It has been about three years since Volkswagen settled with federal authorities for cheating emissions laws in hundreds of thousands of vehicles advertised as “clean diesel.” The settlement included billions of dollars to buy back the offending vehicles from consumers, as well as nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust, to be distributed to every state and territory where offending vehicles were sold. The Environmental Mitigation Trust funds are designed to be used for transportation projects that reduce pollution in an effort to mitigate the harm done by Volkswagen through their emissions cheating.
Allegheny County is a great place to live―but air pollution is threatening residents' health. Sadly, our region has some of the worst air in the country. Allegheny County is in the worst 2% of the U.S. for cancer risk from air pollution and kids in some area schools suffer from asthma more than twice as often as state and national averages.
Allegheny County has a long legacy of industrial air pollution. But while Pittsburgh is not the “Smoky City” of generations past, industrial air pollution still inflicts immense damage on the health of Allegheny County residents.
The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is primarily responsible for protecting the people of Allegheny County from health-threatening air pollution. ACHD has been delegated authority to enforce the provisions of the federal Clean Air Act as well as local air pollution laws.
Yet for decades, some of Allegheny County’s biggest industrial facilities have continued to release excessive amounts of pollution into the air and to violate the terms of their emissions permits. Time and again, ACHD has acted slowly in response to air pollution complaints, relied on often-violated agreements negotiated with industrial facilities, failed to issue required air pollution permits on time, and failed to establish a credible threat of tough enforcement that would incentivize polluters to act more quickly to protect public health
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