GASP and Clean Air Council Sue Allegheny County for Illegal Use of Clean Air and Title V Funds

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For Immediate Release

July 10, 2018

Contact:

Rachel Filippini
Executive Director, Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP)
412-924-0604 x201
rachel@gasp-pgh.org

Katie Edwards
Social Media Director, Clean Air Council
215-567-4004 x102
kedwards@cleanair.org

 

Group Against Smog and Pollution and Clean Air Council Sue Allegheny County Over Illegal Use of Clean Air and Title V Funds

Pittsburgh, PA—Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) and Clean Air Council filed a “Complaint in Action for Declaratory Judgment” yesterday in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas seeking a judicial order that would prevent the County’s Health Department from using air improvement funding on an office renovation project.

“Our region consistently struggles to meet the federal health-based standards for harmful ozone and fine particulates, and Allegheny County ranks in the top 2% of U.S. counties for cancer risk from inhaled air toxics,” said Rachel Filippini, Executive Director of GASP. “At the same time, the County Clean Air Fund has more than $11 million to spend on activities that can improve air quality. Why is Allegheny County diverting money away from the vital task of cleaning our air to an over-the-top office renovation?”

“Allegheny County’s air quality is among the worst in the nation,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “The Health Department wants to use millions of dollars to renovate a County owned building instead of using this money to protect and improve Allegheny County’s air quality as the law setting up these funds requires. This is unacceptable and an illegal use of these funds.”

Clean Air Council and GASP argue against using the Clean Air and Title V Funds for the building renovation project. Both organizations insist that the millions of dollars should be put towards protecting residents’ health by implementing more projects like university studies of local air pollution and upgrades of dirty diesel school bus and construction equipment engines, as well as permitting, inspecting, testing, and enforcing Title V regulations for major sources of air pollution. The environmental benefits that will be realized through the proposed renovation project are negligible and far too costly to be considered a sensible or effective use of Clean Air Funds.

“GASP and Clean Air Council have documented the County’s lackluster performance when it comes to getting out health-protective Title V permits in a timely fashion,” said Filippini. “How can they justify using Title V funds for a building renovation project when there is a backlog of Title V permits and there are Title V facilities out of compliance with regulations in their permits?”

Like Allegheny County’s roads, bridges, and parks, this building is owned by the County and the County alone is responsible for its upkeep. Allegheny County’s rainy day fund holds approximately $46 million and Allegheny County Council recently approved $114 million for infrastructure bonds. Allegheny County is able to complete the office upgrade project with funding from other, appropriate sources—but is unwilling.

In its legal filing, GASP and Clean Air Council are asking the Court to declare, among other things, that the County is unlawfully interpreting its regulations and spending this money improperly.

“For over a decade, the Allegheny Health Department has been squirreling away millions of dollars while neglecting residents’ health,” said Minott. “Using these funds to upgrade an office building, instead of improving air quality, only adds insult to injury.”

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See the background of this action in these articles:

“Environmental groups fear county Health Department beginning to deplete Clean Air Fund,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2, 2018.

“More money from Allegheny County’s ‘Clean Air Fund’ goes to office renovation,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 2, 2018.

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