Creation of sustainability department could enhance county's environmental agenda | Pittsburgh City Paper

Creation of sustainability department could enhance county's environmental agenda

click to enlarge A runner runs on a tree-lined trail in a county park
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham

Allegheny County Council is poised to pass an ordinance creating a county-wide sustainability department, a move supporters hope will “elevate the issue of sustainability” in Allegheny County.

The county’s existing Office of Sustainability has operated for over a decade and has focused on reducing reliance on fossil fuels and decreasing the county’s carbon footprint, according to the county website. Last week, the Office of Sustainability released a report detailing the county’s progress on sustainability since 2009.

“Over the last decade, we have invested in hydropower and alternative fuel and electric vehicles, improved our stormwater management, and practiced sustainable development,” writes County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in the report’s introduction.

Council member Anita Prizio, who chairs the Committee on Sustainability and Green Initiatives, tells Pittsburgh City Paper that upgrading the county’s sustainability arm from an office to a department will allow the county to expand its scope and funding. The ordinance, if approved, will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. As of now, the ordinance has the support of all members of the County Council as well as the County Executive, Prizio says.

“It will create its own department with its own budget, and like all the other departments in the county, it will report directly to the county manager. So it will elevate the issue of sustainability, and it will have some more funding. I think it's a step in the right direction,” Prizio says. “It's not gonna solve all the problems. But it's a start and that department can grow.”

Prizio says the department will be tasked with the creation of a “sustainable and socially responsible procurement plan,” that might include "a sustainability and diversity and inclusion profile" for the county's bidding process.

She also wants to see the new department spearhead work on a county-wide climate action plan, updated greenhouse gas assessment, and improvements to regional air quality.

Prizio says she hopes the county can build off the broad support for creating the department after it gets off the ground.

“I think everyone knows climate change is here," she says, adding that she's hoping "we can all move forward and devote the resources needed and make sure that the budget reflects the priorities of sustainability.”

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