Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Allegheny County Handling Of Public Participation On Allegheny Ludlum Air Permit Challenged By Clean Air Council

Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council Wednesday announced it has filed an action in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in order to ensure a fair public participation process for individuals wanting to submit comments on proposed air permits by the Allegheny County Health Department.
Clean Air Council alleges the permit Hearing Officer unlawfully upheld the Department’s denial of a request for an extension of time for public comment on a proposed Title V permit for the Allegheny Ludlum facility in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.
The Title V permit application had been pending for over twenty years, and the relevant records were voluminous.  
The Title V program of the Clean Air Act requires that major sources of air pollution obtain Title V permits, which are renewable on a five-year basis.  This provides the public with a means to review the requirements that apply or do not apply to a facility and comment on proposed permits.  
It also affords groups like Clean Air Council to evaluate whether the proposed permit meets all legal and technical requirements.
The Council also alleges the Department violated federal regulations requiring “adequate procedures” for notice and comment on Title V permits.  
In addition, the Council alleges the Department violated state law by having a blanket policy against extensions of public comment on Title V permits.
“It is unconscionable that the Department would not allow community members and environmental health advocates adequate time to review a complex proposed Title V permit. One of the main purposes of the Title V comment process is to encourage impacted community members to offer their insights into how the Department might improve the permit. This is a Department that has shown time after time that it does not want serious public input.  This is not good government and this is not the law,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel, Clean Air Council.  
The Council also alleges the Hearing Officer unlawfully required the Council to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Department had committed an abuse of discretion.  Previous decisions make it clear that the Council need only prove by a preponderance of evidence that the Department violated federal or state law.
“The effect of the Administrative Order is to strip the public participation provisions of the Title V program of nearly all meaning, at least in Allegheny County,” said Christopher D. Ahlers, Staff Attorney, Clean Air Council.
The case is Clean Air Council v. Allegheny County, Case No. GD-17-009155.

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