Sustainability in Pittsburgh

Could the irony be any richer? Upon the departure of Pittsburgh’s greencoordinator, we learn there is actually a full time permanent position bearing that title. According to one Council member the position is necessary to enhance Pittsburgh’s greenness. A City with spending that is unsustainable, with legacy costs that are unsustainable, with huge debt burdens, a school system that is little more than a high cost money pit, a declining population and a decade long flat private sector employment base is consumed by worry about Pittsburgh’s impact on the global climate.

We might never know if the two year tenure of the now resigned coordinator did much to save the planet, but we can say with some assurance that having a government dedicated to economic principles known to be inimical to growth and private sector employment expansion has done a great job of holding Pittsburgh’s economy in check. Whether the resultant slow or no pickup in CO2 emissions and actual pollutants has made any difference to the global climate is at best a guess.

It is too bad the same degree of Council zealotry, clarity of purpose and devotion to the world’s wellbeing is not in evidence when it comes to dealing with the problems the Council is elected to deal with.

County Going Green, Needs Green

In the popular manner of the new paradigm, Allegheny County has just adopted a Sustainability Policy. The new law will focus on energy savings, reduced emissions and water conservation in the County government. Nothing wrong with that if implementing actions to save does not cost more than the projects save taxpayers.

But if the County is truly concerned about the environment and "green house" emissions why does it spend so much time and effort promoting job growth, trying to get more air service at the airport, etc. More economic activity means more travel by car and plane. Think of ongoing and recent initiatives. The Penguins new arena, the casino on the North Shore, fairly new stadiums for the Steelers and Pirates-all are efforts to attract people to the County and City. More event attendees, more car travel, and more emissions.

The County government steps to lower its pollution footprint will produce a drop in the bucket compared to the footprint created by the past and current "development" efforts.

There is one thing the "green" efforts have going for them. The huge decline in manufacturing in the City and County has largely taken care of the "emissions" problem already. Now, if we could do something about those annoying cars.

And, lest we forget, the County’s fiscal situation is not very good and is expected to get worse in coming years. Thus, we hear proposals about new taxes and fees on hospitals to generate more "green" for county coffers. Collecting more tax dollars is very difficult to do unless the economy is expanding, and that means more energy consumption, more emissions. What a dilemma the County faces. It needs green and wants to be "green". It’s not easy as the famous Muppet, Kermit, used to sing.