Pittsburgh is no longer a smoky city, but that doesn’t mean it has cleaned up its act

July 19, 2018 PublicSource / Pittsburgh Magazine
PEC in the News

In its bid to host Amazon’s second headquarters, Pittsburgh’s weakest attribute may be its sustainability.

“Amazon has made a commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy in all of its operations,” says Jim Spencer, CEO of EverPower, a windpower company based in Pittsburgh. But when he was asked by the city to provide prices for wind energy, Spencer says he was told that Pittsburgh was not going to offer 100 percent renewable energy.

Why couldn’t Pittsburgh — in this defining moment — pitch a sustainability plan that falls in line with Amazon’s aspirations?

Last summer, a few months before the city submitted its Amazon bid, Mayor Bill Peduto committed the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 in support of the Paris Agreement on climate change and in defiance of President Donald Trump. But when Peduto spoke at a clean building conference in April, the tone seemed different. He asked the audience to raise their hands if it was their first time to Pittsburgh. “Keep your hands up if you were expecting old rusty steel mills,” he said. “The rest of you are lying. The nice thing about Pittsburgh, there are not great expectations.”

This is the paradox of Pittsburgh’s current environmental identity: The city is claiming the role of environmental leader but still touts its success relative to its dirty past.

Amazon may not care about how much greener the city is than it used to be. It wants a green city, full stop.

So how green is Pittsburgh?

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