Coalition of Environmental Organizations Appeal Permit Allowing Unlawful Levels of Air Pollution in Southwestern PA
Photo courtesy of Mountain Watershed Assn
ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP, ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PA (November 5, 2021) – Yesterday, a coalition of environmental organizations appealed a decision by the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) to grant a permit for the construction of a new gas-fired power plant that would be a major source of air pollution affecting a number of southwestern Pennsylvania communities. Mountain Watershed Association (MWA), represented by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), along with Clean Air Council and Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), represented by themselves and EIP, appealed the air pollution permit for Invenergy’s Allegheny Energy Center, a large gas-fired power plant proposed for Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County. The permit would allow the proposed 639-megawatt power plant to emit hundreds of tons of noxious pollutants and millions of tons of climate pollutants annually.
The groups object to the permit because it would allow unlawfully high levels of air pollution in Pennsylvania communities that already suffer from some of the worst air quality in the United States. The groups’ other objections include that ACHD’s permit allows for an excessive and unnecessary number of startup and shutdown events. During these events, emissions of air pollution from the plant can spike significantly higher than normal, putting communities at further risk. Shockingly, the permit issued by ACHD allows for these increased pollution events to occur 365 days per year. The objections are detailed in the Notice of Appeal.
Local resident Cathy Anderson said, “My family and my community are relieved to hear this permit is being challenged. We’ve long worried that too many area families would be impacted by yet another major pollution source. Our valley communities have suffered from dangerous pollution for decades and we certainly do not need more risks to our health.”
“More than 200 individuals showed up to the public hearing during a pandemic to oppose this air pollution permit,” said Lisa Hallowell, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “ACHD’s decision to issue this problematic permit despite such strong local opposition is unacceptable, especially given the weakness of the permit’s pollution limits and controls in comparison to other facilities.”
“Southwestern Pennsylvania residents deserve clean air,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “The permit ACHD issued to this proposed power plant lacks the emissions stringency the law requires and does not do enough to protect the community’s health.”
“This large, gas-burning plant would be a major new source of air pollution for a community already overburdened by pollution from industrial sources,” said Angela Kilbert, Staff Attorney at PennFuture. “The unlawful pollution limits proposed by ACHD in the permit for this facility are not protective of our communities, and this plant is not in the best interests of residents across the region.”
“Another major concern with the proposed facility is its proximity to low-income environmental justice communities,” said James Cato, Community Organizer at Mountain Watershed Association. “They will be forced to shoulder many of its worst air quality impacts. Years ago, this facility was proposed in a more affluent area, and approval was denied. Now they’ve shifted the plant closer to people already at a higher risk for environmental harms.”