Pittsburgh, PA--Today over 50 citizens, community leaders, and environmental experts gathered at the Allegheny County Courthouse Courtyard for PennEnvironment’s inaugural “Fridays with Fitzgerald” Rally for Clean Air. Citizens called on the County Executive to take serious measures to clean up our air, including more timely permitting of industrial facilities, better enforcement of the Clean Air Act, and limiting use of the Clean Air Fund to projects that benefit the air.
“We have a right to clean air, but unfortunately we see almost as many bad air days as good air days,” said Ashleigh Deemer, Western Pennsylvania Director for PennEnvironment. “In 2016, the Pittsburgh area had 121 days when there were elevated levels of fine particulate pollution and smog-- that’s one out of 3 days when people are at risk.”
Allegheny County is in the top 2% of counties nationwide for cancer risk from air pollution. According to PennEnvironment’s report, Trouble in the Air, the Pittsburgh metropolitan area had the 4th highest number of bad air days in the country in 2016 among the most populated metro areas. Particulate matter and smog pollution can have dangerous health impacts, ranging from coughing and irritation to life-threatening asthma attacks, heart attacks, stroke, and cancer.
“The priority of any health department has to be the wellbeing of the constituents served,” said Dave Smith of Clean Air Council. “Pulling money from the Clean Air Fund for renovation of a building for the health department staff doesn't touch the life of the person from Clairton with asthma, cancer or sarcoidosis, nor the residents in Natrona Heights with toxic chemicals eating the siding off their house, or the long term impact to the lungs and hearts of people living in Allegheny County. It is a misuse of authority and a confused set of priorities.”
After the rally, a small number of citizens attempted to deliver 1000 petitions to the County Executive’s office, calling on him to fix the county's air pollution, including Deemer and Rachel Filippini from Group Against Smog and Pollution. The group was turned away at the door by sheriff’s deputies.
"An elected official’s number one job is to listen to their constituents concerns,” said Filippini. “I'm very disheartened that we were turned away at the door."
Amie Downs of the County Executive’s office found the group later and accepted the petitions.
“These are the signatures of residents across Allegheny County who want to see the County Executive prioritize clean air,” said Deemer. “We are his constituents, and we simply want to be heard.”
PennEnvironment is a citizen-based, statewide environmental advocacy organization working to ensure clean air, clean water, and protecting Pennsylvania’s great natural heritage. For more information about this and other PennEnvironment projects, visit www.PennEnvironment.org.