Essential Pittsburgh
5:00 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Improving Pittsburgh's Air Quality

Credit Dane Summerville / Flickr

Pittsburgh does not have the best air quality in the nation- far from it- but ask anyone who grew up in the city before the 1950’s and they’ll tell you that it used to be much worse.

Smog blanketed the city, leading to days in which the streetlights were kept on around the clock. The era of Pittsburgh being known as “hell with the lid off” ended when Mayor David Lawrence began enforcing the Smoke Control Ordinance in the late 1940s.

Doctors and scientists are being called upon to speak at the hearings being held this week in Pittsburgh over the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan.

To asses the new plan from the health angle were Dr. Alan Lockwood of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Kevin Stewart, director of Environmental Health American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.

Dr. Lockwood believed that the new regulations would be a huge step toward improving air quality.

“The Clean Air Act… has been one of the most important public health measures of the last several decades. Additional advances in public health will accrue as the carbon dioxide emission plans take hold. We’ll have about 140,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma by the year 2030. We’ll be saving $55 billion per year in health care costs, at a cost to the industry of about $8 billion for implementation.”

Stewart does not believe that the Clean Power Plan can clean Pittsburgh’s air by itself.

“There is still plenty of local work to do, including in sectors other than electric power generation. But the Clean Power Plan helps greatly in putting us along the road where we need to go. And the recent co-benefits report prepared by Syracuse and Harvard universities, have some very striking maps showing how the benefits of implementing this kind of rule would have some of the greatest benefits in the country in and around western Pennsylvania.”