Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto fears a petrochemical company near his city could drive away potential white-collar tech jobs even as his fellow Democrats warn the mayor’s position could hurt blue-collar jobs.
Peduto believes Royal Dutch Shell’s giant facility 30 miles from Pittsburgh is an environmental disaster that could crush the Democratic Party’s climate agenda. Another Democratic leader in the state who voted for President Donald Trump wants the mayor to butt out.
“If there is one city in the United States that should have learned from the mistakes that it made in the previous industrial revolution, it’s Pittsburgh,” Peduto told The Washington Post in a report Monday.
The mayor says Shell’s plant, which is slated to employ more than 600 people after it’s built, will impact his constituent’s physical health. (RELATED: Trump Leads Democrats In These Three Battleground States Amid Impeachment Fight)
“We have to be able to recognize that there is a new industry that has been built out in southwestern Pennsylvania, and it is contingent upon clean air and clean water,” Peduto said, noting that Uber is investing in the area. The fossil fuel industry’s lock in the state is over, he said.
Peduto added: “And that industry is much more important than the legacy and industry of fossil fuel.”
The plant could produce more than 1.6 million tons of polyethylene annually, which could emit up to 348 tons of nitrogen oxides annually. State officials say the area around the plant could experience a boom, as industry leaders and officials discuss building additional facilities in nearby states.
Local Democratic official Earl “Butch” Shamp, meanwhile, believes Peduto is out of his element.
“When people here hear the mayor, they hear someone who’s just totally out of touch about where the jobs are,” Shamp told WaPo. “The mayor should just stay out of it and stay in Pittsburgh.”
“Democrats have just gone way, way too far to the left,” he added. “I don’t believe in global warming. … I believe the Earth goes in cycles, and we just happen to be in a warming cycle right now.”
Peduto’s constituents are slowly moving leftward even as other parts of the state support Trump’s style of Republican politics. Democrats flipped two state Senate seats during the 2018 midterm elections and a seat on the Allegheny County Council.
A Firehouse and Optimus poll published in December shows Trump leading Democratic candidates former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the early going of the presidential election.
Peduto is attempting to thread a needle between being outright antagonistic toward the fossil fuel industry and recognizing the benefits of natural gas. He told WaPo that he is concerned that Warren’s and Sanders’s support for a fracking ban “would be devastating to the Rust Belt.”
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