Our County must pursue best practices and forward-looking policy on sustainability and the environment. I will be advocating for our Climate Action Recommendations with policymakers and monitoring our progress. While the County has made noteworthy strides in recent years, our region needs a long-term plan with measurable goals. By holding ourselves accountable, we can more clearly celebrate our successes and ensure our sustainability efforts are transparent. My hope is for the County to go above and beyond these recommendations as our region combines fiscal and environmental sustainability.
Where we are now
Allegheny Places, the 2008 sustainability plan, helped guide the County to where we are now. However, the landscape and gravity of climate change is far more severe in 2023 than it was fifteen years ago. While Allegheny County has met air quality standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in recent years and enacted the Mon Valley Air Pollution Episode Rule in 2021, our air quality still poses a public health risk, especially for those living in areas impacted by our region’s polluters. The EPA has announced plans to strengthen the air quality standards for PM2.5 which means we must work to ensure the Mon Valley Episode Rule is effective enough to make a meaningful impact.
Allegheny County should achieve at least twenty percent electric vehicle fleet by 2035 and develop charging management protocols for its fleet. Allegheny County’s Department of Public Works reported that out of 798 vehicles in the County’s fleet, 15 are electric and 16 are hybrid. This means that the County must develop an ambitious vehicle replacement plan to dramatically reduce its fleet’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Many government agencies throughout the country have goals to reach 100% electric fleets between 2030 and 2040. Even with the available grants supporting fleet electrification, Allegheny County may logistically struggle to meet a goal 100% EV by 2040 when 15 of our 798 vehicles are electric. A goal of at least 20% electric by 2035 still amounts to replacing approximately 145 vehicles over the next 12 years. Establishing a policy that seeks to minimize the purchase of fossil fuel dependent light-duty vehicles no later than 2025 will push the County to meet this goal. The installation of Level-2 chargers in each County park will support the County’s electric fleet and allow park visitors to charge their vehicles while enjoying all that our parks have to offer.
To further the County’s reduction of harmful emissions, outdoor light maintenance equipment must be a part of the solution. Electric mowers, trimmers, chain saws, blowers, and other small equipment are becoming more readily available. Not only will electrifying this category of equipment reduce our GHGs but doing so will also improve the air quality in our County parks. Small equipment powered by gasoline produces localized volatile organic compounds and other emissions that are harmful to the public and our employees’ health.
- 2025 – Minimize purchase of new fossil fuel dependent light-duty vehicles and light maintenance equipment (e.g. mowers, trimmers)
- 2030 – At least two (or one dual plug) Level-2 chargers in each County park and all light maintenance equipment is electric
- 2035 – EVs account for 20% of fleet
- 2040 – Install EV chargers at 10% of parking spots in County parks
Recommended County Policies
- Prioritize clean energy sources and energy efficiency in County buildings and improve tracking systems for transparency in energy usage. The County’s progress on the reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions should be easily accessible to the public.
- Establish a strategic energy management plan.
- Encourage EV charging infrastructure (at minimum “EV-ready”) in new construction developments with parking that receive County funds. 
- Review County recycling compliance within County offices and facilities to confirm recycling rate.
- Codify the elimination of styrofoam (polystyrene foam) and single-use plastics from County events, buildings, and other facilities. County contracts should include the elimination of styrofoam and unnecessary single-use plastics in sustainability clauses.
- Encourage all events held on County property to coordinate recycling and compost services.
- Integrate climate informed budgeting into County decision-making and operations, so that sustainability commitments are considered in the budget planning process.
- Prioritize long-term economic and environmental sustainability in land use to integrate impacts to the County’s tree canopy, stormwater, and permeable surface.
- Publish an online dashboard with climate budgeting metrics and other sustainability goals.
Public Education and Accessibility
Allegheny County has a wealth of natural resources. Our nine County parks are some of our most valuable assets. The ADA accessibility of our parks should be reviewed to incorporate the ADA accessible trails and shelters into the trails map. Additionally, the County can work with municipalities to connect sidewalks, bike paths, and public transit to improve access to the many community and County parks. Access to our parks should not be reliant on car-dependency–the benefits of experiencing the outdoors should be accessible to all.
To facilitate new sustainability-focused federal and state funding and programming, Allegheny County can serve as an information hub for property owners, renters, small businesses, and municipalities. An informational resource page can connect our region’s workforce with training for energy efficiency contractors, code enforcement, and energy auditors. Especially with the influx of funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Allegheny County can expand our region’s reduction in GHGs by connecting people with:
- Energy efficiency improvements and retrofits.
- Opportunities to help households with a high energy burden (homeowners and tenants).
- Educational resources for residents’ choices in electric and gas utility providers.
- Local and state funding for municipal climate action projects.
- IRA funding information hub.
My hope is for the County to go above and beyond these recommendations as our region combines fiscal and environmental sustainability.
While I am hopeful that my recommendations will assist in helping the County move forward, I will also be pursuing further steps through our work in the Controller’s Office. My Office is planning to conduct a report on the Allegheny County Health Department’s Clean Air Fund to provide clarity on how penalties from polluters are spent. A Fleet Audit of County vehicles will help inform the County’s vehicle replacement plan to meet electrification goals by studying vehicle usage and turnover rates. Additionally, we will be investigating the inclusion of sustainability in development decision making. We will continue to keep up to date on the Government Finance Officers Association’s guidance to evaluate the environmental, social, and governmental factors in the County’s long-term fiscal health.
Finally, the public must be involved in the development process of a formal plan to address the County’s environmental responsibilities. Allegheny County has an opportunity to be a leader in climate action and to advocate for environmental justice throughout our region. Without an actionable plan, it is difficult for the County to be transparent with itself and the public about the work necessary to make measurable progress. I look forward to collaborating with the Administration on supporting Allegheny County’s path to a healthy environment for all and hope to see the County surpass these recommendations to achieve aspirational change.
 EPA Proposes to Strengthen Air Quality Standards to Protect the Public from Harmful Effects of Soot
 2022 Year in Review, Allegheny County Public Works.
 Incorporating “EV-ready” infrastructure into a development’s plans greatly reduces the potential costs of a retrofit. “EV Readiness – Why We Need It Now.” 2021. SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. March 25, 2021. https://cleanenergy.org/blog/ev-readiness-and-why-we-need-it-now/.
 The EPA has several resources to better understand the relationship between indoor air quality, health, and climate change. An Office Building Occupants Guide to Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Air Quality and Climate Change
 The 2022 Sustainability Report states, “The county eliminated styrofoam and plastic straws from parks concession stands and the jail. Vendors at county events must abide by the same rules” (19). However, this policy is not included in any Parks Policies or its Rules and Regulations.