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Hey folks – big news today out of PennEnvironment – they’ve filed their intent to sue ArcelorMittal, the global steel company, for what they describe as hundreds of violations of the Clean Air Act out of their plant in Monessen, south of Pittsburgh.

 

PennEnvironment held a press conference today to discuss the pending suit, with people who live in the neighborhood talking about how hard it is to live by the plant. The full text of their press release is below.

 

PENNENVIRONMENT TO SUE WORLD’S LARGEST
STEEL COMPANY OVER ILLEGAL AIR POLLUTION

ArcelorMittal’s Pittsburgh-area Plant Commits Hundreds of Clean Air Act Violations, Raining Soot and Foul Odors on Local Residents

 

[PITTSBURGH, PA] – At a news conference held in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh, representatives of the citizen-based non-profit group PennEnvironment announced they’re taking the required steps to trigger a lawsuit against the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, to address hundreds of ongoing violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

 

The suit would address a wide variety of alleged problems at ArcelorMittal USA, Inc.’s Monessen Coke Plant, located twenty-five miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Monongahela River. Local residents say the plant is fouling the air over a wide swath of southwestern Pennsylvania.

 

The required pre-suit notice letter, sent on behalf of PennEnvironment and its members to ArcelorMittal, as well as to state and federal regulators, alleges that residents of numerous nearby towns surrounding the plant have been showered with soot, acidic gases, and noxious odors since the idled, decades-old facility re-started in April 2014. These include the municipalities of Monessen, Donora, Monongahela, and Carroll Township, located in both Westmoreland and Washington counties.

Monessengrafix

A view of the ArcelorMittal plant in Monessen. Photo by Logan Tilley

 

“I’ve met with residents who live in towns all around this plant, and their stories about air pollution from this facility are gut-wrenching,” said David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment. “Ever since the Monessen Coke Plant re-opened last year, local residents have had their quality of life diminished, have endured ongoing odors and soot, and have had to fear for their health and the health of their families. This is appalling and unacceptable.”

 

“The smell that emanates from the Monessen plant is consistently foul and sometimes so suffocating that I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I only get relief from these odors and pollution when I leave the area,” said Viktoryia Maroz, a resident of Donora, PA.

 

Photos of the facility can be viewed at hC4l. If using photos to accompany a news story, please credit as, “Logan Tilley.”

 

The Clean Air Act’s “citizen suit” provision allows private individuals and organizations to sue violators in federal court after first providing 60 days’ notice of their intent to file suit and of the violations to be addressed in the suit.

 

The Monessen plant’s 56 coke battery ovens heat coal at high temperatures to produce nearly 1,000 tons per day of “coke,” a form of carbon that is added to molten iron to produce steel. Coke from the Monessen plant is shipped to ArcelorMittal’s various North American steel mills.

 

The production of coke creates massive amounts of toxic, chemical-laden gases and fine particulate pollutants that, if not properly contained and treated, can cause serious environmental and public health problems when released to the surrounding environment.

 

The notice letter alleges a wide range of violations at ArcelorMittal’s Monessen plant, including:

 

• Operating the plant for days and weeks at a time while a key air pollution control device was out of service;
• Approximately 200 violations of the facility’s pollution limits for hydrogen sulfide (a toxic gas with a foul odor), sulfur dioxide (a respiratory irritant and contributor to acid rain), and particulate matter (which can lodge in the lungs and exacerbate respiratory problems);
• Failure to install a mandatory monitoring device needed to track the amount of hydrogen sulfide coming from the facility’s smokestacks.

 

At times, violations have been so egregious that ArcelorMittal’s emission levels have been up to eight times higher than the legally allowable limits.

 

ArcelorMittal USA, Inc., is headquartered in Chicago. Its parent company is headquartered in Luxembourg and has annual revenues of over $80 billion.

 

PennEnvironment’s lawsuit will be filed by the non-profit attorneys at the National Environmental Law Center (NELC), in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, located in Pittsburgh. The lawsuit will seek a court order requiring the Monessen Coke Plant to comply with its Clean Air Act permit, and civil penalties against ArcelorMittal to punish it for past violations and to deter future violations.

 

A separate class-action lawsuit (unrelated to the suit announced today by PennEnvironment) has been filed against ArcelorMittal’s Monessen Coke Plant, seeking monetary damages for residents suffering from noxious odors and soot.

 

“It’s outrageous that the world’s largest steel company, which brings in $80 billion annually, can’t find a way to comply with our cornerstone environmental laws and ensure the health and safety of nearby residents,” stated Masur. “That’s anything but being a good corporate neighbor.”

 

###

 

PennEnvironment is a citizen-funded, statewide environmental advocacy organization. For more information about this or other PennEnvironment campaigns, please visit our website at www.PennEnvironment.org.

 

The National Environmental Law Center (NELC) is a non-profit environmental litigation group. NELC will be joined in the lawsuit by attorney David Nicholas of Newton, Massachusetts, and Pittsburgh attorney Thomas Farrell of Farrell & Reisinger, LLC.

If you have an old wood stove or a wood-fired boiler, here’s your chance to make a little cash and potentially upgrade to something a little more air-friendly.

 

On Saturday, June 13, from 9 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of the Skating Rink in South Park, the Allegheny County Health Department is hosting its fourth annual buyback program for wood stoves and wood-fired boilers that don’t meet clean air goals.

 

Wood stoves that aren’t certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (basically anything built before 1992), will get you a $200 gift card. Wood-fired boilers that don’t meet Phase II goals for the EPA Hydronic Heater Voluntary Partnership Program will get you $500 cash. You need to register by Wednesday to drop off your old stove or boiler – if you just show up, the county may not be able to accept the drop off.

 

Why trade-in? Older models of both wood stoves and wood-fired boilers produce nearly twice as much small particle pollution (PM2.5) – that fine material that you can’t see, but that can be hazardous for people with asthma, breathing problems, heart problems and the like, as newer, certified models. Plus, when you burn wood, a laundry list of noxious gases and chemicals with links to cancer are released – benzene, formaldehyde, sulfoxides, nitrogen oxides, etc.

 

Check out this ad on Craigslist from someone trying to sell a wood stove, saying that asthma is one of the reasons why it’s on sale.*

 

Since the program started in 2013, ACHD has collected nearly 150 stoves and one boiler. They go to a company that recycles them.

 

EPA says that uncertified wood-fired boilers release nearly one ton of PM2.5 per year; certified boilers release about one-third that. A lot of clean air groups think the most air-friendly way to go is gas or electric, wanting you to breathe easier while staying warm next winter.

 

*It’s not clear from the ad or the model number if the stove is EPA compliant or not.

A few months after showing a link between autism and exposure to air toxics like styrene and chromium, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health are finding that soot, smoke and the small particles found in air pollution also are tied to this mysterious disorder.

 

IMG_4159

 

The team, led by Pitt epidemiologist Evelyn Talbott, studied more than 200 children in Western Pennsylvania on the autism spectrum, and compared them to a similar number of children not on the spectrum. The researchers interviewed their moms extensively about their lives and where they lived from before they got pregnant to the time their kids turned two.

 

They compared the geographical data to pollution levels using a special modeling system. Talbott and her team found that both before the kids were born and after, exposure to PM2.5, particles that are less than 2.5 microns in size, correlated to a diagnosis on the spectrum. One in 68 kids is on the spectrum.

 

A pair of baby's feet

 

The study was published in early May in a journal called Environmental Research, and while it isn’t conclusive, it does make us wonder – shouldn’t we give kids the cleanest air possible?

 

 

 

 

Our first set of pollution maps from Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies told a startling truth – along the rivers and major roadways of Allegheny County, black carbon was lurking in dangerous concentrations.

 

But, it was an overview, a broad look at a large area. You asked, what’s it like in my neighborhood? Maybe even my street?

 

Breathe

The newest set of pollution maps allow you to input your address. What’s the NOx in your neighborhood like? Your street? How is Black Carbon affecting your commute through Allegheny County? Click on the link to the left to find out.

CAPS listened. They reconfigured. And starting today, you can type in your address and see what black carbon and NO2 are like on your block.

 

The data have been gathered and averaged yearly for three years, 2011-2014. And yes, there have been minor improvements, but the creators of the map want to be clear: This is pretty good view of what our air is still like, today. And as Grant Oliphant, President of The Heinz Endowments says, this is not good enough.

 

Pittsburgh is on so many “best of” lists, but our air quality typically is among the worst in the nation. We believe we can improve. We believe we can breathe better. Learn more about your air at www.breatheproject.org.

 

 

 

For immediate release:
December 3, 2014

 

Breathe Cam Lets Citizens Document Pittsburgh’s
Visual Air Pollution and Its Sources

 

Carnegie Mellon Technology Now Part of The Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project

 

PITTSBURGH—A system of four cameras, called Breathe Cam, now keeps a constant watch on air quality over Pittsburgh, providing citizens with a new interactive tool for monitoring and documenting visual pollution in the air they breathe and even tracing it back to its sources.

 

Funded by The Heinz Endowments as part of its Breathe Project, the camera system was developed and deployed by the CREATE Lab in Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. Anyone can access Breathe Cam online, where images of the Downtown, East End and Mon Valley skylines are updated around the clock.

 

Using the interactive controls, people can zoom in on items of interest, whether it’s a hovering brown cloud or individual smokestacks or coke plants. They can scan back in time to observe changes in visibility or to try to find the sources of dirty air. They also can skip back to particular dates and times that have been catalogued since the cameras were installed.

 

The researchers also have developed a computer vision tool to help people identify and quantify events of interest, such as releases from a smokestack. Users can correlate the visual conditions with hourly reports of fine particulate matter, ozone and other pollutant levels recorded by Allegheny County Health Department air monitoring stations.

 

“People can use Breathe Cam to gather visual evidence of what’s happening to the air they breathe, whether it’s for the entire city or for a pollution source that is a concern in their neighborhood,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, professor of robotics. “With a better understanding of the dynamics of our environment, people can work more effectively to improve conditions. This isn’t technology for technology’s sake, but for the sake of community empowerment.”

 

Breathe Cam includes four cameras that produce panoramic images: one atop Mount Washington’s Trimont Towers; another at 625 Liberty Avenue, Downtown; one directed toward the East End from the University of Pittsburgh’s Benedum Hall that was installed in October; and a camera overlooking the Mon Valley from Walnut Towers in Squirrel Hill.

 

“The launch of the Breathe Cam creates for Pittsburgh one of the world’s most sophisticated imaging technologies for visualizing air pollution,” said Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments, which launched the Breathe Project in the fall of 2011 to improve air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania. “This powerful tool will help build public awareness about the effects of dirty air on our health and environment, while empowering people to better understand and reduce these impacts in their own communities.”

 

The technology behind Breathe Cam is similar to the CREATE Lab’s GigaPan system, which uses software to stitch together multiple photographs to create a large panorama with incredible resolution. But researchers, led by Randy Sargent and Paul Dille, have upgraded the system so people can explore the panoramas only minutes after the individual images are recorded.

 

“This is the first time we’ve had cameras that can take pictures this rapidly and do so 24/7,” said Sargent, senior systems scientist. “And we no longer have to wait hours to combine the photos into panoramas. Thanks to work by Paul Dille, it takes just five or 10 minutes to process each panorama. It’s enabled us to turn this into a service, not just a technology.”

 

Though people viewing Breathe Cam via their computers can zoom in on objects of interest, the resolution isn’t high enough to allow users to identify people. The researchers have taken pains not to compromise the privacy of individuals or their homes.

 

One computer vision tool will enable users to gather information from the cameras without constantly watching the images. The tool can be set to trigger when something of interest to the user, such as the release of smoke from a coke battery or smokestack, occurs. In addition to monitoring air pollution, the same tool can be used to detect train movement across the city.

 

With electronic cameras now commonplace, many individuals across the country already are using cameras to routinely monitor pollution sources. With Breathe Cam, Nourbakhsh noted, Carnegie Mellon and Heinz have developed a computer architecture for turning these camera feeds into an evidentiary system. He said work is underway to make such a system available to anyone who wants to share their camera feed with it. In addition, the Allegheny County Health Department and local environmental groups are partnering with CREATE Lab to use Breathe Cam technology in their efforts to monitor and improve air quality in the region.

 

Editors: Breathe Cam images, GIFs and video are available for download at http://breathecam.cmucreatelab.org/press

 

###

 

Carnegie Mellon University
Department of Media Relations
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
412-268-2900
Fax: 412-268-6929

 

Contact:
Byron Spice
Carnegie Mellon
412-268-9068
bspice@cs.cmu.edu

 

John Ellis, Senior Director of Communications
The Heinz Endowments
412-338-2657
je@heinz.org

 

About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 12,000 students in the university’s seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Pittsburgh, Pa., California’s Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico.

The Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project today launches artist Andrea Polli’s Particle Falls, a captivating digital-media installation that provides a real-time visualization of air quality.

 

At a time of year when Downtown Pittsburgh is aglow with holiday lights that raise our spirits, the dazzling lights of Particle Falls are designed to raise public awareness about one of the city’s persistent challenges — air pollution.

 

Particle Falls, a video projection measuring approximately 60 feet by 20 feet, will illuminate the Benedum Center façade in the 700 block of Penn Avenue at Tito Way after dusk each night through Dec. 31. The projection features cascading “falls” of blue light overlaid with spots of color that represent fine particulate matter in the air detected in real-time by a monitor across the street. Fine particulate matter, also known as soot, is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that measure just 1/30th the width of a human hair. More bright spots over the falls indicate more particles in the air.

 

“Pittsburgh ranks among the worst 10 percent of U.S. cities for average annual particle pollution, and our region lags far behind most areas in attaining federal standards,” said Phil Johnson, interim director of the Endowments’ Environment Program and director of the Breathe Project, a broad-based coalition working to improve air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania. “We felt it was important to bring Particle Falls to a busy Downtown corridor to engage the community in conversation about this problem and how we can work together toward solutions.”

 

Sources of fine particle pollution in the Pittsburgh region include cars, trucks, buses, trains, barges, construction, industrial facilities, power plants and residential wood burning. It is linked to a long list of serious health problems from cradle to grave, including asthma, heart and lung disease, cancer, adverse birth outcomes and even premature death. Exposures in Downtown Pittsburgh can be especially acute, as the rows of tall buildings create an urban canyon that traps air pollution.

 

Particle Falls was conceived and designed by digital-media pioneer Andrea Polli, associate professor of art and ecology at the University of New Mexico. Pittsburgh is the fourth city to host the temporary public artwork, made possible by a $62,500 grant from The Heinz Endowments. The artwork made its debut in 2008 in San Jose, Calif. Pittsburgh is the first city to use the air quality data generated by the installation for research through a partnership with scientists at the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies at Carnegie Mellon University. Production support is being provided by the Office of Public Art and Flyspace Productions.

 

“It’s important to become more aware of what’s happening with our air, and to talk about it,” Polli said. “As an artist, I felt the best way to promote this dialogue was to take air pollution, something negative, and present it as a thing of beauty. I wanted to create a place that was beautiful and enjoyable to visit, but also to present particulate pollution, which is very problematic.”

 

Particle Falls will be open until midnight, rain or shine, through New Year’s Eve. The Office of Public Art will be on-site Tuesday and Friday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. to provide interpretation of the artwork. Please note Particle Falls will be closed on Nov. 27 and Dec. 24-25.

 

On Dec. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m., an artist lecture and panel discussion will be held at the Trust Arts Education Center, 805-807 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Polli will talk about the process and technology behind Particle Falls and then join a panel discussion about air quality and public health. This event is made possible with the assistance of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. To register for this free event, visit publicartpittsburgh.org or call 412-391-2060, ext. 237.

 

Video on Particle Falls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cze5s7y8ZqA

 

For more information about the project and related events, visit pittsburghartplaces.org/particlefalls.

Pittsburgh, Nov. 21, 2013 People living in a 10-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania have a significantly higher than acceptable risk of developing cancer due to exposure to toxic air pollution released by manufacturing processes, energy production and diesel combustion, according to a new report by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities.

 

The Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threats Analysis Report—funded by The Heinz Endowments—analyzes publicly available data on hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), also known as air toxics. Air toxics include approximately 200 pollutants identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as respiratory, neurological and reproductive disorders. The report is the third in a series as part of a project examining major threats to human health and the environment in southwestern Pennsylvania.

 

“While the region as a whole experiences a constant burden of air toxics, the report found that people living in Allegheny County have a cancer risk more than twice—and in some cases 20 times—that of those living in surrounding rural areas,” said senior author James Fabisiak, associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “In fact, the county ranks in the top 2 percent of U.S. counties in terms of cancer risk from hazardous air pollutants.”

 

The report also found that census tracts with the very highest risk levels are clustered in the southeastern corner of Allegheny County in the heavily industrialized Liberty-Clairton area, as well as in the neighborhoods downwind from Neville Island and Downtown Pittsburgh.

 

“This study reinforces in sobering detail what we already know: The Pittsburgh region still has one of the most serious air pollution problems in the country,” Endowments President Robert Vagt said. “Our aspirations for truly becoming the most livable city cannot be realized if our health and environment are threatened by dangerous levels of air toxics, which is why the work of the Breathe Project coalition to solve this problem is one of our highest priorities.”

 

The top cancer drivers from hazardous air pollutants in southwestern Pennsylvania include diesel particulate matter, formaldehyde, benzene and coke oven emissions, according to the report, which uses the latest available EPA National Air Toxics Assessment data. Lesser, but still significant risk, is posed by carbon tetrachloride, acetaldehyde, arsenic and chromium.

 

Using data from previous direct monitoring of pollution in three Allegheny County locations (Downtown, Oakland and South Fayette), the report noted that air toxics released from stationary point sources, such as the coke works in Clairton and on Neville Island, pose a greater cancer risk over a wide geographic area extending miles beyond the factories where they are emitted.

 

In addition, unprecedented expansion of unconventional natural gas development using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the Shell Chemical ethane cracker facility proposed for Monaca, Beaver County, are examples of new and potential sources of hazardous air pollutants identified in the report.

 

“This report underscores three of the major air quality challenges facing the region—diesel emissions, large point sources and a potential transforming pollutant mixture from unconventional natural gas drilling operations,” said lead author Drew Michanowicz, a Pitt Public Health research assistant. “Our findings serve to better focus our future research efforts, as well as support response actions by community-based advocacy groups and other stakeholders to meet these challenges.”

 

Additional authors on the report include Kyle Ferrar, Samantha Malone, Matt Kelso and Jill Kriesky, all of, or formerly of, Pitt Public Health.

 

The report is publicly available at http://www.heinz.org/UserFiles/Library/PRETA_HAPS.pdf and a printed copy can be obtained by contacting Carmen Lee at 412-338-2628 or clee@heinz.org.

 

 

Public health and local economy benefit from recipients’ work on clean-air initiatives

 

Pittsburgh, Sept. 3, 2013 — The Breathe Project today has presented its first-ever Breathe Awards, honoring individuals, businesses and organizations in the Pittsburgh region for their outstanding accomplishments with initiatives to improve air quality. The new awards program celebrates innovative work to help clean the air in southwestern Pennsylvania and highlights efforts to raise awareness about air quality issues.

 

Winners were recognized during a 2:30 p.m. ceremony at the Hill House Association in the Hill District and presented with their awards by legendary former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and entrepreneur Franco Harris, a member of the Breathe Project Leadership Group. Also speaking was Bill Flanagan, executive vice president, corporate relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and host of Our Region’s Business. The Breathe Project will award a $1,000 grant in the name of each Breathe Award winner to a nonprofit organization of their choosing whose work helps to improve the lives of children with asthma.

 

“Pittsburgh’s history is marked by innovations that have made our community cleaner, healthier and more prosperous,” said Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments, which launched the Breathe Project in 2011 as a philanthropic environmental health initiative. “These Breathe Award winners are continuing that tradition, proving that Pittsburgh ingenuity and hard work are more than a match for the challenges we face as we move toward our clean-air future. We applaud their dedication to our health and economy and their example-setting leadership in their fields.”

 

   The first Breathe Award winners include:

 

PITT OHIO, Strip District-based transportation solutions provider
= Global Links, Green Tree medical relief and development organization
= Brian Brown, community organizer, Hill District Consensus Group

 

PITT OHIO has demonstrated commitment to improving our air quality by operating a modern, well-maintained fleet of trucks, tractor trailers and vans; leveraging on-board computers to measure MPG (miles per gallon) per truck, terminal and region; requiring progressive and proper shifting and speed management; instituting anti-idling policies; retrofitting company facilities to reduce energy and water consumption; and participating in the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partner program to reduce air pollution in freight delivery.

 

Global Links has shown leadership in air quality improvement by retrofitting its trucks in 2011 to run on locally produced biofuel, which reduced its use of diesel by nearly 50 percent. Global Links also has worked with partner PITT OHIO to utilize trucking “back haul” space to grow its programs without generating new emissions. Coordinating supply orders across its programs has reduced air pollution by cutting vehicle miles traveled. In addition, the organization is a Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge participant and has moved its facilities to a remodeled space in Green Tree with natural and LED lighting, a new HVAC system and other “green” features designed to cut energy consumption.

 

Brian Brown is being honored with a Breathe Award for his tireless volunteer efforts at multiple events to educate the public about air quality in the Pittsburgh area and everyday ways people can take action to help clean our air. He also dedicated his time to this year’s New Voices of Youth program, an online grant contest of The Pittsburgh Foundation to engage middle and high school students in air quality issues.

 

“The Breathe Project is striving to move Pittsburgh’s air quality from the ranks of the worst in the nation to the ranks of the best,” said Marily Nixon, Breathe Project coordinator. “The impressive contributions of these award winners are leading us toward a tomorrow when everybody our region has clean, healthy air to breathe everyday.”

May 7 World Asthma Day Event Includes First-Ever Review of Scientific Literature on Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Pittsburgh, Finding Serious Implications for Area Residents

 

PITTSBURGH – Local and national health experts are convening in Pittsburgh on May 7 for the second annual regional Summit on asthma and other health concerns associated with poor air quality. The day-long symposium will address Pittsburgh’s asthma epidemic, as well as newly presented findings about how air pollution affects birth outcomes, cancer and cardiopulmonary illness and mortality rates.

 

Organized by Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) and the Breathe Project, with the support of The Heinz Endowments and the Suburban Health Foundation, “The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma and Other Health Impacts of Air Pollution” will be held from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

 

Highlights of the Summit will include a presentation on the first-ever review of the scientific literature over the past 40 years on the health effects of air pollution in the Pittsburgh region.

 

Conducted by environmental health expert Ron White of R.H. White Consultants Inc., senior associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the review found that exposure to excessive air pollution in the region has led to serious health problems across the human life cycle. Impacts start with preterm births and low birth weights and continue to premature death. These impacts affect the most vulnerable groups–children, the elderly, and those with existing heart and lung disease–but research shows that they also affect the rest of the community. White will speak at 2:15 p.m.

 

“Despite improvements over the past few decades, our region’s air still ranks among the dirtiest in the nation, with pollution levels high enough to harm our health,” said Deborah Gentile, MD, Director of Research, in AGH’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

 

“We know, for example, that two Pittsburgh-area school districts have asthma rates that are among the worst in the entire state. But the public also needs to be aware of the wide-ranging impacts of air pollution beyond asthma—in birth outcomes, cardiopulmonary illness and premature death,” said Dr. Gentile, who is also co-director of the Summit along with Sergei Belenky, MD, PhD, Medical Director, Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Pediatric Alliance, Pittsburgh.

 

“People may be surprised and disappointed at what these experts have to say about the many ways air pollution in our region is affecting our health,” said Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments, which is co-supporting the Summit along with the Suburban Health Foundation. “The ability to improve health, especially that of children and older adults, is what has motivated 150 organizations and businesses—and nearly twenty thousand southwestern Pennsylvanians to join the Breathe Project. This strong coalition is monitoring these serious problems and working to clean our air, thus supporting healthy families and communities.”

 

The Summit’s keynote speaker is Joel Schwartz, PhD, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology at the Harvard University School of Public Health. Internationally recognized for his pioneering research on the effects of leaded gas on children, as well as the health impacts of particulate air pollution, and winner of a prestigious MacArthur “genius grant,” Dr. Schwartz will speak at 11:30 a.m. on the topic “Morbidity and Mortality Effects of Air Pollution.”

 

Dr. Schwartz’s innovative research on the health costs of lead in gasoline led to a ban on this dangerous additive in the 1980s. He went on to study the relationship between particle pollution and deaths in nearby Steubenville, Ohio, and found that pneumonia, lung disease and heart attack mortality rose along with levels of particulate pollution, even when those levels were within EPA standards. Dr. Schwartz’s groundbreaking work has distinguished him among the most cited authors in the world in the field of air pollution research, with more than 454 peer-reviewed papers published as of July 2011, which at that time were cited more than 23,000 times in other peer-reviewed publications.

 

A panel of local and national experts will discuss cutting-edge work to address asthma and other air pollution-related health outcomes in our community.

 

=Epidemic of Asthma in Pittsburgh, 8:00 a.m. with Dr. Gentile

=Asthma Control Strategies, 8:10 a.m. with Dr. Belenky

=Origins of Asthma, 8:30 a.m. with Giovanni Piedimonte, MD, Chairman of the Pediatric Institute and Physician in Chief, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital

=Problem Based Learning: Balancing Safety and Efficacy of Asthma Therapy, 9:30 with David P. Skoner, MD, Director, Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Allegheny General Hospital.

=Effect of Air Pollution on Asthma Outcomes in Pittsburgh, 10:45 a.m. with Luann Brink, PhD, MPH, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

=Effect of Air Pollution on Birth Outcomes in Pittsburgh, 1:00 p.m with Evelyn Talbott, DrPh, MPH, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

=Effect of Air Pollution on Morbidity and Mortality in Pittsburgh, 1:30 p.m. with Francesca Dominici, PhD, Professor of Biostatistics, Associate Dean for Information Technology, Harvard University School of Public Health

=State-of-the-Art Air Pollution Mapping in Pittsburgh, 2:45 p.m. with Albert Presto, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

 

The Air We Breathe Summit is intended for internal medicine and family practice physicians, pediatricians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, asthma specialists, pulmonary specialists, cardiac specialists, obstetricians, public health specialists and members of the community.

 

Those who wish to attend the Summit can register online at http://www.wpahs.org/asthma-summit or can contact the AGH Continuing Medical Education office for more information at (412) 359-4952 or by e-mail: rmiglior@wpahs.org.

 

 

Organization’s Participants Include Environmental Organizations, Philanthropic Foundations, and Energy Companies

 

PITTSBURGH, Pa., March 20, 2013 – A group of leading environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, and energy companies have collaborated to form a unique center to provide producers with certification of performance standards for shale development. The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) has established 15 initial performance standards designed to ensure safe and environmentally responsible development of the Appalachian Basin’s abundant shale gas resources. These standards will form the foundation of the CSSD’s independent, third-party certification process.

 

“CSSD is the result of an unprecedented effort that brought together a group of stakeholders with diverse perspectives, working to create responsible performance standards and a rigorous, third-party evaluation process for shale gas operations,” said Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments. “This process has demonstrated for us that industry and environmental organizations, working together, can identify shared values and find common ground on standards that are environmentally protective.”

 

CSSD’s founding participants are:

 

=Chevron
=Clean Air Task Force
=CONSOL Energy
=Environmental Defense Fund
=EQT Corporation
=Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP)
=Heinz Endowments
=Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
=Pennsylvania Environmental Council
=Shell
=William Penn Foundation

 

Technical support has been provided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, ICF International, and the law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.

 

“While shale development has been controversial, everyone agrees that, when done, producers must minimize environmental risk,” said Armond Cohen, Executive Director, Clean Air Task Force.  “These standards are the state of the art on how to accomplish that goal, so we believe all Appalachian shale producers should join CSSD, and the standards should also serve as a model for national policy and practice.”

 

Through discussions over the past two years, CSSD participants established a shared vision of performance and environmental risk minimization for natural gas development in the Appalachian region.  The group’s participants have worked to adopt a set of progressive and rigorous performance standards based on today’s understanding of the risks associated with natural gas development and the technological capacity to minimize those risks.

 

“CSSD is focusing on the establishment of standards that will initially address the protection of air and water quality and climate, and will be expanded to include other performance standards such as safety,” said Nicholas J. DeIuliis, President, CONSOL Energy. “Fundamentally, the aim is for these standards to represent excellence in performance.”

 

Companies can begin seeking certification in these areas later this year.

 

CSSD also plans to develop programs to share best practices.

 

“Raising the bar on performance and committing to public, rigorous and verifiable standards demonstrates our companies’ determination to develop this resource safely and responsibly,” said Bruce Niemeyer, President of Chevron Appalachia.  “Throughout the development of CSSD, the collaborative effort of environmental organizations, foundations and energy companies has been the key to achieving consensus on regional performance standards.”

 

“This initiative is an important complement to strong regulatory frameworks.  It’s also a model of the regional collaborations recommended by the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board to help drive a process of continuous improvement,” said Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University and a member of CSSD’s Board of Directors.

 

“While the potential economic and environmental benefits of shale gas are substantial, the public expects transparency, accountability and a fundamental commitment to environmental safety and the protection of human health from the companies operating throughout the region. CSSD is a sound step toward assuring the public that shale development is being done to the requisite standards of excellence,” said Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury and retired Chairman of Pittsburgh-based Alcoa and a member of CSSD’s Board of Directors.

 

About Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD)

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, CSSD is an independent organization whose mission is to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through performance standards and third-party certification. Focused on shale development in the Appalachian Basin, the Center provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share expertise with the common objective of developing solutions and serving as the center of excellence for shale gas development.

 

Funded by philanthropic foundations and participating energy companies, CSSD is intended to promote collaborative efforts by industry and its stakeholders called for by the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.

events
March 16, 2015
GASP holding a public meeting to discuss air quality in Lawrenceville   The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) Air Quality Program recently announced its intent to issue an operating permit for the McConway and Torley steel foundry located on 48th street in Lawrenceville. This facility is a significant local source of … Learn More
February 11, 2015
How is air pollution is impacting your life? Want to find out about the dangers of air pollution in our area and the associated health impacts? Want to see just how bad the pollution is in your own neighborhood? Is there a possible link between pollution and your … Learn More
January 14, 2015
Moving from Climate Awareness to Climate Action   First Sustainability Pioneers Bridge Party!   Wednesday January 14, 2015, 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM   PointBreezeway 7113 Reynolds St Pittsburgh, PA 15208   Join the first Sustainability Pioneers Bridge Party  – wine & cheese, networking, live music & … Learn More
January 7, 2015
Include air quality issues in the county’s strategic plan! Local air quality groups are circulating a petition urging the Allegheny County Health Department to include air quality in the strategic plan they are adopting at the Board of Health meeting on Jan. 7. Please help move this important issue … Learn More
December 13, 2014
“Particle Falls” Lighting Up the Holiday Season for a Difference The Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project today launches artist Andrea Polli’s Particle Falls, a captivating digital-media installation that provides a real-time visualization of air quality.   At a time of year when Downtown Pittsburgh is aglow with holiday lights that raise … Learn More
October 29, 2014
Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge 2014-2015 Kicks Off The Green Workplace Challenge is back again for another year of exciting competition! If you work for a business, nonprofit, college or university, local government, or a K-12 school in southwestern Pennsylvania, sign up today to start saving money and … Learn More
October 18, 2014
2014 Pittsburgh Solar Tour   Most Pittsburgh house tours showcase beautiful interiors, tasteful design, and the glitz and glamour of bygone eras. The 2014 Pittsburgh Solar Tour is a home tour for the new Pittsburgh.   Join PennFuture to experience raw solar power, energy … Learn More
October 7, 2014
“Sustainability Pioneers” Documentary Premiere   How can Pittsburgh be a leader in building the bridge from our fossil fuel-based economy to an economy based on renewable energy and sustainable living?   Filmmaker and journalist Kirsi Jansa asks this question–arguably the most critical challenge of our … Learn More
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  • Breathe Project

    More about the pending lawsuit from PennEnvironment against ArcelorMittal in Monessen:
    http://bit.ly/1ONCBJI

    Aug 4th 12:10pm • 2 Comments

    #breaking: Penn Environment to sue largest steel company in the world for violations of Clean Air Act in ***Monessen***:

    READ:

    PENN ENVIRONMENT TO SUE WORLD’S LARGEST
    STEEL COMPANY OVER ILLEGAL AIR POLLUTION

    ArcelorMittal’s Pittsburgh-area Plant Commits Hundreds of Clean Air Act Violations, Raining Soot and Foul Odors on Local Residents

    [PITTSBURGH, PA] – At a news conference held in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh, representatives of the citizen-based non-profit group PennEnvironment announced they’re taking the required steps to trigger a lawsuit against the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, to address hundreds of ongoing violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

    The suit would address a wide variety of alleged problems at ArcelorMittal USA, Inc.’s Monessen Coke Plant, located twenty-five miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Monongahela River. Local residents say the plant is fouling the air over a wide swath of southwestern Pennsylvania.

    The required pre-suit notice letter, sent on behalf of PennEnvironment and its members to ArcelorMittal, as well as to state and federal regulators, alleges that residents of numerous nearby towns surrounding the plant have been showered with soot, acidic gases, and noxious odors since the idled, decades-old facility re-started in April 2014. These include the municipalities of Monessen, Donora, Monongahela, and Carroll Township, located in both Westmoreland and Washington counties.

    “I’ve met with residents who live in towns all around this plant, and their stories about air pollution from this facility are gut-wrenching,” said David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment. “Ever since the Monessen Coke Plant re-opened last year, local residents have had their quality of life diminished, have endured ongoing odors and soot, and have had to fear for their health and the health of their families. This is appalling and unacceptable.”

    "The smell that emanates from the Monessen plant is consistently foul and sometimes so suffocating that I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I only get relief from these odors and pollution when I leave the area,” said Viktoryia Maroz, a resident of Donora, PA.

    Photos of the facility can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1N5hC4l. If using photos to accompany a news story, please credit as, “Logan Tilley.”

    The Clean Air Act’s “citizen suit” provision allows private individuals and organizations to sue violators in federal court after first providing 60 days’ notice of their intent to file suit and of the violations to be addressed in the suit.

    The Monessen plant’s 56 coke battery ovens heat coal at high temperatures to produce nearly 1,000 tons per day of “coke,” a form of carbon that is added to molten iron to produce steel. Coke from the Monessen plant is shipped to ArcelorMittal’s various North American steel mills.

    The production of coke creates massive amounts of toxic, chemical-laden gases and fine particulate pollutants that, if not properly contained and treated, can cause serious environmental and public health problems when released to the surrounding environment.

    The notice letter alleges a wide range of violations at ArcelorMittal’s Monessen plant, including:

    • Operating the plant for days and weeks at a time while a key air pollution control device was out of service;
    • Approximately 200 violations of the facility’s pollution limits for hydrogen sulfide (a toxic gas with a foul odor), sulfur dioxide (a respiratory irritant and contributor to acid rain), and particulate matter (which can lodge in the lungs and exacerbate respiratory problems);
    • Failure to install a mandatory monitoring device needed to track the amount of hydrogen sulfide coming from the facility’s smokestacks.

    At times, violations have been so egregious that ArcelorMittal’s emission levels have been up to eight times higher than the legally allowable limits.

    ArcelorMittal USA, Inc., is headquartered in Chicago. Its parent company is headquartered in Luxembourg and has annual revenues of over $80 billion.

    PennEnvironment’s lawsuit will be filed by the non-profit attorneys at the National Environmental Law Center (NELC), in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, located in Pittsburgh. The lawsuit will seek a court order requiring the Monessen Coke Plant to comply with its Clean Air Act permit, and civil penalties against ArcelorMittal to punish it for past violations and to deter future violations.

    A separate class-action lawsuit (unrelated to the suit announced today by PennEnvironment) has been filed against ArcelorMittal’s Monessen Coke Plant, seeking monetary damages for residents suffering from noxious odors and soot.

    “It’s outrageous that the world’s largest steel company, which brings in $80 billion annually, can’t find a way to comply with our cornerstone environmental laws and ensure the health and safety of nearby residents,” stated Masur. “That’s anything but being a good corporate neighbor.”

    ###

    PennEnvironment is a citizen-funded, statewide environmental advocacy organization. For more information about this or other PennEnvironment campaigns, please visit our website at www.PennEnvironment.org.

    The National Environmental Law Center (NELC) is a non-profit environmental litigation group. NELC will be joined in the lawsuit by attorney David Nicholas of Newton, Massachusetts, and Pittsburgh attorney Thomas Farrell of Farrell & Reisinger, LLC.

    Aug 4th 11:15am • 1 Comment

    #whatibreathe: MAJOR announcement today at 11 a.m. by PennEnvironment about a big time Pittsburgh-area polluter. Follow us live on our Twitter page, @breatheproject, for more.

    Aug 4th 10:04am • No Comments

    President BarackObama's plan to curb power plant emissions: http://huff.to/1SBKdoU #whatibreathe #asthma #cutthispollution #climatechange

    Obama To Announce The 'Biggest, Most Important Step' So Far On Climate

    www.huffingtonpost.com

    The Obama administration will release final standards for power plants on Monday that are, in several key ways, tougher than the draft version of the plan.

    Aug 3rd 10:32am • 1 Comment

    Happy Monday, everyone! Whether in Pittsburgh or all the other places we call home, thank you for new likes, follows, and #doingallthegood.

    Aug 3rd 10:15am • No Comments

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