Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection held public comment for their proposed new regulations at coal-fired power plants that is supposed to limit smog-causing pollution.
Those present at a rally at DEP’s offices in Pittsburgh before the public comment said the proposed regulations are lax toward coal-fired power plants and will worsen smog problems in a region already known for poor air quality.
They said the proposed regulations don’t set limits that are low enough to require plants to use existing technology designed to reduce NOx and VOC emissions – the precursors to ozone, which is better known as smog. The technology, called SCR, is already installed at many power plants in Pennsylvania.
“It's able to reduce smog pollution below the required limits in these regulations," said Valessa Souter-Kline, Western Pennsylvania Outreach Coordinator for Penn Future. "Since they don’t have to get to those numbers, they don’t have to turn this technology on. The limits are too high.”
Jamin Bogi, Policy and Outreach Coordinator for GASP, a group that works to improve air quality in the region, said the proposed regulations are setting an emission standard that’s not taking modern pollution technology into account.
“Many coal-powered fire plants in the state and in the nation already have high level of pollution control technology," he said. "Their proposal here, however, is setting the limit that would allow far more pollution than what’s already happening across the state.”
Of the eight largest coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania, six of them are within 60 miles of Pittsburgh.
Smog can trigger asthma and heart attacks and can cause death from heart and lung disease. The Pittsburgh area has some of the worst air quality in the country, according to the American Lung Association.
Earlier on Tuesday, Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed a Will of Council calling on the DEP to post stricter guidelines on the pollution standards.
“Eighty-five percent of our power plants actually already have met that standard, so we’re lowering the bar at a time when we need to be raising it,” said Dan Gilman, who represents the City’s 8th District.
Gilman was present at a small rally held before the public comment outside DEP’s Southwest Regional Office on Washington’s Landing.
“Air pollution blows downstream into the city, and even though the city has taken a lot of steps passing clean air and clean water acts and green building legislation and really taken a progressive stand," he said, "we’re still at the focal point of the region and our children have some of the asthma rates in the country because of it."