Western Pa. Wakes Up To Flooding After Heavy Overnight Storms

A series of violent storms rumbled across Western Pennsylvania overnight, flooding roads and basements and knocking out power to thousands.

Thunderstorms flooded several areas along state routes 51, 30 and 119 and spurred a brief tornado scare in parts of Westmoreland and Allegheny counties — including a reported sighting of a funnel in Elizabeth Township.

Rihaan Gangat of the National Weather Service in Moon said there was no official verification of a tornado forming in the area as of late Sunday, although he did not dispute the legitimacy of a resident’s video, which showed a dark, wedge-shaped object.

“So far there haven’t been any reports of touchdowns out of that area,” Gangat said at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. “We did have a tornado warning out for the first storm because rotation was definitely seen but, because we lost daylight, it’s hard to tell if anything reached the ground.”

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National, Pittsburgh Region Companies Rally To Extend Charter Of Export-Import Bank

GE Transportation recently signed a deal to build 100 locomotives in Erie — including engines made in Grove City — and sell them in Angola for $350 million.

GE used financing through the Export-Import Bank, which provides loans, loan guarantees and insurance to U.S. companies selling overseas. The bank, supporters say, helps U.S. companies compete more effectively for foreign business.

“If we hadn’t had that financing, the order would have gone to China,” said Richard Simpson, global head of supply chain for the company, who said Thursday that GE Transportation financed $720 million in sales to three other countries last year.

Such deals are in jeopardy, advocates for the 80-year-old bank say. Its charter expires June 30 and observers say it might not come up for a vote in Congress before then.

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Officials Hopeful Of Finally Obtaining Funding For Lower Mon Locks, Dams Project

Area congressmen are optimistic that federal funds will be available soon for a full year’s work of upgrading locks and dams on the lower Monongahela River.

John Rizzo, spokesman for Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton, said Wednesday a bill with $52 million for the Lower Mon Project was released May 21 by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Matt Dinkel, spokesman for Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said that $52 million is included in House of Representatives Bill 2028, an appropriations measure passed May 1.

Part of a $1.7 billion project, the $52 million is to be used in fiscal 2015-16 at the Charleroi No. 4 Locks and Dam by the Army Corps of Engineers.

That’s part of a project to upgrade Charleroi No. 4 and Braddock No. 2 locks and dams and eliminate Elizabeth No. 3 Locks and Dam.

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Judge: UPMC Must Provide In-Network Access To Highmark Medicare Members

DSC01842More than 180,000 seniors who rely on Highmark Inc. for Medicare Advantage will keep in-network access to UPMC at least until 2019, Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini ordered Friday.

His three-page decision commands the Downtown-based rivals into binding arbitration to resolve other disagreements they cannot settle on their own — a move that delighted Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

UPMC vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

“The feud between these two companies must end — the people of Western Pennsylvania have had enough,” Wolf said in a statement.

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Entrepreneurial Meet Up Group Looks For Members In Mid-Mon Valley

Editor’s note:  A reader sent in this request – if you are interested, contact Rick.

I’m trying to start an entrepreneur meet up in the Charleroi, PA area.  Looking for people interested in joining me.  I can be contacted at 724-992-8695.
Rick

Gas Industry’s Pain Ripples Across Western Pennsylvania

Lunch crowds in the Hardwood Cafe used to be packed with dozens of workers from the natural gas industry.

A lot of them were regulars. Lately, some familiar faces have disappeared.

“I would say it was right after the holidays that a lot of them were not coming back,” said Justin Trainor, who owns the restaurant in Penn. “The servers would say, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen so and so,’ and (the gas workers) would say, ‘Oh, they didn’t bring them back.’ ”

The falloff in customers has put a dent in Trainor’s business, which has benefited from the gas industry boom in Western Pennsylvania. But low gas prices have forced companies such as Rex Energy and XTO to pull back on new drilling, and the effects are beginning to ripple throughout the region’s economy.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/7817061-74/gas-prices-industry#ixzz3TuGip89T
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Farm To Table To Sponsor ‘For The Love Of Pittsburgh’ Food Tasting

In the middle of a cold Pittsburgh winter, a Farm to Table Local Food Tasting might seem like an unfeasible event to pull off.

Even though local produce is hard to find now in this region, Erin Hart, director of health-benefit services for American HealthCare Group, the sponsor of Farm to Table, says it’s a great time of year “to slow down and savor the winter offerings of local farms and food producers.”

Those offerings include greens, squash, potatoes, apples, onions and garlic; shelf staples such as canned goods, honey and maple syrup; and all kinds of meats, eggs and cheeses.

The first “For the Love of Pittsburgh” Farm to Table Local Food Tasting will take place Feb. 8 at Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District.

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As Banking Goes Mobile, Branch Closures Rip Through Local Economy

Phil Arlia has been dispensing medication in Pitcairn since 1968, but he was more than a pharmacist.

He was a kind of banker.

“We always had a courtesy of cashing customers’ paychecks, state checks, any kind of check,” said Arlia, owner of Phil’s Pharmacy on Broadway Boulevard.

But he stopped cashing checks when the borough’s only remaining bank, a Citizens Bank branch, closed last March. Arlia no longer had fast access to cash to replenish his register when it got low.

The branch closure made it more difficult for Pitcairn residents to access cash to spend at local businesses.

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Uniontown, Washington Crown Center Malls For Sale

Two malls in Western Pennsylvania were put up for sale by their Philadelphia-based owner as part of its strategy to sell lower-performing properties and improve returns.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust said Monday that Uniontown Mall in Fayette County and Washington Crown Center mall in Washington County are among five shopping properties it will try to sell this year.

“I’m a little surprised,” said Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, who lives nearby. “Over the past year, the Washington Crown Center has done a lot of upgrades, adding a Marshall’s, Ross and Ulta. From what I’ve seen, they’ve been investing in that mall. The improvements make it very attractive, in my opinion.”

The company said it sold eight properties in other areas in 2014 for a total of $191.7 million. It has sold interests in 16 properties for more than $424 million since its portfolio review began in 2012.

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Southwestern Energy Snaps Up Assets In Marcellus, Utica From Chesapeake

Chesapeake Energy continued its sell-off of gas drilling operations in the Marcellus and Utica shales Thursday with its biggest withdrawal from Appalachia.

Pennsylvania’s biggest shale gas producer agreed to sell 435 shale wells, 1,100 conventional wells and the rights to drill in more than 400,000 acres to Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. for $5.375 billion.

“I certainly think this is consistent with what we’ve seen from Chesapeake,” said Scott Hanold, an energy analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

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Transportation Plan Calls For $4.7 Billion For Southwestern Pennsylvania

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A draft plan for improvements to the region’s transportation system envisions $4.7 billion in spending in the 10 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania in the next four years, a 52 percent increase from the current four-year plan.

The plan for fiscal years 2015 through 2018 signals a reversal of years of diminished spending on infrastructure and public transit, bolstered by the funding bill that the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett enacted last fall. The draft Transportation Improvement Plan was released last week by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, a regional planning agency.

“From my perspective, we were able to add significant projects that were simply unaffordable in the last TIP update,” said Dan Cessna, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s district executive for Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.

Among them is a $79 million rehabilitation of the Liberty Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh, which at present is weight-restricted and rated structurally deficient, meaning its components are deteriorated but not yet unsafe. Numerous smaller bridge and paving projects were added as well, he said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/frontpage/2014/06/23/Plan-calls-for-boost-for-southwestern-Pa-transportation/stories/201406230085#ixzz35UedvrMx

44 Arrested In Brazen Heroin-Dealing Network In Monroeville

Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United ...

Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Federal officials today announced charges against 44 people — all but one from Western Pennsylvania — who are accused of involvement in a heroin-dealing network that called itself “Bricks-R-Us” and even wore drug-themed T-shirts.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton said the crew worked the parking lots and bathrooms along the commercial district on Business Route 22 in Monroeville, sometimes wearing T-shirts featuring the motto “100 Bricks at a Time.” Brick is a slang term for a large quantity of heroin.

“They brazenly conducted most of their drug trafficking in the Monroeville business district,” said Mr. Hickton. “As of today, they are on the run, and headed out of business.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/05/29/Federal-officers-to-announce-arrests-in-major-drug-trafficking-ring/stories/201405290245#ixzz338mxKOOZ

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Tours To Show Off Different Facets Of Pittsburgh

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A decades-old Pittsburgh transportation company is adding to its repertoire a series of tours exploring the city’s quirky and eclectic side, from its famed slaw-and-fries sandwich to a Hill District home once rented by Pirates great Roberto Clemente.

Pittsburgh Tours and More, a division of Pittsburgh Transportation Group, also will offer a look at Western Pennsylvania’s Amish life and silver-screen locations, as well as stops at breweries where patrons can wash down local history with a cold pint.

“This provides another way to spotlight the city,” said Sherris Moreira, director of Tours and More. “We saw there was a need in Pittsburgh.”

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Corbett: Coal Is Working

States and the energy industry should work together to improve carbon-capturing technology to save coal-burning power plants and coal-related jobs threatened by federal clean air regulations, Gov. Tom Corbett said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a coal industry conference at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Fayette County, the Shaler Republican joined a chorus of voices complaining that environmental regulations will push coal out as an electricity source.

“If you take one energy source out of the mix, you just know the cost of electricity will go up,” Corbett told about 100 people at the Nemacolin Energy Institute gathering.

He later announced he would work with Wyoming Gov. Matthew H. Mead and other coal-producing states on research and eventually build a joint testing center for affordable emission-control technology.

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Verizon Wireless To Close Marshall, Cranberry Call Centers, Cut 1,000 Jobs

Map of Butler County, Pennsylvania with Munici...

Map of Butler County, Pennsylvania with Municipal Labels showing Cities and Boroughs (red), Townships (white), and Census-designated places (blue). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verizon Wireless will slice more than 1,000 jobs in Western Pennsylvania when it closes customer call centers in Cranberry and Marshall in May, the company said on Wednesday.

“This was a very difficult but necessary business decision,” Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Laura Merritt said in a statement.

The Cranberry call center employs about 600 customer service workers in the Cranberry Woods business park. The one in neighboring Marshall will lose about 430 workers, including 200 in telemarketing and 230 in business and government support.

A Verizon regional headquarters for Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia will remain in Marshall, preserving 340 jobs.

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One Missing, One Hurt In Gas Well Explosion In Greene County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Greene County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Greene County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oil and gas giant Chevron Corp. is flying a disaster team to Western Pennsylvania to tame a fire raging at a well that exploded Tuesday morning in Greene County, injuring one worker and leaving another missing.

Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver said the fire was reported at about 6:45 a.m. at the Lanco 7H well in Dunkard, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. Oliver said one person is hospitalized and another is unaccounted for.

“Chevron’s primary concern at this point is to contain the fire and ensure the safety of its employees, contractors and the surrounding community,” Oliver said.

Firefighters and other emergency personnel have been unable to go near the burning well since the explosion, because of its size and heat, officials said. State police set up a half-mile perimeter around the well as a precaution. From that distance, the burning well sounded like a jet engine.

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Gas Field Politics Affect Leadership In Western Pennsylvania Communities

Map of Washington County higlighting Robinson ...

Map of Washington County higlighting Robinson Township. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rodger Kendall says he never wanted to enter politics, but when he did, he waded into one of the biggest political conflicts in Pennsylvania.

Kendall became a supervisor in Robinson, Washington County, in January, less than three weeks since it won a landmark state Supreme Court ruling overturning part of new laws aimed at eliminating local obstacles to shale drilling.

Despite the win, he used his first night in office, Jan. 6, to lead a vote to remove Robinson from the case. Then he made his first official call as a township supervisor to Range Resources Corp.

In one election, voters dumped two of the township’s three supervisors and shifted the township’s position on drilling.

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Sharon Regional Hospital Agrees To For-Profit Buyout

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Mercer County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Mercer County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Gobble, gobble, gobble….CHS is at it again.

A Mercer County health system will be sold to a for-profit Tennessee conglomerate that owns, leases or operates 206 other hospitals in 29 states, according to an agreement announced Thursday.

Sharon Regional Health System said it has reached a definitive agreement to be sold to Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems Inc.

The sales price was not released, but hospital officials said in a news release that Community Health will invest at least $75 million in the hospital in the next five years.

Sharon Regional has about 1,800 workers making it the largest employer in Mercer County, which borders Ohio along Interstate 80. Sharon Regional’s flagship hospital is about 60 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/north/2014/02/06/Sharon-Regional-Hospital-agrees-to-for-profit-buyout/stories/201402060266

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Pittsburgh International Struggling Despite The Region’s Robust Economy

FAA Airport Diagram of KPIT

FAA Airport Diagram of KPIT (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald describes Pittsburgh International Airport as an economic engine for Western Pennsylvania.

Yet while Fitzgerald points to improved employment, production and tourism as signs of the region’s economic vitality, growth at Pittsburgh International is stalled.

“I can’t explain it,” Fitzgerald said of the incongruity between the region’s surging economy and an airport that is scuffling in its core business of flying.

The airport was on pace through November to post its lowest annual passenger total since opening in 1992, according to the latest data. It recently learned that 600 airline jobs will vanish when the new American Airlines, created through a merger with US Airways, closes a flight operations center in Moon by next year. An unused section of one concourse in the $1 billion airport remains walled-off. The airport doesn’t have a CEO.

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Potent Heroin, Painkiller Mix ‘All Over Pittsburgh’

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The deadliest batch of heroin to hit Western Pennsylvania in more than 25 years killed as many as 13 people during the past week as authorities scrambled to warn users.

The unknown distributors of the drug apparently mixed in the powerful painkiller fentanyl and sold it in stamp bags marked with the brand name Theraflu — the same as the over-the-counter cold medication. The potent combination is causing overdoses and deaths in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

“I’m only at the very beginning of investigating the number of deaths,” said Dr. Karl Williams, Allegheny County‘s medical examiner. His office identified 13 people ranging in age from 25 to 51 whose deaths were believed to be connected to the batch. In four cases, authorities found bags with the Theraflu stamp with the victims.

“It’s all over Pittsburgh. It’s all over Allegheny County. It’s all over the surrounding counties. It’s a major regional issue,” said Williams, who with officials in Westmoreland County raised alarms about the drug on Friday.

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