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GASP Presents Public Comments at Hearing About Allegheny County SO2 Attainment Redesignation Request

GASP on Thursday presented testimony at a public hearing regarding Allegheny County Health Department’s request for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise Allegheny County’s portion of the state Implementation Plan to redesignate it as being in attainment for sulfur National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Here are the comments from Executive Director Patrick Campbell:

Good afternoon. I’m Patrick Campbell, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), a nonprofit organization working to improve regional air quality since 1969.

Largely due to our region’s continued reliance on coal-fired power plants and industrial processes, several areas in Southwestern Pennsylvania have historically suffered from elevated levels of sulfur dioxide - among them, the Liberty-Clairton area here in Allegheny County.

If granted, EPA’s redesignation of Allegheny County as a sulfur dioxide attainment area will signify a significant step forward for cleaner air locally.

But we know that attainment is only a step - and we are asking that both the EPA and ACHD remain steadfast in their surveillance and monitoring of SO2.

That’s because the air pollutant is still very much a public health issue for the residents of Allegheny County - specifically those who live in or downwind of the industrial facilities that have long driven our area’s SO2 exceedances, like U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works.

We know that even short-term exposure to high levels of S02 can cause ailments like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. We know its stench impacts the quality of life for residents.

In 2022, there were no exceedances at North Braddock and one exceedance at Liberty. However, so far in 2023, there have been two exceedances at North Braddock and one exceedance at Liberty. Clearly we still have a long way to go to ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors in environmental justice areas will no longer be impacted by high levels of SO2.

GASP is urging the EPA to carefully monitor Allegheny County’s S02 surveillance and monitoring efforts as it navigates the next step - implementation of its maintenance plan - over the next 10 years.

Thank you.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned, GASP continues to follow this issue closely and will keep you posted.

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