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GASP Blasts Health Dept Over Lack of Transparency Regarding Clean Air Fund Ask; BOH Rejects Proposal

Updated: Jan 23

The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) on Wednesday sounded the alarm to the Allegheny County Board of Health about a trend that’s emerged over the past few months by Air Quality Program leadership: A disturbing lack of transparency.

GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell addressed the issue in public comments he delivered at the start of the meeting. Here’s what he told them:

Good afternoon. I’m Patrick Campbell, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution, an environmental nonprofit working to improve air quality since 1969.

GASP staff attends all Allegheny County Health Department air quality-related committee and board meetings, and over the last few months, we’ve noted an unfortunate trend: Air Quality Program leadership largely disregarding the input - and, in some cases, formal recommendations - of the expert volunteers on the Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee it should be relying on for guidance.

The past two Air Advisory meetings were dominated by discussion about proposed changes to Article 21 related to the percentage of the Clean Air Fund ACHD can use for operating expenses each year.

At these meetings, Air Quality Program leadership proposed increasing the allotment from 5 to as much as 25 percent, telling board members that the additional money was necessary to ensure the department was well-funded.

At the most recent meeting, the Air Advisory Committee asked reasonable and responsible questions before voting not to recommend the proposal go to you for public comment consideration today.

Questions like:

Where is your proposed budget?

How did you determine the new percentage?

What will this money be used to fund?

Can we see your financial projection for the next three years?

To our amazement, Air Quality Program leadership was either unable or unwilling to provide answers to those questions. To our dismay, ACHD completely disregarded the Advisory Committee’s recommendation and placed it as an action item on today’s agenda.

While GASP is an advocate for a well-funded Air Quality Program - and we believe it needs the additional money - leadership needs to show its work. We hope members of this board will press Air Quality Program leadership for additional information and if they are unable to provide that information, we hope you vote accordingly.

Thank you.

Fellow environmental advocates also spoke out about ACHD’s proposed Clean Air Fund changes - as did members of the Air Pollution Advisory Committee including Chairman Dan Bricmont, asking the board to reject the request.

Following public comment and various reports, ACHD Deputy Director of Environmental Health Geoffrey Rabanowitz presented information on proposed changes to the county’s air pollution control regulations and asked the board to approve them for public comment.

Here are the slides he shared detailing those changes:

He acknowledged that he placed the action item on the agenda despite the Advisory Committee’s vote not to recommend it for public comment - saying that it reflected a “real sense of urgency.”

When it was time for the vote, Board of Health members also expressed their concern over the Advisory Committee’s unanimous rejection of the proposal, as well as the lack of transparency from the department related to the request.

After significant debate, members moved to reject the proposal by a vote of 4-3.

Editor’s Note: Rabanowitz also shared the Air Quality Program's Major Goals for 2023. Here's what he presented to the board:

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