Twenty-four nonprofit CEO’s stood united in front of a bright Pittsburgh skyline this Thursday, ready to stare into the face environmental injustice. The CEO’s were not only present for their causes but to declare a commitment to their city, unprepared to see it’s health decline during the reign of this new presidential administration.
“Earth Day 2017 has a special urgency,” said Executive Director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, Court Gould, “given the rollbacks that are being articulated at the Federal level that will have a negative trickle-down effect across the Country and our region.”
The press conference at the Energy Innovation Center in Uptown Pittsburgh was called by two-dozen separate environmental nonprofits across the region. As the city stood tall behind them, they aired their concerns over the lurking threat of backsliding on recent environmental progress.
Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, CEO of Women for a Healthy Environment, called for a pushback on federal budget cuts proposed in President Trump’s preliminary 2018 budget proposal. Cuts which she believes will “directly impact the ability of state and local governments to protect our health.”
Proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency would eliminate “more than 50 programs and 3,200 jobs.” The budget cuts are foreseen to affect programs that currently ensure access to safe drinking water, cleanup of hazardous waste sites and other pollution.
Rachel Filippini, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), is especially concerned after a report published Wednesday morning labeling Pittsburgh amongst the 25 Worst cities in the U.S. for particle pollution.
The American Lung Association’s (ALA) annual “State of the Air” report for 2017 looks at ozone levels and “fine particle pollution,” or soot, in the air. Soot continues to present the worst ranked threat to the air people breathe in, according to the Clean Air Council.
“Pittsburgh’s continued ranking with the eighth worst air in the nation and F grades in air quality remains a stain on the region and shows that much more work still needs to be done,” said Executive Director of the Clean Air Council Joseph Minott in a press release. “While the ranking has improved on the margins, Pittsburgh still has some of the unhealthiest air in the nation.”
It’s reports like these that make these nonprofits nervous, while Pittsburgh river health and community life is improving, they still hear a call for more work to be done, a call they fear will go unanswered due to funding.
“We must act boldly and change the things that are in our power to change,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh. “We must take a stand for the quality of life in Pittsburgh.”
The nonprofits represented urged the public to become informed, know their facts and to be involved with the organizations represented, who declared they “have the infrastructure and capacity to be megaphones for your voice.”
One by one, the CEO’s symbolically passed around a microphone, stating their name and affiliation, as if to sign their name to the movement.
The nonprofits represented Thursday are as follows; Air Quality Collaborative, Allegheny County Parks Foundation, Allegheny Land Trust, Bike Pittsburgh, CCI, Center for Coalfield Justice, Economic Development South, Green Building Alliance, Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), Grow Pittsburgh, Growth Through Energy and Community Health (GTECH) Strategies, Hollow Oak Land Trust, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC), Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Riverlife, Saw Mill Run Watershed Association, Sustainable Pittsburgh, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, The Door Campaign, Three Rivers Waterkeeper, Tree Pittsburgh, Venture Outdoors and Women for a Healthy Environment.
Written and photographed by Rebecca Lessner, environmental journalism graduate assistant at Point Park University.