Letter to the editor: Clean Air Fund meant to protect air
The Allegheny County Health Department’s Air Quality Program collects fines from companies that violate air-quality regulations. These violations contribute to the region having some of the unhealthiest air in the nation. Thankfully, over the past 15 years, these fines, kept in the department’s Clean Air Fund, have financed local pollution-reduction programs.
My organization received a small grant to train community members to evaluate smoke emanating from local stacks. Other grants have funded studies of air quality and upgraded dirty diesel engines. I support using every penny of the fund for similar direct-action programs. That’s why I’m appalled that the Board of Health recently decided to use some of these fines to renovate the Air Quality Program’s office building ( “More money from Allegheny County’s ‘Clean Air Fund’ goes to office renovation” ).
The county has owned this building since 1957 and it needs to be repaired. However, the county must maintain it just like its roads, bridges and parks. The county can afford it: The rainy day fund holds $44 million and County Council just approved $114 million for infrastructure bonds.
Our air causes high childhood asthma rates and elevated cancer risk, yet the board chose to take money away from pollution-reduction efforts. The board will vote on the full renovation project later this year. We hope members will recognize their duty to ensure that the Clean Air Fund be used to protect and clean our air.
The writer is executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution ( gasp-pgh.org ).