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GASP Implores Residents to Show Support for a Fully Funded Air Quality Program at July 17 BOH Meeting Following Embarrassing Committee Vote

Updated: Jul 11

We’re not going to mince words: The committee tasked with recommending whether or not an Allegheny County Health Department plan to eliminate a $1.8 million deficit and fully fund its Air Quality Program should be approved by the Board of Health for public comment failed in its duties Monday night.


Seriously, though: The proceedings of the nearly 90-minute foundering special meeting of the Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee Monday were cringey in its best moments and straight embarrassing in its worst.


Here’s what happened and why we hope yinz will join us in raising a little hell at the next Allegheny County Board of Health meeting, which is slated for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17.


About That Deficit, ACHD’s Plan to Beef Up Bottom Line & That Shameful Committee Vote


Allegheny County recently announced plans to increase funding for its air quality program in part through increasing fees imposed upon industrial air polluters. Environmental groups like GASP have pledged their support for the plan to get to public comment.


You can read all about how the deficit was announced, and why we are rallying support for the draft plan here.


Long story short: Procedurally, ACHD are tasked with seeking recommendations for policy issues like this from the Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee before taking it up the chain to the Allegheny County Board of Health.


To its credit, Deputy Director of Environmental Health Geoff Rabinowitz did his due diligence: At the committee’s last regularly scheduled meeting in June, he presented a lengthy report about the state of the Air Quality Program’s finances and detailed proposal to shore them up in part by increasing fees paid by polluters.


Unfortunately, the committee lacked a quorum that night and was unable to take formal action. For inquiring minds that want to know, it was the third straight meeting where there were not enough members in attendance to convene.


For those folks who might not have a frame of reference for how often boards and committees lack a quorum, please know that it is very rare indeed.


That lack of a quorum prompted a special meeting of the committee, which took place Monday, barely had enough members to convene, and ended in a 3-3-1 vote.


Committee Chair Dan Bricmont, John Palmieri, and Colleen Davis, voted NOT to recommend that proposal be recommended for approval for public comment by the Board of Health.


Steve Hrzdovich, Sara Mari Baldi, and Courtney Mahronich Vita voted yes.


Oddly, one member of the committee - Anna Batista - failed to cast a vote despite being in attendance for the presentation and naming no conflict of interest. Before voting she stammered, “I don’t know what to say” before eventually telling those in attendance that she was abstaining.


Jeanne Clark was in attendance left the meeting without explanation prior to the vote.


Not in attendance were members Chip Babst, Mary Ann Bucci, Michael Corcoran, Mark Jeffrey, Bob Orchowski, and Anna Siefkin.


GASP hopes the new county administration will take a hard look at the recent absences and dysfunction on this committee and appoint members serious about showing up and putting public health first. More on that from us to come.


Next Stop Board of Health? We Hope So - Here’s Why


Here’s what we know for sure: Allegheny County Health Department needs a fully funded Air Quality Program. Full stop. We think it’s something every breathing being in the county can agree on - and to get there, we have to get this proposal to public comment.


Is the proposal perfect? No. Do we have concerns? Yes. And that’s all the more reason to approve it for public comment. ACHD has said it needs all the brain power it can harness to come up with an appropriate way to fund its Air Quality Program.


The issue is expected to be brought up, perhaps for a vote, at the next Board of Health meeting scheduled for next week - 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. GASP is going to be there to speak out on the issue and encourage members of the board to vote YES to get this thing on the road to public comment.


This is when we ask for your support, because we will need it: Would you - could you? - sign up to provide a public comment supporting the plan? If you can’t attend, would you consider sending a message to the board? We even have some handy-dandy talking points.


Yinz in? If so, you can click HERE to sign up to speak. You can click HERE to submit a written comment to board of health members (note: these comments are routed straight to members and are summarized verbally at the beginning of the meeting).


Need a little help getting started? Here are some draft comments to use or build on:


Dear Board of Health Members,

I am writing today to encourage you to VOTE YES to send ACHD’s plan to fully fund its Air Quality Program in part through imposing higher fees on polluters to public comment. As you know, air quality is one of our most pressing public health issues here in Allegheny County - one that adversely impacts some of our most vulnerable neighbors.

Practically, there are MANY reasons to support the plan for public comment. Not only will a fully funded program help ensure enforcement and compliance efforts, but it will also fulfill Allegheny County’s legal obligations under Title V of the Clean Air Act.

Additionally, it is expected to help resolve other long-standing issues like ACHD’s air quality permit backlog.

Further, the Air Quality Program must be fully funded to be prepared for the task of implementing two new major clean air rules aimed at reducing fine particulate matter and cancer-causing benzene emissions. This will be a heavy lift and will require the department to be at full staffing capacity.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.


Questions? Concerns? No worries, just hit up our communications manager Amanda Gillooly at


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