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Pittsburgh, Nov. 21, 2013 People living in a 10-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania have a significantly higher than acceptable risk of developing cancer due to exposure to toxic air pollution released by manufacturing processes, energy production and diesel combustion, according to a new report by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities.


The Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threats Analysis Report—funded by The Heinz Endowments—analyzes publicly available data on hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), also known as air toxics. Air toxics include approximately 200 pollutants identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as respiratory, neurological and reproductive disorders. The report is the third in a series as part of a project examining major threats to human health and the environment in southwestern Pennsylvania.


“While the region as a whole experiences a constant burden of air toxics, the report found that people living in Allegheny County have a cancer risk more than twice—and in some cases 20 times—that of those living in surrounding rural areas,” said senior author James Fabisiak, associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “In fact, the county ranks in the top 2 percent of U.S. counties in terms of cancer risk from hazardous air pollutants.”


The report also found that census tracts with the very highest risk levels are clustered in the southeastern corner of Allegheny County in the heavily industrialized Liberty-Clairton area, as well as in the neighborhoods downwind from Neville Island and Downtown Pittsburgh.


“This study reinforces in sobering detail what we already know: The Pittsburgh region still has one of the most serious air pollution problems in the country,” Endowments President Robert Vagt said. “Our aspirations for truly becoming the most livable city cannot be realized if our health and environment are threatened by dangerous levels of air toxics, which is why the work of the Breathe Project coalition to solve this problem is one of our highest priorities.”


The top cancer drivers from hazardous air pollutants in southwestern Pennsylvania include diesel particulate matter, formaldehyde, benzene and coke oven emissions, according to the report, which uses the latest available EPA National Air Toxics Assessment data. Lesser, but still significant risk, is posed by carbon tetrachloride, acetaldehyde, arsenic and chromium.


Using data from previous direct monitoring of pollution in three Allegheny County locations (Downtown, Oakland and South Fayette), the report noted that air toxics released from stationary point sources, such as the coke works in Clairton and on Neville Island, pose a greater cancer risk over a wide geographic area extending miles beyond the factories where they are emitted.


In addition, unprecedented expansion of unconventional natural gas development using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the Shell Chemical ethane cracker facility proposed for Monaca, Beaver County, are examples of new and potential sources of hazardous air pollutants identified in the report.


“This report underscores three of the major air quality challenges facing the region—diesel emissions, large point sources and a potential transforming pollutant mixture from unconventional natural gas drilling operations,” said lead author Drew Michanowicz, a Pitt Public Health research assistant. “Our findings serve to better focus our future research efforts, as well as support response actions by community-based advocacy groups and other stakeholders to meet these challenges.”


Additional authors on the report include Kyle Ferrar, Samantha Malone, Matt Kelso and Jill Kriesky, all of, or formerly of, Pitt Public Health.


The report is publicly available at and a printed copy can be obtained by contacting Carmen Lee at 412-338-2628 or



Public health and local economy benefit from recipients’ work on clean-air initiatives


Pittsburgh, Sept. 3, 2013 — The Breathe Project today has presented its first-ever Breathe Awards, honoring individuals, businesses and organizations in the Pittsburgh region for their outstanding accomplishments with initiatives to improve air quality. The new awards program celebrates innovative work to help clean the air in southwestern Pennsylvania and highlights efforts to raise awareness about air quality issues.


Winners were recognized during a 2:30 p.m. ceremony at the Hill House Association in the Hill District and presented with their awards by legendary former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and entrepreneur Franco Harris, a member of the Breathe Project Leadership Group. Also speaking was Bill Flanagan, executive vice president, corporate relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and host of Our Region’s Business. The Breathe Project will award a $1,000 grant in the name of each Breathe Award winner to a nonprofit organization of their choosing whose work helps to improve the lives of children with asthma.


“Pittsburgh’s history is marked by innovations that have made our community cleaner, healthier and more prosperous,” said Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments, which launched the Breathe Project in 2011 as a philanthropic environmental health initiative. “These Breathe Award winners are continuing that tradition, proving that Pittsburgh ingenuity and hard work are more than a match for the challenges we face as we move toward our clean-air future. We applaud their dedication to our health and economy and their example-setting leadership in their fields.”


   The first Breathe Award winners include:


PITT OHIO, Strip District-based transportation solutions provider
= Global Links, Green Tree medical relief and development organization
= Brian Brown, community organizer, Hill District Consensus Group


PITT OHIO has demonstrated commitment to improving our air quality by operating a modern, well-maintained fleet of trucks, tractor trailers and vans; leveraging on-board computers to measure MPG (miles per gallon) per truck, terminal and region; requiring progressive and proper shifting and speed management; instituting anti-idling policies; retrofitting company facilities to reduce energy and water consumption; and participating in the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partner program to reduce air pollution in freight delivery.


Global Links has shown leadership in air quality improvement by retrofitting its trucks in 2011 to run on locally produced biofuel, which reduced its use of diesel by nearly 50 percent. Global Links also has worked with partner PITT OHIO to utilize trucking “back haul” space to grow its programs without generating new emissions. Coordinating supply orders across its programs has reduced air pollution by cutting vehicle miles traveled. In addition, the organization is a Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge participant and has moved its facilities to a remodeled space in Green Tree with natural and LED lighting, a new HVAC system and other “green” features designed to cut energy consumption.


Brian Brown is being honored with a Breathe Award for his tireless volunteer efforts at multiple events to educate the public about air quality in the Pittsburgh area and everyday ways people can take action to help clean our air. He also dedicated his time to this year’s New Voices of Youth program, an online grant contest of The Pittsburgh Foundation to engage middle and high school students in air quality issues.


“The Breathe Project is striving to move Pittsburgh’s air quality from the ranks of the worst in the nation to the ranks of the best,” said Marily Nixon, Breathe Project coordinator. “The impressive contributions of these award winners are leading us toward a tomorrow when everybody our region has clean, healthy air to breathe everyday.”

May 7 World Asthma Day Event Includes First-Ever Review of Scientific Literature on Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Pittsburgh, Finding Serious Implications for Area Residents


PITTSBURGH – Local and national health experts are convening in Pittsburgh on May 7 for the second annual regional Summit on asthma and other health concerns associated with poor air quality. The day-long symposium will address Pittsburgh’s asthma epidemic, as well as newly presented findings about how air pollution affects birth outcomes, cancer and cardiopulmonary illness and mortality rates.


Organized by Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) and the Breathe Project, with the support of The Heinz Endowments and the Suburban Health Foundation, “The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma and Other Health Impacts of Air Pollution” will be held from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.


Highlights of the Summit will include a presentation on the first-ever review of the scientific literature over the past 40 years on the health effects of air pollution in the Pittsburgh region.


Conducted by environmental health expert Ron White of R.H. White Consultants Inc., senior associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the review found that exposure to excessive air pollution in the region has led to serious health problems across the human life cycle. Impacts start with preterm births and low birth weights and continue to premature death. These impacts affect the most vulnerable groups–children, the elderly, and those with existing heart and lung disease–but research shows that they also affect the rest of the community. White will speak at 2:15 p.m.


“Despite improvements over the past few decades, our region’s air still ranks among the dirtiest in the nation, with pollution levels high enough to harm our health,” said Deborah Gentile, MD, Director of Research, in AGH’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.


“We know, for example, that two Pittsburgh-area school districts have asthma rates that are among the worst in the entire state. But the public also needs to be aware of the wide-ranging impacts of air pollution beyond asthma—in birth outcomes, cardiopulmonary illness and premature death,” said Dr. Gentile, who is also co-director of the Summit along with Sergei Belenky, MD, PhD, Medical Director, Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Pediatric Alliance, Pittsburgh.


“People may be surprised and disappointed at what these experts have to say about the many ways air pollution in our region is affecting our health,” said Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments, which is co-supporting the Summit along with the Suburban Health Foundation. “The ability to improve health, especially that of children and older adults, is what has motivated 150 organizations and businesses—and nearly twenty thousand southwestern Pennsylvanians to join the Breathe Project. This strong coalition is monitoring these serious problems and working to clean our air, thus supporting healthy families and communities.”


The Summit’s keynote speaker is Joel Schwartz, PhD, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology at the Harvard University School of Public Health. Internationally recognized for his pioneering research on the effects of leaded gas on children, as well as the health impacts of particulate air pollution, and winner of a prestigious MacArthur “genius grant,” Dr. Schwartz will speak at 11:30 a.m. on the topic “Morbidity and Mortality Effects of Air Pollution.”


Dr. Schwartz’s innovative research on the health costs of lead in gasoline led to a ban on this dangerous additive in the 1980s. He went on to study the relationship between particle pollution and deaths in nearby Steubenville, Ohio, and found that pneumonia, lung disease and heart attack mortality rose along with levels of particulate pollution, even when those levels were within EPA standards. Dr. Schwartz’s groundbreaking work has distinguished him among the most cited authors in the world in the field of air pollution research, with more than 454 peer-reviewed papers published as of July 2011, which at that time were cited more than 23,000 times in other peer-reviewed publications.


A panel of local and national experts will discuss cutting-edge work to address asthma and other air pollution-related health outcomes in our community.


=Epidemic of Asthma in Pittsburgh, 8:00 a.m. with Dr. Gentile

=Asthma Control Strategies, 8:10 a.m. with Dr. Belenky

=Origins of Asthma, 8:30 a.m. with Giovanni Piedimonte, MD, Chairman of the Pediatric Institute and Physician in Chief, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital

=Problem Based Learning: Balancing Safety and Efficacy of Asthma Therapy, 9:30 with David P. Skoner, MD, Director, Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Allegheny General Hospital.

=Effect of Air Pollution on Asthma Outcomes in Pittsburgh, 10:45 a.m. with Luann Brink, PhD, MPH, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

=Effect of Air Pollution on Birth Outcomes in Pittsburgh, 1:00 p.m with Evelyn Talbott, DrPh, MPH, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

=Effect of Air Pollution on Morbidity and Mortality in Pittsburgh, 1:30 p.m. with Francesca Dominici, PhD, Professor of Biostatistics, Associate Dean for Information Technology, Harvard University School of Public Health

=State-of-the-Art Air Pollution Mapping in Pittsburgh, 2:45 p.m. with Albert Presto, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University


The Air We Breathe Summit is intended for internal medicine and family practice physicians, pediatricians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, asthma specialists, pulmonary specialists, cardiac specialists, obstetricians, public health specialists and members of the community.


Those who wish to attend the Summit can register online at or can contact the AGH Continuing Medical Education office for more information at (412) 359-4952 or by e-mail:



Organization’s Participants Include Environmental Organizations, Philanthropic Foundations, and Energy Companies


PITTSBURGH, Pa., March 20, 2013 – A group of leading environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, and energy companies have collaborated to form a unique center to provide producers with certification of performance standards for shale development. The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) has established 15 initial performance standards designed to ensure safe and environmentally responsible development of the Appalachian Basin’s abundant shale gas resources. These standards will form the foundation of the CSSD’s independent, third-party certification process.


“CSSD is the result of an unprecedented effort that brought together a group of stakeholders with diverse perspectives, working to create responsible performance standards and a rigorous, third-party evaluation process for shale gas operations,” said Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments. “This process has demonstrated for us that industry and environmental organizations, working together, can identify shared values and find common ground on standards that are environmentally protective.”


CSSD’s founding participants are:


=Clean Air Task Force
=CONSOL Energy
=Environmental Defense Fund
=EQT Corporation
=Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP)
=Heinz Endowments
=Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
=Pennsylvania Environmental Council
=William Penn Foundation


Technical support has been provided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, ICF International, and the law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.


“While shale development has been controversial, everyone agrees that, when done, producers must minimize environmental risk,” said Armond Cohen, Executive Director, Clean Air Task Force.  “These standards are the state of the art on how to accomplish that goal, so we believe all Appalachian shale producers should join CSSD, and the standards should also serve as a model for national policy and practice.”


Through discussions over the past two years, CSSD participants established a shared vision of performance and environmental risk minimization for natural gas development in the Appalachian region.  The group’s participants have worked to adopt a set of progressive and rigorous performance standards based on today’s understanding of the risks associated with natural gas development and the technological capacity to minimize those risks.


“CSSD is focusing on the establishment of standards that will initially address the protection of air and water quality and climate, and will be expanded to include other performance standards such as safety,” said Nicholas J. DeIuliis, President, CONSOL Energy. “Fundamentally, the aim is for these standards to represent excellence in performance.”


Companies can begin seeking certification in these areas later this year.


CSSD also plans to develop programs to share best practices.


“Raising the bar on performance and committing to public, rigorous and verifiable standards demonstrates our companies’ determination to develop this resource safely and responsibly,” said Bruce Niemeyer, President of Chevron Appalachia.  “Throughout the development of CSSD, the collaborative effort of environmental organizations, foundations and energy companies has been the key to achieving consensus on regional performance standards.”


“This initiative is an important complement to strong regulatory frameworks.  It’s also a model of the regional collaborations recommended by the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board to help drive a process of continuous improvement,” said Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University and a member of CSSD’s Board of Directors.


“While the potential economic and environmental benefits of shale gas are substantial, the public expects transparency, accountability and a fundamental commitment to environmental safety and the protection of human health from the companies operating throughout the region. CSSD is a sound step toward assuring the public that shale development is being done to the requisite standards of excellence,” said Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury and retired Chairman of Pittsburgh-based Alcoa and a member of CSSD’s Board of Directors.


About Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD)

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, CSSD is an independent organization whose mission is to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through performance standards and third-party certification. Focused on shale development in the Appalachian Basin, the Center provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share expertise with the common objective of developing solutions and serving as the center of excellence for shale gas development.


Funded by philanthropic foundations and participating energy companies, CSSD is intended to promote collaborative efforts by industry and its stakeholders called for by the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.

The Breathe Project has teamed with The Pittsburgh Foundation in an online youth engagement program for local middle and high school students.


The program, known as New Voices of Youth, the fourth of its kind for The Pittsburgh Foundation, gives young people in southwestern Pennsylvania an opportunity to make their voices heard about important community issues that affect their lives. Participants in this year’s program are being asked to develop projects that raise awareness about air quality challenges in the Pittsburgh area and help to clean the region’s air.


“Young people are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution because they tend to spend more time outdoors and their lungs are still developing,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. “We are excited to work with the Breathe Project to deliver information and encouragement that will allow youth to take a lead role in providing solutions for cleaner air.”


In the fall of 2011, The Heinz Endowments launched the Breathe Project, a coalition made up of businesses, including heavy metals manufacturers and power producers; environmental nonprofits; government; civic organizations; and individuals working to improve air quality for healthy families and a stronger economy. The New Voices of Youth program will help to engage youth as agents of change in this growing movement to achieve a clean-air future for southwestern Pennsylvania.


“Thankfully, much of the highly visible pollution that earned Pittsburgh the title of ‘Smoky City’ a century ago is long gone,” said Endowments President Robert Vagt. “But with the dangerous health effects of pollutants better quantified, the region has not kept up with more stringent standards and its air quality ranks among the worst in the nation.” Vagt said the broad coalition that achieved a dramatic turnaround in air quality in the 1940s and 1950s must be re-activated to achieve the same success in this decade. “Young people as a group are essential to this effort,” said Vagt. “They are more attuned to the issues than many other groups and they understand the change that is possible with group action.”


Participants will work with adult mentors to design projects that increase awareness and take action for cleaner air in the Pittsburgh region. Projects also can create first-time opportunities for young people to participate as volunteers or in a service-learning opportunity to improve our air quality.


Detailed information about the program, including resources for teachers and an educational toolkit about air quality, is available at a special website developed as a hub to support the initiative at


Entries should be submitted at the site. The closing date for the first round of entries is May 8, 2013. Regular updates will be posted on the New Voices of Youth website detailing progress on student projects.


A Student Advisory Council composed of 15 local high school students will meet periodically to review entries and select finalists. Top entries are eligible for up to $2,500 in grant funding from The Pittsburgh Foundation to turn their ideas into action in this hands-on approach to community philanthropy.


Young people are also encouraged to participate in an online forum on the site by sharing photographs, essays, artwork, ideas and comments that may help improve submitted entries and inspire new projects.


The Voices of Youth series of competitions kicked off in 2009 with Art in Public, and was followed by two additional competitions encouraging youth and youth-serving organizations to create change.


“We are excited to continue working with our area youth on ideas to better our community with the New Voices of Youth,” said Oliphant.

Air quality improvement at center of $1.6 million fund managed by Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association 


The Allegheny County Health Department and the Breathe Project, a wide-ranging coalition dedicated to raising the region’s air quality from the worst to the best in the country, are funding a second round of the Small Construction Contractors Retrofit Program. Applications are now accepted.


The program, managed by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association, provides grants to small business construction companies seeking assistance in reducing costs of retrofitting construction equipment with the latest emissions-reduction technologies. Small construction companies whose business operations have been located in Allegheny County (including the city of Pittsburgh) for the past three years are eligible.


The first round, which began in February and was completed in September, produced six applicant companies. Their awards, expected to total about $500,000, will be issued in the next two months as technical requirements are completed. The new round of grants will cover as many as 30 projects ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the maximum allowed under the program rules.


Construction activity and diesel exhaust from construction equipment contribute to smog, acid rain, climate change and a range of health problems.  Poor air quality has been associated with increased respiratory symptoms such as asthma and other adverse health effects that include heart and lung disease and an increased risk of premature death.


“This grant project will lead to significant improvement in air quality in the region over time,” said Caren Glotfelty, senior director of the Environment Program at The Heinz Endowments, a Breathe Project coalition sponsor and contributor of the retrofit fund.  “And there will be dramatic reductions in harmful emissions in neighborhoods and public thoroughfares where construction projects are under way.”


The funding pool and administrative expenses for the new round of grants comes from two $920,000 grants–one from the Endowments, the other from the Allegheny County Health Department.


“In Allegheny County, diesel exhaust contributes more cancer risk than fixed industrial sources,” said Dr. Ron Voorhees, acting health department director. “This project will help reduce air pollution-related health risks.”


Non-road construction equipment can last 25 to 30 years, reducing the turnaround to newer, cleaner equipment.  A typical bulldozer engine emits as much particulate matter pollution as about 500 cars.  Diesel exhaust from this type of equipment contributes to pollution, climate change and serious health problems. Upgrading diesel engines with new technologies is healthier for the city as well as the construction crews who are exposed to it on a daily basis.


The technologies will reduce harmful emissions of particulate matter (PM) – aka “soot” – from construction equipment by 85 percent or more.  According to a recent Environmental Protection Agency study, diesel construction equipment generates an estimated 25 percent of the county’s diesel particulate matter pollution.


Funds from the program can be used for engine upgrades and rebuilds, installation of diesel particulate filters and engine repowers.  Included on the long list of equipment that is eligible to be retrofitted are cranes, dump trucks, forklifts, graders and paving equipment.


The funds are awarded through an ongoing application process that helps small construction companies make needed investments to upgrade equipment and reduce air pollution.


To be eligible for funding, construction companies must meet the following requirements:


=The equipment being covered by the grant must be non-road.
=The company applying for funding must be a small construction company operating in Allegheny County, including the city of Pittsburgh.
=The company must have completed the federal Contractor Registration process.


The Heinz Endowments supports efforts to make southwestern Pennsylvania a premier place to live and work, a center for learning and educational excellence, and a region that embraces diversity and inclusion.


The Breathe Project is a coalition of 126 organizations and 1,300 individuals who have come together under a commitment to make significant improvement in air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Leaders of the coalition represent nearly every aspect of life in the region, including industries, environmental groups, local governments, foundations and civic groups.


The Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association is a cooperative association of 10 air pollution control agencies in the Mid-Atlantic Region. MARAMA’s mission is to strengthen the skills and capabilities of member agencies and help them work together to prevent and reduce air pollution impacts.


For more information about the grants program, prospective applicants should contact Rick Gordon or call 443-901-1882. Information and applications also can be found here.

Air Quality Improvement Brings Economic Benefit

A unique partnership has piloted a new adaptive traffic signal control technology that promises to dramatically reduce harmful vehicle emissions and frustratingly long travel times through urban neighborhoods.  With funding support from three Pittsburgh foundations, Carnegie Mellon University has worked with the City of Pittsburgh and East Liberty Development Inc. to deploy the technology for a network of traffic lights serving the busy East Liberty area of the City.

“The reductions of 40 percent in vehicle wait time, nearly 26 percent in travel time and 21 percent in projected vehicle emissions realized in this pilot are remarkable,” said Dr. Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon.  “I’m proud of CMU’s team, which developed this first-in-the-world technology, and am equally proud of the partnership approach typical of Pittsburgh that made this pilot possible.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl cheered the pilot’s success as “a breakthrough in making our city’s traffic system work far more efficiently without having to resort to expensive widening roads, eliminating street parking,  or re-routing.  It makes the City more attractive to employers and residents alike.”

Dr. Stephen Smith, director of the Intelligent Coordination and Logistics Laboratory in CMU’s Robotics Institute, attacked the tough problem of perennially congested road networks in urban centers. Combining concepts from the fields of artificial intelligence and traffic theory, his team first developed technology to allow traffic signals to communicate with one another and collaboratively adapt to actual traffic conditions in real time. The second step was to establish proof of the concept using a simulation model of Pittsburgh city traffic. The latest step has been the pilot project that has successfully demonstrated that traffic signals have the ability to react to quickly changing conditions, reducing traffic congestion and the resulting extra vehicle emissions.  The next step will be to expand the pilot to demonstrate the technology on a bigger scale.

The groundbreaking technology was sponsored by the Traffic21 Initiative at CMU’s H. John Heinz III College.  Traffic21 was launched in 2009 with funding from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.  Grants to Traffic21 from The Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project and from the Richard King Mellon Foundation provided the funding for the pilot.

“This type of technological breakthrough is just what we hoped could happen when Traffic21 was created with a broad community partnership led by CMU,” said Pittsburgh business leader and philanthropist Henry Hillman.  “We are now beginning to see how Pittsburgh can be positioned to be a leading city on an international scale in demonstrating how low-cost, easy-to-implement technological solutions can reduce traffic congestion, vehicle fuel consumption and emissions while also improving safety and air quality.”

Heinz Endowments President Robert Vagt noted that each of the parties involved in the pilot is a member of the Breathe Project, the broad-based coalition of 112 organizations and 1,200 individuals dedicated to pulling Pittsburgh into the ranks of the cleanest-air regions in the country. “We saw the adaptive signalization project as a way to reduce the estimated 17 percent of our local air pollution problem [Allegheny County] that comes from vehicle emissions. What we’ve discovered from this great result is that something done with the intention of improving air quality can also deliver a significant economic benefit.”

James Rohr, Chairman and CEO of PNC Financial Services Group, a trustee of CMU, a member of the Endowments’ board and the leadership group of the Breathe Project, echoed these sentiments.  “This development has the potential to improve our city, improve our air and build upon our region’s reputation for innovation that solves problems, elevates quality of life and creates a better climate for business.”

Building on the support of the Traffic21 Initiative, CMU won a national competition in January 2012 to be named a University Transportation Center (UTC) by the U. S. Department of Transportation. Traffic21 and the new Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation UTC hope to continue the development and deployment of the smart signals technology breakthrough with its partners, expanding the pilot and assessing the possibilities for introducing the technology throughout the city.  Partners in this endeavor will include among others the City of Pittsburgh, Southwestern Pa. Commission, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation, the Hillman and Richard King Mellon foundations, the Endowments, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and East Liberty Development.

Industry, Government, Environmental Nonprofits, Public Health, Academia Among Sectors Guiding Air-Improvement Quest


The coalition of 85 organizations and 1,000 individuals who have joined together to make significant improvements to air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania has formed a leadership group committed to encouraging individual and corporate actions, commissioning research and setting goals that will define future success.


The 23 members–ranging from Rachel Filippini, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution, to David Porges, chairman, president and CEO of EQT Corp., to the Rev. Judith Moore of Clairton to Sean Jones, music professor and professional trumpeter–met for the first time Wednesday to begin charting the future course of the project.


The leadership group also heard the inspiring story of air quality-improvement success in Houston, Texas, from William White, the city’s mayor from 2003-2009.


“We are grateful beyond measure for the time and expertise that these very busy people will be bringing to this initiative by agreeing to step into leadership roles,” Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments, the convening foundation for the Breathe Project, said following the meeting. “What is most heartening is the determination and passion that was flowing through this group from the first moments of the session,” said Vagt, “and it gives us great confidence that the region will meet this challenge.”


The Endowments, which began the project two years ago as a philanthropic initiative, has now turned over broad guidance of the work to the leadership group.


Members heard about Houston’s successful clean-air campaign from White, who served as mayor for three terms. The city is widely recognized for having made significant strides in reducing air pollution, primarily through the actions of its business community.


“I look around this room–and I see you linking goals to actions of particular constituents,” White told the leaders. “You have business, political, faith-based, health and many more. If you agree on a goal, you can do whatever you want to do. You have everyone you need in place to make significant improvements.”


Members of the Breathe Project Leadership Group are:


=Dr. Joseph Ahearn, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Allegheny Singer Research Institute, and Director, Lupus Center of Excellence, West Penn Allegheny Health System

=Aaron Bisno, Senior Rabbi, Rodef Shalom Congregation

=Dr. Donald Burke, Dean, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh

=Jared Cohon, President, Carnegie Mellon University

=Maryann Donovan, Associate Director, Research Administration, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

=Rachel Filippini, Executive Director, Group Against Smog & Pollution

=Rich Fitzgerald, County Executive, Allegheny County

=Dr. Deborah Ann Gentile, Director of Research, Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Allegheny General Hospital

=Leo Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers

=Franco Harris, Super Bakery

=Thomas Hoffman, Western Pennsylvania Director, Clean Water Action

=Alex Johnson, President, Community College of Allegheny County

=Sean Jones, Trumpeter, Composer, Educator

=Linda Lane, Superintendent, Pittsburgh Public Schools

=Rev. Judith Moore, Pastor, First AME Church, Clairton

=Troy Miller, Graduate, Schenley High School

=Andrew Moore, Vice President of Engineering, Google Pittsburgh

=Grant Oliphant, President and CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation

=David Porges, Chairman, President and CEO, EQT Corporation

=Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

=Allen Robinson, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

=James Rohr, Chairman & CEO, PNC Financial Services Group

=John Surma, Chairman & CEO, United States Steel Corporation

=Dennis Yablonsky, CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development

=Robert Vagt, President, The Heinz Endowments

We are proud to announce that the Breathe Project is one of five finalists for the 16th Annual Webby Awards in the Activism category for this website.


The Webby Awards the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet, receiving thousands of entries each year. It is presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which includes members such as musicians Beck and David Bowie, media giant Ariana Huffington, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groenig.


Thanks to the vision and talent of our creative team at Citizen Group in San Francisco, Breathe Project is up for two possible awards: The Webby Award and The Webby People’s Voice Award.


In order to win the People’s Voice Award, we need to receive the largest number of votes. Please encourage everyone in your network to vote to show their support for Pittsburgh and clean air.


Voting ends April 26, so click here to make your voice heard and then don’t forget to post, tweet, write, pin and e-mail the link.

The welcome news that the monitor for one of the worst air-pollution spots in southwestern Pennsylvania met the annual federal air-quality standard, the first for a critically important piece of our air quality problem–fine particulate matter–is a breath of fresh air.


It marks a big leap forward in the effort to move our region from the bottom to the top ranks nationally in air-quality ratings.


We at The Heinz Endowments, along with hundreds of other members of the Breathe Project Coalition intend to use this momentum to accelerate our effort to achieve the best possible air quality. We realize that despite this important gain, there is still a lot of work yet to do. The race to win consistently clean air is a marathon, not a sprint.


While this latest air-quality improvement in the Liberty Borough-Clairton area is good news, we owe it to the people of those communities and the rest of the region to meet the short-term (daily and eight-hour) compliance standard for small particulates and a range of other pollutants as well. The 2010 Allegheny County Health Department Air Quality Report, the most recent available, shows a total of 92 days in which one or more monitors recorded levels for various pollutants high enough that they failed to meet the federal standard.


For every day or portion of a day in which one of our communities registers poor air quality, there are increased health risks to the most vulnerable residents – the very young and the very old. And all of us are at increased risk of developing serious health problems such as heart and respiratory diseases, or aggravating conditions such as asthma.


One of the most thorough analyses of our region’s air quality, conducted by the national Clean Air Task Force and published last year, tells us that we have the power to make our air among the cleanest in the country by addressing local sources of pollution. This is great news for the region, since people here have a long history of taking whatever bold steps are required to move forward in the face of both adversity and opportunity.


We in the Pittsburgh region also have a reputation for never settling for “good enough,” especially when it comes to such important quality-of-life measures as a healthy environment and an economy that is thriving because the region is a sought-after place to live and work. Our strong competitive instinct to be the best will serve us well in the race to achieve clean air, since much of our recent improvement has registered just over the line from unacceptable quality.


In the 1940s, Pittsburghers banded together to clear the air of visible air pollution, accepting a package of reforms that challenged nearly every household and business to switch from dirty coal as a fuel source. That coalition succeeded in clearing Pittsburgh’s air and its national reputation. Today, a new coalition takes heart in that historic achievement and our latest improvements, and we rededicate ourselves to reaching the day when clean air across the region will be too commonplace to be newsworthy.


October 7, 2014
“Sustainability Pioneers” Documentary Premiere   How can Pittsburgh be a leader in building the bridge from our fossil fuel-based economy to an economy based on renewable energy and sustainable living?   Filmmaker and journalist Kirsi Jansa asks this question–arguably the most critical challenge of our … Learn More
October 18, 2014
2014 Pittsburgh Solar Tour   Most Pittsburgh house tours showcase beautiful interiors, tasteful design, and the glitz and glamour of bygone eras. The 2014 Pittsburgh Solar Tour is a home tour for the new Pittsburgh.   Join PennFuture to experience raw solar power, energy … Learn More
October 7, 2014
Smoke Gets Into Your Eyes (Lungs too!)   For the third presentation in the series “Climate Change Here and Now,” scientist Ellis Robinson will investigate the origins and effects of atmospheric particles—unavoidable byproducts of the way our society creates and uses energy.   Robinson is a recent … Learn More
October 5, 2014
Save the Date: Clean Air Dash 5K Save the date and start logging those training miles! The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) second annual Clean Air Dash 5K on the South Side’s Three Rivers Heritage Trail will be here before you know it. The fast, flat and … Learn More
September 27, 2014
Trade Your Old Woodstove for Gift Cards   The Allegheny County Health Department is offering county residents cash incentives to once again dispose of old wood stoves and outdoor wood-fired boilers that do not meet current national emissions standards. The collection event will be held on Saturday, … Learn More
August 24, 2014
Breathe Project Family Ride at PedalPGH   Biking is a zero-emissions way to get around the city that’s good for the body and for our air quality. In celebration of Pittsburgh as a safe, bicycle-friendly city, we are proud to sponsor the Breathe Project Family Ride at Bike … Learn More
July 31, 2014
EPA to Hold Pittsburgh Hearings on Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold public hearings for the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule the week of July 28 in four locations across the U.S., including Pittsburgh. The hearings will provide interested parties the opportunity to present data, … Learn More
July 17, 2014
Clean Water Action to Host N.Y. Group with Big Victory in Fight for Cleaner Air Clean Water Action this week is hosting members of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CACWNY) to share their story of community effort to reduce harmful emissions from the Tonawanda Coke plant, an industrial facility with a heinous … Learn More
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  • Breathe Project

    Via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:Court documents show that PA Department of Environmental Protection studies on shale gas air emissions are inaccurate, incomplete and ignore serious health and safety risks of #fracking.

    State studies on shale-site air emissions incomplete, according to court documents

    Three widely cited state studies of air emissions at Marcellus Shale gas development sites in Pennsylvania omit measurements of key air toxics and calculate the health risks of just two of more than two dozen pollutants. State regulators and the shale gas drilling industry over the past four years h…

    Oct 20th 7:19pm • No Comments

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    Oct 13th 6:20pm • No Comments

    TONIGHT: Ellis Robinson, the host of I Wonder science podcast, delves deep into the mysteries of fine particles & what they mean for your heath.

    Don't miss this great event.


    Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Lungs Too) — Part 3 of Climate Change Here and Now

    Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Lungs Too) For the third presentation in the series Climate Change Here and Now, Ellis Robinson investigates the origins and effects of atmospheric particles—unavoidable by-products of the way our society creates and uses energy. Invisible to the naked eye, we only notice th…

    Oct 7th 2:28pm • No Comments

    This project says, “Hey, Sun. We love you.”

    You'll fall in love with this heart-shaped solar power plant

    All solar farms are lovely, but this one will downright steal your heart.

    Oct 7th 1:22pm • No Comments

    Pittsburgh is the bridge capital of the world.

    But can the city be a leader in building the bridge from our fossil fuel-based economy to an economy based on renewables?

    Filmmaker and journalist Kirsi Jansa asks this question in her new documentary series Sustainability Pioneers that premieres Tuesday at Carnegie Mellon University.

    Free film premiere Tuesday, 7-9 pm, Carnegie Mellon University

    Sustainability Pioneers Trailer Sustainability Pioneers is a Southwestern Pennsylvania-based series of short documentaries visualizing a bridge from our fossil-fuel based economy to an economy based on renewable energy and sustainable living. The series is produced by Kirsi Jansa, a documentary film…

    Oct 6th 1:33pm • No Comments

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    The Heinz Endowments
    Jennifer Bails, Breathe Project communications coordinator
    Phone: 412-855-1329
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