Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pgh Council Endorses Clean Air Act

The air in Pittsburgh may be a little cleaner in the future.

Pittsburgh Council has given preliminary approval to a bill that would require developers to put filters on diesel engines used in projects funded with more than $250,000 in tax revenue.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Councilman Bill Peduto, says that would cut down on particles in diesel exhaust which are linked to asthma, cancer, and other health problems. The legislation has been in the works for about two years, as Peduto sat down with environmental organizations and labor unions to craft a bill that appeased both groups.

Labor raised concerns that the retrofits would be too expensive for small developers, so Peduto helped create a fund to help them buy the filters. There’s also a cap on how much can be spent on retrofits.

Councilman Ricky Burgess says the bill will have little effect on the city’s air quality because it only concerns publicly-funded projects. But Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak says there’s more to it than that.

“Yes, we are retrofitting construction vehicles for public projects, but it’s not like that retrofit is going to come off as soon as that vehicle’s done on this public project,” says Rudiak. “These vehicles, from here on in, are going to be working on private projects across the region.”

Last week, the bill was held an extra seven days so Peduto could address a final concern from the operating engineers’ union about the cost of retrofits. The amended bill cleared its committee unanimously and final passage is expected next Tuesday.

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