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Onorato: G-20 Summit a positive for Mon Valley

| Friday, Sept. 25, 2009

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said the Mon Valley is going to see a huge impact from the attention the world is giving Pittsburgh during the G-20 summit.

"It is the next logical step of development," Onorato said Thursday, referring to plans for reclaimed brownfields such as the county's Carrie Furnace property across the Monongahela River from the Waterfront.

Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl are the local hosts for the summit of leaders from countries that have the world's most productive economies.

Onorato does not believe the blocked-off streets and other restrictions will affect the image Pittsburgh is trying to present to those attending the G-20 summit.

"For the little bit of time they're actually in town, they're going to see some of the assets that make us special," Onorato said.

That includes the David L. Lawrence Convention Center where much of the summit activity is taking place, as well as Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens where President Barack Obama hosted a working dinner Thursday night.

"They're going to see the venues that they wanted to see," Onorato said.

As for the $3.5 million price tag Allegheny County is paying for security, Onorato cited "the multiplier effect of all the advertising we get from the world." He also reiterated his belief that the county will be fully reimbursed for costs it will spend during the summit.

Also at the convention center Thursday, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said, from the perspective of Capitol Hill, the summit is "tremendous for Pittsburgh. I've had colleagues come up to me, green with envy."

Citing an estimated 3,600 media personnel on hand, Doyle said, "you couldn't buy that kind of publicity for hundreds of millions of dollars."

Doyle invited the president to South Allegheny Elementary School on behalf of students there concerned about air quality problems in the Clairton-Liberty area.

Doyle said he received many such requests to invite the president to various places in Western Pennsylvania during the summit.

"This is really a 36-hour meeting for all intents and purposes," Doyle said. "It doesn't leave time for visits."

The 14th District congressman said he hoped he could bring the president to the South Allegheny area at a future date, but said Obama has a full plate of issues, including health care, the economy and energy. Doyle is a co-sponsor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act touted by Obama in his remarks to the United Nations earlier this week.

Doyle said the Pittsburgh area is poised to take advantage of opportunities that so-called "clean energy" development can provide.

Doyle also said he and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., included an amendment in the act that is meant to help carbon-intensive industries such as steel, aluminum and cement that also are facing pressures from trading rivals such as the People's Republic of China.

The Doyle-Inslee amendment provides for "output-based rebates" or refundable tax credits that would be equal to the value of permits bought to cover greenhouse gas pollution.

Such rebates are based on production, the amount of energy used in that production, the amount of carbon dioxide produced in the process and the market value of permits bought to cover that CO2 production.

"As long as there isn't an even playing field, this compensates them," Doyle said.

The Forest Hills Democrat said he works extensively with United States Steel Corp., which has put on hold its plans for a $1.2 billion upgrade of the Clairton coke batteries.

Doyle said one reason is a glut of orders for steel. He also noted problems facing the coal and coke industries that are related to the recent economic turndown.

A U.S. Steel spokeswoman said the steelmaker remains committed to the Clairton project.

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