GASP was on hand Wednesday morning to support our friends at PennEnvironment and a group of 63 elected officials from across Allegheny County calling for cleaning up the region’s air quality and cracking down on industrial polluters.
In a letter released by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, the officials called for stricter, health-based emissions limits and stronger penalties for illegal pollution.
“Allegheny County is a great place to live, but air pollution is threatening residents’ health,” wrote the elected officials. “We can fix this problem by setting strict, health-based emissions limits on polluters; making sure they face meaningful penalties if and when they break the law, and ensuring our region has strong clean air champions who fight for residents. We, the undersigned local elected officials from across Allegheny County, are committing to make Allegheny County a great place to live and breathe.”
Zachary Barber, a field organizer with Penn Environment, said the fact that so many local elected officials are coming together to speak this message with a single voice should send a clear message: cleaning up our air quality is a top priority for our region and Pittsburghers are ready to put our days as ‘The Smokey City’ behind them.
“Maybe once there was a time where air pollution was just the cost of progress, but today, in 2019, there is no reason why anyone should be forced to breathe dirty air that jeopardizes their health,” he said.
Pressure has ramped up to crack down on industrial polluters in 2019. Following U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works running without critical pollution controls for four months this year, the PA House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees held hearings looking into air pollution from the plant and state Rep. Austin Davis introduced legislation that would increase the maximum fine for illegal air pollution and require public reporting.
“People for too long have been left in the dark when it comes to air quality,” Davis, D-35th District, said at the press conference. He called his district “ground zero” for air pollution – and vowed to continue fighting for clean air protections during his time at the Capitol.
Davis also gave an update on his recent legislation.
“I strongly believe that all elected officials have an obligation to fight for a healthy environment, “ said Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor. “When City Council unanimously passed my Will of Council to support Allegheny County’s Health Department ‘s actions to prevent air pollution, we sent a message to our constituents that they are not on their own in the fight for safe and clean air.”
GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini lauded PennEnvironment for its efforts to bring together local officials for this increasingly important issue.
“Thank you, PennEnvironment, for being a leader in the ongoing fight for clean air for all,” she said. “One of the ways to help solve big, complex issues is to bring people together—to provide a unified front. And with an army of more than 60 local elected officials, our shared battle for improved air quality will be more easily won.”