(Pittsburgh) August 1, 2016In advance of a public hearing this evening before the
Allegheny County Health Department on the issuance of a new operating permit for the
Cheswick Generating Station, County Controller Chelsa Wagner submitted testimony supporting
approval of the permit and urging rigorous enforcement of the pollution standards it would set.
Her testimony reads in part:
“The proposed permit would require meaningful emissions reductions which would protect
the health of residents in the vicinity of the plant, as well as represent strides toward bringing
all of Allegheny County into line with federal standards and truly debunking
the continuing perception of Pittsburgh as the ‘smoky city.’
“I am compelled, however, to note that regulations have little value without vigorous enforcement.
My office’s audit of the Air Quality Program released in May showed an overreliance on
financial penalties–often ones negotiated with the polluters themselves–that have
failed to actually compel compliance with pollution limits.
“A permit without teeth or a negligible fine is of little value to a child with asthma,
or elderly residents, or to communities in the vicinity of the plant seeking to attract
new residents and investment. As County Controller, I am committed to fulfilling
my duties of oversight to ensure that the strong provisions of this permit are adhered to
and enforced. I know that a great many community members are committed to
accountability for polluters and for the Health Department as well.”
A Controller’s Office audit released last September revealed
sometimes years-long delays in issuing Title V operating permits,
the type being considered for the Cheswick plant, the previous permit
for which expired in December.
A follow-up audit released in May showed that negotiated settlements known as
consent decrees had failed to result in major air pollution sources coming into compliance
with regulations, and that the Health Department had not increased fines for continued violations
to the maximum amounts allowed by law. Environmental policy experts bolstered the
audit’s findings and recommendations in anop-ed article.
Controller Wagner’s complete written testimony to the Health Department can be viewedhere.
Lou Takacs, Communications Director