The Environment Program focuses on a range of issues, recognizing that southwestern Pennsylvania is highly complex ecologically, economically and politically. Known globally for industrial production prior to and during World War II, Pittsburgh experienced a correspondingly high level of pollution. After suffering a long and brutal economic downturn in the 1980s with the collapse of the steel industry and related manufacturing, the Pittsburgh region is recovering economically. The region also is making strides on the environmental cleaning and preservation front.
That reality frames a regional grant-making strategy that includes addressing legacy issues such as high lead exposure, policy issues such as poor land-use planning and infrastructure issues such as a crumbling sewer system. It also incorporates supporting opportunities for technological innovation, such as projects that have helped the region become a leading green-building center in the United States.
The Environment Program funds work designed to transform systems so that environmental problems are not created in the first place. It also supports efforts to reduce the damage currently being done by unsustainable practices, especially where people and nature are directly affected. Staff looks for programs and initiatives that help repair the damage caused by unsustainable practices. This is especially important in cases where pollutants and toxins from damaged ecosystems threaten the health of future generations. Staff also looks for situations where other sources of capital investment are not available to correct an environmental problem, and where health consequences disproportionately affect minority or other vulnerable and disenfranchised groups.