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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter to unveil plan to make city of brotherly love the #1 green city in the US

Pittsburgh leaders such as Mayor Luke Ravenstahl need to take note of this plan announced by Philly mayor Michael Nutter. Called "Greenworks Philadelphia", the plan is one of the more detailed and ambitious of any I have seen announced by a major American city. What I especially like about Mayor Nutter's plan is that he is not settling on being one of the greenest cities in America - he has his sights on #1. Last week Mayor Ravenstahl gave an Earth Day celebration speech that contained some mention on current and future green initiatives, and about how Pittsburgh is a leading green city, and that the new hockey arena is going to try to achieve LEED gold certification. This was all great news, but I have yet to see anything even close to the Philly plan from any of our local officials. If you search the archives of this blog under the label "Pittsburgh", you will see that I've given them plenty of ideas and suggestions over the years for a green vision for Pittsburgh.

The following is the official press release about the Philadelphia plan:

Greenworks Philadelphia includes more than 150 initiatives to help create jobs and reduce the city’s environmental footprint

Philadelphia, April 29 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability today announced Greenworks Philadelphia, an ambitious, comprehensive framework to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the United States of America by 2015. It sets goals in five areas — energy, environment, equity, economy and engagement — and encompasses more than 150 initiatives. Together, they will reduce the city’s vulnerability to rising energy prices, limit its environmental footprint, and reposition its workforce and job development strategies to build upon Philadelphia’s competitive advantages in the emerging green economy.

“Greenworks Philadelphia is a vision for how Philadelphia can and should seize this moment, building on the assets of the city left to us by the past and creating a better future for ourselves, our children and generations to come,” said Mayor Nutter.

Greenworks Philadelphia seeks to make more homes and buildings weather-tight, increase recycling and minimize trash, give residents better access to parks and fresh food, and capture the benefits of solar and geothermal energy. It envisions planting thousands of trees, equipping the municipal fleet with less-polluting engines and expanding green job training, so plenty of Philadelphia’s workers have the skills to retrofit buildings and install solar arrays.

“Green jobs represent a new pathway to the middle class, just as factory jobs once were,” said Mayor Nutter. “Philadelphia enjoys a reputation as a city that values work—real work, honest work, hard work. So despite these tough economic times, or perhaps because of them, it is time once again for Philadelphians to roll up their sleeves and get to it.”

Mark Alan Hughes, Philadelphia’s director of sustainability and the chief policy advisor to Mayor Nutter, said the mayor is not only committed to sustainability, “he is actively leveraging any and all resources that will prepare all Philadelphians for jobs in the growing green economy,” Hughes said.

Margaret O'Sullivan, Philadelphia City Director of the Clinton Climate Initiative said, “With the launch of Greenworks Philadelphia, the Mayor's Office of Sustainability has provided a compelling framework for a smart energy future. Today, the City of Philadelphia joins others in the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group in embracing the extraordinary challenges of energy vulnerability and climate change with the release of this forward thinking and accessible roadmap for Philadelphia's citizens and businesses.”

Developing a sustainability framework was a key part of Mayor Nutter’s election campaign, and upon taking office, he established the city’s first Office of Sustainability. Many organizations have worked hard for years to get a comprehensive sustainability plan adopted, but have lacked a serious partner in City Hall.

Greenworks Philadelphia was refined over the past 10 months by many city employees, local and national nonprofit organizations, and civic and business leaders including the Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board, which is chaired by attorney Joe Manko and Anne Papageorge, vice president for the Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services at the University of Pennsylvania. William Penn Foundation also supported the development of Greenworks Philadelphia.

“This framework for sustainability emerged from the ideas of hundreds of Philadelphians throughout the city,” said Mayor Nutter. “It’s everybody’s plan, but the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability will act as the clearing house for coordinating many of the proposed activities and help us build new partnerships with citizens, communities and institutions throughout the city and region.”

Click on the web site www.phila.gov/green/mos.html or www.greenworksphila.org for more information and a full copy of the report.

And now, a summary of the Greenworks Philadelphia plan:



Target 1: Lower City Government Energy Consumption by 30 percent

* Retrofit municipal buildings using Energy Service Companies (ESCOs)
* Create target energy budgets for city operating departments.
* Develop energy conservation education for city employees.

Target 2: Reduce Energy Consumption in Buildings Citywide by 10 Percent

* Develop new buildings that are more energy efficient.
* Create financing program for energy efficient tenant improvements in commercial leases and revolving loan fund for residential improvements.

Target 3: Retrofit 15 Percent of Housing Stock with Insulation, Air Sealing, Cool Roofs

* Capitalize on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provides Philadelphia with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to retrofit aging housing stock.
* Expand access to weatherization jobs through community partnerships.

Target 4: Purchase and Generate 20 Percent of Electricity Used in Philadelphia from Alternative Energy Sources

* Construct biogas cogeneration facility.
* Support solar power purchase agreements on public and private sites.
* Take advantage of PECO’s compliance with Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, which mandates that energy providers obtain 9.2 percent of their electrical supply from alternative energy by 2011.



Target 5: Reduce Green House Gas Emissions by 20 Percent

* Exceed climate agreements with U.S. Conference of Mayors, ICLEI and the Clinton Climate Change Initiative and lead on new agreements.
* Create/adopt registry to take advantage of future federal cap-and-trade legislation.

Target 6: Improve Air Quality toward Attainment of Federal Standards

* Reduce the number of days rated as “unhealthy” by the Air Quality Index. Decrease ozone and fine particulate matter levels to meet new, stricter federal standards.
* Add filters to all diesel vehicles in City fleet and switch to biodiesel and CNG
* Reduce street congestion through parking policy and signal technology.
* Reduce emissions at the Port of Philadelphia and Philadelphia International Airport.

Target 7: Divert 70 Percent of Solid Waste from Landfill

* Increase the amount of recycling by residents to 25 percent by 2015 through incentive programs and public engagement efforts.
* Install public space recycling containers in Center City
* Reduce the amount of trash generated.



Target 8: Manage Storm Water to Meet Federal Standards

* Recommend that the natural links between land and water be reconnected, with green infrastructure — trees, vegetation and soil — becoming the city’s preferred storm water management system.
* If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revises applicable regulations, 3,200 acres of green space and permeable surfaces will be created by 2015.
* Increase green and open space by using permeable pavement on parking lots and playgrounds, building green roofs, and distributing rainwater collection barrels to homeowners.

Target 9: Provide Park and Recreation Resources within 10 Minutes of 75 Percent of Residents

* Create an additional 500 acres of public space.
* Redevelop and provide public access to major waterways.
* Create open space during neighborhood redevelopment efforts.
* Maintain efforts to “clean and green” vacant lots.

Target 10: Offer Local Food within 10 Minutes of 75 Percent of Residents

* Promote initiatives of the Philadelphia Food Charter and Food Policy Council.
* Expand the number of farmers markets, food producing community gardens and urban farms so that 86 new fresh food outlets are created by 2015.
* Convert vacant land into working gardens.

Target 11: Boost Tree Coverage toward 30 Percent in All Neighborhoods in 2025

* Plant 300,000 trees.
* Work closely with partners such as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and accelerate city-wide tree planting campaign.
* Plant trees in vacant lots, school yards and on city-owned property.
* Encourage Philadelphians to plant and care for trees on their streets and in their yards.
* Launch local carbon offset initiative in support of tree planting (Erase Your Trace)



Target 12: Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled by 10 Percent

* Support SEPTA in its effort to increase transit ridership through service improvements, capital investments and new fare technologies.
* Invest in transit-oriented development and Bike/Pedestrian trail efforts

Target 13: Increase the “State of Good Repair” of City Infrastructure

* Increase infrastructure “state of good repair” to 70 percent.
* Develop Public Property facilities asset management database system.
* Incorporate climate adaptation projections into infrastructure planning.

Target 14: Double the Number of Low- and High-Skill Green Jobs

* Double the number of green jobs to 28,800.
* Create an economic development strategy built on demand for affordable energy
* Link workforce development programs to green job opportunities



Target 15: Philadelphia is the Greenest City in America

* Partner with Philadelphia Youth Commission and others to organize neighborhood energy campaigns
* Create other engagement efforts around recycling and tree planting.
* Track progress with annual updates.
* Make data available on-line so that independent analyses can be conducted.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Climate Change is Real

Required reading for WaPo columnist and know-it-all George Will and other conservatives and climate change deniers is this story on CNN about a rural village in Alaska that is being threatened by the environmental impact of warming arctic temperatures. Just because we cannot see or feel the effects of climate change here in in the US doesn't mean it is a hoax or gimmick that Al Gore and the Democrats thought up in order to take more of your tax dollars. In fact, the people here in the continental US may be the last ones to feel the impact - but the indigenous people in Alaska, the poor in African, and other smaller countries and islands around the world, are already starting to feel the impact and will be the first to be displaced or even killed when sea levels reach the tipping point. We need to stop having this "not in my backyard" attitude. It may not be in your backyard yet - but it will be if we don't do anything about it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Pittsburgh Penguins Arena, named after Coal Company, will aim for LEED Gold Certification

Earlier today Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced some of the city's green initiatives, as well as news that the Penguins arena, which will be named after local coal company Consol Energy, will aim for LEED gold certified status. I think this is great news for Pittsburgh which will now have two of the world's largest LEED certified buildings. Let's hope that the city gets back on track to being the leader in green building (I think we are now #7 in the US after being #1 several years back). In order to get back to #1 the city needs to adopt new building codes which will require developments of certain size to achieve at least LEED silver status. Other city's, like Grand Rapids, have seen dramatic results following the passage of green building legislation that requires larger buildings to be energy efficient. Bram posted some video footage of today's announcement, which took place at Market Square.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mayor Ravenstahl to Outline City's Green Initiatives

Well this should be enlightening. Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl will be speaking to members and guests of the Pittsburgh Technology Council about the city's green initiatives. The talk is in two weeks at the offices of Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney at One Oxford Center in downtown Pittsburgh. I will bet money that the mayor takes credit for Councilman Bill Peduto's LED light initiative. I will be out of town that day so unfortunately I won't be able to provide my readers with details about how little the mayor knows about this subject.

Mayor Ravenstahl to Outline City's Green Initiatives

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

7:45 - 9:15 a.m.
Join us on April 29th as Mayor Ravenstahl outlines his administration's efforts to reduce the city's impact on the environment, while also creating real savings for the taxpayers by reducing wasteful consumption practices. Through the Mayor's Office of Sustainable Development and Energy Efficiency, the City of Pittsburgh has worked to promote the use of new technologies and sensible procurement practices to reduce its energy costs. Towards those ends, in recent months, the City has reviewed and implemented the use of new technologies such as super-efficient LED traffic control devices and street lamps, and has sought opportunities to install solar cells in city facilities. On the sustainability front, the City has created a Green Initiative Trust Fund and has expanded the practice of single stream recycling for residents, which will greatly improve the participation rate in the City's recycling program. Please do not miss this unique opportunity to learn more about Pittsburgh's commitment to implementing sustainable business practices.

$40 Member
$175 Non-Member

Registration Info

Monday, April 13, 2009

Is the Recession good for the Pittsburgh Region's Air Quality?

Illyrias points us to this PG article about Pittsburgh's air quality getting better. The article is titled "Air Quality improves as economy worsens." Is this a "bright side" to the recession? No, because the only "bright sides" to recessions and crises is when they force you to finally make changes that will leave you better off than you were before things went down the crapper. For Pittsburgh, this isn't a bright side because once the economy gets back on track the air quality will go up to the old levels. It's like gasoline prices - sure, the prices are reasonable now, but it took a global economic collapse to get them to that point, so are we now better off because gasoline prices were chopped in half? Heck no. Something has to fundamentally change so that once things return to normal - when there are more trucks on the roads and when factories are running closer to full utilization - our air quality doesn't return to prior levels.

Here is an example of something we can do right now to improve regional air quality in the long run. The Port Authority of Allegheny County should finally convert it's fleet of buses to run on compressed natural gas. Washington DC's buses run on natural gas and diesel electric hybrids. Unlike the buses here, DC buses do not emit the sooty black exhaust that has led to terrible, some would say toxic, air quality in downtown Pittsburgh. The buses run all over town, so there is no doubt that they have contributed to the region's poor air quality rankings, and recent studies have shown how bad air quality in cities, caused primarily by exhaust, have damaging effects on our heath and longevity.

Did you know that as far back as 1990 the Port Authority was testing compressed natural gas fuel for its buses? Yep - but Port Authority - Equitable partnership received half a million dollars to test CNG buses back in the early 90's.

As part of a nationwide effort to test alternative fuels under the Alternative Fuels Initiative Program sponsored by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now Federal Transit Administration), the Authority ordered five natural gas buses to test and evaluate their performance and effectiveness in helping to reduce air pollution. Testing of compressed natural gas was made possible through a special agreement with Equitable Gas Company, which contributed $500,000 toward the project for installation of a compressing and fueling station at the Authority’s West Mifflin Division.
Despite being way ahead of the curve we only have 5 buses (out of nearly 1000 total, so .5% ) running on CNG today. Why was it never expanded to the broader fleet? It's the same reason the County Commission killed Spine Line project and brought us the North Shore Connector - they suffer from a lack of vision and a failure to relate to the needs of the masses - yet the voters fail to hold them accountable when it's time to go to the polls.

A friend of mine used to work for equitable and he gave me a packet of information and old news clippings on this. It is interesting to read press clippings from 1990 and think of how progressive the Port Authority could have been. It's a shame that the Port Authority didn't have the vision and leadership to follow through on this initiative. It's a shame because we get much more of our natural gas domestically than we do oil, and compressed natural gas fuel is much cleaner and emits a lot less CO2 than our diesel powered buses. Another option for our bus fleet is diesel-electric hybrid buses, or, for the smaller shuttle buses, 100% electric power. These buses are on the market and are used in cities throughout the world. It is time for Pittsburgh's buses to spot spewing soot and to put the region on track to have sustained air quality improvements. If Allegheny County sincerely wants to be "green" then they should take the steps to expand their CNG fleet. All buses that are being retired and replaced should be replaced with cleaner burning, more efficient buses running on CNG or Hybrid electric. This needs to be the standard going forward.