Pittsburgh: From Steel to Sustainability

August 30, 2018

A city once known for the steel industry, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has just been named the second most livable city in the U.S., according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Livability Index report. The report ranks cities based on stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. Honolulu, Hawaii was named the most livable U.S. city. Which really drives home the significance of Pittsburgh landing in the number two spot.

Pittsburgh has just been named the second most livable city in the U.S. by the Economist. Pittsburgh offers not just livability, but sustainability.

Pittsburgh offers not just livability, but sustainability. The City of Pittsburgh’s Climate Action Plan 3.0 is the latest plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change, including a 50 percent reduction in transportation related emissions by 2030. One entity the city is working with to achieve this goal is the non-profit Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities (PRCC), whose mission is to help build and support the infrastructure needed for a strong alternative fuel and alternative vehicle market in Western Pennsylvania by reducing petroleum use in transportation. Last year alone the PRCC’s projects with local fleets saw the reduction of 10,801 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

One entity the City of Pittsburgh is working with to achieve sustainability goals is the non-profit Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities (PRCC).

PRCC promotes all alternative fuels, believing that no one fuel or technology should dominate the choices in the Pittsburgh region. Compressed natural gas, propane autogas, electric and ethanol are all powering a variety of vehicles, with a growing public and private infrastructure to support these fuels and technologies. Hydrogen fueling and fuel cell technology is on the near horizon.

Pittsburgh Committed to EVs and Infrastructure

The City of Pittsburgh and PRCC are members of the Drive Electric Pennsylvania Coalition (DEPA) which works to educate and promote the use of electric vehicles. The City plans to establish the Pittsburgh Electrification Partnership with PRCC, local electric utility Duquesne Light, and fleets from local government, taxi, hospital, university, corporate and rental car entities.

The PRCC is working with the city on notable transportation electrification projects.

Some of the notable electrification projects that the PRCC has been involved in include:

  • Installation of charging infrastructure at the Pittsburgh International Airport.
  • Collaborating with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority (PPA), which operates 35 electric parking enforcement sedans, to use grant funding to install 15 Level 2 chargers in the PPA’s 1st Avenue garage that will serve the public during the day and will charge the PPA’s electric sedans at night.
  • Installing charging infrastructure in the City of Pittsburgh along the Energy 376 corridor (83 chargers total).
Local Fleets Demonstrate a History of NGV Leadership

Pennsylvania has an abundant supply of natural gas, second only to Texas in natural gas production. Several of the local fleets realized early on there were big advantages to operating vehicles on compressed natural gas (CNG), and sought assistance from PRCC to apply for grant funds to aid in the purchase of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and the construction of public access CNG fueling stations.

In 2011, PRCC partnered with Equitable Gas Company (EQT), Giant Eagle, and Vogel Disposal to submit a grant proposal to the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program (DERA) for $900,000 to collectively replace 18 older polluting diesel trucks with new NGV trucks fueled with CNG. Their winning submission was just the start of local fleets taking the lead in the adoption of NGVs, as each of the original partners continues to build their NGV fleet:

  • EQT now has 33 NGV utility-trucks and over 70 light-duty vehicles including SUVs and pick-ups.
  • Giant Eagle’s natural gas fleet is up to 120 Class 8 tractors, and they recently applied for a grant to purchase 21 more Class 8 tractors equipped with near zero engines.
  • Vogel Disposal has a fleet of 32 NGV heavy-duty trash haulers, and is hosting a Grand Opening in September at their new CNG fueling station.

Other notable NGV projects include:

  • The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which began to procure CNG shuttle buses in 2013, with an initial purchase of 20. Their current fleet includes 41 CNG shuttle buses.
  • The local UPS fleet operates 171 NGVs, a mix of Class 4 to Class 6 package delivery trucks, as well as Class 7 and Class 8 tractors.

One of the local truck dealers supplying fleets with NGV heavy-duty trucks, Pittsburgh TransEdge Truck Center, tells PRCC that going forward every NGV they sell with be equipped with a near zero engine.

Compressed natural gas (CNG) and propane autogas projects contribute to Pittsburgh’s GHG reductions, and ensure that Pittsburgh remains one of the most livable cities in the U.S.

Pittsburgh Schools Driving Forward with Propane Autogas Buses

Propane is influencing how school districts are procuring school buses. PRCC is working with approximately 23 school districts, assisting with grant writing and providing technical information as they move from diesel buses to propane buses. The number of propane school buses in the Pittsburgh region is over 300 and growing. The low total cost-of-ownership, year-round reliability even in cold weather, and significantly reduced emissions over diesel buses make it an easy choice for school fleets.

Funding Incentivizes Clean Vehicle Deployment

Multiple Federal and State programs offer financial incentives to convert to alternative fuels and technologies. PRCC is helping achieve the regions sustainability goals by assisting local companies, fleets, school districts, non-profits, LLCs and municipalities in the application process for these grant funds. Some of the current, available funding comes from programs such as:

  • The Alternative Fuel Incentive Grant Program (AFIG), administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
  • The Pennsylvania FAST Act Alternative Fuel Corridor Infrastructure solicitation, a special solicitation under the AFIG program designed to support the installation of alternative fuel infrastructure along Pennsylvania Interstate Highway Corridors.
  • The Alternative and Clean Energy Program (ACE), administered jointly by the DEP and the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
  • Pennsylvania’s Driving PA Forward, an initiative to use the $118 million in Volkswagen settlement funds the state will receive (the program was announced in May, to replace older, polluting diesel engines with new technologies).

The PRCC is committed to its mission to pioneer alternative fuel and advanced transportation solutions that further GHG reductions, reduce petroleum usage, and ensure that Pittsburgh remains one of the most livable cities in the U.S. A terrific opportunity for contacts in the region to learn more about the PRCC projects and grant funds available in Western Pennsylvania will be to attend Odyssey Day-an outreach and education event dedicated to promoting the use of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles—taking place in Pittsburgh on October 12, 2018, at the CCAC West Hills Center. To learn more, visit their website: http://www.pgh-cleancities.org/