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Original and in-depth coverage about topics important to Pennsylvania

Vermont closed workshops for people with disabilities; what happened next?

The sheltered workshops that are still prevalent in Pennsylvania were shut down in Vermont more than a decade ago. And now, the employment rate of people with developmental disabilities in the New England state is twice the national average.

A top Pittsburgh emergency response official talks about the risks of crude oil trains

Emergency response officials are currently assessing the risks that trains carrying millions of gallons of highly combustible crude oil pose to residents in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

DEP fines Range Resources industry-record $4.15 million

Details of DEP file review show problems

Range Resources must pay $4.15 million in fines – the largest amount ever levied against a Marcellus Shale driller – for various leaks and other problems at six of its water impoundments in Washington County.

Will PA legislators make antidote for heroin overdoses available?

As a brutal heroin epidemic sweeps the country, lawmakers in 25 states have responded by making it easier to get an antidote to deadly overdoses.

Pennsylvania’s neighboring states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Ohio already have expanded access to the opioid anti-overdose drug naloxone, also known as Narcan. Their hope: That making it more widely available will mean fewer deaths from heroin overdoses.

What Pittsburghers need to know about the city’s payroll system

More than three years ago, Pittsburgh decided to overhaul its financial management system, including payroll for city employees.

The goal was to finish the project in four months for $263,000. But, since then, there have been more than 10 changes to the original contract, which was supposed to be done by Jan. 1, 2013.

Inside the halls of government, gas industry makes its pitch

Oil and gas companies are spending around $8 million a year on lobbying in Pennsylvania. This kind of big-time lobbying makes some uneasy about the role that money can play in politics. But how does lobbying actually work, and are these lobbyists as powerful as some fear? 

Will Pittsburgh’s new police chief be able to restore trust in the department?

When Cameron McLay assumes his position as Pittsburgh’s next police chief on Sept. 15, he will take the reins of an institution that academics, activists and police-accountability experts roundly agree has lost the city’s trust.

He’ll inherit a bureau whose most recent permanent chief is serving time in federal prison for diverting public money into his own pockets, and a bureau that refused to implement crime-reduction strategies that had been shown to be effective in other cities.

Moratorium discussions at DCNR raise questions

In February, Governor Tom Corbett announced his intention to balance the state budget, in part, using millions of dollars in projected revenues from new oil-and-gas drilling leases in state parks and forests. It was the first public acknowledgment of Corbett's plans to lift a 2010 moratorium on leasing.

DCNR ex-chief's calendar shows gaps

As part of an investigation, The Allegheny Front and WESA in Pittsburgh obtained and examined more than 600 pages of appointment calendar records for former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan.

The calendars offer a snapshot of day-to-day business inside the agency tasked with oversight of Pennsylvania's 2.5-million acres of state park and forest lands. They cover a pivotal time in the shaping of Republican Governor Tom Corbett's energy policy.

Flooding the Zone: Gas industry pours millions into lobbying PA

When big portions of Act 13 were overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year, it meant the state would likely debate its landmark Marcellus shale law for years to come. Before it was passed, Act 13 was a subject of intense focus by the oil and gas industry. Critics of the law say this lobbying push had excessive influence on the process.

Families, advocates react to low wages for people with disabilities

A traumatic fall four years ago left Lenora Robinson of Waterford with chronic back pain and a neurological disorder that made work as she knew it impossible.

So when 51-year-old Robinson, a former nursing assistant, learned about work programs for people with disabilities from a PublicSource report, she saw it as perhaps her only option to help pay household bills and to escape the isolation of home — despite the low wages and menial work.

Jailhouse poets find voice in writing course

Few inmate education programs in Pennsylvania

For the inmates at the Allegheny County Jail, Words Without Walls is a chance at education beyond the basics. Through the program, they learn to channel feelings like anger and loss into something constructive, one of the program’s main goals.

While in jail, inmates are encouraged to work toward their GED – something that’s mandated if they’re moved to state prison. They also receive some instruction on job and social skills. But opportunities for learning beyond the high school level are scarce.

Some groups that pay disabled workers below minimum wage not complying with the law

Little oversight makes breadth of problems unclear

The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered Pennsylvania organizations to pay $118,000 in back wages to workers with disabilities since 2011, according to records PublicSource obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

More than 40 percent of Pittsburgh residents in danger zone for crude oil train derailment

City doing a risk assessment for emergency responders

About 40 percent of Pittsburgh’s residents are at risk if a train carrying crude oil through the city derails and catches fire.

Pittsburgh’s South Side has had largest number of violent crimes for four years running

For four years, the South Side Flats has had the largest number of violent crimes in Pittsburgh, and the situation has become so bad that the Public Safety Department has created a new position to help cut crimes against patrons of bars and nightclubs there.

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