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Episodic Weather Regulations One Step Closer to Approval Following Allegheny County Council Meeting

Good news: Changes to local air pollution regulations aimed at reducing particulate matter in the Mon Valley during periods of stagnant weather patterns – which are often a driver of subpar air quality and exceedances of state and federal standards – are one step closer to final approval.

Allegheny County Council on Tuesday referred the measure to the Health and Human Services Committee for a recommendation.

For those who might not be familiar: The proposed reg will require facilities in the defined Mon Valley area that produce more than 6.5 tons of pm2.5 annually and/or more than 10 tons of pm10 annually to create and submit to ACHD “Mitigation Plans” for periods when poor air quality is forecast. 

ACHD predicts this will affect 18 facilities in the 32 listed municipalities.

During the “Watch” phase, facilities such as U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works must conduct basic checks to ensure equipment is in good working order but also ensure they have adequate staff to take actions required under the “Warning” phase. 

Once a “Warning” is issued, facilities must undertake the actions listed in the mitigation plans they filed with ACHD. The particular actions will be specific to each facility and approved on a case-by-case basis.

The bulk of the regulation addresses industrial sources of particulate matter pollution, but the proposed change will also ban all wood-burning activities when a Mon Valley Air Pollution Watch or Warning has been issued in the defined municipalities.

“As we’ve expressed in the past: This new rule is by no means everything we’d hoped it would be but moving forward is better than stagnating on this front,” Filippini said. “We have to start somewhere because these poor-air episodes happen too often and impact the health of far too many right here right now.  The proof will be in the specific mitigation actions proposed by affected industries and if they are robustly enforced.”

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