News Release

Dozens of elected officials join together to call for clean air, crackdown on industrial pollution

For Immediate Release

(Pittsburgh)-- A group of 63 elected officials from across Allegheny County are calling for cleaning up the region’s air and cracking down on industrial polluters. In a letter released today by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, the officials call for stricter, health-based emissions limits and stronger penalties for illegal pollution. 

“Allegheny County is a great place to live-- but air pollution is threatening resident’s health,” write the elected officials. “We can fix this problem by setting strict, health-based emissions limits on polluters; making sure they face meaningful penalties if and when they break the law; and ensuring our region has strong clean air champions who fight for residents. We, the undersigned local elected officials from across Allegheny County, are committing to make Allegheny County a great place to live and breathe.”

“We all know Pittsburgh’s history of industrial pollution, but many of our communities continue to live that history today. Every Pennsylvanian, regardless of race, class or where they live, has a right to clean air and water, and that includes the people of Pittsburgh,” said State Rep. Jake Wheatley. “It is immoral that in this day and age we continue to struggle to breathe, that the very air poisons our children and elderly neighbors.”

“The fact that so many local elected officials are coming together to speak this message with a single voice should send a clear message: cleaning up our skies is a top priority for our region and Pittsburghers are ready to put our days as ‘The Smokey City’ behind us,” said Zachary Barber, a Field Organizer with PennEnvironment. “Maybe once there was a time where air pollution was just the cost of progress, but today, in 2019, there is no reason why anyone should be forced to breathe dirty air that jeopardizes their health.”

Pressure has ramped up to crack down on industrial polluters in 2019. Following U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works running without critical pollution controls for four months this year, the PA House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees held hearings looking into pollution from the plant and State Rep. Austin Davis introduced legislation that would increase the maximum fine for illegal pollution and require public reporting. Both Pittsburgh City Council and Allegheny County Council have passed unanimous declarations of support for stronger enforcement efforts against U.S. Steel. 

“When researchers here at Carnegie Mellon tell us that even relatively low levels of air pollution nationwide are cutting short 30,000 lives annually and our region's air quality is worse than the national average, we know we have a problem," said Pittsburgh Councilperson Erika Strassburger. "Poor air quality affects our most vulnerable -- young children, seniors, and those who live closest to large pollution sources. It will take cooperation and political will, but we must work toward a future where good, high-paying jobs are also green jobs that help improve our air quality and our region, not diminish it.” 

“I strongly believe that all elected officials have an obligation to fight for a healthy environment, “ said Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor. “When City Council unanimously passed my Will of Council to support Allegheny County’s Health Department ‘s actions to prevent air pollution, we sent a message to our constituents that they are not on their own in the fight for safe and clean air.”

 

Figure 1: Map of districts of elected officials who signed the letter calling for clean air

“Air quality and quality jobs are not inapposite terms. We must have partners that commit to both and who do not seek to delay corrective action at every turn,” said State Rep. Dan Miller. “The cost of production can and should include the cost of addressing air pollution and its negative impact on workers, community members, and our environment at large. Western PA has literally built this country, and we wish to continue to build it, but our constitutional right to clean air and water must be respected in the process.” 

“Clean air, fresh water, fertile ground and the vast diversity of living things on Earth form the life support system we all depend on,” said Forest Hills Borough Council Member Patricia M. DeMarco. We all suffer the things on Earth form the life support system we all depend on. We all suffer the injustice of unhealthy air when businesses profit by polluting the ‘free’ air. Without the priceless value of clean air, we cannot live.” 

Allegheny County has some of the worst air pollution in the entire country, ranking in the worst 2% of the U.S. for cancer risk from air pollution. A 2018 PennEnvironment report found that Pittsburghers breathe potentially dangerous levels of elevated pollution levels 1 out of every 3 days. A majority of the industrial pollution in Allegheny County comes from just ten sources-- the Toxic Ten.

“Clean air is a basic building block for our planet and for our common future. Together, let’s center people in our policy-making. Clean air is a solvable problem in our time. I join the call for clean air not only for District 7, but for the benefit of the whole region,” said Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross.

"As an elected official, the immediate well being of my constituents is of utmost importance,” said Allegheny County Councilwoman Anita Prizo. “Industrial air pollution is a major cause of ill health in our County and we must demand that the Allegheny County Health Department take all necessary steps to hold these polluters accountable.”

The renewed push for clean air at the state and local level comes as the Trump administration has moved to dismantle climate progress and weaken other federal clean air protections.

“We’re living in a tough time for environmental protections. It seems like every day there’s another rollback of our cornerstone environmental laws at the EPA.  We’ve had to fight hard to hold the line in Harrisburg, in the face of really tough politics,” said State Senator Jay Costa. “That’s why it’s so important that this group of municipal, county, and state officials are coming together to commit to fighting for clean air. I look forward to working with my colleagues on real solutions to solve one of this region’s biggest challenges.”

“Residents of Pennsylvania are making decisions to protect the health of their families every day: they are listening to experts and doing their part to stop smoking, wear sunscreen, and buckle their children into car seats. As policy makers, it is up to us to ensure that we, too, are protecting their health,” said State Rep. Dan Frankel. “With the federal government rolling back environmental protections, it is more important than ever for state policy makers to crack down on industrial polluters and ensure that Pennsylvanians can run and play and enjoy our beautiful state without fearing for their lungs”

“With federal rollbacks to key climate change solutions and clean air standards that keep neurotoxins out of power-plant emissions, it’s now more important than ever for state and local governments to step up. That’s why I’m committed to doing everything I can to ensure we all have clean air to breathe,” said State Rep. Adam Ravenstahl.

The 63 elected officials signed onto the letter are:

State Senator Jay Costa
State Senator Wayne Fontana
State Senator Lindsey Williams
State Representative Austin Davis
State Representative Dan Deasy
State Representative Anthony DeLuca
State Representative Dan Frankel
State Representative Ed Gainey
State Representative Sara Innamorato
State Representative Summer Lee
State Representative Dan Miller
State Representative Adam Ravenstahl
State Representative Harry Readshaw
State Representative Jake Wheatley
Mayor Paul Gamrat, Churchill
Mayor Marita Garrett, Wilkinsburg
Mayor Chardae Jones, Braddock
Mayor Kenneth LaSota, Heidelberg
Mayor Amy Sue Lillie, Emsworth
Mayor Emily Marburger, Bellevue
Mayor Nickole Nesby, Duquesne
Mayor Louis Payne, East Pittsburgh
Mayor William Peduto, Pittsburgh
Mayor Frank Porcom, Jr., Forest Hills
Mayor Matthew Rudzki, Sharpsburg
Mayor Jason Walsh, Dormont
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner
Allegheny County Council Member Patrick Catena
Allegheny County Council Member Paul Klein
Allegheny County Council Member Anita Prizio
Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce A. Kraus
Pittsburgh City Council Member Anthony Coghill
Pittsburgh City Council Member Deb Gross
Pittsburgh City Council Member Darlene Harris
Pittsburgh City Council Member Theresa Kail-Smith
Pittsburgh City Council Member R. Daniel Lavelle
Pittsburgh City Council Member Erika Strassburgher
Bell Acres Council Member Christopher Abell
Braddock Council President Tina Doose
Bradford Woods Councilman Tom Kosmala
Brentwood Councilman Robert Pasquantonio
Chalfant Council President Chad Hoover
Dormont Council President Kate Abel
Dormont Councilmember Joanna Bouldin
Dormont Councilmember Jennifer Mazzocco
Dormont Councilmember John Maggio
East Pittsburgh Councilwoman Mary Carol Kennedy
East Pittsburgh Councilwoman Stacey Simon
Forest Hills Councilwoman Patricia DeMarco
Harrison Commissioner Charles Dizard
Homestead Councilwoman Louise Benton
Millvale Councilman Brian Wolovich
Pitcairn Council President Mike Tobias
Sewickley Councilor Christine Allen
Sharpsburg Council President Brittany Reno
Sharpsburg Council Vice President Karen E. Pastor
Sharpsburg Councilman Matthew Brudnok
Sharpsburg Councilman Jonathan Jaso
Sharpsburg Councilman Joe Simbari
Tarentum Council Member Erika Josefoski
Wilkins Board of Commissioners Pres. Sylvia J. Martinelli
Wilkins Commissioner Michael Boyd

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PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center (www.PennEnvironment.org/Center) is dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.