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Legal Watchdogging Leads to Two Air Quality Victories

In July 2017 we blogged about the notice of intent to sue for violations of the Clean Air Act that GASP sent to Armstrong Cement & Supply. Armstrong operates a facility with two cement kilns and associated equipment in Winfield Township, Butler County. GASP’s notice was based on Armstrong’s failure to submit required reports of the results of continuous emission monitors that it is required to operate to measure its emissions of sulfur dioxide (“SO2”) and smog-forming oxides of nitrogen (“NOx”).

Armstrong installed new air pollution control equipment and continuous emission monitors in late 2015. After sending our notice of intent to sue, we learned that the monitors had not been certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and that reporting monitoring results would wait until certification.

Our notice hastened the certification process and in late 2017, Armstrong began submitting air quality monitoring reports as required. Based on our review of those reports, we are happy to report that since Armstrong installed the new pollution control equipment, its emissions of SO2 and NOx have decreased and it seems to be doing a better job of complying with applicable emission limits.

Similarly, in October 2017, GASP sent a notice of intent to sue under the Clean Air Act to Harsco Metals. Harsco operates a slag processing plant on the site of Allegheny Technologies, Inc.’s Brackenridge Works in Harrison Township, Allegheny County. GASP’s notice of intent to sue was based on Harsco’s failure to submit an application for a Title V Operating Permit for its plant at the Brackenridge Works.

Title V Operating Permits are comprehensive air pollution permits that the Clean Air Act requires for all major sources of air pollution. A Title V Operating Permit for a facility must include all restrictions and limits to which the air pollution source is subject, and testing, monitoring, record keeping, and reporting requirements that are sufficient to demonstrate the source’s compliance with such restrictions and limits. Further, for a facility that is not in full compliance with the restrictions and limits that apply to it, a Title V Operating Permit must include a schedule for achieving full compliance.

Harsco’s plant at the Brackenridge Works is itself not a major source of air pollution, but it is obligated to apply for a Title V Operating Permit because it is located on the premises of a major source and supports the operations of that major source. Harsco submitted an application for a minor source operating permit to the Allegheny County Health Department (“ACHD”) in 1996; however, ACHD never took final action on that application.

We have been informed that as a result of our notice of intent to sue, Harsco submitted an application for a Title V Operating Permit to ACHD on Jan. 16, 2018. ACHD has 60 days to determine whether Harsco’s application is complete, and (assuming that it is) another 18 months to take final action on the application. ACHD must provide the public with an opportunity to review, and comment on, a draft Title V Operating Permit for Harsco’s plant at the Brackenridge Works before issuing the plant a final permit.

–John Baillie, Staff Attorney

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