After a review of all major sources of air pollution in Southwestern PA, the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) has determined that approximately 30 percent of the facilities are running with either an expired Title V Operating Permit or having never been issued one at all, according to the most recent information made available to us.
Title V Operating Permits (Title Vs) are required for facilities that put out air pollutants (such as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, or benzene, for example) above certain levels. Facilities receiving these permits are called "major" sources of air pollution.
Title Vs combine all limitations and standards that apply to a particular source into one document, so that companies, regulators, and citizens have an easier time seeing which regulations apply to those facilities.
Title Vs also often impose additional monitoring and reporting obligations, making it possible for citizens to check on a facility's compliance with air pollution regulations. The permits must be renewed every five years.
If Title Vs are not kept current, these purposes are undermined.
"While sources are required to comply with new applicable regulations regardless of having a Title V permit or not, these permits are critical because they mandate that operators monitor and report their compliance with requirements," said John Baillie, Staff Attorney with GASP.
And while different agencies handle different counties, the problem of old or nonexistent permits is found throughout the region.
The Allegheny County Health Department issues Title V permits in Allegheny County, not the Department of Environmental Protection.
41 percent of the major sources in ACHD's jurisdiction do not have a current Title V Permit; of the 27 major sources in the County, 9 have expired permits and 2 have never received a Title V. Some permits have been expired for more than five years.
These expired permits include such facilities as PPG Springdale and US Steel Irvin Works.
The problem is similar in the rest of Southwestern PA.
The Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for permits in Southwestern PA other than in Allegheny County.
Of the 74 major sources under the jurisdiction of the Southwest Regional Office, 21 (or 28 percent) have expired permits. This includes facilities in Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.
In all instances, GASP found that the companies submitted applications for their permits or renewals on time. The regulators simply have failed to take final action on them as the law requires.
And while the stale permits sit, emissions could be increasing.
The Environmental Integrity Project, working with GASP, analyzed emissions data for these sources and found that some facilities with expired Title V permits reported to EPA's Toxic Release Inventory ("TRI") database significantly higher emissions of regulated toxic pollutants than they did five years ago.
"Time doesn't stand still while permit applications are backed up. Emissions can increase over time, making it important to keep reviewing and updating permits to make sure limits are being met and the required monitoring is in place," said Eric Schaeffer, Director of the Environmental Integrity Project.
One of these facilities, Ranbar Electrical Materials in Harrison City, nearly doubled its releases of air toxics reported to the TRI database since its Title V expired in 2010.
"It is unacceptable that the agencies responsible for permitting major sources of air pollution in our area have allowed the operating permits for almost one-third of major sources to expire," said Rachel Filippini, Executive Director of GASP. "ACHD and PA DEP must take immediate steps to eliminate these backlogs—including raising fees or hiring additional staff—to ensure that this problem doesn't develop again in the future."
Click Here for a list of facilities and more details.For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) website.