All posts by carldavidson

Mayor Bill Peduto Introduces Bill To Eliminate Carbon Emissions Produced By Local Government Buildings

Urban Solar underway in Philadelphia

By Amanda Waltz
Pittsburgh City Paper

Sept 3, 2019 – When President Donald Trump famously namedropped Pittsburgh in his reasoning for exiting the global Paris Agreement on climate change, Mayor Bill Peduto was quick to take a stand by voicing his city’s commitment to lowering emissions that contribute to global warming. Now, two years after the incident, Peduto appears to be continuing with that mission, as he introduced new legislation today to Pittsburgh City Council that would require all new or renovated government buildings to be net-zero, meaning they produce as much energy as they consume.

Peduto believes the bill would not only help meet goals outlined in the City of Pittsburgh’s Climate Action Plan 3.0, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, it would also significantly lower municipal energy costs.

“Pittsburgh is taking real steps to meet its energy goals, and moving to net-zero construction will be one of the most meaningful and impactful actions we’ve ever taken,” Peduto stated in a press release. “It is not only the right move for the planet, but for the city’s budget too.”

City of Pittsburgh Chief Resilience Officer, Grant Ervin, seconded Peduto in a tweet, in which he called the bill, “A major policy tool to lower city governments carbon emissions, save money over time and upgrade public facilities.”

The World Green Building Council, a global network committed to reducing the building and construction sector’s CO2 emissions, defines net-zero buildings as “highly energy efficient and fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources,” such as solar or wind. The council believes that, in order to help mitigate global warming, all buildings must meet net-zero emission standards by 2050.

In Pittsburgh, the proposed ordinance would cover all construction of new buildings and all major renovations of existing buildings on City-owned property. A press release stated that buildings are the “largest end-users of energy in the world,” and Pittsburgh, along with other cities, is looking at more ways to tackle the current climate crisis. The effort aligns Pittsburgh with Los Angeles and New York City, both of which recently moved toward energy-efficient or zero-emission construction and renovation methods.

There would be some exemptions, however, including renovations of buildings that are being decommissioned or sold within five years, emergency renovations, and short-term buildings such as trailers.

The announcement follows a report released in August by the Planning Department’s Sustainability and Resilience Division, which said reducing the energy used by municipal buildings could cut the City’s annual energy costs, totaling $2,700,000, in half.

A public hearing will be scheduled on the bill.

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Conway Workers, Local Leaders Caught Off Guard By Norfolk Southern Job Cuts

By Chrissy Suttles
Beaver County Times

Sep 4, 2019 – CONWAY — Norfolk Southern Railway did not give local leaders prior notice before cutting more than 50 employees at the Conway Yards switching station Tuesday.

“I read it in the newspaper this morning,” Beaver County Commissioner Tony Amadio said, echoing statements by state Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-47, New Sewickley Township, and others throughout the county.

When management told roughly 55 mechanical workers they would be laid off, many were caught off guard.

“It was mostly mechanics and electricians who were let go,” said one person who still works at Conway Yards and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Someone from corporate came in to reassure everyone afterward, but he sidestepped our questions. We’re frustrated with how it’s been handled.”

Those who lost their jobs will retain a number of company benefits for the next several months, but it’s unlikely anyone will return to work.

Norfolk Southern announced an additional 100 layoffs at the Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, but some of those electricians may relocate to Beaver County to work at Shell Chemicals’ ethane cracker plant, the Altoona Mirror reported.

The Conway Yards, which snakes along the Ohio River in Freedom and Conway, is one of the largest rail yards in the country. Norfolk Southern Vice President of Communications Tom Werner said the eliminated positions were no longer vital to railway operations as the company moves to precision-scheduled railroading – or parking locomotives, cutting travel time and reducing jobs to better match peer performance.

Earlier this year, railroad representatives revealed plans to eliminate 3,000 positions companywide by 2022 to hit financial goals. While a declining coal industry is partly to blame, the Virginia-based rail carrier has gradually increased its transport of chemicals, steel and lumber in recent years.

“On-time performance and train speed is hitting records highs, and terminal dwell is becoming lower than any time in memory,” Werner said. “That’s all good for serving the customers. The downside for our employees in mechanical is that fewer locomotives means fewer locomotives to be maintained.” Continue reading Conway Workers, Local Leaders Caught Off Guard By Norfolk Southern Job Cuts

SEIU President Rallies Workers in Pittsburgh on Labor Day

By Marylynne Pitz

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union for nearly 10 years, organized health care employees during the late 1990s at a major Catholic hospital system in California.

Before Pittsburgh’s Labor Day Parade began, Ms. Henry urged local union members during a rally at Freedom Corner in the Hill District to continue fighting, despite the legal odds.

“The right to organize doesn’t exist any longer in the U.S. We have an 80-year-old law that is broken,” Ms. Henry on Monday told a large crowd that included boilermakers, carpenters, journalists, postal carriers, shipbuilders and steamfitters.

“UPMC workers have been trying to form a union since 2012. Ten thousand hospital workers have been trying to get to a bargaining table,” Ms. Henry said.

UPMC has announced that its hourly workers will earn $15 an hour in 2021.

The SEIU’s plan, called Unions for All, envisions workers organizing and bargaining across industries instead of the workplace-by-workplace system currently used in the U.S.

“Bargaining by industry, where workers from multiple companies sit across a table from the largest employers in their industry to negotiate nationwide for wages and benefits, is standard practice in almost every developed country in the world,” Ms. Henry said.

The SEIU also wants to ensure that every public dollar creates union jobs and that every federal worker and contractor earns at least $15 an hour and has the chance to join a union.

One of the UPMC employees who marched in the parade was Nila Payton of East Hills, who belongs to Hospital Workers Rising.

A UPMC receptionist for 13½ years, Ms. Payton said a union survey found that at least 5,000 UPMC employees are in debt to their employer for medical care.

“They steer us to Medicaid. Some of us make too much to get Medicaid. Some people are actually scared of going to the doctor for fear of going into medical debt,” Ms. Payton said.

U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, said federal labor law is “in urgent need of an update” because employers can play “lots of tricks” to delay bargaining.

“We need to level the playing field, ” Mr. Lamb said.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the former mayor of Braddock, served as the parade’s grand marshal. Other politicians attending included Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

Marchers walked down Grant Street, past the historic marker for Henry Clay Frick, just outside the building named for the industrialist.

Many trade unionists remember Frick for provoking violence by hiring 300 Pinkerton agents armed with Winchester Rifles during the bloody Homestead steel strike of 1892.

On the Boulevard of the Allies, where the parade ended, marchers passed the Red Door, where volunteers at St. Mary’s Parish were giving sandwiches to the homeless.

Continue reading SEIU President Rallies Workers in Pittsburgh on Labor Day

Bernie Sanders endorsed by Pittsburgh-based United Electrical Workers

By Christina Suttles
Beaver County Times

Aug 26, 2019 – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders nabbed a presidential endorsement from the Pittsburgh-based United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America on Monday, following a speech at the union’s convention.

PITTSBURGH — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders nabbed a presidential endorsement from the Pittsburgh-based United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America on Monday, following a speech at the union’s convention.

Sanders is the second 2020 Democratic candidate publicly supported by a national labor union; the International Association of Fire Fighters endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden earlier this year.

During his speech at downtown Pittsburgh’s Wyndham Grand Hotel, Sanders told hundreds of local workers his plans to protect middle-class families and tackle corporate greed.

“We can have a nation where all of our people live with security and dignity,” he said. “We can have a nation which does not have a huge gap between the very rich and everybody else, where income and wealth inequality is growing …”

Union leadership said Sanders has been a longtime supporter of workplace actions, including a nine-day strike in Erie earlier this year involving 1,700 locomotive plant workers.

“Bernie understands the need for workers to have a democratic, independent union movement that is unafraid to challenge corporate America’s stranglehold on our economy,” said UE General President Peter Knowlton a statement. The union also supports Sanders’ plans to expand organized labor, end right-to-work laws and implement “Medicare for All.”

The UE represents about 35,000 workers across a variety of sectors, including Beaver County residents working throughout the state, a spokesperson for UE said. Other unions with ties to the region have yet to endorse a candidate. Continue reading Bernie Sanders endorsed by Pittsburgh-based United Electrical Workers

Climate Change In Pittsburgh: Locals Aired Concerns on Pollution, Industry and Legislation at Town Hall

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, who led Wednesday’s event, called out President Donald Trump for framing climate change as a ‘hoax.’

By Varshini Chellapilla
PublicSource,org

August 15, 2019 – Pittsburgh isn’t a coastal city, in the hurricane belt or among the areas with the worst heat, but there was no shortage of local concerns to discuss at Wednesday’s town hall on climate change. About 200 people showed up to the event organized by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, and the conversation ranged from the cracker plant in Beaver County and regional air pollution to the Green New Deal and the Trump administration attempting to roll back Obama-era carbon restrictions.

“I want to provide you with information on how we can go about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and curbing climate change before it’s too late and, particularly, how can we make a change while we have a president who thinks climate change is a hoax and an EPA which is trying to protect polluters instead of people,” said Doyle (D-Forest Hills) while stressing the urgency to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 as advised by the United Nations.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in the fall calling for a cut of 40% to 50% of emissions by 2030 to limit global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Even if that goal is met, there are still expected to be consequences, like worsening storms, heat waves and forest fires.

Climate change “is really inextricably tied to every other system and problem we see,” said Anaïs Peterson, an urban studies student at the University of Pittsburgh, at the event held in the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum.

However, like several other attendees, Peterson was not satisfied with the format of the event, which included two expert panels, followed by a question-and-answer session with the public. Doyle gave an introductory speech, briefed attendees on action in Congress and answered questions.

“I feel like it’s so rare to actually have this face-to-face time with people from Washington,” Peterson said. “I would have liked to have him be more present and have more of a voice throughout the conversation.”

One of the biggest concerns raised by some attendees was Doyle’s stance on the Green New Deal. Introduced in February by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), the Green New Deal calls for swift action to solve the climate crisis and curtail carbon emissions. The Green New Deal is a proposed overhaul to the U.S. economy that includes ending the use of fossil fuels and shifting transportation systems to use only renewable energy, among other proposals. Doyle is not a co-sponsor of Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution.

“The Green New Deal got a lot of attention when it was introduced in February, but I believe it kicked off an important conversation and has built momentum to address climate change that is affecting our planet,” Doyle said. “I agree with supporters of the Green New Deal’s goals of getting the U.S. economy to net-zero carbon emissions quickly. I share many of its long-term goals as well, and I believe that the components of the Green New Deal will be a part of any comprehensive climate bill that comes out of the House of Representatives.”

Gerald Dickinson, who is challenging Doyle for his seat, criticized Doyle’s stance.

“It is very low key,” Dickinson said after the event. “It’s too incremental and not enough urgency and not enough desire and energy to actually make a difference.” Continue reading Climate Change In Pittsburgh: Locals Aired Concerns on Pollution, Industry and Legislation at Town Hall

THE GREEN NEW DEAL: LET’S GET VISIONARY

Lately there’s been a lot of bad news about climate change and the future of humanity.

Last October, the United Nations issued a major report warning of a climate crisis as soon as 2040. The day after Thanksgiving, the Trump administration tried to bury the release of its own report on the dire effects of climate change already occurring in the United States, which included dark predictions for the future.

In December alone, we learned that 2018’s global carbon emissions set a record high. NASA detected new glacier melts in Antarctica. There were wildfires. Coral reef bleaching. Ecosystem upheaval in Alaska as the arctic ice melts.

Meanwhile the Trump administration sent an adviser to the UN climate summit to promote coal and warn against climate “alarmism.”

So this all sucks. But here’s the thing about climate change: You can either ignore it, get depressed about doomsday scenarios, or believe that no matter how badly we’ve screwed up as a species, we’re also smart and creative enough to fix this.

If the alternatives are ignorance and despair, I’ll choose hope. Every single time.

So where can we focus our hope? What can we actually do about climate change?

I’m excited about the Green New Deal, an idea that’s been kicking around since 2007 but was popularized this fall by Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and the youth-led Sunrise Movement. At least 37 members of Congress have signed on, along with dozens of activist organizations.

Not only a plan to shake up environmental policies, it’s also a massive jobs program, named after the Depression-era New Deal. The basic idea is to get us to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, by putting Americans to work building a new energy infrastructure.

It merges the immediate concerns of working Americans — jobs and the economy — with the long-term concerns of climate change. We don’t have to choose between economic sustainability and environmental sustainability.

“This is going to be the Great Society, the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation. That is the scale of the ambition that this movement is going to require,” said Ocasio-Cortez during a town hall meeting with Bernie Sanders.

The ambitious plan touches on a “smart” grid; energy-efficient buildings; sustainable agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and infrastructure; and exporting green technology to make the U.S. “the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely carbon neutral economies.” Think of the scale of this program, and then think of all the jobs that would be created. This could be huge for rural America in particular.

Will the Green New Deal be expensive? Probably. But that doesn’t mean it will be a drag on our economy.

A recent study by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate revealed that we could save $26 trillion, worldwide, if we shifted to sustainable development. Another new study shows wind and solar power to be the cheapest sources for electricity around the world. Last year, the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Texas switched his city to 100 percent renewable energy because of the low costs in the long-term.

On the other hand, at the UN climate summit in Poland, some of the world’s most powerful investors warned of a major financial crash if we don’t solve the climate crisis.

Is the Green New Deal too ambitious? No. We need ambition. The impending climate crisis is the biggest problem the human race has ever faced, and we can’t think small.

So let’s get visionary. Let’s dream big. Let’s fight for our children, and let’s invest in their future.

Sisters of St. Joseph Work with Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border

Setting an Example of Solidarity with Workers and the Poor

By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Beaver County Times

Aug 10, 2019 – A group of nuns and volunteers from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden is working with migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.

They called him a liar.

For months, the Venezuelan man waited patiently with his wife and three children for permission to leave their home country, riddled with political unrest and economic free fall in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Once granted, the family waited for months in Mexico for consent to enter the United States as asylum seekers.

It was a long and difficult journey.

Just hours after finally crossing the border into the United States, he sat last week with Sister Janice Vanderneck, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden, at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

“What a privilege it is to be able to be among the first people to welcome this family to our country,” Vanderneck said. “I was glad to be the person empathetic to their story because he told me that immigration officials called him a liar, thinking that he didn’t understand English.”

For one week, three members of St. Joseph — Sister Jeanette Bussen, Sister Patti Rossi and Vanderneck — are working at the respite center in McAllen to meet and serve migrant families seeking asylum. They are accompanied by Maureen Haggarty, former sister and benefactor, and Carol McCracken, who was inspired by the service and mission work of Rossi.

The respite center is the first stop for those released from a nearby U.S. Customs and Border Patrol holding center. Each day, the respite center serves between 500 and 900 families, providing migrants in crisis with a warm meal, clean clothes and a chance to recover from the first part of their long journeys.

How to help

The Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden has donated more than $10,000 to help replenish supplies at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. Items include toiletries, baby bottles, diapers, sealed snack foods and phone cards.

To donate, visit https://stjoseph-baden.salsalabs.org/bordercrisis/index.html.

The center’s volunteers work to educate parents about their rights and responsibilities as asylum seekers and help prepare them to navigate the legal process to determine whether they can remain in the United States. Continue reading Sisters of St. Joseph Work with Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border