Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

County Health Panel Recommends Rejecting Updated Air Toxics Rules

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

County Health Panel Recommends Rejecting Updated Air Toxics Rules

Article excerpt

An Allegheny County Health Department advisory committee has recommended that the Board of Health reject proposed air toxics guidelines that are more protective of public health than the existing guidelines.

The Air Quality Citizens Advisory Committee, which has just seven members instead of its full complement of 19, voted 5-1 with one abstention last week to urge the health board to reject the new guidelines. Five of the seven current members are industry attorneys and representatives. Its recommendation is advisory only.

Final action on the update of the county's outdated and ineffective air toxic guidelines is expected at the Health Board's next meeting on Sept. 19.

Bob Orchowski, one of the five board members who voted against the proposed guidelines, said there is agreement that the county's 24-year-old guidelines need to be updated, but questioned the "clandestine" process that produced the new proposal.

"The committee held more than 20 meetings and never once, as a professional courtesy, came back to the citizens air advisory committee," said Mr. Orchowski, owner of the Hillcrest Group LLC, a project development and consulting company. "Our citizens committee is supposed to provide guidance and recommendations to the Board of Health but we weren't given an opportunity to do that."

He said the toxics proposal as written creates uncertainty for industry and "has some real serious legal and technical issues." Those include inconsistent definitions, regulation of even small air toxics emitters and an emissions "offsets" provision that is unworkable.

"I think the proposed guidelines, if approved by the board, will be subject to legal challenges," Mr. Orchowski said.

The proposed air toxics guidelines -- produced after two years of meetings by a 22-member ad hoc committee of industry, environmental and regulatory representatives -- would replace the old guidelines, which contain no exposure limits and have never been updated to reflect new scientific findings about chemical toxicity. …

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