory. Total drive time – 1 hour. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Rona Kobell, Staff Reporter, Chesapeake Bay Journal
Jennifer Weeks, Editor, The Conversation

Robert Aumer Jr., Design Partner, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Kristy Bronder, Program Director, The Business of Humanity® Project, Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh
John Camillus, Donald R. Beall Professor of Strategic Management, Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh
Angelica Ciranni, Pittsburgh 2030 District Director, Green Building Alliance
Casey Clauser, Farm Manager, Oasis Farm and Fishery
Patricia Culley, Design Partner, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Adam Haas, Interpretive Specialist, Environmental Communications, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Leslie Montgomery, Education Director, Green Building Alliance
Richard Piacentini, Executive Director, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Gregory Reed, Director, Pitt Center for Energy and the GRID Institute; Director, Electric Power Systems Laboratory; Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh
Camila Rivera-Tinsley, Director of Education, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Director, Frick Environmental Center
Noah Shaltes, Construction Partner/Project Manager, PJ Dick Inc.
Aurora Sharrard, Executive Director, Green Building Alliance


6. To the Bat Cave!

(8:00 a.m. departure, $50 fee, includes lunch and cave entry)

Little brown bat with fungus on muzzle. Click to enlarge. Photo by Al Hicks, NY DEC; courtesy of NWHC/USGS. More images of WNS.

Fifty miles southeast of Pittsburgh lies Laurel Caverns, the largest cave system and bat habitat in Pennsylvania. In 2008, white-nose syndrome made its way from New York to Pennsylvania, and by the following year, thousands of bats had died from the fungal disease. On this tour, you’ll travel deep into Laurel Caverns, off the public cave paths and through narrow crawl spaces to hibernacula used by bats during the winter months. You’ll learn about bat physiology, behavior and the effects of white-nose syndrome, as well as the caverns’ dazzling geology. Participation in this field trip requires a high degree of mobility. Total drive time – 3 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Gloria Dickie, Freelance Science and Environmental Journalist
John Hayes, Outdoors Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Catherine Hibbard, White-Nose Syndrome National Communications Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Robyn Niver, Endangered Species Biologist, New York Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Greg Turner, Wildlife Biologist, Wildlife Diversity Division, Pennsylvania Game Commission
Caving guides, Laurel Caverns Park, TBA



7. One City, Three Rivers: Pittsburgh’s Water Challenge

(8:15 a.m. departure, $45 fee, includes lunch and boat fee)

Pittsburgh faces challenges typical of many urban water systems, with its efforts to stem combined sewer overflows, manage its stormwater, prop up its aging infrastructure and address lead in its drinking water. Amid community outcry, regulators have ordered the water authority to replace lead service lines across the city. Meanwhile, a new “Green First” plan will utilize green infrastructure to address flooding and CSOs. This tour will start with drinking water treatment and make stops at green infrastructure sites and a reclaimed island that boasts, “George Washington landed here.” We’ll tour a sewage treatment plant and end the day on a research boat at the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, where we’ll learn about emerging pollutants in urban waterways as we take in a stunning view of downtown. Total drive time – less than 2 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
James Bruggers, Environmental Reporter, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal
Kathy Knauer, Executive Producer, The Allegheny Front

Michael Blackhurst, Co-Director, Urban and Regional Analysis, Center for Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh
Suzi Bloom, Rivers of Steel
Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry and Director of the Institute for Green Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Jordan Fischbach, Codirector, Water and Climate Resilience Center and Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation
Bernard Goldstein, Environmental Toxicologist and former Dean, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh
Douglas Jackson, Director of Operations and Maintenance, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority
Will Pickering, Communications Manager, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority
James Stitt, Manager of Sustainability, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority
Rob Walters, Waterkeeper/Executive Director, Three Rivers Waterkeeper
Karen Yacos, Director, Water Infrastructure, CERES
Megan Zeigler, Associate Project Manager, Green Infrastructure, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority


8. Coal, Steel and Smog

(8:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Once known as “Hell with the Lid Off,” the Pittsburgh region is still coping with the environmental legacy of heavy industry. We will hike up “boney piles” (early 20th century coal wastelands) and discuss reclamation efforts, and visit the Smog Museum (motto: “Clean Air Started Here”) in Donora, the site of a 1948 air pollution disaster that killed 22. We’ll be joined by historians, industry experts and a survivor of the deadly Donora smog, and conclude with a discussion at Brew Gentlemen, a microbrewery located in the historic steel town of Braddock. Total drive time – 2.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Reid Frazier, Energy Reporter/Producer, The Allegheny Front
Bill Kovarik, Professor of Communication, Radford University

Ron Baraff, Director of Historic Resources and Facilities, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area
Eric Cavazza, Director, Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Richard Charlton, Archivist and Curator, Donora Smog Museum and Historical Society
Veronica Coptis, Executive Director, Center for Coalfield Justice
Virgil Fragello, retired Steel Mill Office Worker
Maryann Kubacki, Secretary, East Bethlehem Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania
David Lonich, Historian; Educator, California University of Pennsylvania; and Author, "Steel Town Showdown"
John Miller, former Metals Reporter, The Wall Street Journal (Pittsburgh)
Mark Pawelec, Volunteer Committee Chair, Web Design and Fundraising, Donora Smog Museum
Chris Pistorius, POSCO Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Co-Director, Center for Iron and Steelmaking Research, Carnegie Mellon University
Charles Stacey, Historian, retired School Teacher and Administrator
Art Sullivan, Consultant, Art Sullivan Mine Services and former Coal Miner



9. Fission and Our Energy Future: The View from Inside an Operating Nuclear Plant

(9:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Join us as we tour FirstEnergy Corp’s twin-reactor Beaver Valley nuclear complex, 34 miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh, and get a firsthand look at how nuclear technology works. Beaver Valley 1 and Beaver Valley 2 are pressurized water reactors licensed to operate until 2036 and 2047, respectively. But Pennsylvania is one of many states with deregulated electricity markets where nuclear plants now struggle to compete against lower-priced forms of energy. Learn about the pros and cons of nuclear, and why industry executives view it as a powerful tool for combatting climate change. Total drive time – 1.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Tom Henry, Environmental-Energy Writer, The (Toledo) Blade
Roger Witherspoon, Journalist, Author, Educator

Paulina Jaramillo, Associate Professor, Engineering and Public Policy, College of Engineering and Co-Director, Green Design Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
Jim Krafty, Senior Resident Inspector, Beaver Valley Nuclear Plant, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Neil Sheehan, Public Affairs Officer, Field Office Region I, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Tim Steed, Director, Beaver Valley Performance Improvement, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co.
Jennifer Young, Lead, Generation and Environmental Communications, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co.
Beaver Valley Young Generation in Nuclear representatives TBA
Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts representative (invited)
Other FirstEnergy/Beaver Valley management representatives TBA



5:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

The UPitt bookstore is on site to sell SEJ members' and speakers' books, as well as offering environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference. Stop by for book signings from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m.


Independent Hospitality Receptions and Exhibits

5:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

Photo courtesy of Dale Willman

Now a popular SEJ tradition, this is the conference’s best networking opportunity. After spending the day in the field, meet with hosts of multiple receptions. They’ll have experts on hand as well as displays, materials and, of course, great food and drink. And don’t miss the sneak peek at 2017 exhibitors and alternative vehicles. After the receptions, we'll have live music by the Blues Orphans from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m.



Wednesday, October 4
Friday, October 6
Saturday, October 7
Sunday, October 8