PowerSource Voice: Drilling under public parks: Focusing the sustainability lens brings clarity

Park lands are a public compensation to counter and provide refuge from rapid urbanization. Such foresight in stewardship squares with sustainability's core definition of meeting present needs without compromising those of tomorrow's people.

Sustainability tenets also guide to not pollute at a rate faster than nature can neutralize, recycle, and replenish. Shale development in public parks does not square with this principle due to potential impacts to water, land, and air.

Sustainability favors what has been practiced to date: protected park lands provide huge economic payoffs when factoring their natural capital/ecological stocks, which perpetually contribute environmental, social, and economic dividends.

Shale development under parks is inconsistent with the foundational intent of these public spaces and poses undue risks to the very conservation and preservation of their tremendous and increasing natural asset and recreational value.

If this primary stewardship perspective is overridden, sustainability principles can help minimize drilling impacts by reducing risks and hastening deployment of protective best practices.

Sustainability dictates that reliance on a non-renewable resource should lead to investment in a renewable alternative that can be up and running when the former plays out. Natural gas is fossil and finite but yields money that should fund the shift to its renewable substitute.

In light of these principles, the following are sustainability prerequisites for natural resource development in public parks:

• Establish new best practices in all aspects of the operation.

• Avoid temptation to use proceeds for day-to-day operating needs; rather, use proceeds to mitigate negative social and environmental impacts and to invest in bringing renewables online while weaning from fossil dependence.

As such, the following is a list of priorities:

Game-change the industry: (lead a demonstration project)

• Exceed regulations and voluntary protocols and use the operation to demonstrate emerging best practices (beginning with that of the CSSD and including limiting selection of suppliers and drillers to those that have exemplary environmental stewardship track record).

• Establish and test new monitoring protocols and highest means for public transparency.

Living Parks (they replenish what they consume):

• Maximize natural capital through green infrastructure. Implement best practices for recycling, composting, reuse, waste minimization.

• Investment in energy efficiency and conservation measures that last.

• Install renewable energy sources.

• Implement integrated pest management practices.

• Transition to lawn mowers, vehicles, and other parks equipment powered by renewables.

• Purchase carbon offsets, renewable energy certificates, and renewable energy necessary to be carbon neutral.

Healthy parks (they foster well-being):

• Establish substantial environmental protection bonding sufficient to safeguard ecosystem function and water.

• Establish a fund to underwrite responses to environmental degradation.

• Underwrite environmental education.

• Enhance public transportation connectivity and bike/ped too.

• Manage species (flora and fauna) for ecosystem health and diversity, while reducing invasive species.

(This statement was released by Sustainable Pittsburgh as part of its routine discussion of current events through the clarifying lens of sustainability principles.)

Court Gould is executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh (www.sustainablepittsburgh.org). Sustainable Pittsburgh affects decision-making for the Pittsburgh region to integrate economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental quality bringing sustainable solutions for communities and businesses.

To contribute to PowerSource Voice, a regular feature offering insight and opinion on energy subjects, contact Associate Business Editor Teresa F. Lindeman at tlindeman@post-gazette.com

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