Bonnie Pfister

The recent opening of the Port Authority’s new “T Plus” connection to the North Side/North Shore comes just in time for the Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 home opener that begins at 1:35 p.m. today.

Copyright Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The light-rail service includes two stops across the Allegheny River from the newly re-opened Gateway T station on Stanwix Street near Point Park. Closest to PNC Park is the underground North Side Station, which is accessible onto West General Robinson Street, beneath the ALCO Parking Garage. Further along is the elevated Allegheny Station, located along Art Rooney Avenue near Heinz Field.

Fares within downtown on the T (as well as all Port Authority buses) have long been free, and remain so. Through 2015, fares between downtown and the North Shore stations will also be free to passengers, with costs underwritten by the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority, Alco Parking, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Rivers Casino.

Check out the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s map of other places of interest on the North Shore now accessible via the connector (the Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center, fore example, plus a variety of drinking and dining options), as well as a Port Authority video (below) highlighting the new service.

Long-time (and long-suffering) Pirates fans hope this will be the year the Buccos reverse a 19-year losing streak some say began with the so-called  Bream Curse.  Sid Bream was a Pirates first baseman who considered southwestern PA his home, and his teammates close friends. But soon after being traded to the Atlanta Braves, he scored the winning run that defeated the Pirates in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in 1992, and thus began the hometown team’s dismal record.

But that’s ancient history now. Play ball!

The Port Authority of Allegheny County’s new T Plus service: 

Phil Cynar
Illustration by Steven Salerno; courtesy Pittsburgh Magazine

Pittsburgh is greener than it has been in some time – thanks to an early spring (which felt more like summer) – in late March. Unusually warm temperatures teased out buds and leaves on trees and shrubs around the region, and flower beds everywhere began sporting early splashes of color to complement the coat of green deemed by Mother Nature as the season’s “must-have.”

But green is more than a color or a seasonal statement for the Pittsburgh region. It’s a commitment to embracing smarter ways to produce and use energy in ways that respect and preserve the environment – the kind of green you’re proud to wear on your sleeve. And when you think about our past – as a poster child for industrial pollution – it’s pretty impressive that Pittsburgh has regenerated itself and is regarded today as a model of green and a sustainability innovator for the U.S. and the world.

The April 2012 issue of Pittsburgh Magazine, which just hit the newsstands, features a special section about “The New Emerald City” and some of the Pittsburgh region organizations that wear “green” well. If you don’t have a copy of the magazine handy, you can read the feature story here.

Ben Kamber

Shell’s announcement of a proposed petrochemical complex in Beaver County represents the single largest “from the ground up” industrial investment in the region in a generation. Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference characterizes this as an “historic” project that will generate thousands of construction jobs and employ hundreds of people full-time after completion. The Pittsburgh Quarterly‘s Doug Heuck says this will take the region’s natural gas industry to the next level, and is just the latest in a string of good news indicators for the region.

The University of Pittsburgh is holding a major nuclear power symposium on March 27 and 28. Former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh is hosting the event, which is bringing in a slew of heavy-hitters from across the nation and globe to discuss and reconsider the role of nuclear energy in the 21st century. As one of the few policy makers who has dealt directly with a nuclear power plant crisis, Governor Thornburgh is uniquely positioned to reflect on nuclear’s place in today’s energy mix.

In this second part, Governor Thornburgh offers lessons learned in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident 33 years ago and how today’s decision makers should approach nuclear power.

Our Region’s Business” airs Sundays at 11 a.m. on WPXI-TV. Hosted by the Allegheny Conference’s Bill Flanagan, the 30-minute business affairs program is co-produced with Cox Broadcasting. The program is rebroadcast on PCNC-TV at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, and at 3:30 p.m. Mondays. It also airs Sundays on WJAC-TV (Johnstown-Altoona) at 6 a.m. and WTOV-TV (Wheeling-Steubenville) at 6:30 a.m.

Phil Cynar

There’s something to be said for serendipity. On the heels of the recent launch of the “Pittsburgh:  Best of the World” campaign – and on the threshold of spring’s arrival – has named Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens as one of the world’s 10 best indoor gardens.

While we can’t discount the possibility that Fox News heard about our “best of the world” campaign, it’s a likely bet that historic Phipps was already on the radar as a green gem – not only because of which it contains, but also how it is constructed.  Bursting with the beauty of nature – everything from bonsais and orchids to a tremendous new “Tropical Forest India” exhibit – Pittsburgh’s Victorian-style glasshouse conservatory is a perpetually green retreat, even on a gray day, and – in the case of Fox News’ review of world-best indoor gardens – holds its own alongside Montreal’s Botanic Garden, the U.S. Botanic Garden in D.C and Berlin’s Botanischer Garten.

But Phipps has colored itself even greener by its embrace of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, including a Silver LEED-certified welcome center (the first LEED-certified center in a public garden in the U.S.) – underscoring that the conservatory is serious about sustainability and conservation in order to protect and preserve the planet.

In May, Phipps will take its green commitment to an even higher level when its new facility, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), opens. The CSL will be one of the world’s first “living building,” exceeding the highest green building standards with net-zero energy and net-zero water technologies. In addition to being a testament to Phipps’ commitment to green, the CSL is a model – “all-things-green under one roof” – for how Pittsburgh is a global leader in innovation for green building technologies and products.

Yes, Pittsburgh – one of the most polluted places on the planet, once upon a time – is now a new “emerald city” and a must-see destination for lovers of green. If you haven’t been before – or haven’t been in some time – plan a visit. Pass on Paris. You’ll love Pittsburgh (and Phipps) in the springtime.
(L to R) Dennis Yablonsky, CEO, Allegheny Conference; Dan Carlson, general manager, new business development, Shell Chemicals; Iain Lo, vice president new business development and ventures, Shell Chemicals; Beaver County Commissioner Dennis Nichols; Beaver County Commissioner & Chairman Tony Amadio; Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik

Shell announced today that it has signed a site option agreement to build a petrochemical plant in Beaver County to process natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. The facility will include a “world-scale” ethane cracker, a facility that breaks down large molecules from natural gas into smaller ones. The location is in Potter and Center Townships near Monaca.

The facility is expected to generate thousands of construction jobs and employ hundreds of people full-time after completion. Shell announced in June 2011 that it was looking to build the plant somewhere in the Appalachian natural gas footprint, but until today it was not known if that plant would be located in Ohio, West Virginia or elsewhere.

Shell said in a statement that it looked at various factors to select the preferred site, including good access to liquids rich natural gas resources, water, road and rail transportation infrastructure, power grids, economics, and sufficient acreage to accommodate facilities for a world scale petrochemical complex and potential future expansions.

Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, called the announcement historic, as it would be the single largest “from the ground up” industrial investment in the region in a generation.

“This project is the natural next step in the development of the market for natural gas in our region, ensuring that more of the economic benefits of this rich natural resource remain here for our residents and businesses,” Yablonsky said. “But today’s announcement is just the first step; we must continue to work together to make this proposed business investment happen.” Check out the YouTube link below for more from Yablonsky on this announcement.

Dan Carlson, Shell’s General Manager, New Business Development, called the agreement an important step for the project. “We look forward to working with the communities in Pennsylvania, and gas producers across Appalachia, as we continue our efforts to develop a petrochemical complex,” Carlson said.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said he and key cabinet members has been working with Shell officials for many months to reach this point. “Shell now recognizes what we already knew; Pennsylvania is ideal for this project,” Corbett said. “Not only do we sit atop the richest known reserves of natural gas in the world, but we have a world class workforce, an expansive transportation network including rail, roads and waterways, excellent education institutions and a thriving quality of life here in the Pittsburgh region.”

Tony Amadio, chairman of the Beaver County Board of Commissioners, said he welcomes the opportunity this project represents for his county and the broader region. “We recognize that today’s announcement is just beginning the process of turning a plan into reality,” Amadio said. “We look forward to working together with our federal and state officials and municipal and school district leaders to bring this investment home to Beaver County in the months to come.”

Shell said it will now pursue additional environmental analysis of the site, further engineering design studies, assessment of the local ethane supply and continued evaluation of the economic viability of the project.

In addition to an ethane cracker, Shell is also considering polyethylene (PE) and mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) units to help meet increasing demands in the North American market. Much of the PE and MEG production would be used by industries in the northeast.

Click here to read a press release from the Allegheny Conference and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance about the announcement.

Dennis Yablonsky on the Shell announcement:

Ben Kamber

Bill Adams, senior international economist with PNC, discusses the latest developments related to the ongoing EuroZone crisis and Greek debt deal. Adams gives the Greek debt deal a C+, stating that it will keep Greece out of the headlines, but only perhaps for the time being. As for the EuroZone, Adams forecasts moderate recession for Europe in 2012, with a predicted .5 point GDP decline. But there’s positive news for the U.S., as PNC predicts America’s economy will continue on a solid expansionary path.

Nationwide, shale gas may reduce manufacturing costs by a staggering $11.6 billion by 2025. This was one of the most talked about findings from a recent study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on the impact of shale gas on U.S. manufacturing. Bob McCutcheon , managing partner of the PwC in Pittsburgh discusses the some of the studies other finding and how expansions in the chemicals, metals and industrial manufacturing industries are being fueling by the nation’s abundant supply of natural gas.

The Center for Energy at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering received a $22 million grant from the R.K. Mellon Foundation. Gerald Holder, dean of the Swanson School, discusses how this remarkable gift will be used by the University to expand energy materials and grid research and continue to position Pittsburgh as the center of innovation in American energy.

Our Region’s Business” airs Sundays at 11 a.m. on WPXI-TV.  Hosted by the Allegheny Conference’s Bill Flanagan, the 30-minute business affairs program is co-produced with Cox Broadcasting. The program is rebroadcast on PCNC-TV at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, and at 3:30 p.m. Mondays. It also airs Sundays on WJAC-TV (Johnstown-Altoona) at 6 a.m. and WTOV-TV (Wheeling-Steubenville) at 6:30 a.m.