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Clean Construction Legislation Advances to Allegheny County Council for Approval

Allegheny County Council’s Public Works committee on Wednesday advanced long-sought “Clean Construction” legislation to the full council for consideration, recommending that it be approved.

The ordinance, introduced last month by Councilwoman Anita Prizio, mirrors guidelines passed by the City of Pittsburgh in 2016. It requires all county government construction projects that cost $2.5 million or more to use diesel emission control strategies on construction vehicles, including the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

These clean construction guidelines require the use of the best available control technology, such as a diesel particulate filter, on all on-road vehicles (think dump trucks), as well as off-road equipment (like backhoes and bulldozers) involved in the projects.

GASP, which has long advocated for the expansion of clean construction policies and was instrumental in getting the similar ordinances passed, thanked the Public Works committee for advancing the legislation.

“The National Emissions Inventory estimated that diesel-powered construction equipment emitted more than 123 tons of fine particulate matter in 2017 in Allegheny County. To put that in perspective, it’s more than a third of all fine particulate matter produced by mobile diesel-powered sources and about 58 percent of fine particulate matter produced by all mobile non-road diesel equipment in the county,” GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said. “If approved, this policy could have a huge positive impact on our local air quality.”

Filippini also submitted written public comment to the committee:

Good afternoon. My name is Rachel Filippini and I’m the Executive Director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today.

While we have made significant progress on reducing air pollution in our region over the last several decades, we still have a considerable way to go before we can claim to have clean, healthy air for all to breathe. The Pittsburgh region struggles with poor air quality, ranking as one of the top 10 most polluted cities in the nation with regard to year-round particle pollution.

While stationary sources like power plants and coke-making facilities certainly must clean up, diesel vehicles and equipment have an equally important role to play in improving our region’s air quality. Diesel particulate matter poses one of the greatest cancer risks from any toxic outdoor air pollutant in the region.

In addition to causing cancer, diesel emissions cause asthma, heart attacks, strokes, reduced brain function, and diabetes. Beyond being a public health risk, the black carbon found in diesel pollution is a potent global warming agent. Minimizing black carbon is directly in line with the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative.

As you are likely aware, the City of Pittsburgh passed clean construction legislation in the summer of 2016 and the Urban Redevelopment Authority passed its own policy in 2019. The county clean construction ordinance in front of you mirrors these policies. In addition, UPMC, Chatham University, and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy have their own similar voluntary policies, so the County will be in good company.

The more institutions and municipalities to implement these important policies, the more likely clean construction activity will become the norm and not the exception. I submit comments today to urge the Committee on Public Works to affirmatively recommend this clean construction ordinance to the full council. We know that diesel emissions contribute to our poor air quality and this is a tangible and proactive step the county can take to reduce air pollution.

My organization has expertise in this area and we would be happy to assist in any way possible to answer questions about clean construction, diesel emissions, or air quality in our region. Thank you for your consideration of this request and your time today.

 

Editor’s Note: Pie charts and figures cited in this post were created and calculated using the EPA’s 2017 National Emissions Inventory data (April 2020 version).  As of the date of this post, that data is available online here.

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