Health Department's plan will not meet targets for historically polluted area
PITTSBURGH, March 6, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Several local organizations collaborated yesterday to submit joint comments on the Allegheny County Health Department's (ACHD) plan to improve air quality in and around the Liberty- Clairton corridor, arguing the current plan falls short of what the region needs. The organizations found that flaws and assumptions in the plan cast doubt on whether it actually demonstrates the pollution reductions necessary to improve air quality in the region, and meet legal pollution standards.
Under the Federal Clean Air Act, the ACHD is required to issue a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to demonstrate how polluted areas will reach attainment of federal health standards. The department's plan was released for public comment in January and comments were submitted jointly on March 5 by Clean Air Council, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), Clean Water Action, Center for Coalfield Justice, Sierra Club, REACH Mon Valley, and Sustainable Pittsburgh.The remarks point out, in detail, the assumptions, inaccuracies, and omissions that require attention by ACHD. Chief concerns are that the plan relies on computer modeling with errors that predict lower levels of pollution than what will likely occur in practice; that it fails to rely on correct portions of the Clean Air Act; and that it incorporates rules that have been struck down in court. Simply put, the proposed SIP revision does not have enough specific, federally enforceable strategies to reduce air pollution as much as ACHD suggests. The plan must be corrected in order to comply with a new case that significantly changes the rules for fine particulate pollution. "These plans have real life consequences and are essential to protecting public health," said David Presley, staff attorney for Clean Air Council. "Unfortunately, this demonstration's computer model makes the air look a lot better than it actually is." " Liberty- Clairton residents deserve to have a strong plan in place to protect them from dangerous air pollution, one that doesn't rely on federal rules that have been struck down in court," noted Tiffany Hickman, western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture. "The health department needs to address these issues before the plan can move forward." "The Liberty- Clairton region has suffered from high levels of fine particulates for decades, and that pollution affects the greater Pittsburgh area as well. All of southwestern Pennsylvania will benefit from a strong plan," said Rachel Filippini, executive director of GASP. "As a resident of Clairton, I'm very pleased that so many groups have taken the time to review these technical comments and give their expert opinions on how the plan can be improved. Obviously, we need the best possible plan put in place to get us the clean air we need," said Lee Lasich, a longtime Clairton resident. While these organizations acknowledge the complexity and history behind the air pollution problems in the Liberty- Clairton area, their comments underscore the fact that more can and should be accomplished. It is incumbent upon ACHD to make specific changes that will fully comply with the law, thereby reduce the impacts of air pollution in Liberty- Clairton. The comment document can be viewed at http://www.cleanair.org/sites/default/files/Comments%20on%20Liberty-Clairton%20Attainment%20Demonstration.pdf. The full SIP document can be viewed at the Allegheny County Health Department website, www.achd.net. PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on the state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.