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Mobilizing 1,000 to Fight for Clean Air

Gas wells, pipelines and industrial sites contribute to air pollution in Southwest Penn. (jplenio/Pixabay)
Gas wells, pipelines and industrial sites contribute to air pollution in Southwest Penn. (jplenio/Pixabay)
April 5, 2018

PITTSBURGH — A new grassroots initiative hopes to educate and mobilize at least 1,000 people to fight for clean air in and around Allegheny County.

They're calling it Southwest PA Neighbors for Clean Air. The goal is to establish 100 groups of 10 neighbors and give them the information they need about local air pollution and how to take action to address it.

According to Joseph Minott, executive director and chief counsel at the Clean Air Council, the initiative is needed because air quality in that part of the state doesn't meet federal standards.

"The elected officials are in denial about that,” Minott said. “The regulatory agencies, whether it's the Allegheny County Health Department or DEP, are not doing the type of enforcement and monitoring that they need to protect the residents."

The initiative is planning a kick-off event in Pittsburgh next week featuring Lois Gibbs, lead organizer of the effort to get justice for former residents of the Love Canal Superfund site.

Minott said mobilizing participants has been remarkably easy. The Clean Air Council has used social media and gone to churches and community meetings but, for the most part, people have reached out to them.

"We're only the facilitator,” he said. “It's really about people living in the community who are tired of being exposed to bad air, having their kids' asthma exacerbated, and there's a thirst for this type of activism."

Minott said the initiative will give those living in communities affected by bad air the tools they need to take on the polluters.

And he added that Southwest Pennsylvania is just the beginning.

"It is a new model that the Clean Air Council plans to promote first across Pennsylvania, and then maybe train activists in other states," he said.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA