Here’s How Duquesne Light Co. protects the environment

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Earth Month presents an opportunity to sharpen our sustainable focus in the Pittsburgh area and beyond. The 2023 Earth Day theme is “Invest in Our Planet.” What does this mean, exactly?

This year’s theme “highlights the importance of dedicating our time, resources, and energy to solving climate change and other environmental issues,” according to

In other words, everyone needs to do their part to protect the planet, including governments, businesses, local communities, and individuals.

As a next-generation energy company, Duquesne Light Co. (DLC) is committed to “helping the Pittsburgh region transition to a clean energy future that is greener, healthier, and more equitable.”

DLC has pioneered multiple environmental protection initiatives through the years. Today, the company continues to reduce its environmental impact via various sustainable practices.

Improving Air Quality

Climate-driven weather changes increase ground-level ozone and particulate matter across the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These pollutants decrease outdoor and indoor air quality, which can cause and aggravate health issues.

To improve air quality, DLC installed “the first full-scale plant-wide scrubber systems in the nation during the 1970s.”

This early innovation was just one of DLC’s pioneering environmental achievements. DLC also received national recognition for providing “an innovative solution for reducing nitrogen oxide emissions.”

When these harmful greenhouse gases interact with water, oxygen, and other atmospheric chemicals, they form acid rain. Acid rain harms lakes and forests, and when people inhale large concentrations of NO2, it irritates airways and aggravates respiratory issues.

Using Waste Constructively

When pulverized coal combusts and exhaust gases push it into a boiler’s combustion chamber, it ignites, generates heat, and produces a fine residue called “fly ash,” according to the  U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

DLC discovered that this “waste” by-product could serve as highway embankment filler. As a result, the company used over 350,000 tons of fly ash to fill embankments on the East Street Valley Expressway in North Pittsburgh.

Preventing Pollution

According to National Geographic, landfill waste eventually decomposes and produces methane, a toxic greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and causes air and water pollution.

Reusing and recycling items reduces waste and helps fight pollution because less trash ends up in landfills, according to the EPA.

The Allegheny Health Department recognized DLC as one of the first companies in the county to practice pollution prevention. Thanks to their success in reducing hazardous waste and promoting recycling, the Manchester, McKeesport, and Penn Hills facilities became pollution prevention partners in the county’s Enviro-Star program.

Reducing SF6 Emissions

DLC doesn’t generate carbon-based power. But the company still tracks carbon emissions sources, according to DLC’s 2021 EEI-AGA ESG/Sustainability Report. This includes monitoring and reporting sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) emissions.

SF6 is “the most potent greenhouse gas known to date,” according to the EPA. Several industries use SF6, including electrical transmission and distribution equipment.

DLC has been a member of the SF6 Emission Reduction Partnership for Electric Power Systems since 1999. In this voluntary effort, national power system owners collaborate with the EPA “to reduce greenhouse gases from electrical equipment containing sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).”

The company also tracks indirect emissions “from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling.”

Maintaining Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans

Oil spills can have a devastating impact on public health, drinking water, natural resources, and the economy, according to the EPA’s “Understanding Oil Spills and Oil Spill Response” guide.

To help protect the environment, DLC maintains Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans for company-owned and qualifying sites that contain oil-filled equipment like transformers and breakers.

An SPCC plan lists operating procedures that help prevent oil spills. DLC also discusses implementing control measures “to prevent an oil spill from reaching navigable waters” and details countermeasures “to contain, clean up, and mitigate the effects of an oil spill that reaches navigable waters.”

Recent Sustainable Efforts and Recognition

These early achievements show DLC’s historic green practices. DLC’s recent sustainable efforts and recognition include:

  • Installing solar panels and a solar tree at the company’s Woods Run campus on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
  • Participating in the first U.S.-based Global Clean Energy Action Forum (GCEAF). It occurred in Pittsburgh, and DLC President and CEO Kevin Walker was on the host committee.
  • Receiving a 2022 Tree Line USA Award from the Arbor Day Foundation (for the 20th year in a row) for DLC’s efforts to protect and preserve America’s tree canopy.
  • Participating in the annual Ohio River Sweep volunteer cleanup effort with five other states.
  • DLC’s corporate fleet includes electric sedans, plug-in hybrid bucket trucks, and electric fork trucks. By 2030, the company aims for 30% of its fleet to be electric.
  • According to DLC’s 2021 EEI-AGA ESG/Sustainability Report, the company engaged with over 900 EV-driving customers and helped install over 100 charging station ports in Pittsburgh.
  • DLC’s white paper “Electrification as a Strategy for Decarbonization” discusses how beneficial electrification positively impacts the environment, public health, and the economy.

These are just some of DLC’s efforts to protect the environment and provide a path for over 600,000 customers to transition to a clean energy future for all.

The company also provides online tools to help business and residential customers understand and manage their energy use, offers energy-efficient products in an online marketplace, supports qualifying customer-owned generation, and more.

By partnering with the government, other businesses, and Pittsburgh-area customers to help preserve the planet for future generations, Duquesne Light Company honors the 2023 Earth Day theme this month and year-round.

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