Thursday, October 20, 2016

Groups Petition EPA On Adequacy Of Allegheny County Air Permitting Program

The Clean Air Council, on behalf of itself and PennEnvironment, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, and Clean Water Action, has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find a deficiency in the Allegheny County Health Department’s administration of the Title V air permitting program.
In late September, the Group Against Smog and Pollution reported approximately 30 percent of the major sources of air pollution in Southwestern PA are operating with either an expired Title V Air Quality Permit or have never been issued one at all.
The petition also requests that EPA sanction the Department and ultimately strip it of its authority to administer this program, if it does not make progress on its decades-old problem of not timely processing Title V permit applications for large industrial facilities.
The Title V permit program was created by Congress in 1990 to improve compliance with and enforcement of Clean Air Act requirements.
The Title V program allows community members to more easily determine all the requirements that an industrial facility must meet, including such things as emissions limitations, technologies to reduce emissions, and emissions monitoring.
In addition, the program provides important opportunities for the public to comment and raise concerns about the adequacy of permit conditions, including compliance concerns.
The Health Department is required to consider and respond to comments and concerns, and if commenters feel that the Department is not adequately addressing their concerns, they can ask EPA to object to a permit proposed by the Department.                    
In the petition, the groups are asking EPA to publish a Notice of Deficiency in the Federal Register.  The Clean Air Act requires the Allegheny Health Department to make a decision on a Title V permit application within 18 months.  
The petition alleges that the Department has failed to meet this deadline for the majority of industrial sources that are currently subject to this program, with some delays lasting over 20 years.  
“The Title V program provides a unique opportunity for concerned residents to carefully review how the Department is regulating a major polluting facility,” said Christopher Ahlers, a Staff Attorney for the Clean Air Council.  “By delaying the processing of permits for up to two decades, the Department has deprived the residents of Allegheny County of important information that impacts their health and welfare.”
Joe Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council, added-- “After approving the authority of a local agency to administer the Title V program, EPA continues to play an important role in evaluating the administration of that program, and in addressing the issue when it is inadequate..”  
"Local residents should not have to hold their breath waiting for the Health Department to renew outdated and expired air pollution permits," noted PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. "We owe it to our kids and families to have air permits updated in a timely fashion, and to require the best available pollution technology. Not wait for months or even years while expired permits collect dust in some backroom at the Health Department."
"Compliance with air pollution limits has been a huge problem for industrial facilities in Allegheny County, with violations often going on for years. By issuing operating permits on time, ACHD could be making sure that all major air pollution sources are ending illegal actions. This would be a breath of fresh air for neighbors to these plants," said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania Director for Clean Water Action.
For more information, contact Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel, 215-567-4004 ext. 116 or Christopher Ahlers, Esq., Senior Attorney, 215-567-4004 ext. 125.
Groups: Allegheny County Late On Air Permits For Major Polluters
Related Story:
GASP: ⅓ Of Major Air Pollution Sources In Southwest PA Don’t Have Current Permits

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