More than 200 union members and environmental activists turned out Thursday in support of two City Council bills that would restrict diesel emissions and storm water runoff on city-subsidized development projects.
“When we put our tax dollars into something, the diesel equipment should be cleaner. … And developers should be part of the solution in trying to capture as much water as they can,” said Tom Hoffman, Western Pennsylvania’s director for Clean Water Action.
The legislation would require contractors working on city-subsidized projects to use new or retrofitted equipment to reduce diesel emissions and force developers to incorporate ways to limit the amount of water that runs off the property and into rivers and streams.
Councilman Doug Shields said the “free lunch is over” for developers who take public subsidies.
“If you want a handout, then this is what we require,” Shields said. “I think it’s fair. I think it’s honest.”
Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle said he supports “the intent” of the legislation, but would prefer it apply to all construction within the city, not just projects that receive public funding.
Construction groups say the higher environmental standards could stymie development and put small companies out of business, but they aren’t necessarily opposed to the bills as long as the costs to pay for the retrofitting are taken care of via state and federal grants or tax incentives.
“While the idea of mandating diesel retrofits for construction equipment can help Pittsburgh achieve air quality goals, the truth is that the cost can be prohibitive to contractors without financial or technical assistance,” said Jon O’Brien, a spokesman for the Master Builder’s Association of Western Pennsylvania.
Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said the administration’s concern is “balancing the environmental integrity of our city and economic development.”
“We’ll be open to the legislation, but we also need to learn about how it will affect that development,” Doven said. “We want to know whether the bill will force future projects out of the city.”
Council has scheduled a second public meeting at 1:30 p.m. July 13 in Council Chambers at the City-County Building on Grant Street, Downtown