Regional Benchmarks

The Pittsburgh region is continuing to grow in overall environmental quality, but benchmarks show there is still room for improvement. Below is a selection of Pittsburgh Today benchmarks that contextualize Pittsburgh’s environmental quality of life with other benchmark regions.

Inclusion: Rising in the ranks

“Overall inclusion” reflects the ability of historically excluded populations—in this case, lower-income residents and people of color—to contribute to and benefit from economic prosperity. This is measured by combining economic inclusion and racial inclusion.

  • “Economic inclusion” reflects the ability of residents with lower incomes to contribute to and benefit from economic prosperity.
  • “Racial inclusion” reflects the ability of residents of color to contribute to and benefit from economic prosperity.

From 2000 to 2013, Pittsburgh’s economic health rank increased from 250 to 212. The city also became more inclusive, rising from 176 to 132 in the overall inclusion rankings.

Air Quality: Better, but not good enough

The number of good air quality days are improving in the Pittsburgh MSA, but still have a long way to go.  “While the skies appear much cleaner than when steel and other heavy industry were the backbone of the region’s economy, it’s pollution the eye can’t easily detect that remains an issue.”

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Today

Water Quality: Levels of Bromide in Pittsburgh’s rivers Rise, Then Fall

From 2008-2009, levels of bromide in the Monongahela River exceeded 720 micro Siemens per centimeter, the threshold at which the taste of the water noticeably changes. In 2011, Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority also found higher levels of bromide in the Allegheny and Monongahela.  PWSA took steps at local water treatment plants to rectify the high levels.

Bromide Levels, courtesy of Pittsburgh Today

Bromide Levels, courtesy of Pittsburgh Today

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection asked oil and gas producers to stop taking shale gas-produced water discharge to city water treatment facilities because of its high salt discharge — a change that helped the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers recover.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Today.

Shale Gas Production Rises

Production in the Marcellus Shale play — the most productive shale region in the United States — rose in 2016.

In December 2016, the Marcellus Shale play produced 18.3 million cubic feet of gas per day. The second most productive play, the Permian basin in Texas, produced only 7.4 million cubic feet per day. December 2016’s total capped off a year in which Marcellus shale once again produced significantly more gas than any of the other seven major shale plays across the United States. The Marcellus Shale lies under parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Today

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Today

Recent data indicates the trend is spilling over into 2017. The Marcellus Shale is estimated to produce 18.4 million cubic feet per day in January 2017 – slightly more than December’s yield and more than double the production of the next most productive region in the nation.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Today

Climate Beliefs of Pittsburghers

In 2013, Pittsburgh Today surveyed Pittsburgher’s about their beliefs on climate change.  At that time, Pittsburghers felt powerless to effect change:

  • 79% of residents believed there was little or nothing they could do to solve environmental problems
  • 21.3% felt that they could do a lot to make change

Regarding climate change:

  • 64% of Pittsburghers described climate change as a severe or moderate problem
  • Fewer than 19% didn’t believe it is a problem

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Today

A more recent poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall College and StateImpact Pennsylvania in March 2018 found that the majority of PA voters see climate change as causing immediate problems:

  • 62% of PA voters see climate change as causing problems right now
  • 17% said problems won’t happen until sometime in the future
  • 12% say it will never cause problems

The survey also found that a growing number of PA voters believe that the state should be prioritizing renewable forms of energy over fossil fuels, coal, and natural gas:

  • 69% of PA voters say the state prioritize renewable energy
  • 18% say the state should prioritize fossil fuels, coal, and natural gas

Courtesy of StateImpact Pennsylvania