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GASP at 50: Major Milestones, Accomplishments Since 1969

Since GASP’s inception in 1969, it has developed into a strong local voice for the environment. Some of GASP’s key accomplishments include:

  • Successfully litigating in federal district court in the 1970s to require Allegheny County to adopt standards based on the Clean Air Act of 1970.
  • Cooperating with the EPA in the 1980s to gain enforcement of air quality standards at the U.S. Steel coke production facilities at its Clairton Works.
  • Joining a successful EPA suit against LTV corporation in the 1990s to enforce existing air quality standards at the firm’s Hazelwood plant. The plant was subsequently closed.
  • Filing a notice in 1998 of GASP’s intention to sue Shenango, Inc., for long-standing air quality infractions at its Neville Island coke plant, which was preempted by a successful EPA suit on the same issue. In each case the court action resulted in substantial financial penalties and/or remedial actions being imposed on the Shenango.
  • Joining the EPA in several suits involving violations of clean air legislation. GASP and the Sierra Club sued the EPA, asking it to classify southwestern Pennsylvania in “serious non-attainment” of specified ozone levels.
  • Joining efforts to protest a new coke plant on Hazelwood’s riverfront property after LTV’s coke facility closed in 1998. A Hazelwood community group, Citizens Helping Our Community (CHOC), was organized with GASP’s help. GASP strongly supported this group with advice and participation for more than a year. This joint effort clearly contributed to defeating the sale of the LTV site to the firm.
  • Researching and officially commenting on Title V operating permits, a program of the 1990 Clean Air Act. GASP held several public meetings to educate and encourage the public to comment on Title V permits.
  • Campaigning to clean up emissions from coal-burning power plants in Pennsylvania that pose serious environmental and health hazards. In 2004, GASP entered into a settlement agreement with Reliant Energy (now GenOn Energy) in Cheswick. The agreement was aimed at reducing high-opacity (smoke) readings recorded at its Cheswick Power Station stack. Because of this agreement, improvements were made at the facility that resulted in far fewer opacity violations.
  • Serving on advisory committees at the county, state, and federal levels. Since its inception, GASP has had a representative on the Allegheny County Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee.
  • Stimulating an anti-idling ordinance at Allegheny County Council for heavy-duty diesel vehicles and participation in developing the regulatory language.
  • In 2004, GASP crafted a draft Continuous Opacity Monitor (COMS) regulation for Allegheny County. Up until then, opacity was measured by the visual, method 9 technique, which has obvious limitations.  The use of COMs enables accurate, around-the-clock measurements of opacity; equipping regulators with technology that ensures compliance with opacity regulations for 100 percent of a facility’s operating time.
  • GASP helped lead the Allegheny County Partnership to reduce diesel pollution. Our campaign was influential in helping to identify diesel emission reduction projects and in garnering more than $9 million for these projects in our region. We were also instrumental in getting Pittsburgh Public Schools to include requirements for cleaner buses in their school bus contracts and in working with the City of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority to enact clean construction legislation.
  • Through community organizing and negotiations directly with the company, GASP was able to convince RRI Energy (now GenOn Energy) to accept a lower lead emissions limit in their scrubber installation permit in 2010.
  • GASP launched the Athletes United for Health Air Campaign to educate athletes about air quality, steps to reduce exposure, and how to advocate for healthy air. Through this campaign with have partnered with such groups as Venture Outdoors and Bike Pittsburgh and have educated hundreds of athletes.
  • GASP supplied more than a dozen school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania, including all of Pittsburgh Public Schools, with “No Idling” signs to remind school bus drivers to turn off their engines. We have also supplied at least two dozen daycare facilities in the region with no idling signage as well, through our Young Lungs at Work program.
  • GASP created the Air Permits Clearinghouse on our website. This is a one-stop shop for all Title V air quality permits in southwestern Pennsylvania. It provides users with an easy way to see the major sources of air pollution in the region. Clicking on a facility brings up the latest permits, which allow you to learn what the facility does, and the types and amounts of pollutants it’s allowed to emit.
  • GASP conducted extensive research examining the backlog of Title V permits across Pennsylvania, determining that certain regions, including Allegheny County had unacceptably large numbers of permits that were expired or never issued.
  • For 50 years, we’ve undertaken a continuous program to educate the public about pollution and its remediation using several methods: publishing GASP’s widely circulated newsletter, Hotline; participating in public meetings and organizing our own; providing a speakers bureau; giving statements to the media; writing letters to the press; appearing on local (and sometimes national) radio and television programs; and conducting an air monitoring program involving training sessions and the loaning of a professional-level air quality monitor to local secondary schools and citizens. GASP has also recently developed and implemented week-long air quality focused summer camps for middle schoolers.
  • Combining efforts with other environmental and advocacy groups in the region and state, such as the Sierra Club, PennEnvironment, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Clean Water Action of Pennsylvania, Clean Air Council, and many, many others.
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