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Philly Mayor Tells Senate: Climate Bill Can Help Make Cities Greener

9:22 AM PDT on October 28, 2009

As the Senate opened its second round of climate change hearings
today, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter delivered the urban case for
climate legislation, outlining an array of infrastructure improvements
and green reforms that would be made possible by federal action to
reduce carbon emissions.

ballard_green_streets2.jpgA sample image of Philadelphia's proposed "green corridors." (Image: Lomo Civic Assn.)

Testifying on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Nutter singled out his city's "complete streets"
policy as a key element of the local revitalization that has attracted
more private investment and new residents to Philadelphia:

Overthe past five decades, Philadelphia lost jobs and residents. The pullsthat caused people to leave our city and others like it were driven inpart by government policies that valued highways over transit and newtract housing over older row homes. But, in recent years, Philadelphiahas begun to witness a rebirth... people and jobs are moving in andprivate investments are being made. People again view our walkableneighborhoods and public transportation systems as assets to value andnurture.

Nutter also described a series of
sustainable infrastructure projects that his city is prepared to launch
once long-term funding is secured. The Senate climate bill sets up a
new block grant program that would provide that long-term funding,
directing money to metro areas for energy efficiency and conservation
projects.

Among the Philadelphia proposals mentioned by
Nutter were the city's "green corridors" program -- now in line for a
$6 million pilot phase -- that would install landscaped sidewalks to
collect storm water as well as new energy-efficient streetlights and
traffic signals. A parallel effort, known as "green streets," would
increase tree cover and install curb bump-outs with sidewalk planters
to decrease heat-trapping.

"Our experience... is
characteristic of so many cities that are moving forward with these
investments," Nutter told the Senate environment committee, which will hear from more than two dozen witnesses today alone.

Republican
witnesses offered a counterpoint to the urban experience, focusing
almost exclusively on the high cost that regulating emissions would
impose on traditional fossil fuel-burning industries.

"We
are in favor of green jobs but not at the expense of the heartland, of
red, white, and blue jobs," Bill Klesse, CEO of oil company Valero,
told the environment panel.

Today's hearing can be followed live here, courtesy of the committee.

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