GASP Legal Director
GASP TO COUNTY: LIBERTY-CLAIRTON CLEAN AIR PLAN INADEQUATE
Yesterday the Group Against Smog and Pollution and Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future submitted comments to the Allegheny County Board of Health identifying numerous serious problems with the county’s draft plan to reduce fine particle pollution (“PM 2.5”) in the Liberty-Clairton area. The county plan is required under the federal Clean Air Act to bring the Liberty-Clairton area into compliance with federal health-based standards. In its current form, the county’s proposed clean up plan simply won’t do the job.
Among the plan’s flaws:
- Even after the plan is completely carried out, portions of the Liberty-Clairton area will continue to exceed the health standard for PM 2.5. “The county argues that it doesn’t need to meet the health standard in these areas because they are ‘unpopulated areas.’ However, we’ve identified at least 80 occupied homes in these high pollution areas,” said GASP legal director Joe Osborne.
- The county wants to push back the April 2010 deadline to meet these standards to 2015, but provides no evidence that such a lengthy extension is necessary.
“The county proposes pushing its deadline back five years. That’s five additional years the residents of the Mon Valley will have no choice but to breathe air we know for certain is unhealthy,” Osborne continued. “Even if the county can make use of every available extension opportunity, their proposed plan would still miss the deadline,” Osborne stated.
It is possible for the Liberty-Clairton area to meet the standard before 2015 and it is crucial that we do so as soon as possible. We identify specific, practical actions the county can take to meet the standard more quickly, including:
- setting an accelerated schedule for the shutdown of batteries 1-3 and startup of battery D at the Clairton Coke Works;
- replacing one or more of the remaining old quench towers at Clairton Coke with a tower of a newer, less polluting design;
- establish control measures for volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—a class of toxic pollutants that convert to PM 2.5 in the atmosphere.
“The message is clear: we can have clean air in the Mon Valley, and we can have it soon, but the political will has to be there and we need to keep the pressure on US Steel to follow through on its promises to make improvements at its Clairton Plant,” said Rachel Filippini, GASP Executive Director.
Joining GASP and PennFuture’s comments were the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania, Clean Water Action, the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club Allegheny Group, and Sustainable Pittsburgh.
GASP/PennFuture Comments [PDF]
The Group Against Smog and Pollution, Inc. (GASP) is Pittsburgh-based non-profit citizens’ group working for a healthy, sustainable environment. Founded in 1969, GASP has served as a watchdog, educator, litigator, and policy-maker on many environmental issues with a focus on air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania.