On June 28th, more than 175 people came to the headquarters of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 95 to kick off the Clean Rivers Campaign. The Clean Rivers Campaign is a grassroots organizing effort to push for sustainable solutions to our stormwater challenges. ALCOSAN is set to release their plan for meeting the terms of the EPA’s consent decree for cleaning up our rivers at the end of July. With billions of dollars and the threat of higher costs to ratepayers at stake, it is essential that low-cost, job-creating green infrastructure solutions be a major part of the plan.
Our rivers provide 90% of our drinking water, but almost every time it rains in Allegheny County, our sewer system can’t handle it. That means sewage overflows into our rivers, our streams, and often into our basements. To solve this problem, we can do it the “gray” way and spend nearly 10 billion dollars of local ratepayer money. Or, we can do it the “green” way — with solutions like rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens, porous pavement, and more trees — and improve our environment while saving billions of our own dollars.
This week saw the grand opening of one of the greenest buildings in the world right here in Pittsburgh. On May 23rd, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens celebrated the opening of their Center for Sustainable Landscapes. According to Phipps:
Phipps’ dynamic new center for education, research and administration will generate all of its own energy and capture and treat all of its own water on site, meeting or exceeding the three highest green standards: the Living Building Challenge; LEED® Platinum and SITES Certification for landscapes.
Smart growth and sustainable development are phrases we’ve been hearing often over the past few years. Developers, governments, community organizations, and foundations tout their achievements in these fields and point to their commitments to the concepts. But what do smart growth and sustainable development look like in practice and how do these concepts affect your community?
I had the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia (this was before the Pens started playing the Flyers, so it was ok) at the beginning of April to speak to the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference about Pittsburgh’s stormwater challenges and the work City Council has done to help meet them. My friends, Tom Hoffman of Clean Water Action and Barney Oursler of the Clean Rivers Campaign, asked me to join them for a panel discussion entitled “Sewer Infrastructure — The Biggest Public Investment in History.”
On May 2nd, there will be the first ever public forum in Allegheny County on the public health impacts of hydraulic fracturing Marcellus Shale gas extraction. In January of this year, Christopher Portier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, noted that studies need to be done to examine whether wastewater from shale gas drilling can harm people or animals and the vegetables they eat. From Bloomberg.com:
Sunday is the 42nd annual celebration of Earth Day and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson — a book widely credited with helping to launch the environmental movement. The City of Pittsburgh is honoring these two events with proclamations by City Council created by Councilor Bill Peduto and co-sponsored by all members of Council.
The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) is a worldwide network of large cities who work locally to reduce carbon emissions, and in doing so, also aim to have a global impact on climate change. While cities only take up about 1% of the earth’s surface, 50% of the global population reside and work there. More to the point, they consume 75% of the world’s energy, and produce 80% of its greenhouse gas emissions. Recognizing the importance cities play in climate change, C40 was created in 2005 by then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone. In 2006, C40 formed a partnership with the Cities program of President Clinton’s Climate Initiative (CCI) to forward its goal to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in cities around the world. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is the current chair of the C40.
There’s good news on the environmental front for the City of Pittsburgh! First is the passage of the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan, Version, 2.0. In 2008, Pittsburgh City Council unanimously adopted the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan Version, 1.0 as a “guiding document” and the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative was founded later that year. The goal was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now, City Council has once again unanimously passed a new Green Plan for Pittsburgh.
The benefits of trees cannot be underestimated. They remove carbon dioxide from the air, reduce global warming, produce oxygen and help fight runoff and erosion. Additionally, trees increase the value and desirability of a community. TreeVitalize Pittsburgh is a joint project of Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, Tree Pittsburgh, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. They have a goal to plant 20,000 trees throughout the Pittsburgh region to improve our quality of life. TreeVitalize Pittsburgh is now accepting applications for their planting program. Community groups, non-profits, and municipal agencies are encouraged to apply.