A Dangerous Haze

Sadly, the Pittsburgh area has some of the dirtiest air in the nation. Right now, the metropolitan area ranks 6th in the nation for year-round soot pollution and the American Lung Association graded the county with an F for its overall air quality. This is putting the health of local residents--and in some cases even their lives--at serious risk.

Just about everyone has a friend or family member who struggles with asthma and air pollution drastically increases their likelihood of an asthma attack that could send them to the hospital. Additionally, research found that Allegheny County ranks in the top 2% of counties for cancer risk from pollution.
This is unacceptable. Clean air is a right—not a privilege.

Cleaning up the Toxic Ten

Much of the industrial air pollution in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County comes from just 10 industrial facilities that are responsible for 83% of the toxic air pollution reported by industry in the region--They’re known as the Pittsburgh Toxic Ten.

For example, one of the worst offenders is the Shenango Coke Works. This polluting behemoth recently violated its Clean Air Act permits 330 times in a 432 day period—essentially 3 out of every four days.

Many communities located near or downwind from these polluting facilities have been fighting to get them to reduce their pollution and clean up their act for years. Local residents are sick and tired of having to keep their windows closed to keep the toxic odors out of their homes, and they’re fed up with worrying about the possible health impacts for their families or letting their kids go outside to play.

Our Chance for Clean Air

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is responsible for protecting local residents, and being our advocate against the region’s worst air polluters. Instead, ACHD has turned a blind eye instead of standing up to these polluters. Despite overwhelming evidence of the heightened risks posed by air pollution throughout the county, time and again ACHD has shrugged off these threats instead of taking action to protect our health.

So PennEnvironment is working to organize and amplify the voices of concerned Pittsburghers, to make sure that the county’s elected officials and the Health Department take air pollution seriously and work quickly and aggressively to address it.

Clean Air Updates

News Release | PennEnvironment

Statement: EPA returns authority to Pennsylvania and 16 other states to limit pollution from cars, trucks

Philadelphia, PA -- To promote clean air and expedite a reduction of transportation emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Wednesday it would restore California’s clean cars waiver under the Clean Air Act. The waiver allows California to enforce its stricter Advanced Clean Cars program, and lets other states with air pollution problems like Pennsylvania to choose to adopt those stronger rules. This action undoes the Trump administration’s attempt to block states from setting stronger tailpipe emissions standards than the federal government. 

Vehicle tailpipes are a major source of health-harming air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, millions of Pennsylvanians  were exposed to elevated levels of ozone and/or fine particulate pollution an average of one day a week.

PennEnvironment had called on the Biden administration to strengthen federal fuel economy and vehicle emission standards – and restore states’ authority to determine their own position on this issue – in their "First Things to Fix" report, which outlined 20 environmental protections the president should enact at the start of his term. Pennsylvania is one of 17 states that have adopted the Advanced Clean Cars program.

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News Release | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

PennEnvironment Statement: First-of-its-kind penalty announced against U.S. Steel over rotten egg pollution

PITTSBURGH --  The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) announced Monday a $1.8 million fine against U.S. Steel for more than 150 violations of emissions limits on hydrogen sulfide, a pollutant known for its distinctive rotten-egg smell. This is the first penalty ever issued by ACHD in the agency’s history for violations of the state’s limits on hydrogen sulfide pollution.  In their announcement, ACHD cited more than 150 violations from January 1, 2020 to March 1, 2022. This comes on the heels of an $860,000 fine issued on March 3, 2022  for separate air pollution violations from the second half of 2021, as well as an ongoing citizen enforcement suit in federal court to address a 102-day outage of air pollution controls at the company’s Clairton Coke Works, filed by PennEnvironment and Clean Air Council and joined by ACHD.

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News Release | PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Philadelphia Residents Ask for Leadership from the Mayor’s office and Council Members Johnson and Squilla on a Safer Washington Avenue

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Representatives from South Philadelphia community organizations, along with roadway safety advocates, delivered a petition with over 2,500 signatures today calling on District Councilmembers Johnson and Squilla to support the Washington Avenue Repaving and Improvement Project, without modifying the self-declared Final Design Decision, and without delay.

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Report | Environment America Research & Policy Center

Progress Report: President Biden’s First Year

Following years of rollbacks, President Joe Biden began his term nearly a year ago amidst unprecedented environmental and public health challenges. Despite these obstacles, his administration has made significant strides toward restoring lost environmental protections and confronting daunting threats to our climate and public health, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. 

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News Release | PennEnvironment

Businesses caught violating Philadelphia’s plastic bag law

PHILADELPHIA -- Two months after Philadelphia's citywide ban on plastic bags went into effect, new research by the nonprofit group PennEnvironment found chronic violations by retailers throughout the city. At a news conference Wednesday, PennEnvironment spotlighted specific businesses breaking this law, including Walmart, CVS, ACME, The Home Depot and even the state-owned Fine Wine and Good Spirits. The law was designed to eliminate the use of hundreds of millions of plastic bags that pollute the city.

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