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The Hot Button

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The Issue: Emphasizing that public dollars shouldn't be used to pollute the environment, Pittsburgh City Councilor Bill Peduto introduced on June 1 two pieces of legislation that would require contractors working on city-subsidized development projects to limit their negative impacts on Pittsburgh's air and water. The two bills would impose stricter guidelines to help reduce storm-water runoff and require developers to use low-sulfur diesel fuel in their vehicles, as well as equip their fleets with special particulate filters to help reduce diesel emissions. 

Policy Pros: "What this [legislation] does is give an assurance that when we publicly subsidize private development we don't make our air and water quality worse," says Peduto, who crafted the bills with the help of activist groups like Pittsburgh United and the Sierra Club. "Instead of trying to find excuses" for Pittsburgh's poor air and water quality, he says, "it's better to take action to correct them." Barney Oursler, executive director of Pittsburgh United, says the best solution for preventing stormwater runoff is "stopping it at its source." And the clean-water bill, he says, would do just that. The legislation suggests developers go beyond traditional stormwater management practices, building green roofs to absorb rain water or practicing rainwater harvesting, designed to collect, store and reuse rainwater. The clean-air bill, meanwhile, would significantly cut diesel emissions that pollute the air. 

Policy Cons: Much like the concerns that surfaced as City Council passed prevailing-wage legislation earlier this year, some worry that imposing restrictions on development projects will keep developers from coming to Pittsburgh. Additionally, Oursler acknowledges that there is fear that the diesel-emission requirements could create an uneven playing field for developers. "It's going to cost money to install and maintain the retrofits," he says. "There is concern that smaller construction companies are relying on older equipment, which is more expensive to retrofit. ... We don't want to put people out of business."

How you can sound off: A public hearing concerning the clean-air and clean-water bills has yet to be scheduled, but interested Pittsburghers can voice their support or opposition prior to City Council's regular public meetings each Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. on the fifth floor of the City-County Building, 414 Grant St., Downtown.

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