Pennsylvania Environmental Council releases “Implementing Green Infrastructure”

Philadelphia can help ensure a more prosperous future by investing in green infrastructure, according to a report released by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

Prepared by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, the report “Implementing Green Infrastructure”provides recommendations to city and regional leaders to achieve Philadelphia’s ambitious goals of becoming the greenest city in America by funding investments in sustainable transportation, water, and energy.

“Philadelphia and surrounding communities understand that green infrastructure is fiscally and environmentally beneficial. What’s crucial now is to incorporate it into every equation as matter of course, not as an ad hoc add-on,” said Steve Wray, Executive Director of the Economy League. “We found examples across the country of cities that have successfully made that shift. In the interests of the future of our region, certainly Philadelphia can do the same to incentivize ‘green’ over current outmoded and non-sustainable practices.”

As the report describes, “green infrastructure” uses trees, green buildings, renewable energy, porous pavement, and wetlands to serve the same functions as traditional “gray” infrastructure — storm sewer pipes and parking lots. For example, a green street not only provides transportation, but also captures stormwater runoff thus reducing pollution, and the strain and maintenance of the city’s overburdened sewer system.

“Philadelphia has a strong vision and well-researched plans for becoming greener, but we struggle to fund and implement these projects,” said Patrick Starr, Senior Vice President of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. “We need to evaluate and use new approaches in order to transform our city.”

The report identified immediate and long term strategies to fund green infrastructure. Examples include:• Expand the “Street Tree Fund,” which offers incentives to developers to plant street trees at a particular project, or pay a fee that funds tree planting efforts elsewhere.

• Assess user fees in Fairmount Park for concessions, parking, and other facilities to pay for maintenance and operations.
• Consider development incentives as expanding the ten-year tax abatement for meeting green building standards.
• Implement fees based on the amount of impervious land on a property and encourage stormwater reductions.

The report also highlights the need for leadership, cross-department coordination facilitated by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, focused demonstration of public benefits, and regional collaboration from counties.

“We applaud the significant green infrastructure investment the Philadelphia Water Department is proposing” Starr said. “Similar investment in energy, open space, and transportation is needed.”