This is a guest post from Julie St. John, a community organizer for Clean Water Action focused on air quality issues in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, is home to the city of Pittsburgh. We have three Stanley Cups, five World Series, six Super Bowls and some of the worst air in the nation. Because the air is so bad, the Allegheny County Health Department monitors and regulates air pollution in the area instead of the state. For instance, a document called the Air Toxics Guidelines is used to track new sources of pollution in the county. However, the problem with this document is that it was developed in 1988 and has not been updated since. The Post Gazette has explored the issue of air pollution specifically in Western Pennsylvania in great detail.
Remember 1988? A lot of things have changed over the last 23 years, including what we know about air toxics. So why haven’t the Air Toxics Guidelines changed? Well, they are about to because of the power of the people. Citizens came together to pressure their elected officials and got the County Executive to create a committee to work on developing new guidelines. The committee is now close to producing a document that will be based on up-to-date science and do a better job of protecting the county’s air.
It is important to remember that so much positive change can happen locally. Sometimes when people think about working on a national or state campaign, it can be overwhelming. So find local campaigns to get involved with, form community groups to work on local issues and build coalitions to make sure your community’s needs are met. Hold your local elected officials accountable to fighting to protect their constituents’ health by protecting their environment.
Thanks to Moms Clean Air Force for being a part of our local effort by signing a letter to the Allegheny County Board of Health telling them to pass the updated guidelines the committee has been working hard to develop. Thank you for helping the moms, dads, children and all the other residents of Allegheny County, PA.