Environmental, Industry Groups Skeptical of Pollution Projection

Article excerpt

Environmental groups and industry officials criticized an Allegheny County plan that predicts unprecedented improvements in the region's air quality by 2014.

The county Health Department on Thursday released the public comments it received on its plan to reduce soot. The plan estimates the county will meet federal limits for fine soot particles for the first time by 2014.

Those projections are misguided and short on crucial details, according to environmental groups, and the plan is too narrowly focused, according to local industry officials. Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency also asked county officials for details behind several of their projections and proposed pollution controls.

"They really have to address these problems before they move on," said Tiffany Hickman, Western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator at Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future. "I don't know why they chose to do things the way they did, but it clearly gives them an advantage and shows them reducing pollution a lot more than by what they are actually going to."

Jim Thompson, manager of Allegheny County's Air Quality Program, said the plan shouldn't surprise anyone.

"We've held regular updates with a group, a modeling committee, with several stakeholders including environmental groups," he said. "All of our decisions have been aired out in the open, and we've solicited a lot of comments."

Department air quality officials will take two to three weeks to assess and respond to the comments. …