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Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Bus At a Time

Pollution in Pittsburgh is a tough beast. Our air quality has improved ten-fold over the past few decades, but we are still topping up on worst-of lists nation-wide. One of the major culprits is that one of the places that air quality is measured in the region is downwind of the largest coke plant in the country, Clairton. US Steel is regularly fined for the awful state of this plant, and last year agreed to spend a record billion dollars on improving the plant. We had hope of falling behind Los Angeles yet again when this construction was done.

Then US Steel announced in April that the recession was forcing it to nix its billion dollar plans to clean up its Clairton coke plant, and I gave up hope of us ever making it off the list.

But maybe I was wrong? Maybe I should be thinking of particles in the air one ton at a time, by each diesel-powered dump truck and Port Authority bus. The latest round of federal stimulus grants is hitting Allegheny County, $3.5 Million to upgrade these pollution belchers. If we can get rid of all these relics, maybe our pollution rate can still drop enough to make a difference. Maybe it's like all of us switching out one bottle of petroleum-based detergent or adding one energy-efficient light bulb or riding our bikes to work once a week. Or maybe not. But if there's one thing I've realized, it's that we can't depend on US Steel to get us there.


Jami Broom said...

GASP does quite a bit to help reduce diesel emissions on buses in Pittsburgh - check it out - http://www.gasp-pgh.org/

MH said...

Isn't $3.5 million a pretty small amount when it comes to old buses around here. It isn't like there are only a few old buses left to replace. They are pretty much suck from an environmental perspective (and their even worse if you are in them).

n'at said...

Glasspacks are only thirty bucks these days, MH.

what's interesting to me is that the port authority secures state and federal funding for replacing their fleet constantly. Over the years the port authority has been able to purchase the long, short and mini-buses which run on natural gas and low sulfur diesel by way of DEP, EPA, FHWA and DOT funding. Not too much ink wasted to print articles on those buses...

MH said...

"..the port authority secures state and federal funding for replacing their fleet constantly..."

Seriously. Do the keep the new buses in the garage?

Anonymous said...

And when they buy new buses they should also reduce the noise output levels of the systems (brakes,mufflers and engines)...The "Urban Canyon" of urban streets has been studied in Europe and the bus pollution is far worse than on a highway. We have to suck that at in everyday and then have our ears assaulted by noise that would violate OSHA in the workplace.