Council pushes for clean development
Legislation calls for contractors in city-subsidized projects to be air-friendly and ‘green’
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh City Councilman William Peduto, center, listens to one of the speakers at news conference Tuesday outside City Council Chambers about the Clean Air and Clean Water bills.


Legislation sponsored by four Pittsburgh City Council members would require contractors involved in city-subsidized developments to operate air-friendly vehicles and reduce water runoff through the use of green roofs, man-made wetlands and rain gardens.

Council members Bruce Kraus, Bill Peduto, Natalia Rudiak and Doug Shields announced the legislation Tuesday outside the council chamber, with about four dozen environmental, civic and union officials applauding the proposals.

“We shouldn’t be using public dollars to pollute our air and pollute our water,” Mr. Peduto said.

Tony Helfer, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23, said the proposed Clear Air and Clean Water bills would set “common-sense, responsible” guidelines for spending taxpayer dollars on public projects.

Mr. Peduto said support of at least two other members is needed to push the proposals through council. Mr. Helfer said his union would help him recruit the votes.

Council will hold a public hearing and a post-agenda meeting on the bills, which Mr. Peduto called critical to moving Pittsburgh’s economy forward. He said companies balk at moving to a region with the pervasive air and water pollution that plague Pittsburgh.

“That’s not a strong selling point,” Mr. Peduto said.

The clear air bill would require contractors to use low-sulfur diesel fuel in vehicles operated at city-subsidized project sites. Contractors also would have to install diesel particulate filters on those vehicles.

Mr. Peduto said contractors would end up using the cleaner-running vehicles at privately subsidized project sites, too, giving the bill a wider reach.

Tom Hoffman, Western Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action, said the legislation is a way for Pittsburgh to counter periodic national reports about poor air quality.

Rather than grumble about the reports, taking a stand is “just … a better way to go,” he said,

The clean water bill would impose tougher guidelines on stormwater runoff at developments built with city money. It would encourage developers to go beyond conventional stormwater management practices and control runoff with green building practices such as green roofs, man-made wetlands, rain gardens and rain harvesting.

Rain gardens are plant-covered depressions that catch water from parking lots and other hard surfaces. Rain harvesting refers to the collection and recycling of rain water.

Though new to Pittsburgh, the legislation isn’t ground-breaking. “It is exactly the same standard that the federal government already mandates for all of its own properties,” Mr. Peduto said.

Mr. Peduto and the other sponsors cast the bills as a way to tackle a variety of environmental-related problems, from river pollution to rising health-care costs.

The city Urban Redevelopment Authority, which oversees city-backed developments, couldn’t be reached for comment on the legislation. Mr. Peduto said he doubted the URA would embrace new conditions for developers.

At 9:30 a.m. today, Mr. Peduto will help launch another environmental initiative, Greener Pittsburgh, which will include an online directory of resources to help residents, organizations and businesses become more environmentally sensitive. The initiative, developed by Greener Expressions, a Lawrenceville company, also will help consumers identify green-friendly companies.

Mr. Peduto and Greener Expressions will kick off the initiative in council’s conference room in the City-County Building.

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548.

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