Dear Fellow Breather,
Another year is drawing to a close, and while some environmental victories have been achieved, our nation and our region still face serious environmental challenges—from climate change exacerbating droughts in one area and flooding in another, to rivers and streams contaminated by drilling waste, to harmful air pollution entering our bodies with each breath we take.
Pittsburgh ranks as one of the top 10 most polluted cities in the nation with regard to short- and long-term particle pollution—particles that increase the risk of heart and lung disease, adverse birth outcomes, and premature death. We also suffer from high levels of ground-level ozone and numerous air toxics hotspots throughout the region, air pollution that causes everything from breathing difficulties to cancers.
With the upcoming changes to our state and federal political landscape, many worry that our battles to reverse this environmental degradation will soon be even more difficult. GASP turns worry and frustration into education, advocacy, policymaking, and, when necessary, litigation. Through these actions we ensure that the region and its air quality continue to move in a healthy direction for all.
Individual and foundation support this year has enabled us to make important gains, including:
Urging regulators to eliminate the unacceptable backlog of air quality permits
After GASP staff reviewed all major sources of air pollution in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we learned that approximately 30% of facilities are running without a current “Title V” operating permit. These air quality permits, granted by the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), are required for large air pollution sources and provide a “one-stop shop” that makes it easier for companies, regulators, and citizens to see what limits and standards apply to facilities and, in turn, for groups like GASP to track the companies’ compliance.
In Allegheny County we found that of the 27 major sources of air pollution, nine have expired permits and two never received a Title V permit. Five of the nine air quality permits have been expired for more than five years, including two that expired in 2008.
GASP undertook the work necessary to identify the problem and now we are aggressively pushing to eliminate the permit backlog. Other organizations have joined the call, adding to the pressure for action. Your gift will allow us to continue this critical work and keep us fighting to eliminate the permit backlogs and improve facility permits in 2017.
Educating students and community members about air pollution and health
From our Making the Connection event on the link between air pollution and brain health to our launching of the EPA School Flag Program in seven additional regional schools to partnering with Venture Outdoors to educate outdoor enthusiasts about lichens and air quality, we’ve educated hundreds of individuals this year about regional air pollution sources, how poor air quality affects health, and what individuals can do to champion clean air.
In 2017 we will ramp up our educational efforts, focusing on athletes, medical professionals, and children. Is there a soccer league, physician, or youth program in your community that you’d like to connect us with? Let us know how we can help educate the organizations in which you are involved. A contribution today will allow us to reach more classrooms and more vulnerable citizens.
Implementing new Clean Construction legislation
New and improved Clean Construction legislation passed Pittsburgh City Council this summer. This law requires construction equipment on city projects to use the best available control technology. We are now working to ensure the current law’s implementation while planning to expand the law’s scope in the near future. We are also meeting with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to work with them to pass policies covering their own construction projects.
Diesel particulate matter is one of our region’s greatest air pollution cancer risks. Ensuring that the City implements Clean Construction is paramount to GASP’s efforts to reduce diesel emissions in the region. When we meet with municipal officials, it’s your membership and support that makes our arguments persuasive.
Help us to continue the above air quality campaigns and many other important projects and efforts by donating today! With the election of Donald Trump and general rightward shift at most levels of government, there is a serious threat that the environmental victories achieved over the last few decades could be reversed.
Your support of improved air quality and sensible, necessary regulation is critical—especially at the local and regional levels where GASP works most effectively.
Please think of air quality this season, and donate to GASP by check or online here.
Thank you for your support.
Rachel Filippini Executive Director