[Pittsburgh] - On Tuesday morning, PennEnvironment members and activists delivered a clean air petition with 6,000 signatures to Allegheny County Council. The petition called on County Council to work with the Health Department to rein in dangerous emissions from major air polluters by setting health-based emissions limits, closing the backlog of expired and un-issued permits and enforcing strict penalties for companies that break the law.
“Living with asthma is pretty scary because I never know when I’m suddenly going feel my chest get tighter and my throat close up. Every day a small part of my brain has to worry about whether or not I’m going to be able to breathe,” said Sarah Starman, PennEnvironment’s Pittsburgh Canvass Director. “No one should have to worry about their next breath. County Council needs to make sure that the Health Department is focused on cleaning up our dirty air.”
Allegheny County Council has been the focus of increased attention recently amid the search for a new Health Department director. In addition, County Council will soon be reviewing the appointments to the board that directly oversees the Health Department. Residents and advocates have called for County Council to make sure that air quality is a top issue for the Health Department’s leadership.
“Everyone deserves clean air to breathe. As a member of County Council, I want to make safe air and public health a priority at all levels of County government,” said Allegheny County Councilmember Anita Prizio.
The Pittsburgh region has some of the worst air quality in the country. Allegheny County ranks in the worst 2 percent of U.S. counties for cancer risk from air pollution. More than 70 percent of the industrial emissions in Allegheny County come from just ten sources, known as the Toxic Ten. Around 1 in 3 residents of Allegheny County live within 3 miles of one of the Toxic Ten. The Allegheny County Health Department is responsible for enforcing both the Federal Clean Act and Allegheny County’s own air quality standards.
“When I moved to Pittsburgh, I was shocked to find out how terrible the air. I’m not alone: from McCandless to Dormont, Aspinwall to Mt. Washington, the Pittsburghers I talked to consistently pointed to air quality as a top concern,” said Emily Giudici, a Field Manager with PennEnvironment who personally collected 400 signatures.
The petition signatures were collected between May and June by canvassers with PennEnvironment, who talked at the door with 16,000 Pittsburghers about pressing environmental concerns in the region.