Dear Fellow Breather,
We’re nearing the end of a banner year here at the Group Against Smog and Pollution. We celebrated our golden anniversary and, while we don’t generally boast, we have to admit GASP makes 50 look good.
There was no midlife crisis here. We spent our 50th doing what we’ve always done best: Advocating for policy changes that help improve air quality, educating folks (young and old) about the impacts of air pollution, and acting as a legal watchdog to both industrial polluters and the governmental agencies charged with regulating them.
Helping to initiate real policy changes at the local and regional levels takes sustained tenacity. This year, GASP was dogged in its pursuit of improved air quality – with a special focus on the issues being faced by residents in the Mon Valley living in the shadow of U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works.
In the wake of a 2018 Christmas Eve fire at Clairton Coke Works that knocked out crucial pollution control devices, GASP staffers organized – and attended – rallies calling on U.S. Steel to stem industrial emissions emanating from the plant to be a better, greener neighbor. GASP’s executive director was also invited to testify earlier this year at the Joint PA Senate and House Democratic Policy Committee Hearing on US Steel Clairton Coke Works explosion, air quality, and community notification issues.
We then took our fight for cleaner air for the Mon Valley to Pittsburgh City Council and Allegheny County Council, working with our allies to send a unified message to the steel-making giant: Clean up your act so residents of the Mon Valley can breathe easier.
GASP has also taken the lead on efforts to reduce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emissions (you know it when you smell it – it’s a pervasive rotten egg odor) in Allegheny County. We held a press conference earlier this fall urging the health department to revise the County’s coke oven emission regulations in order to reduce violations of the H2S standard and foul odors associated with it. it. But we weren’t alone in making those demands: We also presented a petition with nearly 650 signatures from people fed up with the stench.
Our advocacy work extends beyond the Mon Valley. This year, our legal watchdog efforts included reviewing and commenting on region-wide air pollution-related policies and permits to ensure that all the applicable rules and safeguards were, in fact, being applied.
We’ve been on the front lines of the fight to ensure that Allegheny County Title V permit and Clean Air Fund money is properly utilized. GASP partnered with Clean Air Council to stop Allegheny County from using millions of dollars from those funding streams to help subsidize capital improvement projects in the county such as the renovation of the health department’s offices. Stay tuned, because that lawsuit is still pending.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you a little about our education programming, too. We conducted numerous air quality-related presentations for myriad groups this year, and GASP again hosted an air quality-centric summer camp.
GASP’s education staff has been hard at work on a new initiative: Air Quality Education kits. Through grant funding from the Allegheny County Clean Air Fund, GASP has compiled three air quality education kits complete with games and other activities designed to help children in grades 4-6 better understand air pollution and its impacts. We’ll keep you posted as we get these free kits into the hands of local educators.
Thanks to generous donations and grant funding, we were able to go outside our usual advocacy footprint this year, helping the community group Hold Erie Coke Accountable (HECA) do just that: Keep Erie Coke Corp. accountable for its track record of environmental non-compliance.
In hindsight, we can say the timing of this funding was serendipitous. It allowed GASP to provide technical and educational assistance to HECA. A few months later, the state Department of Environmental Protection took unprecedented action to have the plant shut down because of numerous violations of the Clean Air Act. We look forward to continuing our partnership with our friends at HECA in 2020.
All this said, we don’t want you to get the impression that 2019 was all work and no play, as that would make for a dull GASP! This past October GASP held our 50th Anniversary gala at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland. Truly, it was a magical night complete with fellowship and nostalgia – one that celebrated our past and looked forward to our future. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto delivered touching remarks about GASP’s lasting impact and we enjoyed spending time with several other elected officials and GASP founding members. You can see the program portion of the event on our YouTube channel.
As we head into this new decade, we are ready to renew our fight for cleaner air – but it’s a battle we won’t be able to win without you. Concerned citizens founded our organization in 1969 and all these years later, we still count on citizen support to sustain our efforts to advocate, educate and, when necessary, litigate. If you can find it in your heart and pocketbook to donate, it will help GASP do even more as a leader on the front lines of the fight for better air.
Donations to GASP can be mailed in or made on our website. As a special thank you, those who donate $75 or more will receive a special 50th-anniversary gift from us. Thank you!
Jonathan Nadle, Board President
Rachel Filippini, Executive Director
All contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent permitted by law. The official registration and financial information of Group Against Smog & Pollution, Inc. may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling, toll-free, (800) 732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.