Monday, April 29, 2019

Groups Call For Renewed Leadership To Advance Philadelphia's Green City, Clean Waters Program

On April 29, Environmental, parks and sustainable business advocates called for renewed leadership from the mayor and city council to advance Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program.
Green City, Clean Waters is the city’s “green first” approach to using stormwater infrastructure tools such as rain gardens, tree trenches and stormwater planters to manage stormwater pollution and combined sewer overflows.
The Philadelphia Water Department is in a period of transition following the prior commissioner’s retirement in March. Mayor Kenney is expected to announce a new commissioner very soon.
Regardless of whom is selected to serve as the next commissioner, the city needs strong leadership from the mayor and city council to ensure the long-term success of the program and enable a new commissioner to succeed.
“This is a critical time for elected officials to learn about Green City, Clean Waters and lend their support to encourage the water department to continue investing in green stormwater infrastructure,” said Lena Smith, PennFuture campaign manager, Clean Water Advocacy.  “The water department has successfully achieved its targets of installing enough green stormwater infrastructure to manage runoff from more than 800 impervious acres across Philadelphia’s combined sewer areas.
“The leadership transition at the water department presents an opportunity for the city to strengthen its commitment to green stormwater infrastructure,” said Smith.  “We understand that the mayor’s office has made this an important criteria in the commissioner search process, which we commend. To ensure the future of green stormwater infrastructure, leadership must come from both the next water commissioner as well as elected officials.”
To begin to raise the issue with the mayor and city council, PennFuture, Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Greater Philadelphia, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and Friends of the Wissahickon developed and released “A Common Green Stormwater Infrastructure Agenda for Philadelphia” in consultation with organizations implementing green stormwater infrastructure in the city.
The Agenda identifies the most pressing barriers to successfully implementing the city’s Green City, Clean Waters program and offers policy solutions that the next Mayor and City Council can execute or enact using their respective authorities.
The Agenda breaks the challenges into four issue areas critical to advancing Green City, Clean Waters:
-- Enhancing the social, economic, and environmental benefits of Green City, Clean Waters;
-- Ensuring a citywide accountability structure for Green City, Clean Waters;
-- Strengthening green infrastructure operations and maintenance to ensure long-term success, spur job growth, and create business opportunities; and
-- Bolstering Green City, Clean Waters funding through sustainable, equitable funding streams; enhanced green stormwater infrastructure grant and incentive programs; and tapping into all available state and federal funding opportunities.
Each issue area includes policy solutions that the mayor or city council can initiate.
“Implementing the program comes with challenges,” said Smith. “Philadelphia Water Department exerts minimal direct control over city property and cannot accomplish all necessary projects without strong partnerships with other city agencies and the private sector. Visionary leadership from the mayor’s office and city council is needed to lead Green City, Clean Waters forward. Proactive oversight cutting across city agencies and new local legislation are needed to advance the program’s goals.”
In 2011, the city entered into a Consent Order & Agreement (CO&As) to address Philadelphia’s combined sewer overflows. The CO&A requires the Philadelphia Water Department to implement the Long-Term Control Plan Update (LTCPU), known as Green City, Clean Waters.
The plan is a first-of-its-kind combined sewer overflow compliance approach based primarily on green stormwater infrastructure.
”Philadelphia is not alone in grappling with an overburdened sewer system that releases pollution into rivers when it rains,” said Larry Levine, senior attorney and director of urban water infrastructure at Natural Resources Defense Council. “What makes the city unique is its approach to solving the problem. Green City, Clean Waters prioritizes the literal greening of the urban landscape with trees and vegetated spaces that improve community health and quality of life while cleaning up our waterways. Now is the time to set the program on a course for long-term success, as the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure must accelerate to meet the city’s clean water obligations.”  
Since its implementation, Philadelphia has become a leader in using green stormwater infrastructure tools. By using green stormwater infrastructure, residents will not only see clean water improvements, but also other triple-bottom-line benefits, including new and improved green spaces, reduced heat island effects and more local jobs.
“Eight years into the implementation of Green City, Clean Waters, SBN’s new research finds that investments in nature-based stormwater infrastructure are producing tangible economic, social and environmental benefits across the city, particularly in low- and moderate-income areas,” said Eliza Alford, government relations manager of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. “In 2018, green stormwater infrastructure reduced crime by nearly nine percent (8.7 percent) and saved the city $50 million annually in avoided health-related costs attributed to access to improved open space. Additionally, strong public and private investment in GSI catalyzed by Green City, Clean Waters has sparked a thriving local GSI industry and established our city as a national thought and practice leader. SBN’s GSI Partners have an estimated $89 million annual impact on our local economy. We know that how we invest in our communities’ matters, and by using this opportunity to make an even stronger investment in Green City, Clean Waters, we will see an even larger impact on our local economy, more equitable improvements in our communities, and better climate resilience.”
“Green City, Clean Waters has been the driving force behind green stormwater infrastructure in Philadelphia,” said Matthew Stepp, vice president and chief of staff of PennFuture. “Thanks to visionary leadership in the water department and the mayor’s office, Philadelphia is on the national forefront of using a “green first” approach to stormwater management while also becoming a climate resilient city. The city selected the “green first” approach because of its multiple co-benefits that it provides including benefits to the environment and public health. Green stormwater infrastructure is creating a cleaner and healthier environment for the city of Philadelphia.”
“PennFuture is confident that with renewed leadership from the mayor and city council, green stormwater infrastructure can continue to create a clean and healthy environment. We are committed to working with elected leaders and city official to continue to advance the policy solutions laid out in the Agenda,” said Stepp.
”By relying on creative horticultural solutions deployed throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, Green City, Clean Waters closely aligns with our organizational mission and desire to use horticulture to advance the greater good,” said Glen Abrams, senior director of sustainable communities at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “Investing in greening can bring neighbors together and help build social cohesion, and has also been shown to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression and contribute to reductions in violent crime.”
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