Proposed Pollution Limits Are A Major Step Backwards for Public Health

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Zachary Barber

Experts, residents speak out at local hearing


PITTSBURGH- Residents from Brackenridge and surrounding communities were joined by advocates from PennEnvironment, Group Against Smog and Pollution, the Environmental Integrity Project, Clean Air Council, and others at a public hearing to speak out against Allegheny County Health Department’s (ACHD) second draft of a permit that would allow a ATI’s Brackenridge facility to emit far more pollution than it currently reports emitting. 

 The plant is already ranked #4 on PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s Toxic Ten for high emissions of PM2.5 (soot), hazordous air pollutants, and other toxins.  The new permit would allow the facility to emit more of these and other pollutants.

 “This proposal is a slap in the face to the residents who’ve complained for years about breathing in toxic air emissions from the facility,” said Zachary Barber, Field Organizer for PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center. “Allowing even more pollution will further endanger residents’ health.  It is clear that concerns about asthma, respiratory disease and other aspects of public health are not being dealth with by the very agency meant to protect health in Allegheny County.”

 Despite being one of the region’s most toxic polluters, the facility has never been properly permitted under the Clean Air Act. As a major source of air pollution, ATI is required to have a Title V operating permit for its Brackenridge facility. The company initially applied for the permit in 1995. Despite being required to issue the permit 15 years ago, Allegheny County Health Department has never issued a Title V permit for the plant.

In addition to the dozen people set to testify in person, more than 250 residents submitted public comments calling for stronger protections, including stronger pollution limits and more monitoring of emissions.

The most recent draft from the Health Department would permit ATI to release thousands of tons more of pollution than the plant current reports emitting. A draft permit issued last fall by the Department already proposed to allow unlawfully high amounts of pollution.  And with the new draft, emissions limits for specific pollutants have skyrocketed (even above the proposed limits from last fall), such as for carbon monoxide and fine particulates (soot), both of which would be allowed to increase almost 10 times from the average emissions reported by the plant. Residents were especially concerned that the proposal would dramatically increase smog and particulate pollution.  Allegheny County already violates federal standards for those two pollutants.

 “Allegheny County simply cannot afford to breathe this much more pollution,” says Lisa Graves Marcucci, community outreach coordinator for the Environmental Integrity Project. “The added NOx above the levels currently reported by the company alone would cost the region between $15 and $39 million in added public health costs.”

 Some residents and activists were concerned that this draft represents a step backward from the first draft of the permit, published last year.  The current version allows  thousands tons more pollution than their recent yearly average, which many already said were unreasonable.

 “In its current form, the permit would make it impossible to tell how much the plant is actually polluting, by not adequately requiring ATI to monitor or report emissions,” says Rachel Filippini Executive Director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution. “The ACHD and public need to be able to determine whether the plant will actually comply with the emission limits that apply to them.”

 The Environmental Integrity Project is a 15-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, based in Washington, D.C., that is dedicated to the enforcement of environmental laws and holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health.

Group Against Smog and Pollution works to improve air quality to protect human, environmental, and economic health in southwestern Pennsylvania.

PennEnvironment is a citizen-based environmental advocacy group working to promote clean air, clean water and protect our natural heritage. To find out more, visit

Clean Air Council is a member-supported environmental organization serving the Mid-Atlantic Region that is dedicated to protecting and defending everyone’s right to breathe clean air.