Want to help convert an empty Pittsburgh lot into an edible garden? On January 26 City Council moved forward a City program to do just that. Grants are available for volunteers, using funds from a group supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Installation of cool ‘green roofs” is also in the program. Interested parties should can call the city at 412-255-4765 or visit this Website.
A recent series of articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described how the UPMC mega-health-complex has accumulated real estate property throughout the Pittsburgh region. This is one aspect of the general concern about UPMC’s status as a charitable, non-profit organization. The removal of taxable sources has a direct effect on the economic health of the local communities. Concerned citizens can sign a petition calling for Allegheny County Council to examine the non-profit status of UPMC
The Summer 2011 “Sylvanian” from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club addresses the question “Who Owns the Landscape”. As stated in the Introduction, “Under Pennsylvania law, if you don’t own mineral rights under your property, you can’t keep drillers from coming in and drilling. We are reminded that coal, oil, and gas companies shaped our laws and continue to shape the way they are applied. The immediate problem in Pennsylvania is drilling for Marcellus shale gas. And here is where we learn once again that those of us who think we own the landscape are mistaken.”
Among the articles are those by Citizens Coal Council, Phil Colman (Co-Editor), Common Cause, Joe Hoeffel (Montgomery County Commissioner), Krissy Kasserman (Youghiogheny River Keepers), Cassie McCrea (Center for Coalfield Justice), Cathy Pedlar (Allegheny Defense Project), Joe Sestak (former Congressman), and State Rep. Greg Vitali.
The normal choice for our departure from this blessed world is burial in a wooden coffin and concrete vault, or cremation. Today ‘green burials’ present a third option. In February the Penn Hills Planning Commission approved the first all-green cemetery in Pennsylvania, on a 30-acre site adjacent to Penn Hills Community Park.
The idea of a ‘green’ burial is not new, but its popularity is on the rise. Formaldehyde-based embalming is taboo in green burials, as are concrete burial vaults, manicured lawns, headstones, etc. Caskets are made of biodegradable material, and sometimes the deceased are wrapped in shrouds alone. Not only is the environment helped, but there is a financial saving. For more information, contact Pete McQuillin at Green Burial Pittsburgh.
If you are short of money and have a lot of spare land, doesn’t it make sense to lease that 9,000 acres for shale gas drilling? County Executive Dan Onorato thinks so, and council President Rich Fitzgerald says, “This is absolutely a good idea.” The undeveloped land is adjacent to the airport in Findlay Township, a prime spot for future development in the Montour Run watershed. Before County Council takes any definitive steps, we certainly hope that public hearings will be held. Stay tuned.
NOTE: For a full calendar of Marcellus Shale events click HERE.
|June 1, 2010|
|9:30 am||to||10:00 am|
Please join Pittsburgh UNITED, GASP, the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action for a press conference on Tuesday morning, June 1st outside of Pittsburgh City Council chambers.
City Councilman Bill Peduto will introduce the Pittsburgh Clean Air, Clean Water bills that day in city council.
9:30 am, Tuesday, June 1st
City County Building, 5th Floor
414 Grant St, Downtown, Pittsburgh 15219
This pro-environment legislation is part of the Pittsburgh UNITED Economic Development Reform campaign. Since last Fall, the Pittsburgh UNITED coalition and it’s community allies have been working closely with Pittsburgh City Council to add increased accountability to publicly-subsidized economic development. In February the Prevailing Wage portion of the reform package was adopted by Council.
If you live in Pittsburgh, and cannot attend the June 1 press conference, please contact your Council Member and urge than to vote for the Stormwater Runoff and Diesel Emission legislation. (See details below.) (more…)
By a unanimous and final vote, on February 2 Pittsburgh City Council passed the first part of the Economic Development Reform package. At issue was the need for fair wages to be paid to workers in new developments funded in part by public funds, where a fair wage is seen as the prevailing wage in non-subsidized businesses.
The coalition of community, environmental union, faith-based organizations and unions, led by Pittsburgh United, is now turning its attention to the environmental part of the development reform package. Key components of this segment include curtailment of diesel fuel emissions during construction, limitation of storm water run-off and provision of open spaces. The ‘good government’ part of the reform package will deal with transparency and public participation in the approval of new development.
Less than a week after the Prevailing Wage portion of an Economic Development Reform package was introduced to Pittsburgh City Council with 7 out of 9 members co-sponsoring, on November 23 Councilman Bill Peduto introduced the environmental and good government portions of the package. The move was applauded by the more than fifty attending representatives of environmental, faith, labor and community organizations.
Through a comprehensive series of ordinances the development reform package will:
- Create good-paying, family-sustaining jobs for Pittsburgh workers
- Strengthen environmental standards for big development projects to protect our air and rivers
- Provide increased accountability to the public for projects funded by tax dollars
- Enable elected officials to make more informed decisions about major economic development projects
The goal is for Council to pass the development reform package before the end of the year, with hearings to be held mid-December.
First, a Thank You note to all who attended the Take Back the North Shore Rally on July 23. Close to 200 people from community organizations, unions, and environmental groups filled the beautiful Calvary United Methodist Church on Beech Ave, Northside. Following the rally, participants marched down to the North Shore site where Continental Realty plans to build a hotel and amphitheater.
This rally was another step in the campaign to establish a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) between the developer and the Northside communities. With the City Planning Commission having claimed that consideration of a CBA is outside the purview of the commission, attention has switched to the Mayor’s office and City Council.
So far the Mayor’s office expresses a fear that CBAs drive away potential development … sharing of good paying jobs with neighboring communities, adherence to green building guidelines, limits on air pollution, public transit access, etc.
What supporters of CBAs in general will argue before a special City Council meeting on July 27 is that if a development receives public funds, then a CBA can ensure that beneficial impacts outweigh the negative impacts on the local communities. In short, CBAs are a means of sustaining local communities economically and environmentally. This was the case with the Penguin’s new stadium, with the first CBA in Pennsylvania.
The challenge for City Council over the next few months will be to develop guidelines for publicly-funded development similar to the principles underlying Community Benefit Agreements.
Overlooking the Monongahela River across from Hazelwood, Hays Woods is a 635-acre wild and rugged area only a few miles from the Point. The natural integrity of the site was threatened as long ago as 2003 by a plan to build a racecourse atop the bluffs. As part of this plan, the owner, Charles Betters, was required to obtain a surface mining permit from the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP).
After a three and one-half year review, the mining permit was denied by DEP on the basis that the necessary valley fills would destroy over 8,000 feet of perennial and intermittent streams. On January 19, 2007, Mr. Betters filed an appeal of the permit denial with the Environmental Hearing Board. That appeal was denied by the Hearing Board, leaving Mr. Betters with no reasonable legal recourse. As an intervenor alongside the DEP, PennFuture played a crucial role in defending the original decision to deny the permit and deserves our thanks.
The impact of this judgment by the Hearing Board goes beyond Hays Woods, for it strengthens “the regulation that protects perennial and intermittent streams from the adverse effects of surface mining, commonly described as the stream buffer zone rule.”
What happens next is clearly up to owner Betters, but his options are slowly shrinking. Duquesne Light has condemned the utility right-of-way that carries power lines along the Hays Woods bluff. Mr. Betters filed a lawsuit to prevent Duquesne Light’s action, but the Public Utilities Commission required the two parties to go to arbitration. If Betters loses this step, the portion of the 635-acre site available for any form of development will severely limited.
Will the Mon Fayette Expressway ever be extended into Pittsburgh and Monroeville? For the past two decades opponents have viewed the MFE as an outdated approach to re-development, being a conduit for energy-consuming sprawl and destructive of communities. But what is stopping the extension of the MFE is not environmental arguments, but the hard reality of empty coffers.
Conceived in the 1950s as a trucking route for the steel industry, after the drastic decline of the industry in the 1970s and 1980s the proposed highway was seen as a re-development savior for the Mon Valley. In 1985 the state legislature charged the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) with selecting a transportation system that would bring industry back.
Not surprisingly, the PTC decided that what was needed was a limited access toll road, hence the MFE. Construction started in 1973. Today the MFE is almost complete from Rte 51 in Jefferson Hills down to the West Virginia border. Two northern “prongs” of the system are still in the planning stage; the 26 mile Southern Beltway project from Rte 22 near the airport to the existing MFE in Union Township, Washington County, and the 24-mile extension of the MFE from Rte 51 north to Pittsburgh and Monroeville.
The estimated cost to complete the Southern Beltway is $1.4 billion, and to extend the MFE north the cost is $3.8 billion. This is $5.2 billion that the TPC does not have. Nor does the state.
Until quite recently it seemed that the supporters of the MFE, including Gov. Ed Rendell and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, might perhaps get at least a portion of their $5.2 billion included in the federal economic stimulus package. In a letter to this website, Dave McGuirk explains why this should not be, and in fact it seems that funding for the MFE is no longer on the state’s request list.
The second option is the “P3” approach, a Public Private Partnership. Last week the PTC announced that three parties are interested in possibly “financing, designing, constructing, operating and/or maintaining all or portions of the unfinished segments” of the MFE – Southern Beltway system.
Whether this approach will work is doubtful. Columnist Brian O’Neill recently quoted PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler as saying “I don’t know where $5 billion comes from”. Apparently Mr. Biehler doesn’t foresee enough volume on this road to provide the toll money to pay for itself.
So according to O’Neill, Biehler “is looking at light-rail projects and inter-city passenger rail, at giving people more travel choices, at making investments that will produce good sustainable benefits. He’d like to help the household that makes six car trips a day cut that to four.”
Let us hope that local politicians will finally put the northern extension of the MFE to rest, will improve the existing section of Rte 51 into the Pittsburgh, and will focus on transportation needs for 2020, not 1960.
Last week County Executive Director Onorato announced the creation of a Sustainability Manager and a Green Action Team to conduct a top-to-bottom analysis of government operations and “to identify ways to reduce the County’s ecological footprint”. This will mean looking at actions such as “adopting environmentally preferable procurement policies, expanding recycling in County-owned facilities, providing sustainability training to employees, and expanding use of hybrid vehicles”. This is a welcome adjunct to the City of Pittsburgh’s Climate Initiative as approved by City Council on August 5.
In the fall of 2006 the County held a series of Public Open Houses for a discussion of the first County Comprehensive Plan, know as Allegheny Places. After a hiatus, the Plan has resurfaced and is hopefully closer to a final version.
The public is invited to view the Draft Plan for Allegheny Places …
When: Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Where: Duquesne University Power Center (Corner of Forbes Ave and Chatham Sq. – Open House will be on the 5th Floor)
Parking for the open house is available at the Forbes Avenue parking garage.
For more information, contact Brandi Rosselli: BMRosselli at mccormicktaylor dot com.
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C02 PPM from co2now.org