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Groups Urge Finalization of Cheswick Air Permit

Allegheny County fails to meet federal clean-air standards for smog. (Edlitwin/Wikimedia Commons)
Allegheny County fails to meet federal clean-air standards for smog. (Edlitwin/Wikimedia Commons)
September 20, 2016

PITTSBURGH - Nine environmental and health organizations are urging the quick finalization of an air pollution permit that would significantly reduce smog-forming emissions from the Cheswick power plant. More than a thousand community members signed a petition supporting the draft permit. According to Tom Schuster, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club, the permit's tighter controls could reduce nitrogen oxide pollution from the coal-fired plant by 75 percent of its 2014 levels.

"If the permit that has been drafted were in place in 2014, it would have reduced total industrial NOx pollution in the county from all industrial sources by about 37 percent," he said.

Allegheny is one of seven counties in the region that currently is failing to meet federal clean-air standards for smog.

The draft permit would require the plant to use the nitrogen oxide controls it installed in 2003. Schuster said under the current permit the plant has been meeting its requirement to reduce cross-state pollution by trading pollution credits.

"So they've found that it's cheaper to buy credits from the market than it is to reduce their own emissions at the source," he added.

Smog can lead to respiratory problems, especially among the elderly and those with COPD. And, as Schuster pointed out, it is a major factor in the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

"Allegheny County has a higher rate of asthma than the general population in the state," he explained. "Particularly, it's a problem with school-age children and among African-Americans."

Environmental and health-advocacy groups hope the County Health Department will finalize the Cheswick air-pollution permit by the end of the year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA