PA Environmental Chief Is Out After Email Controversy

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley resigned on Friday following a controversial email he sent to environmental groups. The email contained expletives and other impassioned language, and chastised environmental groups for not doing enough to support several of the department’s recent environmental initiatives.

“He sent this email in April after some legislative committees had taken some votes to block environmental regulations for oil and gas drilling, as well as a vote to give themselves some more power over the federal Clean Power Plan—which is designed to curtail greenhouse gas emissions,” says StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Marie Cusick. “So Quigley was pretty angry that this had happened, and he felt like environmental groups hadn’t really stepped up and said much about it.”

LISTEN: “Your Environment Update for May 25, 2016”

The email surfaced about a month later. But Cusick says people close to the situation are saying the email scandal was just the last straw. Quigley had a problematic relationship with both the governor’s office and the legislature.

Now that Quigley is out, it could throw the state’s updated oil and gas regulations into limbo.

“Although he was a polarizing figure, he certainly was seen as a very strong advocate for environmental causes,” she says. “Many people have mentioned that the conventional oil and gas industry has really fought these regulations tooth and nail. So there’s a lot of speculation right now that these conventional regulations just might get thrown out.”

Reporting by Kara Holsopple

 

Lost Squash Variety Rediscovered in Great Lakes Region

An ancient variety of squash thought to be lost to history has been rediscovered. It is one that had been cultivated by Native Americans in the Great Lakes region for centuries, and now tribes are sharing the seeds with each other and small farmers to bring the plant back.

Eighth Day Farm in west Michigan is one of the farms that acquired some seeds from this mystery squash. And the farm’s Sarah Hofman-Graham says they didn’t know what to expect when they planted it last year.

“I definitely didn’t have a firm idea of what kind of squash it was going to grow—or even what the plant was going to look like,” she says. “It was just a fantastic surprise.”

The seeds grew into a massive bright orange squash. It was more than two feet long.

The seeds passed through a couple of pairs of hands before they got to the farm. But they started with Paul DeMain, an editor at News from Indian Country. DeMain says his seeds originally came from the Miami tribe in Indiana. They’re thought to be from a line that’s somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 years old.

“The squash and the seeds that are going around now have provoked quite a bit of excitement in the native community because it is an indigenous seed,” he says.

DeMain says people have been sharing the seeds with each other throughout the region and beyond over the past couple of years. He says the seeds have re-emerged as many Native American communities are seeing a revival of traditional foods, songs and ceremonies.

Reporting by Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio