Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward on March 29 overruled preliminary objections filed by Allegheny County in a lawsuit filed by Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) and Clean Air Council questioning the funding sources for a proposed renovation project at the county health department’s (ACHD) Clack Campus.
In seeking to have portions of—and parties to—the case dismissed, the county put forth chilling arguments concerning who may challenge its actions and suggests that ACHD should be given absolute deference in making certain decisions.
The ruling did not include a detailed opinion, but Ward’s ruling affirmed that GASP and Clean Air Council are the proper parties to bring this case and that we have raised questions about ACHD’s use of the relevant funds that should be decided in a court of law.
Clean Air Council and GASP filed the lawsuit in July 2018 to prevent the County from misusing funds otherwise designated for protecting and improving air quality in Allegheny County. The reason for the lawsuit is clear: millions of dollars from the Clean Air and Title V Funds must instead be spent protecting residents’ health by:
Implementing more projects like university studies of local air pollution
Upgrading dirty diesel bus and construction equipment engines
Making improvements in permitting, inspecting, testing, and enforcing Title V regulations for major sources of air pollution
“There is no timetable for a final decision on the matter but for now, we are happy that the Court affirmed our right to question how ACHD does business,” GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said. “We just won a small victory, but it is a significant victory.”
Clean Air Council staff attorney Christopher Ahlers echoed that sentiment.
“We are pleased this case is going forward,” he said. “Air quality is very important to the lives of people in the community. We believe the funds should be spent to improve air quality in Allegheny County.”